Our daughter was born in the Jiangsu province of Eastern China. She was born with a broad, unilateral cleft lip and palate, and left on the steps of a local hospital in the early hours of the morning on her third day of life. This is the usual way of giving up children for Chinese families who are either unable to pay the mandatory tax on a second child, or unable to pay the medical costs implicit in a specific birth defect or illness. It is illegal to give up a child, and so the children are left, swaddled, sometimes with a small note giving their date of birth or perhaps a name, in a spot where they are certain to be quickly disovered. She may have been left because she is a girl, she may have been left because of her medical condition, she may have been left because the family could not afford more than one child, or for a combination of these reasons. Whatever the cause, the misfortune and sorrow of her family is, in an ironic twist of fate, our great fortune and joy.
I did not come to motherhood by the usual road. I never wished to be a mother, and I never hoped to be a wife...though that is another story. But by all these twists of fate, by all these unexpected and unanticipated turns in the road, I have come face to face and heart to heart with this child - this one specific child.
It could not have been any other. It had to be she. My Q. She is my heart and my joy, the smile on my face, the dawn of my day, the laughter that bubbles up inside me. She is the mortal spark, the lightening bug that I trip after in the gathering twighlight, enchanted by its mercurial path, terrified that it might, in its fragility, be at any moment extinguished.
She is, in the words of John LeCarré, my virtue.