Monday, September 23, 2013

An Open Letter to the Birth Mother of My Daughter

I will probably never meet you or even know who you are. But you changed my life. I think about you a lot. There are many things I wish I knew about you and even more things I wish I could tell you. So here is a letter you will never read. I write this and I hope that on some level you will know.

I met and fell in love with a baby girl found abandoned about 30 Km North of Addis Ababa. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs named her Kulani which means “beautiful” in Oromifa. We adopted her shortly after we met her and gave her an additional name, a Hebrew name that means "work of G-d". So her name now means “beautiful work of G-d.”

Kulani has been my daughter for several months now, and I am starting to see and understand the person she is inside. She has a calm energy about her but she is curious and looks at everything going on around her with quiet happiness. She is loving, trusting and aware. But she is also a sensitive child and she is frightened by loud, sharp or unexpected noises. It surprises me that someone who is so calm could also be so sensitive to trouble in the world around her. When she gets scared, she panics and cries but she is open to my love. I can always calm her and soothe her back to comfort. Like I said, she is loving and trusting on a deep level I can hardly understand but that I truly love.

Kulani is different from me. It's strange to be so deeply in love with a child who is so fundamentally different from myself. For one thing, I am Caucasian. That turns heads sometimes. But even more remarkable is the difference between us on the inside. Kulani's spirit is easy, calm and loving. I am loving and kind, but no one would describe me as calm and even fewer people would describe me as "easy." My dear stranger, there is some part of you that lives inside Kulani. Some part of you that made Kulani the way she is. I love that part of you. Your presence will always have a place in my heart.

At one point I felt judgmental toward you (and worse I let others feel judgmental toward you) about leaving her abandoned. I am sorry about that now. I don't know anything about you, what happened or why you had to leave Kulani. I don't even know if you wanted to keep Kulani but were forced by poverty, death or someone else to give her up. Frankly, I have no business judging you at all. And neither does anyone else. Aside from the unfair implications of my thoughts and words, you are not a bad person. I knew you were not bad then and I know it now. I am sure about this because Kulani is wonderful. It impossible for someone as beautiful as Kulani to come from the flesh and blood of someone else who is not, on some level, exceptionally beautiful.

And as far as leaving Kulani behind, that's not the full story either. Kulani was found under some bushes along a path that had a lot of foot traffic. Most of the people in the village walked that path to get to work. Whoever left Kulani hoped she would be found. And she was. By a woman who heard her crying and took her to the police. I went to the place Kulani was found, met the woman and thanked her but it’s kind of hard to know what to say in situations like that.

My dear stranger, you nourished our daughter for nine months (actually it was closer to ten months--for some reason few people get the 40 weeks/almost 10 months thing.) Nourishing Kulani was at the expense and sacrifice to your own body. You probably needed that nourishment yourself. Food and clean water is not readily available in the place where Kulani was found.

Kulani's birth must have been long and arduous--they all are. I know. I have given birth twice myself. But Kulani's birth was more difficult than others. You did not have medical attention. Her umbilical cord was still attached when she was found. She was pulled from the birth canal with some kind of (non-medical) instrument because her head was torn open on both sides. Was she stuck? Was it a long time? Did you lose a lot of blood? I am sorry you had to go through that when you weren't even about to keep the baby in the end.

By the way, in case you think this letter is patronizing, you should know about me. You might be impressed if you met me. Don't be too impressed. My life is undoubtedly different from yours, and the truth is I have been blessed with a lot of gifts and talents. But I don't always appreciate my life, the people in it and the things I have been given. I ask G-d to remove my defects of character daily. But I do that because I have defects of character. Sometimes they are consuming and self-centered. Sometimes I hurt other people. I am stumbling through this life just like everyone else.

You probably wonder where Kulani is now and how she is doing. Kulani is a little more than one year old. She lives in California and has dual citizenship with the United States and Ethiopia. Kulani has two older brothers to protect, love and take care of her. She also has a seemingly limitless supply of uncles, aunts and cousins. Kulani is beloved not only by our family, but also our community. We will raise her with strong moral, spiritual and ethical values to the best of our ability.

Kulani is physically healthy too. She has chubby little legs and arms. Knowing nothing about her background, we had Kulani tested for developmental progress. She tested cognitively advanced for her age. We intend to do everything we can to give her the best possible education and support her dreams. I hope that someday she will go back to Ethiopia and help the country and the Ethiopian people we have come to love. But to be honest, we will support her in whatever she chooses to do or be. I have a feeling those choices will be good and her impact on this world will be meaningful.

My dear stranger, no one in my world knows who you are. We do not know whether you are well, whether you recovered from the delivery or even whether you survived the childbirth. I hope you did. I hope you are okay. And I hope the joy I am experiencing with this precious child is not at the expense of the suffering you may feel losing her. I have the perfect result of your egg which, with the seed of someone else I will never know, created and grew Kulani, your daughter/our daughter. Please accept my blessings and be well.

With Love,

Related:  Ethiopian Orphanages
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