The wedding was about to begin. My not-quite-two-year-old daughter, Saskia, wriggled on my lap and I glanced again toward the doorway in the back of the room.
Caroline was late. We’d been invited to this wedding—my husband, daughter, and sons—essentially as Caroline’s "plus five." I held Saskia’s warm hands and she clenched my fingers. She knew me as her mama. I was her mama, and I was waiting for her other mama to arrive.
Caroline, who'd asked Saskia call to her Auntie Cece, was the one who gave birth to her, and Caroline was the bride's sister. There were no formal terms, exactly, for the rest of us.
* * *
Caroline gave Saskia a big hello and made a silly face. “Hi Saskia!” She called out. “Do you remember your Auntie Cece?” Saskia buried her face in my husband’s shoulder. Although Saskia remembered Caroline, she wouldn’t go to her. Saskia tended to be shy and clingy around people she didn’t know well, and for a toddler, the word “auntie” mattered little. However open our adoption was, we couldn’t force Saskia to do more than view her family members from our arms until she was ready to engage.
I said, “She gets shy.” Caroline looked a little disappointed. But she smiled broadly, almost forcibly. I tried to imagine only seeing Saskia occasionally. I tried to imagine wanting to be known, to be loved.
Watching Caroline try to engage Saskia, I remembered again that the adoption was harder on Caroline than anyone else.
* * *
Before we met Caroline, one social worker explained that any pregnant woman considering adoption was in crisis by definition. “No one would choose adoption if she felt she didn’t have another, better choice,” the social worker said.
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