Tomorrow, my baby girl turns 12.
The days leading to her birthday are full of emotion for both of us. Even though Piper’s big day is in the midst of Christmas hullabaloo, we do our best to do it up right and she is excited. On the other hand, and unlike most children her age, she approaches her birthday with a tinge of melancholy.
While every birth is grounded in some degree of mystery and faith, hers has more mystery than most — though she is one of thousands who share a similar story.
We adopted our daughter 11 years ago from a “small town” of about 5 million in Southeast China. From the moment we laid eyes on her, we were smitten. The convoluted and complicated path her short life had followed until that point brought her into our arms — and for that we will always be grateful.
We had little energy for the lack of certainties in her life — pre-us. For example, the Chinese adoption agency told us they believed her birthday to be accurate with a great degree of confidence, but she and I can’t help but wonder. Yet, as a friend and adoptive mother of Chinese daughters told me, “Their birthdates are one of the few ‘facts’ we were given. So we never question them and just celebrate.”
Like our friends, we celebrate her birthday with gusto, but unlike them, Piper has plenty of questions. Her focus on the circumstances of her birth seems to be the exception rather than the rule in the world of international adoption. As her mom, I do my best to honor what she needs and keep the focus healthy.
For example, one day, when she was about four, she was feeling especially sad about having so little information about the circumstances that led her birth family to place her, bundled in pink clothes, in a small box on a busy sidewalk in a lovely part of her hometown. Sitting in my lap going over the possibilities, Piper began to weep about her birth mom and said, “I didn’t even get to tell her goodbye.”
Those words stay with you. That feeling of incompleteness stays with you. There is so much we’d both like her birth mom to know. Mainly, I wish she could know that even though moments of genuine grief peek through in this little girl’s world, at her core, she is a child of joy and light. Her dad and I will be eternally grateful for the comfortable bliss that abides in this child — and it’s something we recognize we have little to nothing to do with.
Often, Piper and I wish there wasn’t a world between her birth mom and us. We would like this stranger in another land to know that sometimes, we feel her presence. We believe she did her best by her baby girl. And in that, I want her to know that I do my best to do right by her sacrifice.
And there are little things sprinkled through our days that I wish this unknown woman could witness — I wish she could see Piper skip. I wish she could hear her sing or watch her play the piano. I wish she could admire one of her drawings or share her obsession with pens. I wish she could watch her giggle, dance and run with the wind.
Sometimes I wish Piper’s birthday were during a time when we could focus more attention on her day, rather than the holiday frenzy. The reality is though that the whole Christmas celebration is about a birthday — of another child born in less than ideal circumstances who came to represent love, peace, hope and grace. It’s also about adoption — adoption by an earthly father of an earthly son and adoption through grace for so many.
Happy birthday, Piper, and Merry Christmas to all.