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1 Unwrapping Michael came wrapped in layers, too many for a pleasant spring day. Even indoors, a small knitted cap was secured over his ears with yarn tied in a sloppy bow underneath his chin, brushing up against a matching sweater buttoned high on his neck. There was a small bead of sweat on his brow, but he seemed parched; a blister festered on his lower lip and, in the fluorescent lights, his skin was a dusky shade of pale yellow swirled with pasty blue. Where his head had been shaved on the sides to accommodate an IV tube insertion a few days earlier, I could see pea-green veins throb in a nervous, thirsty flow. About half an hour earlier, before I held Michael in my arms, I had met his escort, a close relative of his, who was also blanketed in perspiration from her trek through the labyrinth of Stapleton Airport. It was not difficult to spot this small, winded woman and the quiet infant she carried on her bosom like a backwards papoose. In addition to the baby, she lugged a large blue duffel bag over her shoulder. Exiting the terminal ramp, she had a lost, searching look, not unlike a child on the first day of kindergarten who, before entering the classroom, peers over her shoulder to make sure Mommy is still there, waving her on, nodding in assurance. I was not sure if this woman, whose voice I’d heard, but whose face I’d never seen, was looking backwards for comfort or forward for closure; either way, I ached for her. 2 ♦ Life with a Superhero I had not thought to bring a sign to identify ourselves; we were a mob, all fourteen of us (my husband Jim, me, our four children, Jim’s parents, my mother, my sister and her son, one social worker, an adoption exchange representative, and a good friend)—an obvious greeting party. We were all waiting with the same searching visage as the woman carrying the package we desired. When my eyes finally met the smooth, black gaze of my child’s escort, my entourage faded and found a home in my back pocket, the muffled roar of jets landing and taking off resolved into a whimper, and all the bustling passengers became ants at my feet. We nodded in acknowledgment, an immediate recognition. Only three people remained in the expansive airport: my child, this woman, and I. This is what the three of us knew: Michael’s biological mother did three remarkable things in the first three days of my infant son’s life. The first remarkable thing she did, perhaps as she nursed him for the first time, was notice that he looked different from her other two children. He was smaller, the bridge of his nose was flat, his tongue was large and flailing, his head was flattened in the back, and his ears protruded from his head at a ninety-degree angle. She called the doctor ’s attention to these malformations and demanded an explanation. She got one: her baby had Down syndrome. The second remarkable thing she did was announce her intention never to see this child again. “Take him away,” she screamed. Doctors, social workers, nurses, clergy, and the baby’s father all pleaded with her to hold the baby once more, to give her heart a chance, to look into his eyes and find a connection. She refused. She could not bear to raise a child with special needs. The life of stress and suffering she foresaw was unimaginable in her reality. The third remarkable thing she did was tell a lie of epic proportions . She left the hospital without her child and returned with her husband to her small Israeli town, her neighbors, and her two small children. And then, she told them all that the baby had died. Unwrapping ♦ 3 The adoption caseworker who handled Michael’s adoption relayed the remarkable story about Michael’s biological mother to me: her initial uneasiness at the appearance of her baby, the ensuing screaming , and the content of her lie. This is what I knew, based on phone conversations with Michael’s female relative, the escort who eventually brought Michael to me: the biological father wanted to keep the baby—this relative wanted to keep the baby—but the biological mother was unswayable. For my son’s biological mother, he really was dead. I may have misheard the relative’s lamentations over the...


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MARC Record
Launched on MUSE
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