Thursday, February 17, 2005

Early Mother's Day

The Standard

The above article talks about the one child policy in China, the current steep legal consequences to having unauthorized children and perhaps a hope for some change in that regard. It talks about the challenges facing women who know they are carrying a girl.

As I read the article, all I could feel was overwhelming gratitude to my daughter’s birthmother for bringing her into the world. Indeed, as the date to adopt my daughter comes ever closer, and as my love for her deepens exponentially with each passing day, I find myself thinking a lot about her birthmother and what she must have felt to give her up.

I have not yet met my daughter, have not yet breathed in that magical “baby smell” that all little ones have and that connects them to you elementally; I have not yet dried her tears—or caused her any! And yet I simply cannot imagine my life without her. Can’t bear the thought that anything will get in the way of the official start to our life together. Can’t bring myself to think that there will be bad weather on the flight day, that we’ll miss the connecting flight, that there will be a typhoon, a traffic jam, a power outage, a swarm of locusts and frogs, anything, anything that will come between me and my daughter. I know right now as I sit here that no one and no thing and no force on earth is going to be a match for me once the trip is underway. We will get there. We will become a family.

And I haven’t even met her.

So--what of her birthmother? The woman who gave birth to her and held her in her arms before letting her go? I have no idea whether she was 16 or 36, rural or urban, married or unmarried. What I do know is that she committed an act of bravery that most of us in the West cannot even begin to fathom. First, she got pregnant and carried her baby to term, even though there are penalties for an unauthorized pregnancy and multiple, coerced opportunities to end it. Secondly, she risked arrest and prosecution for then ‘abandoning’ the baby in a place where she was sure to be found within minutes, but that therefore magnified her own risk of being seen and reported to the authorities. All the way to the end, she risked her own safety and wellbeing to make sure her daughter would be found and have a chance at a better life.

It is tempting when adopting to want to erase any mention of your child’s origins because some part of you wishes those origins had started with YOU and you feel some low level of discomfort and threat about some other person for whom your child may have feelings or questions or longings. I don’t. I just, simply, feel gratitude.

Where could I even start to give thanks to this woman? What words could I possibly put together to do her actions justice without romanticizing them? I wondered what prayers I could offer up to bring her peace and comfort in her moments of wondering where her baby is now.

I have thought about her a lot, trying to put myself in her shoes. I have not yet met my daughter and I already know that the combined forces of heaven and hell could not separate me from her, that there is no landscape too far, too high, too scary, too deep that I would not traverse to keep her safe.

And then I realized that that must be exactly what her birthmother felt. She took incredible chances with her own future to ensure her daughter’s future. She traversed those scary landscapes to ensure her daughter’s future. From her actions, it seems to me that she possessed the essential elements required for motherhood except the ability to keep a daughter.

She has no name and no face, but she has my profound respect and gratitude.

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