“I hate to see them get bounced home to home,” the foster mother said, passing me my first child.
I held her in my lap, paralyzed. I had brought a toy phone. When she grinned and reached for it, our eyes met, and a social worker took a photo of the moment. Later I wrote on the back: “The first time I saw you.”
I didn’t understand why there wasn’t a stampede of parents to adopt her. That I would get the honor made me tremble. I was so in love I could not say her name to myself, even in a whisper, lest I be denied the joy: Luppi Milov. I thought it was the most euphonious name I had ever heard. My daughter, my love.
As far as I knew, I was capable of getting pregnant. I just didn’t want to. There were half a million children in foster care in need of an adoptive parent. And I wanted children, so this made perfect sense to me.
It didn’t make perfect sense to my friends.
“Aren’t you afraid?” they asked.
No, I wasn’t. I had grown up with poverty, abuse and molestation. If my daughter wasn’t worth saving, neither was I. Besides, I didn’t believe that biology guaranteed love. I had grown up in a biracial family, unrelated to one of my siblings and half-related to others, and I certainly didn’t love them half as much.
Adopting from foster care felt magical. There was a wildness of imagination to it, a proclamation of intent: a decision to love.
Of course, ideals are one thing, reality another. The first months of motherhood hit me like a lead-filled gunnysack, my free time absorbed by occupational therapy appointments, doctors and specialists. I stayed up late reading books, learning about her challenges. Preschool started with special education looming, but I decided she was perfect just as herself.
And just like that, she bloomed.
Three years later, my caseworker said those magical words again, with a twist: “I think you’re just right for him.” This time the photo was clearer: a darling little boy with cherub cheeks. His eyes told his story; I had seen terror like that before, in my own eyes, looking back at me from my own childhood mirror.
“I’ll call him Tony Baloney,” my daughter said, dancing around her new little brother. She was now 4 and a shot of pure joy.
We met in his foster home, where his experienced foster parents didn’t mince words. Tony had bounced from home to home. He had serious attachment issues, rage. While we talked, Tony tore after another child; I heard…