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I woke up this morning without a pit in my stomach. It felt fantastic. My first thought wasn't "What day is it in my cycle?" or "What injections, hormones, or tests do I have to take today?" Nor did I have to worry about having sex. I realize this may sound odd, but believe me having to have sex every month on day eight, ten, twelve, fourteen, sixteen, and eighteen of your cycle, with a couple of extra rides thrown in to be on the safe side, is not all that much fun.
Now that we were going to adopt, I was looking forward to getting back to a spontaneous sex life that wasn't ruled by my temperature and didn't end up with me standing on my head for twenty minutes in a lame attempt to aid the sperm by adding my own version of gravity to the equation.
I looked over at James, who was heading out to the shower.
"Isn't it great?"
"What?" he said, looking around suspiciously.
"The fact that now when you shower, you can masturbate to your heart's content. Your sperm can swim freely. You no longer have to keep them all in for baby making. So liberate them, let 'em flow...," I said, waving my arms about over my head. I had previously banned James from masturbating because I had read somewhere that the male's sperm needed to be kept in for as long as possible so they would be chomping at the bit during sex and charge up and fertilize the eggs.
"Thank you, darling," said James, grinning at me. "It's wonderful for a man to have his wife's blessing to play with himself. I may be a while!"
I went downstairs to make breakfast. I was feeling very Doris Day-esque as I whisked the eggs and fried the sausages. This was a new day. A fresh beginning. I had a really good feeling about it. No more stress about trying to get pregnant. No more doctors and hospitals and drugs. We were going to adopt. We were going to give a child a happy home. I pictured some poor little mite in a war-torn country gazing at me through the bars of her iron cot. Dressed in rags she looked up at me, her huge blue eyes begging me to take her away to a safe, warm place. I bent down to hold her hand, and slowly, she began to smile at me, her pinched face lighting up.
"That's the first time Svetlana has ever smiled," gasped the director of the orphanage. I beamed back at the beautiful little girl. I was special, she was special. We were made for each other.
I imagined James holding Svetlana in his arms as we burst through the arrivals gate in the airport. Our families, gathered to greet us, were holding WELCOME HOME SVETLANA banners and big red CONGRATULATIONS balloons. I saw them oohing and aahing when they first met our gorgeous, smiling daughter. James and I beamed at each other, proud parents at last. Fast-forwarding twenty years, I saw myself cheering as Svetlana won the best actress award at the Oscars for her portrayal of a deaf musician fighting against the odds to become a world-class pianist. In her acceptance speech she thanked everyone, and then, pausing for maximum effect, she said, "But most of all I want to thank my mother for saving my life. If it wasn't for her I wouldn't be here today. This Oscar is for you, Mum, you are the person I love and admire most in the world. I owe everything to you..." I nodded and bowed my head as the audience rose to its feet to applaud me.
"Emma, what on earth are you doing? The sausages are burning." James pushed me aside and pulled the pan off the stove, staring at his blackened breakfast. "Are you all right? What's going on?"
"Nothing," I snapped, embarrassed at being caught bowing and waving to the cream of Hollywood.
James shrugged and took over the cooking. He was used to finding me daydreaming. When he was halfway through his scrambled eggs and burnt sausages, I announced that I was going to call the adoption people.
"Today?" he asked.
"Yes today. No point in wasting any more time, we might as well get going."
"Okay, well will you get them to send us out all the relevant information so we can go through it before making the final decision."
"What do you mean final decision?"
"I'd just like to know a bit more about the process before plunging in, that's all."
James had been a bit reluctant at first about the whole adoption thing. He was worried about the child's medical history, its family medical history, abuse, AIDS.... But I said that everything was a leap of faith. Having kids of your own was scary too. Then I brought up his mad uncle Harry who had a fetish for exposing himself to people, but who had three sons who were completely normal and well balanced. Who could tell what genes and mental or medical foibles were going to be passed down? It was unknown and mostly inexplicable territory, but we couldn't live our lives in fear. After much discussion and debate, James had agreed to the adoption, so I was none too pleased with this "final decision" comment.
"James," I said, trying to be patient. "We discussed this at length. We agreed to go ahead with it. I'm not ringing up to ask for an information pack, I'm calling to put our names down on the list."
"All right, fine, but will you ask them to send us some guidelines, I just don't think it's as straightforward as you seem to."
"Don't be silly, every time you turn on the TV there are orphaned children staring out at you, desperate for good homes. Besides, after the last two years, it'll be a piece of cake," I said brimming with confidence. There was no way this could be more difficult than trying to get pregnant. Adoption was going to be a walk in the park compared to the last two years. I couldn't wait to get started.
Later that day when James had gone off to practice, I called the Adoption Board. James had been promoted from assistant coach to manager and head coach of the Leinster rugby team. Leinster had lost in the semifinal of the European Cup to Toulouse the year before, and James had gone into mourning for weeks. So he was determined to win the cup this year and was giving the team his undivided attention and putting in even more time than ever at work. I just hoped his practice schedule wasn't going to clash with our adoption schedule.
"Hello" snapped a grouchy voice at the end of the phone.
"Oh hello, I'm ringing to adopt a baby," I announced.
The woman sighed. "Hold the line."
"Hello," snapped an equally grumpy-sounding colleague.
"Yes hello, I would like to adopt a baby please."
"Have you filled out the Intercountry Adoption Form?"
"The Inter what?"
"The form. Have you filled it out?"
"No, I haven't filled out anything," I said, beginning to feel a bit grumpy myself. What was wrong with these women? Why were they being so rude? And what on earth did she mean by 'intercountry'? Maybe I had misheard and she meant intercounty. Yes that must be it; she needed to know what county I was from in Ireland.
"I need your address so I can send you the Intercountry Adoption Form."
"Did you say intercounty?"
"No dear, I said intercountry. As in Ireland and China not Dublin and Cork."
"But why would I want one of those forms? Isn't it easier and quicker to get an Irish baby? There must be hundreds of young teenage mothers who give up their babies for adoption."
The woman snorted. "Single mothers, give up their babies? Where have you been for the last ten years? Irish baby, ha ha, that's the best I ever heard."
I was now really angry. How dare this old boot laugh at me? Sure, I had fantasized about adopting a child from a war-torn country, but realistically it'd be a lot easier to get a local baby.
"So what are you saying I can't adopt an Irish child?"
"There are no Irish babies up for adoption. There were four in total last year. Four in the whole country, and we have thousands of parents looking to adopt and a huge backlog. Intercountry is the only option. Do you want a form sent out or not?"
"Yes, please," I said, feeling utterly deflated.
I gave her my address and hung up. I was reeling. Four Irish babies in the whole country! A huge backlog of parents, with the only option being intercountry. What did that mean? How big was the backlog? What countries were involved in intercountry? Did it include England? With James being English, maybe we'd have a good chance of getting an English baby. But if the single mothers in Ireland were keeping their babies, the single mothers in England were probably doing the same.
I had imagined I'd ring up and they'd say, "Thank you for calling. What a wonderful person you must be to want to adopt a child. When can we meet you? We have hundreds of children waiting to be placed." I never imagined I'd be barked at, laughed at, and then hustled off the phone.
As I sat there lurching between wanting to cry and wanting to call back and tell the woman exactly what I thought of her and her attitude, the phone rang. It was my mother.
"Who were you on to? I've been trying to get through for the past ten minutes."
"The adoption people," I said without thinking.
I wanted to bite my tongue in half. How on earth could I have been so casual? Telling my mother that we were gong to adopt a baby required buildup. It should have started with lots of subtle hints about the wonders of adoption. Throw in a few stories about people she had heard of who had successfully adopted Mum loved Mia Farrow and thought her multiple adoptions were wonderful. She was always saying how it was the Irish blood in Mia (her mother was the famous Irish actress Maureen O'Sullivan) that made Mia such a good and charitable person. After a series of long discussions about Mia's successful adoptions, I should then have just hinted that we were thinking of going down that route ourselves. Never, but never should I have pounced the news on her as I had just done. And let's face it I had thirty-five years practice well, I only started talking at three, but you get the idea so it was a very stupid and fatal mistake on my part.
"Adoption people? What on earth are you at, Emma? Lord save us you've only been trying for a family for a short while, what in God's name are you rushing into that for? I'd say they laughed you out of the place."
"No, actually they didn't. They're sending me out the application forms today. Furthermore, I've been trying to get pregnant for two years, which is not a short time. It feels like an eternity to me."
What the hell, I had landed myself in it now, I might as well ram the point home.
"Pffff eternity my eye. You young ones expect everything to happen instantly. Life's not like that. Application forms? I never heard the like. It takes time to get pregnant. Rushing out and adopting the first child that comes along is foolish. What does James think of all this madness?"
"He is one hundred percent behind me. He thinks it's fantastic, in fact it was his idea," I lied.
My mother thought James was the bee's knees and the cat's pajamas. He could do no wrong in her eyes. The fact that I had managed to marry someone who was stable, extremely attractive, and successful had thrown her completely. You couldn't blame her really, because before James there had been a string of unstable, unattractive losers. The icing on the cake was the fact that James was English she seemed to think I'd married a young David Niven. The fact that James looked and acted nothing like the actor was irrelevant. He sounded a bit like him, and that was good enough for Mum. She loved telling all her bridge cronies about her wonderful "English" son-in-law. Don't get me wrong. I loved my mother, but now that her three children were all grown up, she had too much time on her hands. My younger brother, Sean, had been living in London for over ten years and my sister, Babs my parent's afterthought was now a bolshie twenty-three-year-old student who ignored her. So Mum's spare time was spent focusing a lot on me, my marriage, and my attempts to get pregnant. It now looked as though we would be adding adoption to the list.
"I somehow doubt that James had anything to do with this harebrained scheme to adopt. You should "
"So, Mum, what did you call for?" I said as firmly as I could without being short.
"Well, I was just calling to tell you about Francis Moran."
"You know Francis well; you used to play together when you were kids."
"I have no idea who she is."
"Oh for goodness sake, you used to pal around with her and sure isn't her brother the managing director of that mobile phone company...what's this his name is? Greg...no...Gary...no...Gerry is it?"
"I've no idea who you're talking about."
"Well anyway, didn't Francis go to Turkey on her holidays and get engaged to a waiter out there. Her poor mother is beside herself."
"Well, if she's happy what's so terrible about it?"
"Happy? With a Turkish waiter she met on a week's package holiday? Sure everyone knows he's only marrying her to get a visa to come over here."
"Maybe it's true love," I said, defending my childhood pal who I had no recollection of ever meeting.
"Come on now, Emma, don't be ridiculous. Francis was always a bit wild. I remember when you used to...oh, actually now that I think of it, it wasn't you she was pally with at all, it was Sean. I better go and ring him to fill him in. Okay, bye."
"Bye," I said into the empty receiver.
When James came home later that evening I told him about the adoption people being rude and not having any local babies and having to adopt abroad.
"I hate to say I told you so," he said, saying it anyway, "but I did warn you that this wouldn't be easy."
"I don't understand why it's so hard. I mean Mum's school friend saw a documentary one time about the orphanages in Romania, and the next day she hopped on a plane. A week later, she came back with a kid under each arm. They were delighted to let the children go."
"First of all, I doubt very much it happened quite like that, and second of all, that was ten years ago times have changed."
James was one of those guys who never let you get away with exaggerating. I like to exaggerate, I like to say it took me three hours to get home when it actually only took an hour and ten minutes. I think it makes for a better story. James on the other hand likes facts to remain facts and not turn into fiction. When he pulled other people up on it, I thought it was smart and funny, when he did it to me I wanted to poke his eyes out.
"That is how it happened actually. I've seen pictures of her carrying the two babies out of the orphanage. She was carrying her little girl in her arms and holding the little boy's hand. They looked as if they were a normal family except for the fact that the kids look nothing like her. Anyway the point is, we'll have to go abroad to adopt because there are no Irish babies."
"I expected that actually. I read an article recently which said that something like eighty percent of all adopted children in Western Europe are foreign."
"Well next time don't keep the statistics to yourself, share them with me so I don't go making a fool of myself. So what do you think?"
"About having Ling Su Wong as a daughter? I dunno, but if she looks like Lucy Liu from Charlie's Angels, I'm okay with it," he said, finding himself very entertaining.
Copyright © 2006 by Sinead Moriarty