Connie Britton narrates a story about a new mom and a tiny infant whose young life is checkered with mysteries both big and small.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
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just began before she even brought her daughter home. Here's is Connie Britton best known for playing. Tammy Taylor in NBC's, Friday, night lights, and James in a Nashville reading Elizabeth essay. My first lesson in motherhood I saw the scar the first time change, Natalie Diaper, just an hour after the orphanage director handed her to me in a hotel banquet room in Non Chung, a provincial capital and South eastern China. Despite the high heed and humidity, her caretakers had dressed her in two layers and when I appeal back her sweaty clothes, I found the worst. I perish I'd ever seen and a two inch scar at the base of her spine, cutting through the red bombs and peeling skin.
the next day when the chinese government would complete the adoption, was also Natalie's. First birthday, we had a party for her that night attended by families, we'd met and representatives of the adoption agency and Natalie licked cake frosting from my finger. but we worried about a rattle in her chest and there was the scar so afterward. My husband Matt asked our adoption agency to send the doctor We had other concerns too Natalie was thin and pale and couldn't sit up or hold a bottle. She had only two teeth: barely any hair and wouldn't smile, but I had anticipated such things:
My sister and two brothers were adopted from Nicaragua, the boys as infants, and when they came home they were smelly, scabies covered diarrhea machines who could barely hold their heads up, yet those problems soon disappeared. I believe, Natalie would be fine too. There was clearly a light on behind those dark eyes. She rested her head against my chest and the baby carrier and with stare up at my face her lips parting as she leaned back as if she knew she was now safe. She would be our first child. We set our hearts on adopting a baby girl from China years before when I was reporting a newspaper story about a local mayors, return home with her new chinese daughter. Adopting would come later. We thought, after I became pregnant,
but I didn't become pregnant and after two years of trying I was tired of feeling hopeless of trudging down this path, not knowing how it would end. I did now, however, how adopting would end with a baby, so we go to China first and then we try to have the biological child we embarked on a process lasting months of private. During our application and opening our life to scrutiny. Until one day we had a picture of our daughter on our refrigerator fourteen months after wanting to adopt. We were in China, the
and now we were in a hotel room with the chinese doktor, an older man who spoke broken English after listening to Natalie chest. He said she had bronchitis, then he turned her over and looked at the scar frowning. He asked. For a cotton swamp and soap. He could at an end and soap and probed her sphincter, which he then said was loose. He suspected she had a tumor removed and wondered allowed if she had spinal bifida before finally saying that she would need to be seen at the hospital to taxis took us are there and as we waited here news, I tried to think positive thoughts of the room we had painted for Natalie yellow and the crib with Winnie the Pooh sheets, but my mind, shifted when I saw one of the women from the agency and a heated exchange in Chinese with the doctors, then, with someone on her cell phone, we pleaded with her for information
a see tee scan confirmed that there had been a tumor that someone somewhere had removed. It had been a sloppy job, nerves were damaged and is Natalie grew. Her condition would worsen eventually leaving her paralyzed. From the it's down. Control over her bladder and bowels would go to. Yes, she had a form of spinal bifida as well as assist on her spine. I looked at my husband and shock ooh waiting for him to tell me that I had misunderstood everything, but he only shook his head. I held onto him and cried into his chest angry that creating a family seemed so impossible for us and that life had already been so difficult for Natalie HM
Back at the hotel, we hounded the women from the agency. Why wasn't this in her medical report? How could a scar that size not be noticed? It was two inches long. For God's sake, they shook their heads shrugged apologized and then they offered a way to make it better. In cases These we can make a rematch with another baby. The one in charge said the rest of the process
we expedited and we would go home on schedule b- would simply leave with a different girl months before we had been presented with forms asking which disability would be acceptable in a prospective adoptee. What, in other words, did we think we could handle HIV Hepatitis blindness? We checked off a few mild problems that we knew could be swiftly corrected with proper medical care, as Matt had written on our application. This will be our first child and we feel we would need more experience to handle anything more serious. Now. We faced surgeries wheelchairs cost me bags. I envisioned our home in San Diego with ramps, leading to the doors I saw
our lies as being utterly devoted to her care. How would we ever manage it? How could we leave her that I given birth to a child with these conditions? I wouldn't have left her in the hospital, though a friend would later say. Well, that's different. It wasn't to me, I pictured myself boarding a plane with some faceless replacement child and then explaining to friends and family that she wasn't Natalie, that we had left Natalie in China because she was too damaged, but the deal had been a healthy baby and she wasn't, I face myself. How can I ever forget? I would always wonder what happened Natalie. I knew
This was my test, my life's worth distilled into a moment. I was shaking my head. No before they finished explaining, we didn't want another baby, I told them. We wanted our baby, the one sleeping right over there she's our daughter. I said We love her, yet we had a long fraught night ahead wondering how he would possibly cope. I called my mother in tears and told her the news and was a long pause honey. I sound she waited until I call my breath it Would be okay if you came home without her? Why are you saying that
want to absolve you. What do you want to do? I want to take my baby and get out of here. I said good, my mother said,
then that's what you should do, the in the morning, bleary eyed and aching. We decided we would be happy with our decision and we did feel happy. We told ourselves that excellent medical care might mitigate some of her worst afflictions. It was the best we could hope for, but within two days of returning to San Diego, before we had even been able to take her to the pediatrician things took another alarming turn. While eating dinner in her high chair Natalie had a seizure. Her head fell forward, then snapped back her eyes rolled and her legs and arms shot out. Ramrod straight. I pulled her from the high chair hand under the mat and called nine one one.
when the paramedics arrived. Natalie was alert and stable, but then she suffered a second seizure in the emergency room. We told the doctors what we had learned in China and they ordered a city scan of her brain.
Hours later. One of the emergency room doctors pulled up a chair and said, gravely you must know something is wrong with her brain right. We stared at her. Something was wrong with her brain too, in addition to everything else, while she told us Natalie Brain is a trophic. I fished into my purse for a pan. She compared Natalie condition to down's syndrome, saying that a loving home can make all the difference. It was clear she added that we had that kind of home. She left us and I created Natalie, who was knocked out from seizure medicine. Her mouth was open and I leaned down breathing in her sweet breath that smelled like soy formula will we ever be able to speak to each other, which she told me. Her secrets laugh with me.
Whatever the case, I would love her and she would know it, and that would have to be good enough. I thanked God we haven't left her. She was admitted to the hospital where we spent a fitful night at her bedside in the morning. The chief of Neurosurgery came in when we asked him for news. He said it's easier. If I show you In the Radiology Department screening room, pointing at the city scan, he told us, the emergency room doctor had aired. Natalie brain wasn't a trophic. She was weak and had fallen behind developmental ie, but she had hand I coordination and had watched him intently ass. He exam and he'd need an mri for a better diagnosis. We asked him to take images of Natalie Spine too. he returned with more remarkable news? The MRI
ruled out the brain syndromes he was worried about and nothing was wrong with Natalie Spine. She did not have spinal bifida. She would not become paralyzed. He couldn't believe anyone could make such a diagnosis from the poor quality of the Chinese see tee film. He conceded there probably had been a tumor and that would need to be monitored, but she might be fine. The next year would tell. There would be other scares more seizures and much physical therapy to teach her to sit crawl and walk. She took her first steps one day on the beach at twenty one months, her belly full of fish tacos now she's, nearly three with thick brown, hair, gleaming, teeth and twinkling eyes. She takes swimming lessons.
Goes to daycare and insists on wearing flowered sandals to dance. I say to her oh Natalie and she answers oh mama blink back, happy, tears Sometimes, when I'm rocking her to sleep, I lean down and breathe in her breath, which now smells of bubblegum toothpaste and the dinner I cooked for her. While she sat in her high chair singing to the door, and I'm amazed at this little girl is mine. It's tempting I think that our decision was validated by the fact that everything turned out okay. But for me that's not the point. Our decision was right because she was our daughter and we loved her. We would not have chosen the burdens we supported, but we are stronger than we thought. I love spelling my boyfriend and I often play spelling bee together by together I mean sitting next to each other playing
eventually and not cheating, sometimes when I open up spelling bee- and I see that you have completed a few words on your own, I feel a little betrayed in ferry may have happened I have one friend who I will say. In the screenshots from spelling bee of inappropriate words that I always get nervous that I sent it to my parents or something like that was my dad. It was the first time together and I was out. I think I got to see it J a c K. P o t jack jack, I'm nice I'm same as earth's sky, the digital puzzles editor for the New York Times. You can try, spelling bee and all our games at N Y Times dot com, slash games, ooh, I love spelling my boyfriend and I often play spelling bee together by together. I mean sitting next to each other,
playing individually and not cheating, sometimes when I open up spelling bee, I see that you have completed a few words on your own. I feel a little betrayed very may have happened I have one friend who I will say in the screenshots from spelling bee of inappropriate words that I always get nervous that I sent it to my parents or something like that was my bad. It was the first party together, and I wish that I think I got it see it J, a c k, P, o t. Jack Jack, I'm nice I'm same is risky. The digital puzzles editor for the New York Times. You can try spelling bee and all our games at an why times. Dot com. Flash games Connie
Britain reading Elisabeth Fit Simons essay. My first lesson in motherhood will hear how I always doing today after the break.
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who, with their twenty dollar order living proof, dot com, we're back its modern love. The podcast I magnet Accra body and now a post script from modern love, editor Daniel Jones and the author of this week's essay Elisabeth Fit Simons. Natalie is eleven she's going to be twelve in May she's in sixth grade she works hard in school, she's earnest and completely guileless, she's, sweet and she's, just a lovely young person For a while, when she was little, she still had to take physical therapy and occupational therapy. To sort of reach all of the milestones that she was behind on, and it was my goal for her to be caught up with her peers by the time that she was in first, grade, and she was she's totally in line with her peers. Now, she's, strong and healthy she's, just tough, isn't as an ox. The scar
on her back remains a mystery to this day per surgeon, Her theory was that Natalie was born with a teratoma that was growing from the base of her spine. In a Teratomas, a benign to Morrow. Just a growth and surgeon believes that You know someone removed it and that's where the scar came from. Every year around her birthday, her surgeon would take a blood test and check the area. Make sure that nothing was growing back and by the time she was about five or six her surgeon. cleared her and said I think, she's good to go is not an issue any more and we haven't really looked back sense. This essay a big impact on me. It's something that I thought about in all the years since it's the kind of say where we heard very moving emails,
a lot of readers that were devastating in many cases, readers who'd made the opposite choice and we also heard from people who who had made same choice that Elizabeth and her husband made, but did end up taking arab children who had physical problems, psychological problems, they weren't in a position to say we wish we hadn't done this, but they were clearly suffering. Under the weight of what they taken on, so it just led to a real outpouring. The whole experience. It really changed. What I thought was a big deal and what I thought was important and what I really became grateful for
I mean the mornings in our house can get pretty hectic and Natalie will invariably come into my bathroom with ten minutes left to lift off and she has her rubber band and a hairbrush brush, and she wants some complicated hairstyle. My first it like seriously Natalie and then I go to remembering that when she was a, maybe in so much was unknown ahead of us that I used to fantasize is about brushing her long brown hair soon, as she grew some hair something I just yearned for and just to be, an ordinary mother and daughter and now I get that
every morning and it's just a gift. You just learn to appreciate those little fangs so much more. For the last year, I was speaking at a book event in Cleveland and during the q and a someone asked what is love, And despite the fact that I've added this column for eleven years and I've written a book love alumina, I squirm. When someone asked me that question it seems like too big of a question, and I told him and told this group of people the story that Elizabeth tell was in my first lesson in motherhood and that to me is the best definition of love that I can think of its it's a bond. You feel and care taking and responsive
Letty and not walking away when things normally get tough, but so dire that it seems like this lifelong sentence. You know what a choice, I just. I can't imagine that anyone who hears or reads this essay doesn't put themselves in Elizabeth Shoes, it has since remarried, but she and her first husband Matt continue to co parent Natalie. and a few years ago, Elisabeth gave birth to twin boys, but she says adults she was the best way for her to start her journey as apparent I'm still. A big fan of adoption maiden turn me off of adoption. I think that, if anything, it showed me Life is unpredictable and messy, and whether you adopting or you're having your kids biologically I had a very scary pregnancy
with my boys that ended at thirty three weeks with an emergency c section, and you never know what's going happen but I think adoption is a wonderful way to have your family everyone. I know who is adopted, they just. Imagine being without that child that somehow that there's some kind of magical connection there. It was a b b Simon's author of my first lesson in Motherhood now Elizabeth has sent us some pictures of her family and you can see them at W B. U R, DOT, Org, slash modern love, and we also just heard from modern love, editor Dan Jones. By the way, there's someone else who wanted to weigh in on Elizabeth Piece Connie Brow herself? Quite simply, once I finished reading it, I was like that I have to read that no question. This is the one I have to read this. Isn't it
you're very near and dear to my heart. I have a son adopted from Ethiopia. Thankfully I did not have to go through these kinds of issues by I really have a very profound understanding of the black cities in the depth of love involve adopting and it's a difficult, scary process leading up to bringing that child home, and I just think it's a beautiful story and such a personal story, so thanks to Conny for reading Elizabeth story for us she most recently appeared in the fx series, the people versus Oj Simpson, and you can see her now in a B ABC's Nashville. Next week on modern love, Joshua Jackson, best known, for his role on the Showtime series, the Affair also know him as Pacey Witter from the 90s hit sands Creek.
the story about life and love. After twenty six months in an iranian prison, jenny- and I became more serious- though love still didn't quite make sense. hours. Ours wasn't at all like the relationships I was used to with my cellmate, the prison guards or the interrogators I didn't have to commit to a hunger strike, or bang on the cell door to be heard, New way of interacting was welcome but more complicated. and we always want to know what you think of this episode or any other episode of modern love. You heard so subscribe on Itunes and while you're there leave us a review, Love is a production of the New York Times and W B you are Boston. Npr station, its produced, directed and edited by Jessica Albert parity and am receive its in the aid yeah for the modern love podcast was conceived by LISA Tobin. Iris Adler is our executive producer.
Jones is the editor of modern love for the New York Times, an adviser to the show music for the pod cast courtesy of apes, M and the go licence collection at ghostly songs, dot com I may The truck reverting to see you next week.
Transcript generated on 2022-04-17.