A letter to my birth mother

A student writes a letter to her biological mother, whom she has never met.

Dear Maybe-Mama,

I was not a mistake.

It’s strange to think that exactly half of my DNA comes from you, and yet we could pass each other on the street and not even recognize each other.

I’ve never really believed in searching for you, my biological family. I never asked my parents the heartbreaking questions that Hollywood makes small, blue-eyed orphans ask: “Why didn’t my real mother want me?” I’ve never believed in any of that, and I don’t expect that you’d want me to, anyway.

But if we ever did meet, what would we even say to each other? I don’t speak Chinese, and you probably don’t speak English. But, in case you’ve ever wondered about me, here’s a little about myself:

I look different now. When you last saw me, I weighed less than fifteen pounds and could fit inside of a kitchen sink when I needed a bath. But today I am 19 years old and I’m probably taller than you – the nutrition in America is different than in rural China, so I’ve grown like an American girl, not a Chinese one. But our hands and feet are probably the same size. I also have hyper-extended knees and highly-arched feet. Maybe you do, too. I’ve cut off 10 inches of my hair three times since I was 12 years old. Each time it feels so different and strange, yet each time it’s grown back just as long as before. Hair tends to do that, I suppose.

I started dancing as soon as I could walk and I haven’t stopped since. My favorite type of laughter is the type that catches you by surprise and bubbles up like soda. I’ve learned how to cook from YouTube and I like to think I’m becoming pretty good at it. I learned how to bake from my mother and her box of yellowing recipes from her mother. Babies smile when I smile. I can read very fast – I know this because I read “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” in six hours and 26 minutes and even RJ (my neighbor who was accepted to MIT and Harvard), didn’t read it that quickly. I knit scarves for my friends as Christmas gifts.

We know nothing about each other, but I like to think that you’d be happy about the life I have.

If I had stayed there in China, the country that holds 1.357 billion people, if no one had ever wanted me, I would probably be working on a farm. I would be getting ready to marry some nice boy to take care of his nice, aging parents, and I’d have no more than two nice babies with him. Or maybe I’d move to the city and be working in a factory, helping to mass produce capital for America and the rest of the Western World – I’d be another cog amongst the smog and bicycles.

I was not a mistake.

You did not make a mistake.

You may have regretted the one night you gave into a young man with thick dark hair and long eyes, quick, clever hands, and high forehead. Maybe you were 16 and not ready to raise a child, your family was angry with you, and people would have pointed and stared. Or maybe you did marry him and you had a girl-child, but she was not going to be able to take care of you in your old age because she’d be married to a boy and would take care of his parents instead. Or maybe you already had a girl and needed a boy. Or maybe you had two children, but you were scared of what they’d do if they found out you’d kept another baby.

Whether you ever think of me, or whether you have completely forgotten that you carried me inside you for those nine months 19 years ago (or 20, if you believe that life begins at conception), or whether you think of me every day since you last saw me that autumn day in 1995, or whether you died years ago and I never knew, you did not make a mistake.

Maybe-Mama, I just wanted to let you know that I’m happy. I’m so lucky to have the life I have. I’m in college now, studying and making friends and having fun. Hopefully I’ll have a job in four years. My parents love me like good parents do – fiercely, proudly, happily. I have a brother and he is 15 and growing like a birch tree, becoming someone I will always be proud of. I am surrounded by people with kind hearts and warm hugs and big laughs whom I love and who love me. There is someone who wants to marry me someday and spend the rest of their life with me. I could never ask for better than what I’ve been fortunate enough to receive.

If you ever meet me, I hope that you like the person that I am and the person I’m becoming. I hope I’d like you, too.

Someone told me once that I must have lucky stars out there looking out for me. And you know what?

I do. I really do.


Your Maybe-Daughter

Lian Parsons can be reached at lian.parsons@temple.edu.

1 Comment

  1. What a beautiful essay, Lian. How I wish your Maybe-Mother could somehow learn of your page and read it. Losing a child, whether to death or adoption, is extremely painful and life-altering. I’m one of those moms, and I would have given anything to know how my daughter was doing as she was growing and maturing. It’s just unfortunate that adoption has been designed to cut all ties between mothers and their children, even if poverty or cultural circumstances made the parting necessary.

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