Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Two Daughters

I thought of her the morning I first held my daughter, but I didn't yet know her name. Cradling new, beautiful, perfect life in my arms, I rejoice. Yet in that moment I remember: the sweet often has the bitter, and I think about the babies born that day who would not remain in their mothers' arms. Faceless and nameless, yet no less precious than my sweet Cora Eve.

Vivian... that is the baby's name. Cora's birthday-sister.

Her mother is a sister of sorts to me… Labor bore down on her at the same time it bore down on me, and life's first breath seared both baby's lungs for the first time on that cold January morning. For nine months, their lives formed in much the same way. Darkness, warmth, a mother's heart beating close. But on that day - the 5th of January - these two little girls' lives took very different turns.

I do not know how a tragedy begins, but I do know it must have started in love. As my body swelled and belly fluttered, so did hers. The heaving sickness, the aching back, the feeling that your body is no longer your own… This journey to life is not completed by accident. Life is far too easy to end, so when Vivian gulped air for the first time it must mean she was birthed in love. And for nine short days, maybe she remained there.

I want to know the mother's story. Beyond the hard cold facts of "Baby girl born January 5th. Abandoned at a store on January 14th." So much lies between those dates - a whole lifetime, really. The only life this mother knew with her daughter. Nine short days. I know how I soaked in every detail of my baby in those same days; memorizing Cora in the darkness of early morning feedings - the shape of her nose, the curve of her toes, and the way she nestled into my chest as she slept. I can still hear the sighs and groans; the little snores of a fresh babe recovering from the work of being born.

Did she have those moments, too? Quiet moments in her room, alone with her baby? Did she imagine a future for her little girl? Was it different than the one they both face now? In those early days, did she know that a painful separation was only days ahead? And baby Vivian… did she rest in the comfort of her mother's arms? Did she hear the whispers of love spoken softly in her ear? Does she carry that with her today? If her heart weren't broken, would this story have ended differently?

Driving home from a friend's house on a cold, windy night in early February, we passed darkened storefronts and shuttered shops. Out of nowhere, the image of a small box sitting on a step came to mind, filled with blankets and a most precious cargo… and then I imagined Cora in the box, wrapped tightly in a blanket to shield from the cutting wind. Unimaginable, really. A nightmare beyond description. The pain of it made me shake my head; to shake the thoughts away, and I reached over and touched her hand… felt her fingers curl around mine. But this nightmare is Vivian's reality; her mother's reality. For that is where she was placed. In front of a shop… her newborn fingers grasping wildly in the cold air, but no mother's finger to hold. Unmoored, unconnected… abandoned.

Who left her there? How did they walk away? I wonder what happened to their heart as they turned away… I know part of it must have been left in a box on a shop's step. Did her mother know what was happening? Was she the one walking away or was it another who did the deed? Maybe she had been told the baby was dead? Did she get to say goodbye? How? Why? My soul aches… it is so unfair! I shout it to the heavens. The scream may not be audible, but it comes from my deepest places. This is not right! Babies and mamas need each other! What drives a mother, a father, a family to wrapping up their baby in a blanket, putting her in a box, and setting her on the front step of a shop? How do they ever recover from that?

I think about her mother on the tenth day. On the eleventh and the twelfth… Her chest swollen with milk, swollen with the life she is supposed to be able to share with her daughter. Yet her daughter is not there to receive it… Her body still raw and exhausted from birth, yet her daughter is not there to fill the hours of resting with the sweetest of joys. And Vivian… sweet Vivian. I dress Cora in a pink dress from my infancy and a bonnet and cardigan knit by a great-grandmother's gnarled fingers for me, 29 years ago. A legacy stitched with love… her story in creamy yarn and frilly pink organza. Cora will always know her history. Vivian will never know… she'll never even know the name her mother called her; she'll never wear her grandmother's dress. Cora has a book filled with photos of her first days, of the many people who love her. Vivian has a case file. Cold, hard facts telling the saddest of stories…

Sadness tastes like anger in this kind of broken story, but I know there are only victims in this tragedy. Unable to blame, unable to point fingers, unable to know the why or imagine the how… I lay it all down and let my heart instead turn to hope, the only place it can really go…

There is always hope… His work of redemption in a broken and bruised world. We only need to look to see the goodness… to see the places He dwells and moves. Vivian was abandoned, but she was also found. She now lives surrounded by love in a small foster home on the outskirts of Beijing. And someday I believe she will be adopted into a family of her own. But just because the hard work of redemption is transforming this young life doesn't wipe away the tragedy of her beginning. And as I cradle my own daughter, my heart grieves for Vivian and her mother - who have both endured a loss that defies my words. A loss that leaves me aching… hoping and praying for a day when there will be no more orphans.


  1. from unmoored to safe harbor...isn't that the story of our passage to jesus too? lovely, moving post...we are just starting this scary journey into fostering...and so i clicked on your following.


    stuff and nonsense

  2. Very moving post. I pray Vivian finds the love Cora has known all her life.

  3. Love reading thru the lens of your mother heart Carrie.
    Your post is beautifully written.
    I cannot wait to see how God redeems Vivi's story.
    Thankful He is in the business of exchanging ashes for Beauty!
    Love & Blessings from Hong Kong,

  4. Wow. So beautiful, Carrie. I can only imagine how strong the connection, knowing your Cora and Vivian share the same birth date.
    Thank you for sharing from your heart, as always... you truly move hearts with your words.

  5. Yes, so unimaginable, Carrie. How do we reconcile this? WE don't, I guess. HE does.
    Thankful for your honest, heart-wrenching words that teach me even more how to pray for a birth mother. How to pray for five mothers....

  6. Wow Carrie. So beautifully written. So tragic and broken. From the depths of your heart and the connection Vivi and Cora share, as well as their mothers. Only through such eyes could the core of this story be told so well. I wish it were fiction. Because thinking of it in this way is just too hard to swallow. But that is where redemption comes in. Where the parallel between our own lives and the saving grace of Jesus intersect. Thank you again for sharing for the inner most depths of your heart... your gift for writing always resinates deep with me, as does the messages it brings.

    Like Laine said, it helps us to know even more how to pray for a birth mother... or five....

  7. So preciously sweet--so preciously painful ... all at once. They are both so beautiful and full of so many gorgeous details crafted so perfectly. I must imagine that Vivian's birth mother drank them in while she could ... and was devastated at their parting. Anything less is unbearable to think.
    What a connection Cora and Vivian share as birthday sisters.

  8. I truly have no words but felt it wrong to simply read something of this magnitute and just click away.
    Thank you for sharing from your heart and your unique insider's perspective.

  9. you have such a way with words Carrie. I wept for Vivian and her mother and for all the other little ones like her. Then i cried some more when i read her diagnosis-as I sit here in Hong Kong with a little baby girl in my arms right now, who came to us in foster care last week at 3 weeks old, with the same diagnosis(asd & pfo). I am so grateful our God is a God of redemption in the midst of tragedy, and He uses us as part of His plan.

  10. WOW! your words pierced my heart to the core....thank you for this post...thank you for loving the children at new day...thank you for your ways with words...i cry often for emma lael's birth mother...oh, how i love this women...she is a part of me...i a part of her...God love her... protect her and let her know her baby girl is safe, LOVED and perfect.

  11. Beautifully written and very moving.

    You're right-- there is always hope through His work of redemption.

    And we can make a difference-- one child at a time. (and in many other ways as well)

  12. Beautiful post. we adopted our daughter a year ago this coming week. Since visiting China. We long to be back, to be doing what you and your husband did just love on these babies and give them hope. God has not opened any doors and we don't even know where to begin looking. Any advice for us?

  13. Carrie,

    Such an amazing post and so beautifully written. On more than one occasion your words have brought me to tears and touched my heart.

  14. That was beautiful, and heart wrenching. Your heart for these little ones is a wonderful reflection of His.

  15. I was looking at my daughter tonight, before I read your post, and was thinking of HER birth mother and the helplessness she must have felt. And I am pained that she can not see this wonderful,beautiful little girl who is pure joy!

  16. Thank you for putting this into words. So thankful for both of my girls, whose birth mothers both made hard choices that led to them being in our arms.

  17. This post makes my heart almost break into. This is my daughter's story. And I wish my son's birth story were as good. I hurt with these birth mothers. Thanks for articulating it so well. Blessings.

  18. Such beautiful writing. Words that as a mom of both biological and adopted children, my heart understands. Thank you for sharing.

  19. I just want to say, THANK YOU. Your words are so moving and could picture it all. Beautiful and making me long even more for that day when my husband and I hold our little Asian girl in our arms and the love and understanding flowing from our heart and bones. Thank you for sharing. I have the hope.