Eleven years ago next Monday, we became a family. We celebrate the birth of our family, much in the way others celebrate birthdays , and we call it “Family Day.” Generally, we choose something special to do together on this day. When we lived in New York, we often went to Rye Playland. Here in Rochester, we’ve gone to the National Museum of Play, Seabreeze and the Seneca Park Zoo. Last year, we spent the day running between rain drops to collect sea shells with our friends Annette and Ted, on the beach in Naples, Florida. That’s a Family Day we’ll all always treasure.
To commemorate the day, I thought I’d take you with me to the night before my twin daughters came into our family. Amazing that it feels like only yesterday.
We had arrived in Guangzhou, China and were staying in the beautiful White Swan Hotel, a very different experience from the hotel we were at in Beijing where faulty air conditioning didn’t insulate us against the 100° temperatures outside and left a huge spreading puddle on the rug that we stepped in each time we entered or left the room.
At the five star White Swan Hotel, there was a young woman stationed at the elevator to guide you to your room each time you stepped off the elevator. A stream accented by a waterfall flowed through the middle of the hotel lobby, exotic birds serenaded you from cages in the upstairs lounge, and the breakfast buffet was fit for Kublai Khan.
We had arrived from Beijing that day, still a bit jet lagged and we’d done a bit of sightseeing, so I should have been tired. Instead of tumbling asleep to dream of Adoption Day taking place the next morning, I lay awake worrying far into the night, long after my husband snored softly from the adjacent twin bed (yes, even in a five star hotel, twin beds were the norm).
Was I worrying about the health of my daughters or about how long it would take them to bond with us? Or worrying about the leap of faith we’d taken, adopting twins that had probably been premature? Was I worrying that they’d only heard Chinese for the first nine months of their lives or that we would look so different, we’d seem like aliens to them?
No…I worried that I wouldn’t be a good enough mother.
I worried that I was too selfish, too set in my ways…that I’d be reluctant to give up the many things I’d enjoyed doing as a single woman and then as a couple – the dancing and travel, the shopping, movies and plays, friends and adventures. I lay there, silent tears streaming as I envisioned the “me” I knew slipping away, drowning in diapers and bottles, nursery rhymes and strained peas, nursery school and PTA. I worried that my career would suffer and that I’d be seen as less capable. I worried that I, as I knew myself, would disappear… dissolving into my new identity as “mother of twins.”
At last my fears were absorbed into the night, I fell asleep and the gritty-eyed dawn arrived. Our group of four families boarded a bus and headed happily off to a governmental building to meet our long-awaited children.
And in that one day, all of my fears came true, at the same time as they never materialized at all.
How do I explain it?
For a time, I did become engulfed in feedings, ear aches, diaper changes, nursery rhymes and alphabets. But the odd thing is, they enriched rather than eroded who I was…who I’ve become. Did my career change? Yes, but not because of my daughters, but by economic circumstances and choices I’ve made, both good and bad. Yes, there were times when I’ve wished I could put my husband and daughters in bell jars set high on shelves where they’d be safe and time wouldn’t pass so that I could go off and be “my old self.” There are still days when I think that if I have to do one more load of laundry, prepare one more meal, make one more grocery shopping trip, I’ll turn in my badge.
I’ve since discovered that’s what “girlfriend getaways” are for…a chance to renew and reinvigorate. The most important thing I’ve realized is you don’t have to love every part of the job to be a good parent. And you don’t have to let go of who you are…. The parts of yourself you treasure most can be shared with your child, enriching and blossoming in both of your lives.