3,000 Miles Away, the Stork Came Early

by Lennie Magida

Two loaves of bread and a stick of butter. Or a bottle of sunscreen, a beach towel, your phone and something to read.

You could carry them for hours, couldn’t you?  They wouldn’t weigh you down, they wouldn’t feel burdensome.

You wouldn’t feel as though you were lugging a baby around all day.

But when my daughter, Nina, was born in 1987, she weighed two pounds, five ounces. Like bread and butter. Like an easy day at the beach.

She was born seven weeks early and a continent away from us. We were going through an adoption process, not a pregnancy—at least not mine. We knew who the birth mother was, but we were in Baltimore, and she was in Los Angeles. We hadn’t met her. We wouldn’t be meeting her.

Lennie & John Summer 1986

Lennie & John, summer 1986, a few months before Nina’s arrival

We’d thought of names and tried to imagine how a baby was going to change our lives, but we were like actors at an audition. Except for the checks we’d written to our adoption lawyer, we had no real evidence that we were expecting a baby. We didn’t have sonograms to squint at. I didn’t gain weight. We didn’t have the chance to put our hands on my belly and marvel at the kicks. Strangers didn’t smile indulgently. All we had was the knowledge that somewhere in Los Angeles, in the womb of a 28-year-old Filipina woman named Anna (not her real name), a fetus was turning into a baby that was going to be ours.

But that was supposed to happen in April, and this was February. Specifically, it was the evening of Friday, February 20. John was out for a run. I was at home in my aerobic instructor clothes, preparing for a half-time performance at a Baltimore Blast indoor soccer game. Then we’d go to the train station to pick up my friend Mary, who was coming from New York for the weekend. We’d go out for a nice spicy dinner, drink plenty of wine. I was not behaving like the mother of a day-old infant. But how could I have known?

The phone rang. It was the adoption lawyer, calling from his plush office in Beverly Hills.

“How are you?” I asked.

“Perplexed,” he said.

An interesting word. To myself I wondered, “Does he want more money?” Aloud, I merely asked, “Why?”

He replied, “The stork came early.”

He told me about the tiny baby girl born the day before, seven weeks early. Anna had begun experiencing pregnancy-induced hypertension, been taken to Queen of Angels Hospital, undergone an emergency Caesarean. The baby girl weighed little more than a quart of milk. Doctors had rushed her and Anna to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Anna was fine, and the baby seemed to be doing well, but it was too soon to know for sure.

Children's Hospital Los Angeles

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Nina’s first “home”

I hung up the phone and sat down on the stairs inside our house. It was a nice Baltimore row house, with high ceilings, gleaming wood floors, a graceful banister that I now leaned against. John came through the front door. “Hi!” he said. He was flushed and invigorated from his run in the February air. I sat very still on the stair.

“What do you think of the name Nina for a baby girl?” I asked.

“Well, that’s one of the names we’ve talked about,” he said. “It’s a good name.”

“No,” I said. “What do you think of the name Nina for a baby girl?”

“You’re kidding,” he said, and sat down beside me.

So here she was, our baby, this little girl no heavier than a couple of good books. But to be honest, now that our perplexed attorney was safely off the line 3,000 miles away, I once again felt like an actor. We suddenly had a baby? So he’d said. But we didn’t have the baby. And I did have my aerobics commitment. Right then, that felt much more real.

So off I went in my spandex to jump and kick for the soccer fans. Then Mary arrived, and we had a good, wine-soaked dinner. She offered to help us choose the baby’s name. “What about Pocahontas?” she asked.

Ultimately, we made the decision on Nina’s name the same way we made many decisions. We wrote our options on little slips of paper: Nina, Abby, Renee and, why not, Pocahontas. We put the papers on one side of the kitchen floor, our crazy genius cat Katie on the other. Whichever paper her paw touched first, that was our answer. Unless we decided it wasn’t.

She did well this time. Nina it was.


  1. Lisa DeNike Ercolano says:

    Lennie, oh, this is lovely! I so enjoyed reading it, not only for the beautiful story of Nina’s birth, but also because you are a wonderful writer. I hope we will be hearing about what happened next (you and John going to meet your baby girl!). And wow, aren’t you glad the cat’s paw didn’t point to “Pocohontas,” though it might have ended up being quite a cool name for a very artsy and creative girl. 🙂

  2. Especially one who looks a lot like Pocahontas! (Well, Disney’s Pocahontas, anyway.) But “Pocahontas Schidlovsky” would have been a bit much…. Yes, the story will continue in upcoming posts. Thanks for your wonderful comment, Lisa!

  3. Love this story. Although I have heard you tell it, your writing is always wonderful to read. Beyond this story of your beautiful daughter, and how she came to be, is one perplexing question………why do you look exactly the same today as you did in that photo?? I love you, I hate you. XO

  4. Lennie, I loved reading about how Nina came into your family! And wonderful how the kitty figured out her name. Cats are marvelous beings. Smarter than people sometimes ;). I can’t wait for the next installment . . . .

    • Thanks, Luanne. I’m very much looking forward to sharing the rest of the story. And you’re absolutely right about cats. Of course, they don’t think they’re smarter than people — they’re SURE of it!

  5. Lennie! You’re a brilliant writer! I love this, and I love hearing how the girl I LOVE to photograph came into this world and into your lives. I’m so glad she did. You’re an awesome Mom. 🙂

  6. Reblogged this on Don't We Look Alike?.


  1. […] Lennie’s first story, “3000 Miles Away, the Stork Came Early,” here. Share this:Like this:LikeBe the first to like this. Filed Under: Creative Nonfiction, Domestic […]

  2. […] Part 1: 3,000 Miles Away, The Stork Came Early […]

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