November is National Adoption Awareness Month. In the spirit of bringing awareness to adoption, our agency mission and the successes of families we serve — we are filling our blog with guest stories throughout this month. Chrysalis House, Inc. believes in the power of sharing experiences and in learning from the stories of others. We present this series, realizing the words might be the insight that an adoptive family, adoptee or birthparent is searching the internet for!
Our sincerest thanks to the families who have put their lives into words. We are still accepting submissions through the month of November! Please send your submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please enjoy the story of a family’s: Adoption From China. In the event you wish to discuss our China program, please contact the office at 559.229.9862.
The walls of our five-star hotel on Shamian Island in Guangzhou were closing in on us. It appeared that our major problem was that we were far too organized and prepared. Our appointment at the adoption office was not until 11 am, but I woke up at 4 am. I had planned five weeks prior what I was going to wear. And we had important papers, passports, diapers, cheerios, baby carrier, and anything else we thought we might need in separate zip lock baggies packed in a backpack. Most of the items in the baggies had been packed three weeks before.
We planned a morning filled with mundane activities that came nowhere close to keeping our minds off the fact that our lives would change forever in a matter of hours when we met our daughter for the first time.
We were told to bring three gifts for three ladies, but fortunately I had forgotten to bring gift bags. At least the hunt for wrapping paper would take some time. The search for wrapping paper was fun, but it did not use up enough time as we still found ourselves with far too many hours to wait until our appointment. I think we ended up waiting in the hotel lobby for the last hour and a half, sitting in the lobby chairs analyzing air particles, staring off into space, realizing that the year and a half of waiting was almost behind us.
The adoption office was only fifteen minutes by van from the hotel. Don videotaped some of the chatter in the van and the approach to the adoption office. Everyone pretended to make conversation, but all of the parents’ eyes seemed glassy, excited and full of anticipation. We arrived at the Provincial Affairs office and were led by our fantastic guide into the room where we would become a family with our daughter, Liu, whom we had named a few months before. The room was large with heavy dark wooden furniture. And there, right when we entered, sat three nannies with three little babies all dressed in identical blue pajamas.
They had identification badges hanging around their necks. But there were four couples, so there was one more baby on the way who was coming from another orphanage. We recognized Liu right away, and our hearts swelled with every emotion you can think of—love, amazement, excitement, and a tinge of sadness knowing she was leaving the country of her birth. She was sitting in the middle, sitting up straight as a book and looking around at everyone with a very intent look on her face. She was very alert, and to this day, she loves to people watch.
They told us to sit down, but no one could sit. We all just stood there in a semicircle about ten feet from the babies, but we were not allowed to hold them yet. After about five minutes (which seemed like an hour!) Ming Ming, our adoption guide, called out “Wang Min!” That’s us–Liu’s given name. I am ready, but we need to have our travel approval letter and passports out before they will hand her to me. We had spent weeks, years, lifetimes getting ready for this moment, but at the last minute we look unprepared as we fumble with video camera, backpack, envelopes, passports, and tears. Finally, we show the orphanage director’s assistant our passports and travel approval documents and they hand her to me.
What a moment that was … the first moment that Liu was in my arms. She was quiet, looking at me, looking at Don, and the other people around us. At that point, everything else was forgotten and the three of us were the only ones in the room. Later, I hear the other babies and their parents. There is still one couple waiting for their baby to arrive. The waiting mother is crying, waiting for her baby to come through the doors.
Liu examined us with that same intent look on her face. The same look that we saw in her earlier photo. She cried a little, but she really looked at us. She has this way of wrinkling up her forehead that makes her look very wise and serious. The other babies expressed themselves through loud tears, but Liu seemed to show her emotions more in subtle facial expressions.
We returned to the hotel afterwards to complete more paperwork, for feedings, and naps. Don held Liu on the ride home, and he was smiling with a deep sort of joy that only fatherhood can produce. After a few hours of time alone with Liu at the hotel, we went back to the adoption office for visa pictures, interviews, and to ask the orphanage director any questions that we may have for him. He answered all of our questions, took a picture with us, and wrote a nice little note in Mandarin for Liu.
The next week in Guangzhou was wonderful. We were able to bond with Liu in China, which is an important part of the process in our opinion. We have strong feelings about the importance of certain aspects of international adoption, and since Don is a Korean adoptee with many friends involved with Korean adoption policies, he was sure to ask many questions about Liu’s birthplace and gain as much information as possible so that if and when Liu begins a search for birth parents, we want to help support her in every way possible.
Parenthood is amazing. Liu is a light. We took a long time, as many parents do, to be certain that international adoption was something we wanted to do. With Don’s experiences, we wanted to be extra certain that this was the right thing to do. We started the adoption process because we were ready to build a family together. We chose China because we both have various connections to Asia and I speak Chinese after having lived and worked in Taiwan for a few years. I am part Filipina, and Don is Korean, so we knew we wanted our daughter to have Asian heritage. In June, it was one year since we became a family. In July, Liu turned two. In December, she will enjoy her second Christmas. And in the years to come, we hope to be the best parents we can be and enjoy every moment with our beautiful daughter. A coworker advised me that having kids would change our lives, and she grinned as she added, “But you will quickly forget what it was like before.” Our future was stretched out before us the first time Liu was placed in our arms and we leaned in and hugged her close.
And at that moment, we forgot what our lives were like before she was there.
***Family Names have been changed to preserve Confidentiality.