Wednesday, May 17, 2006

She's A Bad Mama-Jama

So, my first Mother's Day. It was a really nice day, spent with my dear husband, charming daughter, and cherished friends. Here are some photos, many of them of Jarrah and Joy together, taken at a lunch we attended at Paul's parent's house. Mary and Paul have been incredibly sweet to include us in so many of their family gatherings in the past year. I always have a warm glow at these get-togethers. And we agreed that Cute Jarrah + Cute Joy = Cute to, like, the 10th power. There's a massive increase in the Gross Cute National Product when the two girls are together in their holiday finery.

Mary asked me if I thought of Jarrah's birthmother on Mother's Day. I was abashed (but honest) when I admitted that I hadn't given her a thought. Not one thought. It was all me, me, me and my fabulous mother self. A self, of course, that would not be possible if it weren't for a woman in Chongqing who carried Jarrah in her body, nourished her, gave birth to her, and perhaps tenderly cared for her, as the tiny baby I never knew, for four weeks. The longer I know Jarrah, the weirder it is that someone else, someone I've never met and likely never will, carried Jarrah in her belly. Jarrah feels like mine and I feel like hers. So what of this mystery woman, and for that matter, mystery man, who (to make the mind boggle a bit more) could even be a mystery to the mystery woman? When I responded to someone in Target asking "Which one of her parents does she look like?" with "I expect both of them," was I telling the truth?

And I'm going through a phase of being a little angry at Jarrah's birth mother. When we were in China and I learned that Jarrah was found with "a red coat, a bottle, and a peck of formula," I sobbed for this woman who wanted to care for her child even as she left her by the road side in the dead of winter. (Yes, yes, I know I'm choosing rather dramatic language here.) But now that I know Jarrah better, now that she is family, I'm a bit pissed. How could someone leave my baby by the road side in the dead of winter? Was it muddy? Was it nighttime? How long did she lie there? Did she cry?

And yet I understand that if this mother hadn't made the ultimate sacrifice, I wouldn't have the opportunity to feel righteous indignation on Jarrah's behalf, because I wouldn't know Jarrah. She would be a 17-hour flight away, and be one of those billions of people in China that everyone always talks about. This mystery woman had no idea that in giving up her child, she was giving a total stranger the opportunity to be a mother. Having just written that, I realize that this is a lie. She obviously pinned a lot of hope on a total stranger. If she hadn't, there would have been no need for the red coat, the bottle and the "peck" of formula.

I ended up getting easily a dozen calls and e-mails on Mother's Day, and it bears repeating that I was genuinely surprised by this outpouring of thoughtfulness. The reason it bears repeating is that I'm an extremely entitled person, and with the advancing years, willing to admit it. When it's my birthday, I like the celebration to go on all month. I like to feel I'm the only person with my birthday, and that the miracle of my existence is the first thing that my loved ones think of as their eyes flutter open that morning. I was very aware it was Mother's Day, and while I haven't quite embodied the role of mother yet, I knew I had some good stuff coming to me. I knew that David should step it up a bit since Jarrah is as yet unable to shop, and that I was entitled to brunch and possibly flowers. But it didn't occur to me that my loved ones might awaken that morning and think, "Sam has waited a really, really long time to hear someone say 'Happy Mother's Day' to her. I think I'll drop her a line."

And the fact that you did, my dear ones, means more to me than I can express. To all the mothers out there, may every day feel like Mother's Day. And for all the moms-in-waiting, I want you to know that there is a lot of mystery to this kind of love. Sometimes it can be wonderful to accept it without question.


Amy said...

Hey girl,
I just blopped the girls in their carseats (post stroll at the golf course) and who should I hear on NPR These Days but my dear Samantha Goldstein - Mommy blogger extraordinaire! Tooo cool. I am just bummed I only caught the tale end. Hey how did you book that gig? You sounded very cool on radio! Congrats!

Nancy said...

Hi, just heard you on KPBS. Good job. My DH called from the traffic jam to tell me to turn it on.

I blog mostly about knitting and sewing, but kids squirm their way in there as they do with all parts of our lives. Our youngest is adopted from Vladivostok Russia at 22 months so I understand much of what you were saying about how hard that trip is. When we traveled I had a Yahoo Group for support, but I would have loved a blog.

What compelled me to write now is to tell you that my darling girl also rejected me on our trip – I truly sympathize! In Russia you have to visit the child daily for about a week, come home, the go back and visit briefly again before going to court to complete the adoption. Throughout those visits Emily was comfortable with both of us. But, on the day of the adoption the ladies at the orphanage made a big, noisy fuss over her, then very clumsily pushed her into my arms babbling “Go to Mama!” Go to Mama!” over and over. Something in that gesture combined with, I believe, me suddenly and without warning replacing her mothering figures cause her to shut me out for the rest of the trip. Just like your experience, she adored my husband, but I wasn't allowed to touch any part of her body until after we arrived home. If she fell asleep on the plane and rested against me, she would jerk herself away as soon as she awoke like I had scorched her. Made for so much fun in the group transport vans, at the hotels, and particularly on those endless plane rides between Vlad and Moscow, then Moscow and LAX. I’ll never forget lying in that hotel bed in Moscow crying so deeply. No one else can understand how all your hopes and fears about the adoption and motherhood can almost drown you at that time.

I have the perspective of being both a biological mother and an adoptive mother. There’s an amazing selfless satisfaction in watching your adopted child grow because they are not of your body. The discovery of this unique person is so magical. You can take pride in and have profound joy about their every accomplishment without your own ego coming into play. They are themselves. And you are every inch their mother, because mothering is a journey you make together everyday.

Best of luck to your family.

Nancy said...

Me again, just realized this Blogger id is long gone. You can find me (and photos of Emily) at

Anonymous said...

happy first mom's day! xxx, liz