“Are you her mother?” the receptionist asked?

My breath caught and it felt a bit like a lie, “Yes,” I replied as I signed the waivers for her surgery.  “I am her mom,” I thought, “legally, emotionally, physically, I am her mom.”

The reminder echoes in my chest, my head, my tear ducts. I grieve for her, my daughter’s first mom and my daughter’s second mom. I am, “Mommy,” her third mother.

Somewhere in China there are two women with whom I share an almost unspeakably painful bond. I get the joy and they carry the memories that are heavy and heart-wrenching. I know the present while they live with questions unanswered.

Mother’s day is joyful for me. My house is full, my arms are full. But I remember her first mothers.

I get to wake up to the hugs and the dimples that beam from her beautiful face.

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I get to cherish and save the handmade cards on my bedside table; papers she carries so proudly, brilliant artwork deserving a frame. She is so talented; real and true and expressive.

I get to put food on her plate; she trusts me and knows I will not let her go hungry.

I get to wipe her sticky fingers and mouth and then kiss her cheeks and give her zerberts and tickle her belly.

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I get to sit beside her while she brushes my hair and gives me kisses on my head and tells me I am so pretty.

I get to tuck her in to her warm bed and hear her contented sigh as she nestles into her pillow at night.

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I get to sing her favorite songs to her while she closes her eyes.

All these images rush through my head as I sign my name and write, “Mother,” on the line.

I remember her first mothers and I love them.

I take her hand and she smiles at me.

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All these moments wash over me; her firsts, her lasts, her bests and worst, meetings and appointments and surgeries, concerts and programs. But even more overwhelming is the daily impression she carves in our home, her presence, her spirit, her joys and struggles; the flood of memories that I replay in my minds-eye.

I am grateful, thankful, and I cherish the privilege given to me by two brave women.

Thank you for the daughter we share. I love her. I remember. You are part of me, you live in my daily routine. I prayed that she felt loved and warm and happy while she was not in my arms. You can rest in this mama, I will do my very best to make this difficult bond we share worth every millisecond of the pain you endure by giving her the opportunities and privileges and care that you wish were yours to give.

吴洁玲