In My Heart from the Start

Love at first sight

Sonia Billadeau February 11, 2014
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The phone call came around 2:00 in the afternoon.

There was nothing special about the day.  It wasn’t sunny and beautiful, neither was it rainy or dreary.  It wasn’t overly spectacular in any other way. I knew her name already, but it was such good news to know that soon I would be able to relate a name to a face. I didn’t ask what color her hair was. I could picture her already in her blonde curls, blue eyes, and claret-red lips. She would be beautiful. Abigail Rose was her name, and she was four months old. She was my new little cousin, and though not by blood, she was Kelly and Dave’s little girl. I couldn’t wait to meet her. Immediate details were relayed to me over the phone. “She has a tiny hole in her heart,” Kelly said, a slight catch in her voice. Kelly would be an amazing mother, I knew. However, anything to do with the heart affected her directly. After all, it was because of Kelly’s four open heart surgeries (all before the age of 25) that any children she and her husband, Dave, raised would have to be adopted.

Kelly had been born with a valve in her heart that didn’t work properly, and because of the surgeries, her heart was much too weak to sustain her for the nine months of pregnancy.  Any baby she conceived would likely not live in the womb long enough to be viable after birth. Therefore, it was understandable that Kelly may have a bit of apprehension about Abigail having a small hole in her heart. The hole in her aortic valve was typical to infants. The only difference was that usually the hole would close up while the baby was still in the womb. It was unusual for a baby to be born with the gap left open. Another thing that I was to be aware of was that Abigail had a cleft palate. It wasn’t enough to shape her face differently, I was told. However, as she grew older, she may have speech impediments ranging from a lisp in her words to a complete slur of dialogue. I did not mind these physical impairments. To me, she was my cousin. I could not wait to meet her, to see her for the first time. I could not even begin to imagine how beautiful Abigail would be.

I set up a date that I could go and meet her. The baby lay in my arms quietly, covered with a blanket. I pulled the blanket back to see dark brown eyes staring back into mine. She was silent. Abigail Rose must have been the most placid and tranquil infant that I have ever come across. She was also the most dark-skinned. I have never been racist or prejudiced– not toward race, gender, or religion. I am very much for equality, and have never thought any less of a person of a race or culture different than mine. However, this little girl was not at all what I was expecting. Her lips were a deep pink, her hair (if there was enough for it to be considered that) was so tightly curled atop her dainty head that it look crimped, and her skin was the most beautiful shade of russet. I stroked the soft skin on her face and tried to identify the feelings deep within me. Curiosity, love, surprise, and awe were just some of the emotions that pounded in my heart.

As Abigail grew, I began to notice how sweet a girl she really was. She slept twelve hours each night and rarely fussed or cried. As she grew, she did not go through such a distinctive stage of people-fright. Although all children are different, I like to attribute her social amiability to her adoptive background. Even though she was only a four months old, she had already touched the lives of so many: the nurses that cared for her in the hospital (who had called her “Joy” when her mother officially named her “Baby Girl Johnson” to allow her adoptive parents to pick a name), her first and second foster families, the social workers at the adoption agency, and finally her adoptive parents, Kelly and Dave.

Abigail will never be the same as I am on the outside, nor the same as her very own parents. Our skin pales in comparison to hers. Her eyes are black coffee in comparison to our butterscotch color. However, she is the most beautiful girl I have ever met. Now Abigail Rose is nearly ten months old! She is small for her age, but is developmentally perfect. She crawls around faster than I can follow, she has mad skills when it comes to playing peek-a-boo, and she finds great pleasure in her ability to pull herself into a standing position along the rail of her crib. Her smile can light up a room, and her laugh is sweeter than any song we dance to together. Perhaps someday Abigail will become an actress, a doctor, or president. But for now, I enjoy the innocence and simplicity she brings into every situation. I gladly crawl behind her through the living room, and I dance with her sitting atop my shoulders without complaint.

As of March, Abigail has a clean bill of health; the hole in her heart and her cleft palate have both healed up on their own. June 24 will be her first birthday, and her final adoption date will be August 24.

Congratulations, Kelly and Dave on your first child, a baby girl!

Abigail Rose, welcome to the family!

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Sonia Billadeau


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