Those words, uttered by our coordinator, silenced all the nervous laughter.
They dried up all tears.
They sucked all air from the room.
All attention focused on her. I instinctively reached for my husband’s hand as the coordinator told us the procedures we needed to follow.
We would be called by last names. When our name was called we were to proceed to the conference room next door where we would meet the child we had been waiting to meet for so many months. Once our child was in our arms we were to proceed to the director of the orphanage and give her the gifts that we had brought for her and the caregivers. Names would be called alphabetically.
I scanned the room and repeated the names of each family. My grip on my husband’s hand tightened. We were going to be the first family called! I started trembling at my very center – a trembling that I had never before experienced. The coordinator said she was going to check to make sure that the staff of the orphanage was ready for us. She stepped out of the room. I felt like she took all the oxygen out of the room with her. I had no idea what I needed to do. My mind was an absolute blank. I stood there as the room erupted around me. My husband handed the camera to my mom. My father was making sure that the video camera was ready. I was frozen to the floor, unable to breathe, feeling like I was looking at things from a million miles away. Moments later the door opened and the coordinator stepped back into the room.
She called our name. I hesitated for roughly .001 second and moved towards the door amid cries of well-wishes from our fellow travelers. The coordinator was standing outside the door gesturing to the room on the left. Suddenly I could not move fast enough. I was moving as fast as I could without running. I remember hearing my mother laughing at how fast I was moving. No one was keeping up with me, yet I was incapable of slowing down or waiting on anyone.
I walked into the room where national flags from all over the world hung from the ceiling. There were ladies holding babies sitting on sectional couches against the far wall. The air was still and warm without the fresh breeze that was drifting into the conference room we had just left. All of this I recognized within the recesses of my mind, but what I saw, the focus of all my attention, was a woman standing in the middle of the room holding a bright-eyed, obviously curious little child. I stopped abruptly and just stared. This whole trip I had remained relatively in control. I had shed no tears while I was getting up so very early to catch the plane, during all the flights, at breakfast, not even with the money exchange issue. But now my eyes welled up. The ayi holding this precious child was pointing to me and saying “Mama, Mama”, encouraging the child to look at me. This sweet child looked back and forth between her ayi and me. I felt the small hand of the coordinator urge me forward. I approached these two people who had become the center of my world. This little girl looked at me for a moment. I gently opened my arms, not wanting to scare her or force her to move too quickly. She looked down at my open hands then back up at my eyes. Never taking her eyes from mine, she opened her arms and moved towards me. I took her in my arms and stepped back next to my husband. I could vaguely hear the camera snapping, but never once did we break eye contact for a few endless seconds. DH gently murmured his greeting to his new daughter. She broke eye contact to look up into his face, her face showing curiosity. She calmly looked back and forth between the two of us as we gently touched her closely cropped hair, and looked at her tiny hands. We were in a bubble. The world moved around us, yet we were still and silent in our own little place. I felt her soft hair. I felt her light weight resting in my arms. I felt her warmth seeping into my body. I felt the soft, well-worn cotton of her little onesie. I breathed in the scent of her sweaty little head. We were finally all together. All of our heartache over the last 10 years finally made sense. All of the prayers that we had uttered we answered. The answers were not always yes, but they were answered. The broken pieces of my husband’s life, of my life and of this precious child’s life had been joined. We were not made for each other. Our pieces were not broken from the same vessels. But they fit, and they complemented each other, and we became a family.