Meeting Bella: A Memory to Treasure
Unlike most Moms, I cannot recount in detail, or even in generalities, the birth stories of half of my children. And while I can blame my faulty memory on many of the black holes in my life, the integrity of my memory has nothing to do with the void in my brain where a beautiful story should reside.
The stories are not there simply because I never experienced them. I did not conceive, carry in my body, or deliver three of my children. That leaves me with an emptiness that aches. I never got to place my hand on my belly to feel them swimming and kicking and searching for elbow room. I never got to kiss their sweet tiny fingers or inhale their baby essence.
However, to be fair, I must mention that I have, in exchange, something most mothers do not. Meeting my babies for the first time took place when they were no longer infants, but people. People with thoughts and questions and dreams and the confusion of their emotions all swirling around.
And these meeting stories, as opposed to birth stories, are monumentally sacred to me, and just as special as the birth stories of my three biological children.
I thought I would share...
"Will you tell me a story?"
"What kind of a story?"
"About the day I first met you."
"You're not too tired?"
"No, no, no. Please tell it?"
"Well, OK. If you're sure ...
"Many years ago, you lived on the other side of the world in Kazakhstan, in a big building called the Detsky Dom, which means Children's Home. You lived there with many other children, and the caregivers, which the children called Mamas. Now, these children were all different ages, all different colors and shapes and sizes. But there was one thing you all had in common: None of you had a family of your own. Sure, you had food a-plenty, and things to do and lots of children to play with. You had warm clothes and tights and shoes to wear, even if sometimes the shoes were too small or had holes where your toes would peek out to see what was going on."
"But every once in awhile you would have to say goodbye to one of the children, because a new Mama and Papa wanted them to be part of their family. You didn't know why the children were chosen by these Mamas and Papas. Did they choose Anastasia because she had beautiful long blond hair and eyes blue as ice? Did they choose Peter because he was so good at marbles and had that smile that made you smile right back?
You wondered if maybe a Mama and Papa would one day come for you, but you worried because you didn't think your teeth were pretty and you didn't like your short brown hair and the other kids teased you sometimes and said you talked funny.
So you watched the Mamas and Papas come and go, and you said goodbye to many children over the years, but still you waited and you wondered and you dreamed.
Then one day, one of the caregiver Mamas gave you some news. She told you that a Mama was coming to the Detsky Dom. She was coming to see you because she wanted you to be her daughter. At first you didn't believe her. You thought she must have meant Katarina with the beautiful braids. But she assured you, she meant you. Natasha. The Mama would be coming in the morning.
That night was the longest of your life. Your brain had so many questions that it didn't know the answers to, so sleep was impossible. What would your Mama look like? What would she smell like? Would she be soft? How would her hair feel in your fingers? Maybe she was a princess and wore a sparkly crown. Maybe she was .........................
and you fell asleep at long last.
When morning came, you were out of bed while the other children were all still deep asleep. You snuck quietly to the window and sat there, looking out, staring intently at the place where cars come in off the street, so you would be sure to see your new Mama the minute she got there.
Sometime during the morning one of the Caregiver Mamas came in to get you dressed. She slipped over your head a fancy red dress, all ribbons and lace. She smoothed and brushed your hair and made it pretty as could be with a white bow that was big as your head. She gave you clean white socks and pretty buckle shoes (that were, ouch, too tight).
As soon as she was done, you went right back to your spot at the window. You waited there and watched there all morning, for hours and hours.
Finally the Caregiver Mama told you it was time. She took you by the hand and led you out of your group room, along the hall, down the stairs, and through a whole lot of hallways till you came to the Director's office. Without hesitating, she sent you right in, with a little nudge at the top of your back. A few steps inside the door you stopped, frozen with uncertainty.
There, across the room, sitting in a chair by the Director's desk, was your new Mama.
She was wearing a long flowy skirt and she had long, flowy hair. She smiled at you, and her eyes got all watery. You smiled back, but didn't move from your spot by the door.
Valentina, the Director, told you to come over and say hello to your Mama, then told the Mama that you were shy. Then another lady that you didn't know said something to the Mama in funny words that you didn't understand.
When you still didn't move, all the grown-ups went back to talking, but the Mama kept looking back at you and smiling. After a few minutes you began to take steps towards the Mama. She was listening to the other grown-ups, but now and then would look over her shoulder at you and smile some more.
You liked that smile. You took more steps. You were almost close enough to reach out and touch her. A little closer and you were standing right there beside her. She looked at you, and put her arm around your shoulder, and gave you a little pat.
You didn't realize you had been holding your breath, but now you let it out like a wind. Moving ever so slowly, you kind of backed yourself up till you were sitting right in the Mama's lap. She put both arms around you now, and started stroking your hair, and rocking gently back and forth. You reached out to feel her hair, and it was as you imagined, soft as silk.
You lay your head down on her shoulder and ran your little fingers through her hair, top to bottom and back again, over and over. When you looked back at the Mama's face again you saw it wasn't just her eyes that were watery. Her whole face was sloppy wet as tears washed her cheeks.
But somehow this didn't make you scared. Though it seemed too crazy a notion to be true, she was crying because she was happy that she was your Mama. Not a Caregiver Mama, not a princess Mama, but the best kind of Mama, a Real Mama. She was yours and you were hers and could this really be true? Someone out there in the world beyond the Detsky Dom, someone wanted you, Bella, over all the other children here and in the wide world.
Like spring rains seep into the dry ground to bring new life to the sleeping flowers, this thought that this Mama wanted you and loved you began to seep into your skin and into your bones and into your soul.
And as you sat on her lap, with her rocking you back and forth and humming a quiet little song in you ear, and stroking your hair and your back with her warm hands, you knew you had found Mama.
And that Mama was Home."
Bringing Borya Home
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