ABOUT THE TIME THAT Vice President Dan Quayle was lamenting Murphy Brown’s single-mother status, we were toasting the arrival of Sophie Aitken, the newly adopted daughter of senior editor Lee Aitken. While Sophie isn’t yet able to take to the podium on the issue of single parenting—she’s a bit wobbly on her 12-month-old legs—Aitken, 42, is clear and resolute on the subject. Unmarried, but determined to be a mother herself, Aitken decided as she approached 40 that she did not want her desire for a child to put extra pressure on her romantic relationships. “I began to consider the issues of men and children separately,” she says. “It makes me sad that a lot of women who want children are still waiting for the perfect relationship—and so may never have kids.”
Her journey to parenthood was far-reaching and faith testing, beginning more than a year ago in Romania, where months of searching and negotiations with bribe-hungry baby brokers ended in disappointment. She then tried Bulgaria, where the system of adopting children out of the state-run orphanages is relatively corruption free. Aitken visited more than 10 shelters last winter before locating in the city of Stara Zagora—the healthy dark-eyed Gypsy girl she would name Sophie.
The three months it took to complete the paperwork in Bulgaria were nerve-racking ones for Aitken, who had seen her daughter only for a few short visits. “I felt I didn’t know her,” she says. “I had never seen her smile. To think that someone is about to come into your life about whom you know nothing is overwhelming.” Yet after flying Sophie to New York City last month and watching her blossom into a sunny, outgoing child, Aitken has no second thoughts. “She has taken possession of the whole place,” says Lee.
Initiating her daughter immediately into her last-paced life, Lee took Sophie to Anaheim, Calif., last month for the American Booksellers Association convention—an annual stop for Aitken, who edits our Pages and Stage stories. “Lee is a consummate editor,” says assistant managing editor John Saar. “But I’ve never seen a story light the fire in her eyes that Sophie has.”
Aitken has her own peripatetic history. Born and raised in Wichita, Kans., she moved at 13 with her family—father Robert, a geologist; mother Judith, a former legislative aide; and her older sister, Connie—to Rome and later to Brussels. At Harvard (class of ’72), she studied philosophy and protested against the Vietnam War. Aitken began her journalism career at New Left publications, Working Papers for a New Society, then the Chicago-based weekly In These Times, before helping to start up the admired but now defunct New England Monthly. Following a stint at Newsday, Lee came to PEOPLE in 1986.
Of her brave new life, she admits, “It’s hard for me to imagine how it will all settle. I’ll just have to improvise.” She has hired an au pair and is heartened by the first foray of PEOPLE’S parent company, Time Inc., into on-site child care, an “emergency” day-care facility scheduled to open this summer. Another key resource for the single mom, rarely mentioned, is friends. “I think that many people who grew up in the ’60s have a more flexible and generous notion of ‘family values’ than Dan Quayle—we support each other,” says Aitken, who numbers Sophie’s “aunts” and “uncles” in double digits. “I wouldn’t have done it without them.”
Pardon us if we tout a few recent honors. PEOPLE is proud to have won the Arthritis Foundation’s Russell L. Cecil Arthritis Writing Award for our March 4,1991 cover story by senior writer Susan Schindehette and correspondents Nancy Matsumoto and Todd Gold on Richard Dreyfuss and his wife, Jeramie, who suffers from lupus. We are also delighted to have received the Ark Trust’s Genesis Award for Outstanding Periodical for our animal rights coverage.