"The horrors of war pale
the loss of a mother."- Anna Freud
Emma walked in first.
I recognized her from last year.
My youngest son, the soon to be first grader seated next to me, recognized Emma and screamed her name. She giggled and ran over to him. As she sat on the small chair next to my son I found myself wondering if she was adopted and if so from what Asian country.
As the very thought ran through my head, her not Asian mother and father walk in and approached Emma and my son at the Lego table. I smiled at the mom. Mom begins talking to Emma who was not interested in her but was very interested in the house my son was building. Mom walked away to inspect her daughters new first grade classroom.
I reached for blue Lego’s to complete the house I was building.
In walked Peth-Sara, followed by Ava and Lola. All three girls were Asian.
Adoption thoughts start to creep up on me. Could there really be that many Asian adoptees in my sons first grade class?
In came Ava’s mother (not Asian) with a small Asian infant on her hip. Ava’s father walked in next.
Peth-Sara and Ava began chatting with Emma. Lola walked away.
Emma’s mom approaches and introduces herself to Ava’s mother.
They are standing directly behind me. Conversation ensues.
"Hi, I am Ava’s mom. Are you Emma’s mom?"
"Yes, I am. Is Ava adopted?"
"Yes, from China." says Ava’s adoptive mother.
"Oooooooooooooh!" Emma’s mom squeals in delight "So is Emma!"
The squeal is loud and Emma and my son look up at the moms. The moms aren’t looking at them so they go back to the Lego’s.
"From what orphanage?" asks Ava’s mom.
Emma’s mom utters some Chinese word I don’t understand and cannot spell. Ava’s mom responds with her daughters orphanage. They say it as proudly as natural mothers might recite the hospitals or labor hours of the children they have birthed.
Adoption conversation, too loud in my opinion, continues.
I feel sick.
"How much did you pay for her?" asks Emma’s mother
I gasp and feel dizzy.
Ava’s mother mutters something low, barely audible. I don’t hear it but I do wonder why I never asked any of my girlfriends what their hospital delivery bills were.
Emma’s mother continues on, again, loudly, telling Ava’s mom how much she paid for Emma, where they "got" her from, how she is a single adoptive mom with no "life partner", on and on.
Emma looks up and begins listening to the entire exchange. Perhaps the five year old girl knows her story, perhaps she knows her orphanage and how much she cost, perhaps my discomfort with Emma hearing all this is just that – MY discomfort. I wonder if Emma wants her 5 year old buddies to know how much she cost. More personally, I wonder if my son will over hear the adoption conversation and decide to tell everyone about his sister that he has never met.
Emma’s adoptive mother is now complaining about the adoption process, the fees, etc. (I wonder if Emma feels she is not worth the price. Did she cost too much?)
It seems so cold and inappropriate to me to be so loudly discussing this in Emma’s presence. The little girl with her large dark eyes and bob haircut is no longer focusing on the blue Lego’s and my son sitting next to her, she is now raptured with her mother talking about the agency, the costs, the orphanages.
I hold back tears. I ponder leaving. I want to scoop my son up and run away from the talk of buying and selling Chinese children and how upset they are at how hard it is to "get one" one these days. (As if someone OWES them a child. The sense of entitlement is hurting my stomach.)
The infant on Ava’s mothers hip begins to shriek.
Emma’s mother asks "How old is that one?"
Clearly she cannot tell if the child is a boy or a girl. That too irritates me.
"She is 18 months. We only just got her. We were lucky we did." Ava’s mother responds
"Are you going to get more?" asks Emma’s mother
"Oh, I don’t know. This one has been pretty tough. She spent almost her entire first year with the birth mother. The agency told me that was bad for her. That is why she is so difficult for me. It was wrong for her to spend that much time with her birth mother." Ava’s adoptive mom says
The three precious days I was permitted with my own daughter flash before me. It becomes too much for me. It is time to go. I really have to leave. I cannot hold back the tears.
"Stef, sweetie, we have to go. I have to visit your brothers teacher and also drop paperwork off at the office" I say.
"Okay, Mom, lets go." my darling boy responds.
I pause before leaving the table. I look at Peth-Sara, Ava, Lola and Emma. I say a silent prayer for all of them. I silently tell them that their Mama’s in China miss them and will always want to know them. I secretly give them virtual hugs and kisses and love on behalf of women a half a world away that were not helped to keep their children, women too desperate, to poor to care for their children. Women born into a society that places no value on the mother-child bond but a great deal of value on how many children can be exported and sold to American buyers.
Emma catches my eye as we leave and she smiles a big smile. I hope she sensed the love I was sending her from her mother in China.
To the mom in China, your daughter, now called Emma, is a cutie pie. You would be very proud of her.