The Fox at Dawn

April 1, 2019

The first glimpse I had of my daughter came with the letter informing me that I had been matched with this baby, if I chose to accept her. Two small photographs of Chang Meng Ai at six months of age, a deeply worried baby whose name, given by the orphanage, means ‘dreaming of love’. No baby should look so worried. I’m sure the photographer was even trying to make her smile, after all, these photos were to advertise her as a good candidate for adoption. Smile baby, smile, no one wants a sad baby.

She had that worried look seven months later when the elevator door opened to release into the hotel lobby all the orphaned girls held by their caregivers. They stepped out, names were called, and one at a time we rushed up to receive our girl- which is mine? Is that her? It’s her, my daughter. That very first embrace. I can still smell her sweet fragrance in that blue onesie with the ghost bib. I cried, she cried. I was crying with happiness and overwhelming love. Perhaps she was crying from fear. She was thirteen months old and had passed through many arms. I wanted more than anything to let her know that mine would not let go.

All these years later, I find I am still trying to convince her. Failure is not exactly the word I feel. Daunted. Helpless. Seventeen years of loving her with all my might, putting her first in every consideration, protecting and nurturing and teaching her in every way I can is not enough to stop up that chasm inside her. Fear rises up through it like a sea monster spewing poison- you are not lovable, you don’t fit in, you are different, you are not beautiful, you are fat, your body needs to be thinner, only then will your boyfriend love you, only then will you not be left behind, your life is worthless, your mother would be happier without you. So cruel, those lies. And there are moments, almost whole days, when she knows them to be lies but then the sun goes down, or her boyfriend doesn’t respond or her mother is sick and nothing on earth seems more true to her. Drama, wild swings of happiness and wretchedness, self harm, anger, ugliness, tears.

Borderline Personality Disorder is the new name of the beast she is trying to learn to ride. Her eating disorder is an outgrowth of it, a lovely little perk you get along with it. She begins work with a new doctor soon. Meanwhile it is life on The Scrambler, for her, for me, for anyone who loves her. Dreaming of love, it is the hardest thing to love oneself.

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