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"They can use every kind of excuse to punish me. It's possible they could put me in jail, charge me a fine and separate my baby from me.... It's up to them," she says. "I mean, if I return to my country, my future will be in their hands, so I cannot say what it could be."
For now, Lijun feels proud as she strolls with her baby in the park or down grocery store aisles. She welcomes the attention of friends and strangers who fuss over the child and ask her name and age. Life is okay as a single mom in America, she says.
But even amid the acceptance she feels here, Lijun admits it is hard not being able to share the joy of her baby with her family. While she exchanges monthly letters and the occasional e-mail with her kin, she provides them with sketchy details about her present life. She makes no mention of a baby.
"One thing I feel sad [about] is that I cannot tell my parents the truth," she says. "They have a baby -- they are her grandparents. The common situation, and the healthy situation, [is] they should know each other and they should love each other. And right now they don't have a chance."
Honesty would only cause them to worry, she says, and make them feel powerless to help. The ideal situation, Lijun believes, would be for them to visit her in Houston so they could see for themselves that she is well. She did write to the child's father, the man who once professed his love for her, to tell him she had given birth to a healthy baby girl. He did not reply.
Despite the isolation from her family and the uncertainty ahead, Lijun has no doubt she did the right thing having her child in America. Settled in a corner booth inside the taqueria, the proud mother produces pictures of her beaming, chubby-cheeked infant. Regardless of where she ultimately raises her daughter, Lijun says, the most important thing is that the girl is alive.
Lijun boldly altered her life for the sake of her daughter. But she feels the child should not be sheltered from the painful circumstances of her birth when she is old enough to understand.
"Probably the truth will hurt her in the future," Lijun says. "But I think she will be happy with my decision ... to bring her into this world."