There is nothing in my life I find more fulfilling than being pregnant and giving birth. So when our second child was a toddler and we started the conversation about “one more” I was surprised that I had zero desire to carry another child, yet the urge to mother more children was strong. My husband and I would revisit this conversation from time to time and the answer was still “not yet.”
At the same time, a peripheral relative was going through a Chinese adoption. This started to work its way into our pillow talk, in awe of this amazing journey those parents were undertaking. We had not considered adoption before these conversations. Finally we decided to just get some information. Well, that was the beginning of the beginning, as it were. It didn't make sense for us to sit around and wait for me to want to be pregnant. Since we had more parenting in us and there was a child out there without parents, it just made sense to go forward. Once we saw ourselves bringing home our child, there was nothing that would stop us from making it a reality.
We chose China because we had a frame of reference having witnessed another family make the same journey. Domestic adoption was ruled out because of my fears about being supplanted by a birth mother in 18 years. This was totally selfish, in hindsight. I have huge regrets that my daughter will probably never have the opportunity to learn about her life before she came home.
When we began our adoption journey we were only 30 years old, the youngest couple in our adoption group. In fact, nobody else in our group fit our demographic: young, fertile, first marriage, young girls at home. There was a joke that I was the only woman on our China trip who packed birth control pills! I was afraid of resentment, but my fears were totally unfounded. Just by adopting internationally we were all a new minority, so that big commonality neutralized our differences.
We were told that once our dossier went to china, the wait was about six to nine months. It took about two months to assemble the dossier, then once that was in, we waited another 14 months. Turns out our dossier went to china the month she was born. In retrospect, it is sad to think we missed that time together. We're actually coming up on the ten year anniversary of “the call” which came Thanksgiving weekend of 2001 -- two months after 9/11, and they asked us if we were prepared to fly to China. We had about 10 days to prepare for our trip to China to bring home our daughter.
Before we adopted, my husband and I received four pictures along with her weight, length, location, and Chinese name. They also provided some basic info of the caregivers' observations of her – details about how she likes music, eats, sleeps at such and thus times, etc Our agency director told us, almost apologetically, "Well, there is one problem. She's very small." We thought, I don't care if you need a microscope to see her, she's our baby.
At 14 months she was only 15 pounds. In China, as we peeled off the thick and copious layers of clothing, it revealed a very scrawny, weak child. She seemed healthy, but so small, and no muscle tone at all. I could get my fingers around her thigh, and at diaper change, her legs flopped open to a full straddle. She had no natural urge to put anything in her mouth including food, couldn't crawl, and couldn't support her weight on her hands. She also made no eye contact and didn't cry at the handoff. At first we smugly assumed that was a credit to our exemplary parenting skills.
The pediatrician on the trip estimated her development to be at an eight-nine month level. We were told through an interpreter that she had been hospitalized for a cold and that she had gone back and forth between a foster home and the orphanage. We were also told that she was found by the gate of the orphanage at about a week old. I got the feeling that the Chinese folks really didn't want us to feel like we were getting “damaged goods.” I fear that this may have prevented them from being more frank.
It took a lot of therapy and services to catch her up. I'm still not convinced there isn't some lingering attachment challenge, but we're pretty close to one another.
To this day at 11 years old she's still only 52 pounds and needs a little extra help in math. There was a time that she was so mute that I prayed to God for her to speak. I didn't care if she never shut up. Well, now the whole family blames me for creating the incessant chatterbox we have today. She does great in school and is a level seven competitive gymnast. Not only can she hold her own weight on her hands, she can probably hold yours and mine as well! [tagbox tag="adoption"]
The biggest assumption that people make about our family is that we're infertile and that we're rich. I definitely bonded with the other parents regardless. Any lack of connection had little to do with our age difference. It's like a fraternity. When I see another Asian adoptive family out and about, I have to suppress the urge to chat them up, especially families with older kids.
Today, our girls fight like cats and play like puppies. They're just sisters. We are just a normal family. Our fourth daughter, born after we adopted our third, has never known anything but her three sisters and has never noted any difference between her adopted sister and herself.
People say “lucky kid.” I say lucky me.