I wanted to share something very personal – a letter I wrote to our daugther’s birthmother seven years ago. I wrote it as I reflected on how lucky we are to have our daughter (even luckier now to have our son also). At the time an adoptive mother was trying to organise an anthology of letters with the hope of publishing them in China and the hope that birth mothers there might actually read them and find some consolation in the sentiments. Unfortunately the project, as far as I know, didn’t proceed.
I’ve had many thoughts and feelings about our daughter’s birthmother since. I’ve hoped dearly that the pain of her loss has lessened with time and I’ve felt priveleged that our joy in being parents has only deepened with the years. I’ve felt guilt and sadness and pride and joy, but this letter captures a point in time when I reflected very clearly on how loss is so central to adoption, and how, after all the sadness, gain is really the only thing we can take out of it. Here is the letter:
She’s beautiful, just like you. Her dark eyes sparkle like diamonds, just like yours. Her smile lights up her face and the lives of those around her. She radiates. Her laughter gives happiness a sound.
She’s the master of the cheeky, winking grin. Her wonder and awe at the world is like an exclamation mark on her face. She looks like a little imp when she screws up her nose in that funny way that makes me smile.
Her hair is still short and so fine – like gossamer silken threads, and I never tire of kissing the soft, downy crown of her head. It is your straight, dark hair that shines. She has beautiful baby skin, velvety and smooth to touch, and the lovely colour of your complexion. Her chubby cheeks round out an adorable face.
I think that you would want to know how beautiful she is, because you gave her that beauty. I think that you would want to know how perfect she is, because you created that perfection. I think that you would want to know that she’s loved, because you loved her so much to give her life. You know how precious she is and I want to tell you how precious she is to me. I want to thank you for giving her life, because she has given my life meaning.
I know that you love her because you’re a mother, and now that I’m a mother, I know what it is to love this way. Absolutely, unconditionally, unconsciously – I wake up each day and I love her just as surely as I breathe in and out. Before she came into my life, there was a part of me that was missing that she has filled. Only she could fill this part of me. I’m so very grateful, but sad too, that in filling my life, she has left a hole in yours. How can I thank you for that sacrifice?
You may not see things the way I do. You may think that you should be grateful to me, and to my husband and family, for bringing up a daughter that you could not care for. You may feel guilty that you gave her up.
I know this, because as a mother I feel gratitude and I feel guilt. And as mothers we both feel love for the same beautiful girl that binds us together, forever.
I’m so very happy that your love went into making her and I want you to know that my love, strong and unconditional, will go into making her all that she can be. And she will be great, smart, happy, talented, confident and caring because that is what we both want for her.
She’s a little lotus flower, blossoming in our family and in our country, Australia. Please know that she has other ‘China Cousins’ – other little girls adopted at the same time, from the same town, growing up close to her. I hope they will always be friends. I hope that she will be proud of her Chinese heritage and we will try our best to teach her about the culture of her birth and always embrace it in our home. I hope she will be proud too of the Australian culture she will learn as she grows up, a culture that welcomes people from all backgrounds. Ours is a nation of tolerance, equality and opportunity, and I want her to be proud to be Chinese-Australian.
I hope she will like books and music, because I like books and music. She might be good at sport or science, and I will be just as happy. Her natural talents will come from you, so you know better than I do the wonderful potential that she has. I will do everything that I can to help her realise this potential. Whatever her interests, whatever her talents, I will nurture them and encourage her, because they are what will make her the unique, beautiful person she will become.
You may wonder how I can love her so much, and how we can accept her into our family, since she’s not our ‘flesh and blood’. When you remember those first moments, hours, perhaps days you spent together after she was born, you will have your answer. How could I not love her? I can never fully understand your decision to give her up, if in fact it was yours to make, but I do not judge you for making the choice. I understand about the government policies and social situation in China that may have influenced your decision, but it was not until I became a mother that I could really understand how truly hard that decision must have been. I respect and admire you for your amazing courage. I know it was probably the hardest, most painful decision of your life.
I hope by now that you believe you made the right choice and that you can trust in the love and care that I promise to give her as long as I live. Her father, my husband, is a wonderful man, kind and generous, who loves her just as much.
I know that our daughter loves us. I have the privilege of sharing her happiness everyday. It brings me great joy. I know that she loves you too, because you gave her life. She’s too young to know or understand this and I know that it will be hard for her to understand when she gets older. I will try my best to explain and help her to comprehend the complex tangle of circumstances, and I will always tell her that she’s lucky to have two mothers and twice as much love. I hope that she will be as proud to be your daughter, as I hope she will be proud to be mine.
We will go back to China, perhaps to adopt a new sister or brother for her, but definitely to see more of your beautiful country and to learn more about its culture. We hope to be able to travel back to see more of the place where her life began. We were fortunate to journey there at the time of the adoption.
We will give her a good education, a loving home and always look after her health and well-being. She will be free to live her dreams.
I wish I could ask you questions, speak with you, meet you, rather than writing this letter that you will likely never read. I would ask you about your family, her birth father, whether you have other children, what your life is like, and why you made the decision you did. Mostly I would thank you, put my arms around you and let you hug the beautiful daughter we share. I would want you to see how she’s grown, how happy she is. I would want you to feel at peace.
We tried for a long time to have biological children before we made the decision to adopt. Once we held our beautiful daughter in our arms, the painful experiences of the past disappeared and I knew immediately that she was the daughter I was meant to have.
I believe in an invisible ‘red thread’ that connects us – all of us – to each other. The thread connects us across time, place and distance. It may stretch and tangle, but it will never break. She was at the end of that red thread waiting for us, while we were waiting for her. You had the courage to let her go so she could find her way to us. We had the courage to go and find her.
Yi zi qian jing – one written word is worth a thousand pieces of gold – this pearl of ancient Chinese wisdom may be true if just one word that I have written touches your heart, soothes your soul and brings you peace. I have found my soul soothed in writing to you and a sense of peace that is priceless. I hope our daughter will also feel the same way when she reads this letter.