The Journey of a Mother's Heart

By Diane Luke

Overcoming the Fear of Bonding

On a sunny mid-winter morning not long after our return from China, I was standing in the kitchen holding Kelly, when I was struck by one of those bolts of clear realization that seem to come out of nowhere. As I pressed her chest against mine, her soft cheek brushing my face, I suddenly, absolutely, knew that I could not love this child any more than I did right then. I loved her without condition, without reservation. There was simply no room left in my heart to love her more.

I can't explain how or why this has happened, but I knew then, just as I have known every moment since, that I am holding nothing back, that there are no circumstances of birth or fate that could make me love this child any more- not if I'd conceived her myself in some specific and memorable moment, not if I'd held her in my arms any sooner in her young life. No fact of genealogy or physiology or of actual fleshly attachment could add to my certainty that we were fated to be together, that we are completely, whatever the differences in our physical makeup or our ethnic or cultural origins, mother and daughter.

— from "The Lost Daughters of China" by Karin Evans

One evening last year, my husband Jim read these words aloud to me as we sat together on our bed. This beautiful description of a mother's love for her adopted daughter touched me deeply. I reflected on these words often during the many months that we waited for our own little girl from China. I prayed that my experience would be the same, but deep down within me there lurked a hidden fear that wondered if it really could be. My love for our biological daughter, Elena, was so intense, so overpowering. Was it possible that I could love a stranger with that same kind of love, even if that stranger took the form of a baby? Yet I believed that God had led us down the long and winding road to this adoption and so I tried to ignore my fears and walk forward in faith.

Finally, after eleven long months of waiting for our referral, we sat on that same bed. This time Elena sat between us and we held a precious envelope in our hands. It was that magical moment for which every adoptive parent yearns-the moment when you receive the first glimpse of your new child in a tiny photograph. As we gazed at the little face that would soon join our family, Elena declared her absolutely beautiful, Jim laughed at her chubby cheeks and I tried to hide just how much my heart had sunk. I had hoped to be filled with a deep maternal love that recognized my beautiful child instantly, melting away all of my fears. Isn't that how I heard it would be? Instead I stared at a stranger and I felt nothing but a sense of dread, dread that my worst fears had come true and that I really wouldn't be able to love this child as my own. I feared that I would only be able to offer her a secondhand love.

Despite these feelings, turning down her referral was never a consideration for me. I truly believed that God had orchestrated this journey and I never doubted His wisdom in it. But I know too well the weakness of my own heart and I guess I didn't trust in His ability to change me, or maybe I feared what it would take to change me. For the next six weeks I focused on planning the logistics of our trip to China and our homecoming. In the midst of this busyness much sorrow filled my heart at not being able to rejoice in this great blessing for which we had prayed and waited so long. I felt ashamed and ungrateful. Again I had to look past my feelings and walk forward in faith.

On the afternoon of March 18, 2001, Jim, Elena and I were riding on a purple bus with Jim's parents, six other adopting families and our guides. When we arrived at the airport in Changsha, we were told that our little Ba Shi Qi was waiting for us at the hotel. Things were very hazy during that bus ride. I saw a man plowing a field with an ox, I heard our guides speaking but couldn't concentrate on what they were saying and I found my mind racing through many thoughts, trying to imagine this rapidly approaching moment when my life would be forever changed.

As we left the bus, I noticed a woman carrying a bundled baby into the hotel. I think at that moment I knew it was Mariana. Everything was so surreal. We all walked into the lobby, and I remember that Mary Ann, Jim's mother, said, "Oh, look at that beautiful baby…can we take her?" Jim must have known too, because he wandered over to the woman-Elena was close behind him-and discovered that the baby was indeed Ba Shi Qi. I had been holding back, but when I saw the woman hand her to Jim, I made my way through the group and took my new daughter into my arms.

Time stood still. From the moment I held her, I knew in the depths of my heart that since the beginning of time God had designed to create this child to be my daughter. In that instant my entire being was miraculously connected to her and I was filled with the intense, overpowering love of a mother-her mother-forever. I was overwhelmed with how incredibly beautiful she was. And I was stunned by just how merciful and loving and generous my God is to have blessed me beyond my wildest dreams, in spite of my fears and lack of faith. How can I ever thank Him enough for entrusting me with the lives of my two precious daughters? Being their mother is the greatest privilege of my life.

Since that unforgettable day, I have had many moments like the one described above by Karin Evans. Lying on our bed, I look at my baby and marvel at how the Lord brought us together from two very different corners of the world, to be mother and daughter forever. Mariana has illed my life with immense joy. I feel as though I have always known her. But my love for her will always hold a touch of sadness, sadness for her first mother, the mother that she may never know. I ache for that mother to know how beautiful, how smart, how funny, how kind, and how strong-willed her daughter is. I long for her to know that her baby is safe and that she is loved beyond measure. And I grieve that I will never be able to thank her for giving my Mariana life and for making the ultimate sacrifice which allowed us to be brought together. Once again, I find that I must walk forward in faith and pray that someday she will know.