I am mother to a daughter who has had three mothers.
Her first mom gave her life, brought her into this world, cared for her as long as she was able, and then let her go. There is so little I know about her, but I imagine that Jia has her nose, or her eyes or that maybe those enviable lips come from her. There is a lot we will never know about her choices and actions and motivations, but we will speak of her in our home with all the respect due someone who gave us one of the greatest gifts of our lives. There are moments when I am rocking Jia before bed, I think of her first mom and how she might have done this too when Jia was just a little baby. She stared at those same eyes, saw her with the tufty hair she had as an infant, and, I want to believe, loved her. She holds her first moments, her first cry, her teeny tiny baby hands and feet. She holds the beginning of Jia’s life and I hope that somehow, she knows that Jia is well and home and loved.
I still remember getting a phone call from our adoption agency that started with the words “so, we have a very unique situation for you.” They went on to say that Jia’s foster family wanted to be in touch with us, and would we want to be in touch with them? Uhhh, duh. Yes, yes we would. About 5 minutes later, I started writing an email to the woman who had been raising this child I called daughter, but barely knew, as her own for the last 16 months. Jenn and her family were living in Shanghai because of her husband’s job, and they had become aware of the opportunity to foster Chinese orphans while they waited for their forever families. The way that Jia made her way to their family is another long story altogether, but she made it there, sick with pneumonia, and in need of the love of a family to heal her, body and soul. In her report to CCAI when Jia’s file was prepared, Jenn described her as “learning things at 150 miles per hour.” At Jenn’s house she learned her first words, took her first steps, and most importantly, learned how to be daughter, sister, and beloved child.
I can’t imagine what it must have been like to all the sudden “meet” the people who are going to parent the child you consider a daughter. But Jenn embraced us with open arms and more grace then I can even fathom. She shared information with us, answered our million questions, and worked hard to keep in touch with us through weird Internet and time zone challenges. She prepared Jia for our family as well as you can prepare a two year old for a complete life upheaval. I cannot even imagine how difficult that must have been, to prepare a child you love to leave you, and walk into the next part of her life. And I can’t even talk yet about how the end of Jia’s time in China went down, but suffice it to say that Jenn has more strength and backbone then anyone I know to make it through those last hard, sad weeks.
There are no adequate words for what Jenn and her family did for us. No way to truly convey the enormity of their love for Jia without sharing more of her story then is mine to share. But let me just tell you that the foundation that they laid for her will carry her forward for the rest of her life, and will impact all of us forever.
There is a quote that floats around the adoption community that says this: “A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The depth of that tragedy and the magnitude of that privilege are not lost on me.” In our case, Jia is a child born to and a child raised by other women and never do I take the immense privilege of being her mom lightly. On Mother’s Day, the day we’re supposed to honor the mother’s in our lives, I want to make sure I take time to honor Jia’s other mothers, the one I know and the one I don’t. I feel them alongside me daily, I see them in Jia all the time, and it’s my joy to have them as part of our lives in whatever way is possible. We love you so much. Thanks for loving us and especially Jia, so well.