Marian Henley is a cartoonist and author who’s work has appeared in Glamour, Ms., The San Francisco Chronicle, and The Austin Chronicle, among other places. She is the author of Maxine, Laughing Gas, and The Shiniest Jewel: A Family Love Story. She lives in Austin, Texas with her family.
At 49 you were working professionally as an artist full-time, when you decided to become a mother and adopt a baby. That must have been quite a change! Can you talk a bit about the ways you had to adapt your life to having a child? Were there any ideas you had about mothering and/or having a baby previous to bringing your son home, that you found were unrealistic or at least different when you did bring him home?
Adapt my life? Hmmm. No, I’d say nuclear annihilation followed by painstaking, piecemeal reconstruction is the best way to describe the adjustment period. This had nothing to do with William – he was an easy baby and, considering the first twenty-two months of his life had bobbed along quietly and predictably (Russians believe babies do best with strict routine), he adjusted to the zip-zip, zoom-zoom kaleidoscope of life outside the orphanage – with two stranger/parents babbling at him in English – with an ease that I can only describe as heroic. No, what flattened me was the difficulty of the adoption process itself. My agency made key blunders at several points, one of which was failing to notify anyone that I was arriving in Moscow. Alone, exhausted, I waited in vain for my ride and finally consulted the information lady, who blew me off in a puff of cigarette smoke. A young taxi driver saved my life, perhaps literally, considering that dozens of foreigners “disappear” from that airport every year. Continue reading