My daughter turned 4 yesterday. It was the first birthday we spent with her. Her last birthdays were spent in the orphanage where she had lived her life since 4 weeks of age. Her birthday passed without her acknowledgement of the event. How can you explain something like that to a child who has never seen it or has any idea that it's a milestone we measure? And in fact we celebrated her birthday last Friday and taught her how to tear open gifts and she ate cake! But yesterday as now, my thoughts are less about her and more about her mother. I'm not naive enough to think that all children abandoned in China are loved, cherished and wanted. Parents there are just as likely to be bad parents as they are here. But our daughter was left in a public place, with a note and I believe her parents did what they had to do and that it was heart wrenching for them.
So on her birthday, I wonder about her mother. Does she mark this day and wonder where her daughter is and how she's doing? Does she look at every little 4 yr old girl she passes and wonder if that's her child? Does she wonder if her daughter died? She certainly knows about international adoption. Does she wonder if her daughter is living abroad? I wonder about how I'd feel and I think the not knowing would tear me up inside. Maybe I'd try not to think about it at all.
I wish I could tell her about her child. I wish I could send her pictures and updates. But I can't. So I've written her this letter and posting it here is akin to tying it to a balloon and setting it free (which BTW is ecologically irresponsible) so here it is.
Dear Unknown Mother,
On the day of your daughter's 4th birthday I want to tell you that she is OK. She's been with us for 7 months and she's thriving. She's a very good girl and very smart. She's a strong person and that strength will serve her well in her life. She's resilient and meets life with openness and excitement.
I fought hard for her. She was supposed to be adopted by a different family, and they backed out, leaving her to an uncertain fate. But I knew then that I wanted this child as my own. It took about two years but we got her home. It was against all odds that we were able to get her home. But she had a lot of people working to get her out of the SWI and into a home. And I'm so glad it was mine!
She had a heart surgery but the doctors in China did well with the repair. She is going to the Dr here in a couple of weeks. Just for a check up. She's gained a pound a month and easily grown 3 inches. She's very strong physically. She runs and plays well. She doesn't talk much, but we'll get there. We communicate well and her needs are met. I am confident that one day she will begin talking and not stop!
She has two brothers who adore her and a father who is wrapped around her little finger! She has cousins, an aunt and uncles that love her too. She's a treasured member of our family. She will have every advantage we can give her. I want you to know that she is OK and you don't have to worry about her. I know you will never stop missing her but you don't need to worry that she's unwell or unloved.
I wish I could know you. I wish I could let you know her. I wish so much that you could be a part of her life. And I am painfully aware that my joy came at a huge cost to you. You will always be here with us. As she grows and questions -- you will be here. I will do my best to answer her questions about you and the "whys" of her early life. I want you to know that we will always make room for you in our family. And for you, I bid you peace. I hope you can find comfort in what you did and why you did it. And I hope you will some day know that she's an amazing person who we are lucky to love. And it's all because of your painful and selfless act four years ago.