Twenty-three years ago she made her mother-in-law angry. Cora had just given birth to her first child, a daughter, and the news did not bring any celebration into the household.
Her husband’s mother was angry; the older woman fumed and refused to hold her new granddaughter. As the weeks past she finally agreed to hold her daughter-in-law’s child, but even then she refused to be content.
Cora’s husband was the only son, the youngest child with four older sisters. He was the family’s only hope. They were farmers, always had been, and a son was so important.
When Cora learned that her baby was a girl she grieved as well, but also rejoiced at the life she had given birth to. Her darling daughter was a precious gift… but she felt guilty.
If only she had been able to give her relatives a son.
They were not well-off at all. In fact, they were poor. Times were very hard and they couldn’t afford to have another child just yet. And what if they did and she gave birth to another girl? What would they do then?
Four years later, the day after celebrating her daughter’s fourth birthday, Cora and her husband left town. They bought vegetables and grain from the local village and went to sell it in the next town over. At least, that’s what they told everybody. In reality, Cora was beginning to show signs of being pregnant again and they couldn’t risk her being seen in the village. Second pregnancies were not allowed.
Pedaling the three-wheeled cart, Cora’s husband took his wife and the new life growing inside of her out of town. They had to leave their beautiful little girl with her grandmother. The sweet birthday girl didn’t know why her parents were leaving and grieved deeply while they were gone. There were no phones, no internet or skype; there was no way to stay in touch during the next 7 months.
Then the time came for Cora to give birth. It was a boy. Her husband raced home to his mother to tell her the news. When she found out that she was the proud grandmother of a healthy little boy, she couldn’t keep back the tears. Cora came home soon, and over the next few years their family scraped together the money to purchase their son a Hukuo (close to a SSN, required for children to attend school etc.).
Life is easier now, Cora said. They aren’t struggling like they used to be and her motherin-law and daughter have a special bond. She doesn’t know what they would have done if the second pregnancy had been another girl.
I don’t think she wants to think about it.
For the past thirteen years Cora has worked as a nanny, caring for children whose parents made the hard choice, because of circumstances we can never fully understand, to give them up. All of the children that she has looked after have had some sort of special need.
She is one of the most dedicated, loving and caring nannies that I have ever seen. She is gentle, patient and tender. She sings and prays for the children. I remember one week when we had a little baby girl who was really struggling – fighting for her life, really – and was always fussy. I was often singing and praying out loud for her, as I cradled this baby girl in my arms. And Cora was, too.
I know that, as adoptive or pre-adoptive parents, many of you wonder who is a part of your children’s life. Who is loving on them? Is anyone? Do the caregivers actually care?
I hope that this story shines a tiny gleam of light onto the unknown world of caregivers in China.