The hostess seats us at a corner table overlooking the bay and bridge. All around us families gather to celebrate their mothers. Though we are just a party of four adults the waiter brings over two flowers: One for my mother, and one for me. The two mothers at our table. Except I’m not a mother. In fact, the previous day we had received a call from my doctor essentially closing the door on our chance for biological children. It was possible, sure, but there would be drugs and procedures, and the medical staff couldn’t guarantee a positive outcome. Suddenly children were no longer a sure thing for our future. The waiter smiles and hands me the rose. I promptly burst into tears.
Growing up I always knew I wanted a family of my own. It was one of the things my husband and I first bonded over—our love of family and our love of children. I remember vividly the first time we ever stepped foot into an adoption fair. Though we weren’t sure adoption would be right for us, I feel something shift as we survey the photos of smiling children from all around the room. Maybe family didn’t have to be biological. Maybe it was possible that there was a child waiting for us in China or South Korea or even Colombia. I worry my husband will mourn the loss of a child that looks like him. I worry what our families will think. I worry what our friends will say. We leave the adoption fair at Children’s Home Society’s offices in Springfield, Virginia and sit in the parking lot for an hour without speaking. Is international adoption really for us? My husband takes a deep breath, turns to me and smiles, “You know, I’ve always wanted to go to China.” Our journey had begun.
Another Mother’s Day follows but this time instead of being sad I fantasize about what our new family member will be like. I find myself back in San Francisco on business so I wander around China Town trying to imagine what our child will look like. Will he be tall like me? Will he wear glasses like his dad? I buy Chinese New Year decorations and wall hangings in anticipation of decorating my son or daughter’s room. Five months later we get the call. There’s a little boy, 18 months old, who needs a forever home. Three months later we’re on a plane bound for Taiyuan, China, to bring our son, Jack, home. Our first Mother’s Day together is a quiet affair. We have only been home a short time and are adjusting still to life as a new family. But the funny thing is, with each passing day I find it harder and harder to imagine how any biological child could be more my son than Jack. He is my son, Jack. And I am his mother.
As a transracial, transcultural adoptive family we have come to love that we adopted more than a child. We adopted a whole country. We read Chinese folk tales, we make noodle dishes from my son’s home province of Taiyuan. Come January we take down the Christmas decorations and put up Chinese New Year lights and lanterns. And with each of these practices we become richer as a family. We encourage our family and friends to join in the celebrations and Jack delights at handing out red envelopes and teaching others about his heritage. When the time comes to add to our family we look to Children’s Home and international adoption again. This time we make the announcement to our family on the best day we can think of: Mother’s Day. Seated at a formal brunch we present my mother with a framed photo of her new granddaughter. Mira, from India.
Months later I find myself back on the West Coast. Nestled beside me in the backseat, Mira snuggles closely. Newly home, only 10 weeks, we’re still working on attachment issues and so she’s accompanying me on my business trip. This trip I walk the streets of San Francisco with my daughter and Facetime my husband and son back in Virginia. I promise Jack I’ll bring him on my next trip to the West Coast so he can visit China Town—he loves the pictures I send and marvels at the streets filled with people who look just like him. This Sunday, on Mother’s Day, we will have a ceremony to formally welcome Mira into our family. It is the same ceremony we had for Jack when we returned home from China three years ago. The celebrant asks the family “Do you take this child for your own?” and then asks the community to recognize our newly formed family and to celebrate and support us in the years ahead. This time we will add a line asking if Jack will take Mira as his sister. We’re hoping he says yes!
Life has changed a lot in the six years since that fateful Mother’s Day brunch. I have learned that DNA does not make family. I have learned to stand up for my children, to confront biases, to celebrate differences, and to recognize that adoption is not a single event but rather a journey. My family may not look like any other but my family was formed by choice. I choose my children just as every day they choose me. And for that I’m eternally grateful.
About the Author: Jennifer Jones is an adoptive mother, playwright, storyteller, and solo performer. She frequently blogs about her adoption experience at Letters to Jack. You can also find her on Twitter.