Jean-Marc, on the other hand, always wanted to adopt. The first time he mentioned it to me was in fall of 2003, three or four months after we met. We were having breakfast at La Provence, a quaint French bakery in Coral Gables, when a white couple with a 4 year old Asian girl walked in.
“I would have loved to adopt a little girl around Julia’s age,” he said, as he followed the child with his eyes. Julia was around 5 years old at the time and lived in France with her mother. I smiled and nodded, and thought it was very sweet of him, but my dream was to have a child of my own.
My dream came true on November 27, 2006. Sophie was a healthy, beautiful baby, with a face like a kitten and dark blue eyes the color of the ocean. She made me a mother and turned our couple into a family. She filled our lives.
Four months later, my maternity leave was over and I was getting ready to start my new life as a working mom. One day my sister Ceci and I went to South Beach for lunch. We sat in an outdoor table and ordered sushi, while Sophie slept in her stroller.
“Have you ever felt completely happy?” I asked her. “That’s how I feel now, I have everything I ever dreamed of: a family I love, I job I enjoy, health, friends, and I have Sophie…. it’s almost too good to be true”.
Two days later, the unimaginable happened. Sophie died of SIDS while in the care of her nanny.
It was the “before and after” in my life. My perspective on everything changed, forever. When a child loses his parents, he is an orphan, but when you loose your child, there is no word for it. You are lost.
A couple of months later, Jean-Marc and I went on a motorcycle trip to Ocala National Forest, in Central Florida. Discovering a new landscape on the bike was like being part of it. As if somebody had taken off a blindfold and I was seeing the world for the first time. We rode through fields of green sugar cane, fresh pine forests, endless orange plantations. It was healing to be so close to nature and away from home.
The best part of the trip was the silence. No radio, no conversation, no cell phone, no e-mail. Just the road in front of you and the sky above you. For hours and hours, it’s only you and your thoughts.
One evening while we were relaxing in our hotel room we watched a Dateline special on a family who had adopted 6 siblings from Russia. The statistics and images of orphanages were heartbreakening.
“So many babies without parents …” Jean-Marc looked me straight in the eye.
“… and so many parents without a baby. Like us.” I finished his thought.
“Maybe we could think about adopting.”
“It’s not that easy, you know, it’s not like on TV. Plus you have all the risks of adopting a child you don’t know anything about.”
“I know, but I’m not afraid of taking a risk. We’ve gone through so much already, what could possibly be worse?”
He was right. I was suddenly excited to think about how we could change the life of a child, the same way Sophie had changed ours. I don’t know what it feels like to be an orphan but ever since we had that conversation I think that the loneliness and the emptiness that became a part of our lives might be somewhat similar to what a child feels when he has nobody to call “mom” or “dad”.
There they were: two pieces of the puzzle of our lives, waiting to be placed one next to each other to reveal the picture of the family we used to be, and no longer were.