You don’t know me, but because of you, I am a mom. Because you made the choice to leave her, your newborn baby, where someone was sure to find her, she has had a love filled life.
I can’t begin to know or imagine the thoughts and hardships you faced when you made this decision. I don’t know if you wanted her and couldn’t keep her, or if you just couldn’t handle the prospect of being a mother at that time. I do know the policy of your country made boys more favored than girls. Maybe this is what influenced your decision. But whatever the reason, the question of why you did what you did, is one that will always remain a mystery to me.
Our journey to meet her was a long one. It started before she was even born. Paperwork, signatures, notarizations, and seals were all processed in the first six months. Then the waiting began. From the time it was submitted to the proper authorities in China to the day we met her, was eleven months. In that time you carried her and brought her into this world, not knowing that someday she would enter our lives.
Our first time meeting her took place in a sterile government office building; a large room, with a row of tables and chairs, set up for the processing of all the paperwork. The Civil Affairs Bureau wasn’t even in the same town as where she was from. No, instead, she along with the six other babies were brought by their caretakers on a ninety-minute bus ride. They were taken away from the life they had known for the first year to an unfamiliar town. Only then to be turned over again and placed in the arms of a bunch of strangers.
Do you know, she was the only one out of all of the babies, that didn’t cry? Instead, she observed everything. When she was placed in my arms she looked up at me, at the faces of the rest of the family that was with me and then around the room at all the activity that was taking place. Once satisfied that she had seen everything there was to see and her thumb firmly in her mouth, she fell asleep. The other babies; they were fussing, crying, and wide awake.
For the next two weeks, we stayed in your country. There was paperwork to be processed, fees to be paid, but most importantly, time spent bonding and becoming a family. We visited parks and temples, shopped at stores for diapers and other supplies. In some cases, shopkeepers were so happy at the prospect of her life ahead they offered us gifts as a reminder of her heritage. We had meals that in some cases we had no idea what it was we were eating. In all that time I looked at the faces of the people I encountered, wondering if one of them could have been you.
During the second week, while we were still in China, we got to celebrate her first birthday. She and another girl were the youngest of the group. The other families that we had traveled with surprised us with a party and cake. I thought about you a lot that day, wondering what you were doing, thinking, most of all, feeling. Were you reliving the moments that you brought her into this world? Was it a day filled with joy or sorrow?
During one of our last days there, we had an appointment with a representative for our government. It was the final step before bringing her home. While the agency said it was routine and there was nothing to worry about, I still had butterflies in my stomach. I had developed a bond with this tiny person and there was nothing anyone could do or say that would break it. They asked a bunch of questions and reviewed the paperwork once again, before handing over the final approval. She was now an American citizen, my little girl.
There were many firsts after arriving home, as there are with any baby. One that particularly stands out in my mind was the day she first felt the grass on the bottom of her bare feet. Never having experienced anything like it before, the orphanage where she spent her first year was made up of all concrete and hard surface floors, she couldn’t understand the feeling of the blades of grass brushing against her bare skin. She kept trying to pick both of her feet up at the same time, not wanting it to touch her. It took a little while, but she finally realized it wasn’t going to hurt her, it was just something new and different.
The behavior of watching and observing that we saw on the first day we met her is one that continues on, even to this day. She is inquisitive, searching, analytical. Not one to jump in without question, she has to take her time before she decides whether or not she wants to do what is being presented to her. Sometimes this may be a few minutes or hours. Other times, she will take much longer, a week, or a month; often times when others around her have forgotten what the initial question or challenge was, she’ll come back to it and spark a thought-provoking conversation.
There have been moments where it has been a challenge being her mother. As it is with any parent/child relationship, she has tested my patience. She can be stubborn when she doesn’t get her way or you don’t agree with her opinion. This has led to many lively discussions at the dinner table, but in the end, we always come to terms and sometimes have to agree to disagree.
I don’t know if it was you or maybe her father or someone else in the extended family who is the artist, but she inherited an artist’s eye. You should be proud to know that over the years she has had pieces entered into competitions, at state and national levels. Even though she didn’t win, she accepted the rejection and persevered, continuing to learn and grow and develop her talents more.
She has just graduated from high school and what an emotional night that was. The realization that one chapter of her life was coming to a close and a new one was about to start for the both of us, brought tears to my eyes, and filled my heart beyond capacity with love and admiration.
You should be proud to know that she received the President’s Award for Educational Excellence, the Washington State Honors award, was nominated by her art teachers and received the award for Visual Arts from the high school art department.
This fall, she’ll go off to college; learning not only more head knowledge, but necessary life lessons too. Some of them will be hard, I know, I still remember what it was like for me all those years ago. She is nervous and excited, as am I. But no matter what, I will always be there when she needs me and will give her room to grow as well.
She’s following her passion for photography and the environment and will pursue a degree in photo media and environmental science. She has very strong beliefs and convictions and isn’t afraid to share them either.
I wish I could tell you everything about these past seventeen years. The ups and downs of childhood, the first love, and heartbreak that came when it ended. Or about the best friend with whom, despite living 1,000 miles away, that she shares a deep connection and a love that can’t be broken.
But what I really want to say is, thank you. Thank you for giving her life and sharing her with me. I look at her and think of you daily, hoping that you have found peace with your decision and that you have had a good life too.