I’ve never met you. I don’t speak your language. We were born on opposite sides of the world, and in some ways on completely different planets. You’re both much older than me and my husband, both in years, and, I’m guessing, hard knocks.
But we share one big thing in common. Actually, she’s pretty little, but you get the idea.
Already having healthy, happy children, I am betting you were excited for this newest little life. Maybe, in a country not known for its wealth or gainful employment, you had questions — how will we provide for this child? Will there be enough to go around? — but you had figured it out for your other kids, and you would do so for this one.
That was the plan, anyways. Until the doctor dropped words like spina bifida, hydrocephalus, scoliosis and more.
I can only imagine the oh no, not my baby you must have felt as your dreams crumpled on the grainy black-and-white screen in front of you.
Not to worry, the doctor assured you. You have other healthy children; you can just abort this one. And the government healthcare program will pay for it, even, so you don’t have to worry about the money.
I don’t know what went through your mind. Maybe you considered abortion, for a while, even. Maybe you talked about it for several days, or maybe you made your decision on the spot. Maybe you considered the pros and cons; maybe it was never an option. Undoubtedly, it would have made things “easier” for you. No carrying a pregnancy to term for “nothing.” No heartbreak from having to either deal with your daughter’s extensive needs, or having to give her to an orphanage. No years of wondering if this, if that. With a simple “yes,” you could have stopped our girl’s beating heart.
But you didn’t.
I want you to know a few things. First, your daughter is not suffering! She is a ball of energy, a born communicator who dazzles everyone she meets, a nurturer who scooches over to the nearest crying baby to offer comfort. She has many problems, yes, and a long road ahead of her, but already her life is full. She loves fiercely, and she is loved just as fiercely in return; I would dare say her physical trials have sharpened her sense of love and giving, far beyond anything I could offer.
Secondly, I do not hate or think any less of you — just the opposite! Now, when someone asks me whom I admire most, I know how to answer. The personal strength necessary to sign over your parental rights for a child whom you loved deeply (and I know you did and do, thanks to some other details I’m leaving out of this letter), hoping one day she would be adopted by a family who could provide extensive medical care, just blows my mind. I don’t think I could be that strong.
Thirdly, I want you to know that as our girl grows, I will tell her about you. I will tell her that you loved and love her. I will tell her about your ethnic heritage. I will tell her about your home country: its beauty, its great food and incredible history. Our family will not erase her past; we will add it to her personal life mosaic. You and where you came from will not be forgotten.
I know that life doesn’t always turns out the way we want it. I know that in an ideal world, she would still be with you. Actually, I’m writing my master’s thesis on family preservation, because my life’s goal now revolves around keeping families like yours together, fully supported and enabled to keep your babies in your own countries and cultures. For now, however, I know there are thousands of orphans with special needs waiting in orphanages and foster families around the world, including dozens from your own country, and sometimes these kids age out with no one coming for them. Kids die, sometimes alone. It’s no fairy tale we’re living. Orphan care and adoption are hard. It flat-out sucks sometimes, for all parties from the birth parents like you to the kids themselves to adoptive families like mine.
But the joy, born from the hardships, is so worth it. Joy that would not have happened without your first decision to give our girl life.