When the Universe Aligned
A fairy godmother helped
Photo by Aldebaran on Unsplash
The brilliant synchronicity of the universe brought Jonathan and me a daughter. Any parent who has adopted a child will agree that everything has to align perfectly: belief, luck, vision, chance, reality, and divine intervention. Even then, adoption is never easy. A fairy godmother is a big help.
After two depressing years of fertility treatments, when every month felt like we were experiencing a death, we decided to proceed to Plan C. The first step was meeting with a social worker assigned to conduct a home study on our suitability as adoptive parents. Within a few minutes of meeting her, it was clear who she really was — an aspiring writer with a day job. She was Polish and had discovered late in life that she was Jewish, which gave her plenty of writerly material. As a small child at the start of the Second World War, she had been entrusted to a Polish Catholic family by her Jewish parents.
I was the daughter of Polish immigrants, and Jonathan was Jewish. That we had been assigned a Polish Jewish social worker was the first force in the universe to manifest. And there were more connections to come. She had studied social work under my mother-in-law, who used to teach in that department at McGill University. She also knew my father-in-law through his involvement with an ecumenical organization fostering connections between Christians and Jews. I could sense she liked us. We told her, in passing, we might like to adopt a child from Poland, but we had no idea where to start at this early stage and did not want to presume she would declare us as suitable.
The home study, which entailed two meetings in her office, plus a home visit, went smoothly. During our second encounter, she mentioned she had a friend who often travelled to Poland, had many friends and connections there, and happened to be involved with the ecumenical group.
“I told her about you. I hope you don’t mind. She thinks she can help,” the social worker said.
Our fairy godmother was a slim and attractive blond. She and I spoke English and Polish, switching back and forth as I struggled to find words in Polish and she in English. When we first met, I had no idea that the laws of the universe were uniting or, in our case, colliding. I kept my expectations in check, but it turned out she had magic fairy dust. She conjured up a lawyer in Warsaw who knew an unwed mother about to give birth. The young woman did not have the means to support herself and a child and was dependent on her family in a rural village. Their traditional Catholic attitudes dictated they wanted nothing to do with this out-of-wedlock baby.
Within a few weeks, I was holding a beautiful, healthy baby girl and living at my friend Ela’s small apartment in Warsaw. Ela, her husband, and two children rearranged their apartment and schedules and the baby, and I stayed with them for several weeks while we waited for the adoption process to proceed. Thank God I had a book on baby care in my suitcase that a friend had given me at the last moment. Alexandra slept sixteen hours a day, and I was nervous there was something wrong with her. The book cleared up the misconception. And thank God for Ela, who showed me the basics, including how to bathe and burp a baby.
Three decades ago, there were no adoption agencies in Poland, so we were on our own. The Polish courts were not supportive of international adoptions and were even less amenable to adoptions by people with no connection to Poland. A cavalier we-can-take-care-of-our-own attitude meant a significant number of children ended up in orphanages. The government wanted Polish parents to adopt healthy Polish children. Sick or disabled children were, of course, harder to place and so could be adopted internationally.
I spoke Polish well enough to convince a judge the child would be raised in a good Polish home. My fluency was enough to convince her that I had a bona fide connection to Poland. Our lawyer, an older woman with a stern look and don’t-mess-with-me attitude, arranged for a doctor’s report on how sick the child was and the specialized care she could get in Canada. She coached me on the answers to questions I might be asked about the health of the baby and how the birth mother and I happened to meet and come to arrange an adoption purely on our own. I was to say she worked in a coffee shop that I happened to frequent. The lawyer also instructed the birth mother, so our stories aligned. On my first trip to Poland twenty-three years earlier, when Poland was still behind the iron curtain, I learned that any means justified a positive end. People did whatever it took to survive under the Soviet regime. That is how the universe still worked in Poland; everyone was in on it: the lawyer, the doctor, and the judge.
Jonathan arrived a few days before the court date to meet his daughter. As we waited on a hard bench outside the courtroom for the case to be heard and then again for the judge to render her decision, Alexandra’s birth mother and I sat together and nervously held hands. I assured her that I loved this baby with all my heart and that Jonathan and I would be good parents.
Jonathan and I were elated with the judge’s decision. All these years later, I can still imagine how her birth mother felt. Her family had given her no choice. She could not return to her village with a baby.
There were still delays and a waiting period of another month before the decision was finalized. I returned to Montreal because I had been away from work for a significant number of weeks, and Jonathan stayed to care for Alexandra. My sister flew in to help him, leaving her own small children in the care of my mother.
A month later, and within twenty-four hours of everything being final, the lawyer arranged for a new birth certificate for Alexandra, listing us as her parents, and a Polish passport. The next day the stars in the universe aligned perfectly, and Alexandra and Jonathan left Warsaw and flew to Montreal.
Almost thirty years have passed. Alexandra is strong, determined, beautiful, and loyal. If she wants something or you need help, she finds a way to get it done. She sets you up with one of her medical friends if you have an ache or pain. If you want to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, she will accompany you. After a pandemic postponement, she did it this year to raise funds for leukemia research.
Together we walk the winding road of mothers and daughters. There are beautiful vistas, bumpy patches, and times when we proceed with caution, scouring the terrain for the inevitable relationship landmines. Occasionally, we turn the radio up full blast so we can’t hear the other talking. We take frequent detours to admire the scenery or a sunset. The universe has given her father and me a daughter who also understands that the end justifies the means.