“Every one knows that!” David retorted in a snarly tone.
The dogs barked repeatedly, upset by the angry din of the children’s quarreling. Livi whined, “Mommy, I’m full.” And Jon tirelessly insisted that he, “definitely did not need to eat any protein at breakfast time.”
“No, David. You’re wrong. She does not know that. She wasn’t here then.” Sophia calmly answered David.
I saw the sadness fill Eliza’s eyes, and she pushed her face firmly into my chest. “Oh sweety, you were in China then. Let’s see, you would have been about eleven years old.” I struggled for the words that would somehow unite our pasts into one story, a story that was different for each of us, but one story, none the less, that led us to each other, that brought us together, as mother and daughter, as family.
My words seemed to offer no comfort to my sweet daughter who had spent her first fourteen years on the other side of the world. She rubbed her hands against my stomach.
“David was in your tummy, Mommy?” She asked with sadness in her eyes.
“Yes.” I said, wishing I could ease her pain and fill the void that I struggle daily to satiate.
“And the others too, mommy? Everyone except Evangeline and me?”
“Yes, Lovey. They grew deep inside of me. And you grew deep inside your China mommy.” And there I floundered. How could I find the words to help my daughter reconcile the wrongs that characterized her story, her life, and had made her who she is today. I couldn’t say what I wanted to say, that I knew her mother loved her, that I knew she longed for her daughter just as sweet Eliza had craved her all those years she waited for her mommy in China. How could I have said that? I know nothing of her mother or the reasons she made the decisions she made.
She groaned and stomped her feet as she pressed herself into me with the tenacity of a child much younger than her fifteen years.
“I want to be in Mommy’s tummy! I want to be your baby!” The tears began to fill her dark almond eyes.
I felt it too, that deep yearning for the years we had lost. I longed for the days when someone else had held her. I ached for the tears she had cried when I wasn’t there to wipe them.
I longed, too, for the smiles that had spread across her childish face that I never got to see. I wished I had heard her baby giggle and been there to kiss her chubby little fingers. I wished I could have been the one to put the bandaid on her little knee that I know she must have scraped.
But this was not about me. It was about my daughter, about her pain, and about me looking for a way to merge our stories together, to join our lives into one. It was about my desire to help her come to terms with a life that wasn’t fair, and with all the loss she felt at that very moment.
So instead of repeating some hackneyed phrase like, “You grew in my heart, Eliza,” I opted for something a bit less eloquent, but something I hoped would begin to heal the ache she felt. “I wish you could have been in my tummy too, Eliza. I wish you could have been here all the years you were in China. I wish we could have brought you home sooner. I wish you could have grown up here with me and all of your brothers and sisters. I wish I could have held you all the days you grew without me there. I’m so sorry for all the years we lost.”
Tears rolled down her precious cheeks, and I held her as she cried for all that we had missed.
“I wish it could have been different too,” I said through my own tears, standing in the middle of all the bustle and noise of the kitchen. “And I am so thankful that you’re here now in my arms, that God has brought you all the way from China to me, and that He’s chosen me to be your mommy, that our lives are forever entwined, that our stories are now conjoined, and that every day, we’re writing a new story together.
That seemed to soothe her for the moment. I kissed her forehead, and in my mind, I wanted to promise her that I would be here with her for far more years than we had been apart. I wanted to promise I’d be at her wedding, and hold her babies, and love her well into adulthood.
But I knew, those were promises that I couldn’t make, they were commitments that weren’t mine to give. And that all I really had to offer my dear daughter who lived so much of her childhood with out me, was myself, at that very moment.
As the tears streamed down my cheeks, I made a deep commitment inside my heart to make every single day count with my dear children. Some I’ve held close since their conception, and two I’ve only had the ability to hold close for fifteen months. Whatever hurts or joys their lives held, and whatever the future holds, isn’t mine to alter, but today, I can love them.
I can pause and rest my eyes on theirs and smile at each one today. I can hold them tight. I can bless them with my words. I can instill in each one the conviction that no matter how I falter as a mother, I believe in them and know that they can do what ever they want to in their lives.
And I can introduce them to the Saviour, to the one who has promised never to leave them or forsake them, to the one who is faithful, even when we are faithless.