Saskatchewan·First Person

To be a good mother, I left my daughter - but our ongoing separation has left me broken

Roshni Christian wanted to give her daughter better opportunities in life, but leaving her has left them separated now for years.

Roshni Christian wanted to give her daughter better opportunities in life

In January of 2020, Roshni Christian left her home in Saskatchewan to visit her daughter in India. At the time, she was hopeful about bringing her daughter to live with her in Canada, but COVID-19 has delayed those plans indefinitely - leaving her in a limbo. (Submitted by Roshni Christian)

This First Person piece is by Roshni Christian, who lives and works in Yorkton, Sask., and hopes to become a nurse in Canada following her education as a registered nurse in her home country of India.

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My daughter is the reason I am still alive. She is my strength, inspiration and courage. To give her the world and the best life has to offer, I left her. But every day since, I live in constant guilt and sorrow that we are apart, leaving me a half mother.

My world changed when she was born back in 2009 and gave me an opportunity to be a mother — the best feeling in the world. She had beautiful black eyes, chubby cheeks and an innocent smile that took all my pain away. It was an amazing experience to hold her in my hands and see my own flesh and blood in a different shape and beautiful creation.

She gave my life healing and meaning, especially in the wake of the conflict of my marriage. Before her birth, I had married without my parents' knowledge and against their wishes. At the age of 24, I wasn't strong enough to deal with the turmoil and even attempted suicide. 

With the birth of her daughter Twisha in 2009, Roshni Christian says her whole life changed. But when her daughter was a year-and-a-half, her mother and father moved to England, with the hope to bring her to a new country with more opportunities. (Submitted by Roshni Christian)

I knew that if I stayed in India, it was not going to fulfil our family's needs. I decided to go with my husband to England and to pursue my own further education. My parents were supportive, and encouraged me by assuring that they would look after my daughter until I got settled in England and she could join me there. 

It was strange to feel so excited to go to England, but also so sad that I could not take my daughter with me. A month before moving to the U.K., I was still breastfeeding my daughter and she was only a year and a half. It was heartbreaking to be ripped away from my daughter in a very short period while we bonded intimately with each other, physically and emotionally.

My mind started creating lots of questions. 'How will I feel? How will my daughter feel? How will it affect her? Will she be sad?' 

I questioned whether I was making the right decision or going against the very essence of my maternal nature.

On the day of my departure, I held my baby daughter in my hands for a few final minutes before entering security. She had no idea what was happening when I placed her in my dad's hands, but I did. 

Roshni Christian and her daughter Twisha have been separated for much of the past 12 years, due to Christian's attempt to immigrate and find better opportunities for her child. (Submitted by Roshni Christian)

My heart started pounding, I was breathing heavily and I began weeping. I felt pain as I was shredded to bits and my heart was ripped out. I felt unworthy with each step I made toward the flight. 

I was no longer excited to be traveling to the U.K. and felt guilty that I compromised my daughter's life. It was the most sorrowful day of my life.

I wanted to enjoy a new country and culture, but felt empty, unworthy and filled with shame. I hated and blamed myself that my child had to go through this painful separation. I had to live with my decision to go to England and we got on with life in the hope of bringing our daughter to live with us.

But what was meant to be a joyful reunion never happened. My husband and I started facing problems, which developed into physical, emotional and verbal abuse. I felt helpless and alone without my family. During this time, I felt like a bird trapped in a cage. I was surrounded by the bars of cultural values, rules, stigma and taboos, afraid of being judged and labelled as a divorced woman and a single mother. 

At last, I found my courage and broke all the bars and freed myself. I faced my fears and I left him, a shattering experience in which I questioned the choices I had made.

In the very darkest moments, I always saw my daughter's face in front of my eyes. She became my motivation and kept me going at my darkest times. I was broken but I had to pick up my pieces and live for my child.

Eventually, I gave up on England and went back to my parents and then six-year-old daughter in India, which helped heal my wounds. As glad I was to reunite with them, I knew there was more I could give my daughter. More than anything, I wanted her to have more than I had — more opportunity and freedom — and knew that through breakdowns and breakthroughs, God has always been by my side.

After much research, I decided our future lay in Canada. This time I was prepared, thinking I was stronger, wiser and more experienced. 

Through my efforts, I came here on a student visa, again making the sacrifice to leave my daughter until I could sponsor her to join me. I studied to become a continuing care assistant and found work at a group home for adults with cognitive disabilities. I make a difference every day by spreading love, care and happiness among people who need it the most. 

Now my thoughts are focused on the last piece of the puzzle — reuniting with my daughter, especially as the situation with COVID-19 in India is dire. 

But after nearly two years, my application to become a permanent resident of this country has not moved at all. It's hard to watch other health-care workers getting their permanent residencies approved within 12 to 15 months, while I am left in the dark, with no one giving me any answers as to what is happening, other than the delays caused by COVID-19.  

The system is broken, leaving families like mine trapped in a devastating limbo. My heart, mind and body have been left screaming every single day for the last thirteen years.

So many people leave their country to come to Canada. They do so with hopes and dreams of giving their children a bright future, hope and opportunity. I am one of those many people, struggling to keep faith that better days lie ahead.  

I think of my now 12-year-old daughter, and her bright eyes and smile. She continues to be the reason I keep going. I pray for a reunion so this half mother can find her missing half and be complete once again.

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Roshni Christian lives and works in Yorkton, helping support adults with cognitive disabilities. She hopes to become a nurse in Canada, following her education as a registered nurse in her home country of India, and to bring her daughter to this country.