An over-the-counter baby

2011-01-18 00:00

“WHO,” my three-year-old daughter Anna said, “is Jedi’s mom?” She was staring hard at my 10-month-old son as she said it.

I was expecting this question at some point — Jedi was brown and I was, as Anna herself had pointed out, peach — but it had been a few months in coming.

A week ago, Anna had asked why our friend Nono did not have children. And while I was trying to explain that Nono was young, single and not in need of children yet, she added: “And why doesn’t she just buy a baby like we did?”

“Um, we didn’t buy Jedi,” I tried to explain to Anna’s nonchalant back. “He was a good gift to us, just like you were.”

Later that evening my husband and I mulled over Anna’s insights.

“I suppose that is how it looked,” I said. “We arrived, signed some papers and then Jedi was handed over. To a three-year-old observer, that must have looked like a cut-and-dried business transaction.”

“It was a thoughtful observation,” Sam replied, “but not only that, Anna’s also made a poignant point. What she is saying is that you can either get a baby through your tummy, or you can get a baby over the counter. Either way, they are your child. So what’s Nono waiting for?”

It was a point our local magistrate had made to us earlier that week, as we finally signed our adoption papers, that according to South African law we were now regarded as Jedi’s birth parents. It was one of those moving moments when the law threw off its school-marmish clothing and suddenly appeared as a protective brother and kind mother, all rolled into one simple clause.

But now I had to explain why, although according to law I am Jedi’s birth mom, he is clearly not peach.

“Okay Annie, so there was a lady whose tummy Jedi grew in who was brown. But that lady decided she did not want to be a mom and I decided that I wanted to be Jedi’s mom. And so now he is my son. That means that there is no tummy mommy and heart mommy, there is no biological mom and adoptive mom, there is only one mom and it’s me. That’s what the beautiful South African law says and it’s what our family says and so I am Jedi’s mom.”

I smiled at her. She looked me up and down. Then she looked at Jedi, who was being rocked to sleep by my loving, seven-year-old, peach daughter, Lael. Then she leaned forward and whispered suspiciously: “Are you sure it’s not Lael?”

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