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Sunday20 April 2014

Bringing Home My Waiting Child

By Lauren S

I couldn't believe my ears when Joy, the local guide who'd met us at the Nanning airport, said we'd be meeting my daughter in three hours. "I thought it was tomorrow!"  "No, 8:00 tonight, I'll pick you up at 7:45." You'd think that I'd be excited about the prospect of meeting my daughter for the first time hours earlier than I had been planning. Instead, I was imagining a terrified, tired, and upset two year old right before bedtime. I didn't eat much dinner that evening; the excitement had been dampened by concern.

WaitingChildrenWhen I began the process for adopting a "waiting" child I was told that it would be a more difficult trip than the one I had experienced when picking up my first child, a "healthy infant", with a group of twelve other families. Indeed, my personal flexibility, tolerance for ambiguity and sense of humor were all tested the second time around. As an unmarried woman, I was facing the single applicant "quota" recently imposed by the China Center of Adoption Affairs. If I didn't make the quota I could be added to the next year's list. I was forty-seven, "how much longer did I want to wait?" and "could I possibly consider an older child with a medical issue?", I asked myself.

For a variety of reasons, I decided I could. I put my dossier together quickly and when that was complete was allowed to review the agency's available waiting children. They all had significant medical issues. I immediately became discouraged and began researching other agencies' waiting children. Three long months later, a new batch of waiting children "referrals" arrived at my agency. My two year old with a repaired cleft lip was in the batch. Her birth date was my parents' wedding anniversary and she was from the same province as my first daughter. Karma. My questions about "could I possibly?" disappeared. This waiting child, as are all of the others, was special. I began falling in love again.

I didn't like the fact that she had to be made available to other families looking for a waiting child, and I had to be selected by a committee if there were others interested. No one else was. Finally, they said I could be her mom!

My dossier went to China within a couple of weeks. Now I just had to wait to get permission to travel. I was in a group with five other families, two others bringing home waiting children. It was during the Travel Meeting that the difference between my first trip to China and the second one became clear. We would all arrive in China together, and then three days later three families would splinter off and travel to three different provinces. My support system would go from nine to one. I was assured that our in-country guide and the agency representative would be in regular contact. Time would tell.

We arrived in China, did the usual touring and shopping around Beijing, and then said goodbye to the rest of the group. When we saw each other next we would all have been new parents for almost a week. What I remember of the first trip was the excitement and awe of watching many families meet their children for the first time, delight in the smiles and cringe at the sight of an unusual skin rash. We were all in this together. We shared an incredible experience that we would never forget. Our babies were from the same orphanage. I shared my second incredible experience with my travel companion and a few strangers.

My daughter could not have cared less. She cried for about five minutes when her nannies left, got very interested in the toys, Cheerios and juice box and never looked back. Instead of loading onto a bus with lots of parents and babies, we crossed a dark, busy street, me clutching my baby and hailed a taxi. It felt surreal. Back at the hotel, I repeated the rituals I'd begun 4 years ago with my first daughter - examined my baby from head to toe, put on a diaper, tickled and giggled. More snacks. That night she fell asleep on top of me.

We finalized the adoption the next day. When my baby saw her nannies again she cried and clung to me. She had made her decision. My fears of attachment issues and a difficult adjustment following 26 months in an orphanage were assuaged. My fear of an unmanageable medical condition was as well. Whew!

The miracle of parenthood through adoption is indescribable. Connecting with a young life whose only need is for love and nurturing is an amazing journey. Each of my adoption experiences had their own uniqueness but both have the same ending. Two incredible girls, both survivors yet different as night and day, are flourishing in their emotional and physical development and are the center of my world. One is no longer waiting.