Most mornings begin with Solveig waking up and climbing into bed with Mama and Baba, if she has not spent the night cuddled between us. This morning she had her daycare provider, Neesha, on her mind. Neesha was to the doctor yesterday, and Solveig wondered if she was sick, or if the baby in Neesha's tummy was sick.
"Baby not sick? Baby in Neesha's tummy not sick?"
"The baby is growing in Neesha's tummy. Neesha is not sick. Baby is not sick."
"Baby Wei Wei in Mommy's tummy?"
"Wei Wei grew in her first mommy's, her Chinese mommy's, tummy. Wei Wei did not grow in my tummy."
"No! Baby Wei Wei in mommy's tummy!"
Yesterday if you asked for her name she was Solveig Chun Wei Olson.
Today , "No Chun Wei! Sobay Oshun!"
Since we came home, Solveig plays Baby Wei Wei from time to time. She will insist I put Pull-ups on like they are diapers. Sometimes I have to dress her. Other times she will have me wrap her up in a blanket, hold her like a baby while she drinks from a water bottle. I rock her and sing and coo as if she were a tiny baby. She needs this.
She is birthing herself into our family.
Solveig has no memory of her first parents. She remembers the caregivers, six women, all called mommy! from the Children's Village. She remembers the other children, the siblings of her heart and circumstance. We look at pictures of the orphange and talk about them. I explained how those mommies were everybody's mommies. I am just her mommy (I am mommy to Bjorn and Leif too, but they are close enough to adult as to not count). At school when we sit in circle, I point out the other mommies and their children. I tell her, "Neesha is Violet's mommy and Calen's mommy, but not your mommy! I am your mommy, not Violet's mommy, not Calen's mommy." She verifies this whenever we meet someone and their mommy. I am just her mommy. She doesn't have to share me with anyone. This never fails to make her smile.
Someday she will want to know why her first parents gave her up. Based on what I know of China and of her history this is what I will tell her:
"Once there was a Mommy and Daddy in China. The mommy had a baby growing in her tummy. The mommy and daddy were very happy they were having a baby.
One cold day in winter, their baby daughter was born. She was so beautiful! They laughed for joy, and hugged her and kissed her.
But the doctor was not laughing. She was very serious when she looked the baby over. "Her arm is hurt, it is useless."
The Mommy and the Daddy were scared. They brought their little baby to many doctors and tried many ways to fix the arm. But all the doctors said the same thing. "This is the best I could do and it is not enough. She needs Western surgery to make her arm better. And soon! If she does not get surgery right away her arm will never get better."
The Mommy and Daddy were sad. They did not know what to do. They had very little money, and had used everything to take their precious child to the doctors. Western surgery was so expensive they could never be able to save enough money to help their little daughter in time.
"Oh! What can we do?" they cried.
The Mommy and Daddy thought about what life would be like for their child. Who would marry a girl with one arm? What work could she do? They knew the children in the orphanages were given Western surgeries. Children in the orphanages are educated. Some are adopted into rich families. If their precious, precious daughter were to have any chance of having her arm restored, it was through the orphanages.
But it would mean never seeing her again. It would mean never knowing what became of her.
Even though it broke their hearts, the Mommy and Daddy decided to give their baby to the orphanage. Early in springtime they wrapped her warmly and brought her to where no one knew who they were. Gently they laid her outside a busy factory. They hid and watched until she was found and taken away from them forever.
The baby was taken to a wonderful orphanage. They cared for her while they searched for her first parents. After six months they looked for parents to adopt her. They gave her a name, Xu Chun Wei.
Finally, a Mommy and a Daddy in Meigou, America, saw her picture and knew she was the daughter they had always dreamed of loving. They came to China and brought little Chun Wei to America in an airplane to be their child forever.
Every winter, on Solveig Chun Wei's birthday, her American mama lights a candle and says a prayer for her Chinese parents. She wonders if they are thinking of their precious daughter, wondering if she is well, wondering where she is, if she is happy. The Mama prays to honor Solveig's birth parents by doing whatever it takes to help their child regain use of her arm and give her the happy life they want for her. That when they meet in heaven there may be joy."
Solveig may play Baby Wei Wei, but nurturing her is birthing her for me. Never is that so literal than one of the rare times when she is sick. Two AM and my miserable little girl stands by the side of the bed. Mommy picks her up and little Wei Wei vomits all over both of them and the bed besides. Mommy strips the two of them and washes them clean in the shower. She fills the tub with warm water and lavender oil, lights a candle, and holds her sick child in the cradle of her legs and arms. Wei Wei is soothed by her heartbeat. When mommy feels her begin to gag, she holds up a bowl, wipes her face. When the fever cools Mommy gets out of the water, dries them off with towels, wraps them both in a comforter and settles in the rocking chair to sleep.
For three days and nights they are together, skin to skin. Wei Wei a limp doll in Mama’s arms, accepting sips of clear broth and white soda pop, sleeping, lying quietly when awake. On the morning of the fourth day Wei Wei wakes up voraciously hungry, eats until she is ready to burst, then runs around laughing. Everything is new again.
Baba takes over while Mama sleeps from morning until the next morning.
“No, Mama is just sleepy.”
Solveig Chun Wei strokes her mama’s hair and murmurs, “There, there, better soon,” before kissing her forehead and running off to play.