|Blindsided - Page 11|
The ultimate fruit of all of Faye's and my efforts to make the best of what life has dealt us came two years after I reentered practice, with the adoption of 6-month-old Christina from Ukraine. We'd committed to having a child together eight years earlier on our honeymoon. Unable to conceive with her first husband, Faye had channeled her immense capacity for love and laughter into teaching schoolchildren, but the inability to have a child was a source of hidden but enduring sadness. When my cancer struck, we'd already spent two years attempting to conceive naturally, gone through the early stages of fertility treatment, and were preparing to try in vitro fertilization. The leukemia and paraplegia rendered me infertile. With that, the dream of having a child seemed to have died.
When I'd recovered to the point of relatively stable health and achieved reasonable financial security, the dream reemerged. In November 2000, Faye asked if I'd consider adopting a child from Eastern Europe. A choice that I previously could have stewed over for months became a spontaneous leap of faith and love. I actually liked that this was a "crazy" thing for two people in our circumstances to do. The very craziness of it spoke to me of life as I now understood it. From recent experience, I knew that I was no safer by being cautious than I was by taking a wild swing at something as absurd as adopting a baby at 55 when I had a serious disability.
On January 6, 2001, we began the paperwork for adoption. Unbeknownst to us, our daughter-to-be had been born in Ukraine three days earlier. While we went through the hoops of the adoption paperwork, our daughter would spend three months in a Ukrainian hospital and three more months in an orphanage. Faye adopted Christina on July 5 in Lotokova, Ukraine. Our family was "born" at St. Louis's Lambert Airport on July 12, when I held Christina in my arms for the first time. She was beautiful, wide-eyed, tiny, and helpless. When I held her, I wasn't disabled—I was just a father cradling his baby.
Nothing speaks of new life like a child. "Christina moments" are full of life for me: having her fall asleep on my shoulder at her first Thanksgiving dinner; listening to her endearing mistakes on the way to fluency (stories start at the "gebinning"); playing hide and seek in the house (ever tried to hide in a 300-pound wheelchair?); seeing her rush to the door excitedly when I return home.