The Day our Daughter was Abandoned
Most of us know the story of the Chinese orphan.
A harsh government policy of only one child per family intersected with a cultural demand for a son creating on orphan crisis in the most populated country in the world.
And girls, small, innocent, helpless, baby girls became the victims.
In the past I have been angry. Angry with the government for establishing the policy. And angry with the parents who abandoned their daughters creating a crisis that did not have to be.
But as I entered the story of my own daughter, who too was a victim, who was abandoned at birth presumably because she was a girl, I have realized that the stories are really stories of love.
I have one goal, one hope for myself as a parent. To love my children unconditionally. To not only speak love to them with my words, but to speak love directly into their hearts with my actions. To live out a love that proves itself over and over.
I want them to know in a way that they would never doubt, that I will love them no matter. No matter who they become. No matter what they do. No matter what they say. No matter nothing.
But unconditional love is much harder practiced than it is believed.
My assumption for many years was that the parents of these abandoned girls did not love their daughters enough. If they left them, how could they truly love them? If they wanted a hoped-for son more than their own daughter, how could they love them? I now believe something different.
My perspective has changed because the story has become personal. Instead of an idea or a concept, or even worse a crime, it is something that I live out every day.
I have tried to imagine the moment Eva was born.
What was it like when her mom found out she was pregnant? Did she celebrate? Was it planned or an accident? Did she immediately hope for a boy? Or did the possibility of her being a girl begin to fill her with fear and regret immediately? Was it her first pregnancy? Was Eva her first daughter? Or had she abandoned others?
After nine long months, after swollen feet and tight clothes and a waddling gait, birth pains arrived suddenly. The mid-wife was called for. The gravid uterus constricted and contracted. Blood was shed. And then the incredible miracle of new life was witnessed. An event as routine, but more miraculous, than the sunrise.
Eva was born. Amniotic fluid was coughed out of her lungs. She took her first breath. And then she started crying. Crying for food. Crying because she was cold. Crying for her mother.
How quickly did that miraculous moment change? How quickly did the blessing become a curse?
The tears that fell from the corner of her mother’s eyes, tears that nobody would wipe away, trickled down the sides of her cheeks, and onto the ground. They looked the same from one moment to the next. But the source of the tears shifted from pain to joy to sorrow. From new life to death.
How quickly did they notice she was a girl? Did her father reject her immediately? Did he too want her, but then realized he couldn’t keep her? Did her grandparents immediately walk away realizing that Eva was not and could never be the child they had hoped for? That Eva would not carry on the family name?
I believer her mom wanted her, but could not keep her.
I believe her mother loved her as all mother’s do. Bone of her bone and flesh of her flesh. No matter her gender, Eva was her baby. Eva was her baby girl.
The pain of the birth was quickly masked by the new pain of the realization of the day that would soon come. The day of leaving her.
Our daughter was left at the north gate of the second public hospital in Shenyang, China. Abandoned by her parents.
I can picture her mom, maybe a week or so after her birth, making the long walk to the place she hoped her daughter would be found. The streets were dark, filled with stray cats and garbage. She took alleys and hid behind dumpsters, hoping that nobody would notice the small bundle wrapped tightly under her jacket.
And then she placed her gently and perfectly in the spot where she hoped that she would be found. Hoping that she would be discovered in time. Hoping that she lived. Hoping that someday she would have a family.
I imagine that moment when she set her down and stroked her cheek. When Eva cried, but the soothing words from her birth mom would stop. The moment when they would share un-wiped tears. The last moment they would ever share.
I imagine her mother turning around and walking away. I am certain that her daughter wasn’t the only thing she left in that box that night. I know she left a part of herself.
I now understand that abandoning her daughter was a loving act of sacrifice.
Eva was found by a janitor. A man who no doubt when to work that day expecting the routine of sweeping floors and cleaning toilets only to discover the unexpected. A little baby girl in a box. And then again, maybe finding abandoned babies isn’t so unexpected in public hospital in China.
The man notified authorities. Children’s services took her and placed her in an orphanage. Efforts were made to find her parents, but like countless other orphans, the notices in the paper went unnoticed.
Eva entered a system and began a journey that would bring her into our arms one year ago. A journey that would lack any semblance of permanence or predictably for another four years.
Eva has asked me about her birth mom.
Why did my birth mom leave me at the hospital she asks. I don’t know I respond. I didn’t want her to leave me. I didn’t want her to leave you either. Why did it take so long for you to come and get me daddy? I didn’t know you were there. If I had known I would have come right away. I am sad that my birth mom left me. I am sad too.
I tell her and hold her and rock her.
I love you too. I will try to love you as much as your birth mom loves you.