(Note: This is Post #2 in my series celebrating National Adoption Month. In my 11/1/13 entry, I discussed how my family's journey to international adoption began and how we received the news about my precious daughter.)
Once we got the call announcing our new baby, the weeks leading up to the journey to China flew by. After much discussion, my husband and I had decided that that he would be the one to bring our daughter due to several factors. The trip promised to be a complicated journey involving travel to different, remote areas of China. It would involve a lot of paperwork and require intense concentration. We needed the parent with the clearest head, who would be least tainted by emotion, to meet with government officials and be where our adoption agency needed without fail. There was no doubt that in this matter, Dave was the more focused of the two of us. At the same time, he is very nurturing and, since he was now becoming a dad for the second time, experienced at taking care of a baby. Plus, since I had given birth and, in a way, brought our son into our world, this was his unique opportunity to bring a new family member home. He was excited and ready for action!
Back in 2006, “Survivor” was the big show on television; it involved contestants facing challenges in remote areas of the world. My husband, in hindsight, called his trip to China “Survivor Nanchang” since Nanchang is the capital of the province in China that my daughter is from. The trip proved as arduous as he had anticipated, even though he was accompanied by several other CCAI (our adoption agency) families and the wonderful CCAI staff. Despite appropriate precautions regarding food and water, most of the travelers got sick. Of all the parents on the trip, he was the only one who went alone and he really rose to this Herculean task . But if Dave was stressed, consider my daughter!
Her world had been thrown completely upside down. Gone were the sights and sounds of the orphanage she had spent most of her early life in. Gone was her crib mate and the female caretakers she had known for the first months of her life. Instead, here was a strange man who sounded, looked, smelled, and felt different from anyone she had ever met before taking care of her. I have no doubt that she was in a state of shock. My husband carried this poor, confused little 11-month old from appointment to appointment, from place to place (they went from the town she was born in, to Nanchang, to Guangzhou where the U.S. Consulate in China is based), from hotel room to hotel room, and onto several airplanes before landing in the United States. By the time the twosome landed, they were both physically and emotionally exhausted.
In stark contrast, Junior and I were giddy. We were about to meet the person we had thought about, DREAMED about for three long years! We had missed Daddy so much and couldn't wait to meet our new family member.
Finally, I saw them: my tired, unshaven husband, carrying my 11-month old daughter. My DAUGHTER! She was wide awake and oh, so tiny! She was wearing an opened onsie which showed her diaper. One sock was hanging off her toes. She clutched the only possession she had in the world, a bottle of formula with Chinese writing on the side. As our eyes locked, an immediate connection was formed. I cried as I kissed her for the first time. “I love you,” I said. “I love you so much!” “Meimei, wo ai ni,” Junior said, which means “I love you” in Mandarin. As I gently placed her in the waiting stroller, my son pushed me away. He had waited a long time to meet his sister. “She's mine now,” he said as he steered her through the airport. Our family, finally, complete, headed home.
Over the weeks that followed, I was in the unique position of asking my husband for mothering advice since he had taken care of my daughter and I was still learning what she liked and disliked. He had explained how much music soothed her on the trip, so I had played music for her constantly. My husband had told me that her favorite food in China was rice congee, a porridge that was a staple of her diet, so I made it. Apparently I made it poorly because she picked up the little plastic bowl and threw it at me. I thought it was funny that she liked the orphanage food more than mine. No worries. I held her, kissed her, sang to her, and tried to make up for lost time as mother and daughter bonded in a deep way that proved that:
blood is irrelevant, because when it comes to parenting, it's the love you share that counts.
Did I ever, in my wildest dreams, anticipate adopting a little girl from across the globe? No, but then I had never really wanted children until I was in my late 30s. My children are miracles, with origins as unique as they are. What's the same is how much I love them. There is absolutely NO difference in the amount of love I have for my son and daughter. They are each wired into my heart and soul.
Adoption is a wondrous thing that should be, must be celebrated! My son and I had been a part of a playgroup that I found through the group Mothers & More (www.mothersandmore.org) since my son had been one year old. I had started the group 40+ for mothers who were over 40 and experiencing motherhood for the first time.; those amazing women were my best friends and they welcomed my daughter by throwing our whole family a baby shower. The best gift I received from anyone was a child's chair, painted by one of the 40+ members, and signed by all of them. It was hand-printed with my daughter's birth date, place of birth, etc. It was a unique gift from the hearts of women who had waited with me and now loved my new daughter.
The other really cool gift we received was from the airline that carried our adoption travel group back to the United States. It's a Barbie doll with Barbie as a stewardess; she carries a baby doll which looks to be Asian and the box says, “Welcome Home.” I don't know if the airlines still give it out, but it's an unopened keepsake in our house.
Looking for a gift to celebrate adoption is the same as looking for a gift celebrating the arrival of any baby. The twist, if it's an international adoption, is that you might want to look for a gift celebrating the child's country of origin as well. I think just going to a local paint-your-own-pottery place and inscribing the child's place of birth, place of adoption, etc. is really cool. Nevertheless, here are some of my favorite sites for adoption gifts:
- www.chinacharm.org – The non-profit adoption agency that helped
bring my daughter home, CCAI, runs this online gift shop and it has
a beautiful assortment of unique gifts that are reasonably-priced.
The merchandise includes CDs, Chinese musical instruments, home
décor items, clothing, and games and toys. I cannot recommend this
- www.adoptiongiftsshop.com – Although the amount of merchandise
is limited, this store has some really unique “fun” stuff like
mugs, drinking glasses, and water bottles in addition to the
standard bumper stickers, jewelry, etc. I especially like their
items which read “Love is stronger than blood.”
– Within the CafePress shop, lies a department called Adoption
World which sells products that have been designed, I believe, by a
woman who adopted several girls from China. Her merchandise is
adorable and features hard-to-find items for those parents who are
waiting for word about their adoptions. I love the mugs showing an
arrow pointing to the map of China which read “Born in China,
growing in my heart, and loved around the world.” They also have
some great products which celebrate National Adoption Month.
- www.amazon.com – Yeah, I know. What doesn't Amazon sell? I have to mention them here, because when I was looking for Asian baby dolls (I want my daughter to be proud of her uniqueness), this was one of the few sites that carried them. Amazon still has the largest assortment of Asian dolls I've ever seen.
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