We were taken into a room the other day that was ready for a long awaited child. Loving care and imagination had gone into the choosing of pale blue paint for the walls and bedspreads and curtains of red, white, and blue in an arrangement of pencil lines and broader stripes. A crib all made up with sheets carried out the color scheme. A china dog collection filled a small cabinet of shelves, and that along with pictures grouped in a frame made a point of continuity with the couple’s own childhoods. A small piano spoke silently of music to come.

Later that room drew me back alone, to pray for the child it had been awaiting for a long, long time. “Send the child of your choice soon, dear Heavenly Father, to this prepared place and to these prepared people.” This couple for physical reasons were unable to have a child and for several years had been doing all they could to adopt one. The waiting time seemed interminable, but everything was kept ready, for a girl or a boy, whichever the Lord would send.

My early childhood was spent in China, where I soon learned about unwanted girl babies. I was the third girl in my family, born next in line to my parents’ only boy, who had died in his first year of life. It impressed me vividly that in China girls were considered less important than boys, and that many of them were thrown out on an ash heap to die right after birth. My older sister recently said to me, “Edith, perhaps you are right in remembering an ash heap outside the Wenchow city wall, but I remember a pagoda that we used to pass in our walks. This pagoda was the special place for throwing away unwanted girl babies, who were left to die on the heap of bones of all the other unwanted girl babies.”

My first questions to my Chinese ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.

Our digital archives are a work in progress. Let us know if corrections need to be made.