Today is Marcie's birthday. And mine. Because we share the same birth date. A couple people this year have asked me if we got to pick Marcie's birthday. It seemed like such a strange question the first time someone asked it-- as if we could just rewrite a child's age on our own whim. But it's not a dumb question by any stretch. For those of you wondering, the answer is no. We didn't pick November 15th to be Marcie's birthday. China did. When they find a child, they estimate the child's birth date based on her physical appearance and condition. Marcie was estimated to be about a week old when she was found. I doubt she was incredibly large for her age when she was so young, and they do have physical evidence of age based on things like the umbilical cord. Anyway, she has a Chinese birth certificate, translated into English. And that identifies her birthday as November 15th. It's just luck that it coincides with my birthday.
I started a post earlier highlighting the day's events, but I didn't finish it. I will post it, complete with pictures, later. But a "show and tell" somehow seemed like an empty tribute to Marcie. This is the adoptive parent in me thinking. It seems relatively common that adoptive parents contemplate their children's birth parents each year on their children's birthdays. And that makes sense. Though I doubt that many parents who parent their biological children stop each and every year to consider and remember the labor and delivery experience. Maybe I'm wrong. And maybe that's not a fair comparison. But it doesn't seem fair that I was feeling guilty for not spending more time thinking (and writing) about Marcie's birth family-- and how our gain has been their loss.
I definitely appreciate the gift. I understand (at least on an academic level) that placing your child with strangers halfway around the world-- strangers you've never met and will probably never meet-- and just trusting that they will take good care of your child is hard. And that's an understatement. I think it must either be an act of sheer desperation or extraordinary hope. I've heard that expression -- if you love someone, set them free. And adoption is a totally different take on that statement.
I feel so grateful for Marcie. For her energy. Her kisses and her questions. I love the way she looks up to Casey and the way she sucks on her blanket when she's falling asleep at night. I love that she shows compassion for others. I love how she repeats everything we say. I love how excited she gets with a new pair of shoes or a new toy. I love that she wants to do things herself. She makes my world a better place. And that makes her one of the greatest gifts I've ever, ever received (Casey being the other great gift).
But sometimes I feel such pressure to acknowledge and honor her past, her history, her roots-- and I feel overwhelmed by it and complete inadequate at following through. I don't think I can fully understand and appreciate Chinese culture. I'm not saying I shouldn't try. Or that I don't. I'm lucky because we have family and friends who are immigrants from China and first generation Americans, so we have a lot of exposure. It's just not something I obsess about. It's true that when we contemplated B.S. #3, I wanted to return to the Asian continent for ease of future travel to the region (though I may be retracting my stance in the future). I was worried that having too many kids from different cultures would make things, well, difficult. That I wouldn't be able to honor their respective roots.
And then I read Johnny's posts Burning Ships, part I and Burning Ships, part II. What I found interesting about them is his perspective in light of the fact that Johnny, like my husband, is first generation American. And Johnny and my husband share a common perspective. I don't know how I feel about it yet. We do plan to return one day to China with Marcie. To take her to Chongqing. To let her experience where she came from. We do that already with Casey, though it's a lot closer than China, so that makes it easier. I won't be able to ingrain in Marcie the Chinese way, in a manner of speaking. After all, she is American as much as she is Chinese.
But I want to honor her history. Her heritage. Where she came from is part of who she is. And I don't just mean that it's part of her name. It's her past. Her story. I think Johnny is right-- she's an immigrant, not just an adoptee. Which "label" will define her more? I don't know. Maybe neither. But she'll have to decide that for herself. My job is to support her as she navigates her place in the world. She's only two now. But she's growing so fast. Before I know it, she'll be talking on the phone, dressing up in heels, asking for make- up. Wait. She's doing those things now! Some day I won't be able to control the length of the phone conversation, the height of the heels, or the brand and amount of the make-up. I'll have to trust her to do those things for herself and hope that I've adequately prepared her.
In the mean time, I'm just so grateful to know her. To love her. To call her my own. My little Marcie. I'm so, so lucky to be her mom. Happy Birthday!