There’s a Lucy Kaplansky song called “This is Home.” It’s a beautiful song about a woman who’s married and wants to have a baby. She and her husband are planning to adopt, and Kaplansky writes an incredibly moving verse that imagines her future child, waiting in an orphanage:
“She’s lying on a bed in some crowded room,
Trying to sleep, not much else to do;
Faces change around her, they speak to her sometimes,
She’s getting used to being left behind.
When we find her, we’ll belong to her.
We won’t see her first smile, we won’t hear her first word.
But ours will be first hearts she holds in her hand.
She can keep ‘em beside her, in her very own room.”
So, this will probably be the most painful post I write, and I’d like to get it out of the way. Three years ago I met a little girl at an orphanage in Ethiopia and wanted to adopt her. It took several weeks, after I returned home, to determine that her father wouldn’t relinquish her.
She was almost three, and she had a crazy adorable smile and a nose that just couldn’t make enough snot, and about sixty seconds after I met her she took my hand.
She would be almost six now. I imagine she still lives in the orphanage where I met her. Or maybe her father has taken her home by now. If she’s still at the orphanage, I know she’s well cared for. The staff was amazing and attentive. But when I think of her—which I do often— my heart hurts. And, frankly, I wish that she were in her very own room, right down the hall from mine.
As I move toward entering those waters again, I know that I have to be prepared for that level of pain—or worse. In some respects, I was fairly lucky. I didn’t spend months preparing for a baby, only to have an adoption fall through. I didn’t buy cribs and changing tables that were then left empty. I didn’t even have a home study done. My adoption experience ended before it began, really.
It’s hard to say what would have been “best” for this little girl. Maybe she would have had a wonderful life with me… or maybe something horrible and unpredictable would have happened, and it’s “best” that she’s in Ethiopia. I like to think things worked out the way they did for a reason. I hope that reason was a good one.
And perhaps, one day ,I’ll pick up the L.A. Times (more likely, look at the Times online), and there she’ll be, accepting a Nobel Prize. Or being sworn in as the first female President of Ethiopia. Or smiling at a classroom of students whose lives she is changing.
If I see that picture, I’ll know it’s her. I’d recognize that smile anywhere.