B’shert. That’s the Hebrew word for soul mate. The meeting, the melding. Soul mate, a lover. Soul mate, a friend. Someone meant to be in your life.
As a news editor, I’d read an article in the Tampa Bay News, and was writing a lead based on a piece that was subject-authored. Tricia Rosenthal and her husband had been married for seven years, five of them spent wrestling with the monthly disappointment that there was still no baby. IVF, ICSI, endometrial surgery, Chlomid, Pergonal. Injections. Nothing. And so they decided to adopt. But in their 40s, birth mothers on this side of the Atlantic would find them too old. They thought about Romania, Russia; the children are Caucasian, but the children are troubled. In China, though, they care for their lost little girls, the doe-eyed babies abandoned on church steps, left with notes tucked into clothing. This is Chu. Please take care of her, please love her. Anyway, the Tampa Bay couple traveled to China to meet the little girl, whom they’d already named Susanna, and who the adoption agency said was theirs. And the moment they saw her, the minute she was placed in their arms, Tricia said she knew they had met their B’shert.
I knew I would never have a baby of my own. I somehow felt out of step with the other little girls who walked around with their baby dolls stuffed under the shirts, who pulled them out by their plastic legs and announced, “I have a baby boy.” “I have a little girl.” I never stuffed a doll under my clothes. I knew I would never have a baby of my own. Yet, I believed I would be a mother. I believed it when I was in high school, and I first got ill. I believed it when the doctor told me, at 29, that my window of opportunity was quickly closing. But I was with a man who didn’t want children anyway.
Rosalie An Cutchall. Rosalie An Cutchall came to America on a hot August day. When Emily first emailed her picture to me a week before, I watched her unroll like a flag on my computer screen. First the top of her head, that shiny black hair, then her eyes, her short flat nose, and a mouth that was thin and flat. This child doesn’t smile, I thought as the little girl stared back at me.
But Rosalie did smile. She smiled and bobbed, her tiny hand holding onto the coffee table in Emily and Larry’s living room. I was angry that she was so happy. I was angry that Emily and Larry were so happy. Three weeks before, there was no Rosalie. And now, she was the most important thing in their lives. Rosalie An Cutchall was their daughter.
“What do you see when you look at them?” I asked my husband. “I see a couple with a Chinese baby,” he said. But that’s not what I saw. I saw a family. I saw a mother and child. And while at first, when the three of us went out together, to the mall, to a restaurant, while I was sensitive to people’s stares, as the months passed, I didn’t look anymore. I didn’t care.
On the top shelf of my closet, somewhere nestled among my photo albums and the ATT wireless bag I brought my cell phone home in (I can’t get rid of it, it’s a nice sturdy bag) is the information Emily gave me about Chinese adoptions. Not too long ago, my husband said that he’s finally seeing them as a family. He doesn’t see the difference. When a family loves one another, they are the same. But he still doesn’t want any children.
I pull that manila folder down from the shelf, the dust slides off and leaves a thin gray line on my black shirt. I pull out the papers, the brochures, the lists of contacts. I give them a cursory look and lay a final piece of paper on the pile.
“When we met Susanna, I knew she was my B’shert.” My eyes focus on the call-out as I slide the article into the folder and shut the closet door.