Full House

In her new memoir, No Biking in the House Without a Helmet (Sarah Crichton Books), veteran journalist and serial mother Melissa Fay Greene, 58, writes about the decision she made with her husband to “linger [in parenthood] longer than most,” adding five adopted children—orphans from Bulgaria and Ethiopia—to their original brood of four. Lise Funderburg talks with Greene about the highs and lows of second-wind motherhood.

 

By Lise Funderburg
No Biking in the House Without a Helmet by Melissa Faye Greene
Photograph: Photo by Avery Powell

How do you explain your family’s population explosion? My husband and I were just getting the hang of things when our oldest grew up and moved away. Faced with the futile desire to freeze happy times, we found a way to prolong them.

You write that on the Internet, a cherubic, parent-hungry child is only a click away. But your first adoption, of a four-year-old boy from Bulgaria, didn’t start off well. In cyberspace, the orphanage kids aren’t throwing tantrums, hitting the dogs or wetting the bed. They’re just smiling. You’re falling in love with a photograph. When Jesse arrived, I panicked that I’d ruined our family.

You spiraled into a post-adoption depression. Yes. It’s possible to spend months, years and tens of thousands of dollars to bring home a child and the next Thursday think, What for the love of God have I done? It’s terrifying to adopt, but friends, anti-depressants and the steady stream of love coming from this boy saved me.

Can you imagine an empty nest? We think we’re going to be so old when we reach that point that we’re not even going to notice. One of us will say, “Hey, honey, did you just hear the screen door slam?”

First Published April 26, 2011

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