It was nearly four years ago that my daughter was born to me, without pain or contractions, on the side of a road. I was all alone. There was no cry or wail, just her small and squeaking voice coming through the receiver on my phone, managing the smallest hello.
We brought her home the next day. She was tiny and delicate for a 3-year-old. The clothes she wore hung from her frame like a child playing dress up. The name she arrived with never quite fit her. It felt awkward to say it, like part of her still wasn't ours. Even after we adopted her we kept the name she arrived with as a memory we thought she wanted.
The pain of her birth would come later. Sometimes it would drag across days. Other times it would last for just one profound and painful moment.
For the most part, our love was amazing. She fell into our lives almost by magic. But every few months, incredible tides of anger would rise up in her, and the pain from her life before would come crashing between us.
I would agonize over my intense and pointless guilt. Why hadn’t I found her sooner? She would dwell on the anger of my having not carried her inside of me. She had replaced her birth mother with me, and I could also be replaced. I could leave her, but she would try and leave me first. I would hold her closer the further she pulled away until she would finally break in half; the release, the fear and happiness all mixed together in a messy and desperate cry.
It was at these times that I would whisk her away somewhere just to be us, to catch up on all the times we missed. We would breathe, I would hold her, rock her, sing softly, slow and steady, trying to erase all of the hysterical panic stricken love that formed her first few years.
One day, a day that would seem impossible in a mother's life, she was born again, this time, really truly to me. We lay on a blanket in the sun, on a beach day that began to show the first days of summer after a long grey spring. That little voice, with the edge of a big girl tone, one cheek turned up to the sun, she told me who she really was. She was mine and her name was Rose.
Something switched inside of her, and inside of me with that announcement. I became her mother again for the first time. After that her little voice changed, she stood taller, shouted louder, and commanded other kids to follow her lead. All of these choices she never had before she met us; the hair cut from her head, the teeth pulled from her mouth, her little heart broken, people ripped from her, being forced to say hello, and never being able to say goodbye. Those choices were gone, but she could make a new one.
Her name was Rose. It was her choice and she was ours.
This piece was originally published in print mamalode from the IT'S COMPLICATED issue—the ad-free version is available here