Last night at preschool orientation, I spotted the little basket assigned to our son. His name is taped to the front. It made me want to cry. I smiled and pointed it out to Ted, just like all the other parents in the room who are charmed and a little saddened by seeing their child's name looking all official on a tiny little preschool cubby.
The teacher is making a photo album for the kids to look at during the school year. She asked everyone to bring in photos of their kids, especially ones with their extended families and early baby photos. She likes to let the kids tell stories about their homes and families and even baby stories they've heard about themselves. At this point, she nodded in our direction and said that kids love to hear about how they joined their family, whether by birth or adoption. I had good feelings about this school already but this confirmed it, the awareness of this teacher to remember to include different types of families.
I also got a little choked up at the mention of baby photos for our kids. We have plenty of baby pictures of Abe. But we probably won't of our next one. What if she's four when she comes to us and is able to start preschool but doesn't have baby photos to add to the class photo album? Will this make her feel sad? Will this be her first lesson in how she's not like everyone else and that the loss in her life is sometimes glaring, not just to her but also to others?
I know I'm worrying about things I have no control over. As we've approached the "window" of time when we could receive a referral and now as we sit smack dab in the middle of it, I've been thinking about these things a lot more. I've been thinking of her a lot more. This child is not a theoretical child anymore. It's possible and maybe even likely that someone already knows who she is, that we've already been matched and are just waiting for all the paperwork to fall into place before that life-changing phone call is made. I can't stop thinking about that.
The other day, I was out by myself shopping for a baby gift for a shower I went to on Sunday. I wasn't intending to buy them, but when I found matching girl and boy Halloween pajamas, I had to get them. The boy's are black with glow-in-the-dark skeleton print with a pumpkin where the heart should be. The girl's are pink but with an actual heart where the heart should be. I could try to figure out some metaphor for the girl having a real heart and the boy having a pumpkin, but that makes my head hurt, and I think it was just a weird design choice. But they are cute nonetheless, and I got all kinds of emotional when I walked out of the store with them.
I came home and showed them to Ted who reminded me that the chances are that our kids won't be wearing them this Halloween. There's next year though. I tucked them away with the rest of the things I've been collecting and squirreling away for our little girl. A little girl I now think about all the time. She's becoming less and less the theoretical girl we are hoping to adopt. She's real. She has a little heart beneath her rib cage and a dollhouse with hard-won furniture that her brother doesn't really like to play with. She has a string of lights to be hung over her bed to make it cozy. She has a huge bag of hand-me-downs from the two neighbor girls down the block. She has a pink down-filled vest for the winter and a pair of pajamas with cherries on them that match the ones I'm wearing as I type this. She has a full set of Ethiopian, Eritrean, and Somali grandparents in Oregon who are going to cover her in kisses and dollar bills stuck in her pockets, the same way they do her brother every week. She has a dad whose eyes turn red and fill with tears at the mere mention of her. She has a mom who is reading many books to prepare to love her well. She has a family here with hearts beneath their rib cages too, a family who will honor her loss, will try to love her well, and who can't wait to meet her.