Debra A.W. Berger is married and a mom to a son and two daughters, one by adoption. She currently is a Jewish educator in New Jersey and is active in the adoption community. Debra was the former membership chair and editor of "Star Tracks," the quarterly newsletter of Stars of David, International, Inc., a Jewish adoption support group, and she writes for similar publications from time to time. You may reach her at DebraB7416@aol.com.
Our Special Angel: Adopting Chloe'
Like all new parents we waited anxiously for the arrival of our new daughter. We furiously scrubbed floors, polished furniture, painted walls and readied our photo albums. We collected baby clothes and baby furniture and pondered the choices for the perfect Hebrew name. We chose Abra Samela Tova, after Abraham, Samuel and Toby (her great-grandparents). Our families were alerted to the due date and we made travel plans for the quickest route to the delivery room.
On August 4, 1992, we piled into our car for the long trek to Newark Airport to meet Continental flight 242 due at 11:30 PM. The big silver stork carried all of our hopes and dreams, and when four-month-old, Guatemalan-born Chloe' was brought off that plane and placed in her father's arms, I knew that we had received a most special angel. She still runs halos around our hearts. I suppose that's how my Dad felt when I was born. Ever since I can remember, he sang a song to me called "You Are My Special Angel," and we danced to that song at my wedding. I started singing it to Chloe', and a tradition was born.
I always wanted to be a mom. In fact, I thought I would have biological children as well as adopt a child. So when my husband's vasectomy reversal was not successful (he had had one after having children in a previous marriage), we didn't have a hard time making the decision to build our family through adoption.
Luckily, we came across an ad for an agency in Central New Jersey who had infants available for immediate placement. We contacted the agency on February 26 and on August 4th our special bundle was delivered. Our ten-year-old daughter Jenn, and twelve-year-old son Scott (my husband's children from a previous marriage) were very excited about their new sister. One day Jenn wisely told us that adopting a child was almost the same as having biological children. "Mom, I wouldn't worry about not having a biological child. You teach me your values and you will teach Chloe' your values, so there will always be a part of you with us." Out of the mouths of babes!!! Now at eighteeen, Jenn marvels at the depth of her love for this stranger who came into our lives that summer seven years ago. The adoption experience has been so positive that she plans to build her family by birth and by adoption! And so the tradition continues.
Throughout the years I have wondered if parenting a child who was adopted was the same as parenting a birth child. At one point my husband asked me if I thought I could love Chloe' any more if I had given birth to her. I told him I couldn't imagine loving her anymore than I did.
"How do you feel, as you have biological children, too?" I asked. He answered, "There's no difference at all."
And yet, there is a difference. We do all of the things that parents do. We worry when our daughter is sick. We kvell, or swell with pride, when she accomplishes the most menial task. We bask in the glory of her achievements and cry with her at her disappointments. We make her meals, buy her clothes and make play dates. We answer her questions about the sun, the sky and all the things around her. And when she asks questions about her adoption, we answer her truthfully and without hesitation. For herein lies the difference in parenting a child who was adopted versus a child by birth. These children had a life before us, a history and a heritage that is sometimes different from ours. To deny these facts would be to deny a part of the child we love so much. They also have issues surrounding their adoption: the whys, the wherefores, and a curiosity about their birth family.
So, in addition to reading about the latest trends in discipline and child rearing, we also read about Guatemala, Latin America and adoption. We answer questions about the Mayan Indians, the Quetzal and the beautifully woven fabrics of Guatemala. We answer questions about the Jewish people, Moses and the Torah and, finally, we answer questions about adoption and birth families. We strive to present an honest, balanced and realistic picture of her birth heritage and the one into which she was adopted. Despite the differences, we are her parents. The Talmud teaches us that "He who brings up a child is to be called its father, not he who gave birth." (Exodus Rabbah 46:5).
The adoption of our daughter set us on the path to a most wondrous journey--one filled with learning and meeting people from other cultures, befriending other families who have adopted, and learning about the new life that is now a part of our family. While I sometimes wonder about the biological child I might have had, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the gift of motherhood and by the love and wonder I feel for Chloe', who is, indeed, our most special angel.
Hebrew for "instruction" or "learning," a central text of Judaism, recording the rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history. It has two parts: Mishnah (redacted c. 200 CE) and Gemara (c. 500 CE), an elucidation of the Mishnah. The first five books of the Hebrew Bible (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy), or the scroll that contains them.