“Tell me the story of me, Momma,” my daughter always asks when we snuggle into my great-grandmother’s rocking chair at the end of the day.
“The first time I saw your beautiful face, it was nearly covered by a floppy blue-and-white hat, surrounded by a pale blue blanket. All I could see were two chubby cheeks and a teeeeeeny little nose.”
“And I looked like a tiny fairy baby?” she asks on a yawn.
“You did, and you weren’t bigger than a minute,” I always answer. “The nurse handed a tiny little girl to me, and I was so surprised because you felt so light. I thought that if I unwound the blankets, I’d find no baby there at all, only air.”
In that instant, I became a mother. I was all alone in a cold room with a stone floor, four thousand miles from home. There was no sterile hospital room, no crying husband—just the two of us. But that moment was just as special, just as magical as if she’d come from my body directly into my arms. From that moment, she was my daughter in every way that mattered.
It’s easy sometimes to forget there’s another mother out there with whom I share my title, since it seems as though my life began only when I first held my daughter’s tiny body close to mine. But my little girl has a history that involved another. Although I might always be a bit sad that I didn’t have the privilege to grow Sophie under my heart, I must give thanks to the one who did.
I owe my life to a woman I’ve never met, who lives half a world away. Her sacrifice gave me all I could ever ask for, and I never forget for a moment that it was her difficult decision—her tears and her pain—that is the foundation on which I’ve built this life I love.
When my daughter asks to hear her story, I tell her of the floppy hat, the drafty room, and the blue blanket full of air. But as she grows, she will understand that sometimes life is a relay, and you never know who in this world will hand you your baton. It could be someone you’ve never met, someone who lives a world away, someone you will never be able to repay for giving you the life you always wanted but never dared to imagine you’d have.
I believe the true gifts of our lives come from the most unlikely of sources. If we venture forth with our hearts open, we will always be in the right place to receive them.