2:31 PM

Love Songs to my girl

"Favorite Adventure"
There you are
Your beauty consoles me
I've gone far
And I almost didn't find you
And I almost lived without you
There is nothing in this world
I'd rather do
Than live for you
Here we go,
Our favorite adventure
You should know
I was never more complete
And I never thought I'd see
The meaning of my life
Wrapped in you
Next to me
If you ever fear
Someday we might lose this
Come back here
To this moment that will last
And time can go so fast
When everything's exactly
Where it's at
Its very best

7:10 PM

Another Great post from Amy Eldrige

What to Expect When You Are Adopting (from China)
By Amy Eldridge (Love Without Boundaries) I wish there was a way to educate ALL adoptive parents about the truths of institutional care, however I have come to realize in my daily work that there are just as many parents who are not online reading everything they can find on adoption as are.
There are hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of parents out there who have no idea what life is like for a child in an orphanage. Parents who head overseas to pick up their "China doll" only to be handed a baby who is unresponsive, thin, unable to eat… and on and on and on. While adopting my son last month, I walked several times over to the White Swan to talk to parents, and over and over I spoke with moms and dads who had no clue whatsoever about the issues their kids were having. I heard so many times things like, "she won't eat solid foods" (oral aversion), "she has no muscle tone" (muscle atrophy from lying in a crib all day), and “she won't smile" (pure grieving from being taken from her foster mom). I guess since I “live” China 24/7, I assume everyone adopting does, too, which is not the case. I talked to at least a dozen parents who didn't even know their child's orphanage name, and while I gently said "you might want to memorize that for your child's sake", at the same time I was trying to process how many parents get all the way to China without ever reading about post-institutional issues. It was sobering to me. Babies in the NSN (non special needs) as well as the SN (special needs) path can have issues with attachment, motor skills, emotional issues and more. All children (whether bio or not) can have these same issues. Living in an orphanage of course increases the odds. I think the easy out is to say that agencies and social workers have to “do more”. I think most of them try to give information to the parents but often parents don't want to hear it or think it won't happen to them. Again, I am often surprised to talk to parents traveling to China soon and realize they are not prepared. One family adopting from our (LWB) foster care program was told that their child was DEEPLY attached to the foster mom. The father said, "I guess she might cry for an hour or so then?" An hour or so? She had been in foster care for over a year! I tried to explain that this little girl was about ready to lose everything she had ever known, and that they should not expect her to be sunny, happy, and full of personality after an hour. I told them to please remember the 72 hour rule.......that after 72 hours they might see her spark, but that she would probably grieve a long time after that as well. I think many adoptive parents just don't want to read the "bad stuff". Ultimately it is the parents who are at fault for not doing more to educate themselves. There certainly are books galore out there about post-institutional issues. When I was pregnant with my children I would read "What to Expect When Expecting". When I reached the chapter about Cesarean sections I always skipped it. Each and every time I would jump to the next chapter as "that wasn't going to happen to me". An emergency Cesarean Section during the labor of my fifth baby, made me wish I had read that chapter! When they were strapping my hands to the operating room table, it was too late to educate myself about Cesarean sections. I felt complete panic when I could have been prepared. I think adoption from China is very similar to giving birth. It is easy to only read the happy stories but I encourage every family to read the hard ones as well. If you are the family who is handed a child that is limp and listless and who looks autistic, what you have learned in the past will help you make the right decision for your family during those first very emotional few days. I have been called many times in the last few years by parents in China worried about their children. I agree that having a support network to help you through the initial time is essential. Everyone should go to China with at least one phone number of someone they can call if they are panicked upon meeting their new child. I remember feeling so alone when I was handed my daughter and she was so tiny and limp. Because our foundation often helps with the kids who have been disrupted, I am aware that sometimes there are children who have more serious issues than originally reported. That is a hard thing for a parent to arrive in China and then discover their child is truly autistic or has serious mental delays. I think everyone on both the China and international side would agree it is absolutely wrong of an orphanage not to be honest in their reports. No one would excuse that. I also know without a doubt the majority of children who are disrupted are only suffering from institutional issues and would catch up quickly in a loving home. It is always a very sad day for everyone involved when a child they know is absolutely fine, perhaps thin and grieving, is returned by their new parents for being "delayed". I think far too many people believe their child's life is going to begin the moment they meet them. The truth that everyone must realize is a child's life is going on RIGHT NOW in China. All of their experiences are shaping who they are. The vast majority of aunties that I have met in China are kind and caring people. However it is not the same as having a mom and dad at your beck and call. I have had new parents call and say "we didn't think living in an orphanage would affect her at all". Those statements truly puzzle me. How could they not contemplate life in an orphanage? Walk through Babies R Us and you will see every gadget known to man to make our children's lives as ideal as possible. Parents can have two way video monitors so when baby awakens not only can mommy see to immediately rush in and comfort him, but she can talk to baby so that he doesn't even have one second where he feels alone. How many new parents would have a newborn and then put that baby in a crib 22 hours a day on their own? How many would only feed their baby, even if they were really crying hard, every 8 hours? Or prop the bottle in her crib and then not watch to see if she ever really ate? Of course no one would do that. We feed newborns on demand, comfort on demand, love continuously. Whether people want to recognize it or not, that is NOT the life of an orphan in an institution, even when the aunties are as good as gold. I remember one night I took some volunteers for the night shift in an orphanage. Normally just a few aunties are working at that time. One mom looked at me with tears in her eyes as she slowly realized that it was absolutely impossible to feed, comfort, and soothe every baby who was crying. She said her heart was aching to realize that her own daughter likely had many times where she cried without someone to comfort her. She told me that for the first time she finally understood why her daughter had such a deep seated fear of being out of her mom's sight. The aunties are trying their best, but it doesn't equal mother/child care. I remember being in a northern orphanage this past winter. The aunties were so proud of how they had 6-8 layers of clothes and blankets on every baby to keep them warm. They were swaddled so tight they couldn't move, but it was freezing in the orphanage. The aunties wanted the babies to stay as warm as possible. What alternative did they have? It really was freezing there. I was cold in my wool coat. The babies couldn't have only 1-2 layers on though that would give them the ability to move their arms and legs. To stay warm they had to be immobile, and so all of those kids have weak muscle tone. The aunties were truly trying their best. When a parent is given one of those beautiful children on adoption day, I am sure they will go back to their room with concern and say "She can't sit up by herself. She can't put weight on her legs". That is the truth. However she also survived 10 degree weather in a very cold province and she will catch up soon enough with parents to encourage her.
To not acknowledge that living in orphanage circumstances can cause lower body weights, low muscle tone, and/or inability to make good eye contact is very sad to me. Can it be overcome? Most definitely! The one thing I have learned over and over about the children in China is they are fighters and survivors. For some reason, people seem to want to ignore these issues in public forums.
Recently, one of our medical babies we had met several times in person was adopted. We all knew this child was a "spitfire". When the family arrived and spent a few days with her, they decided she was too much of a handful for them and they wanted to disrupt. She was not what they expected. When they called their agency, they were told they had two choices: adopt the child, bring her to the US, and change their expectations, or adopt the child, bring her to the US and the agency would have a family waiting at the airport to adopt her locally. Option three of leaving the child in China was never once given. I admire that agency so much, as they were thinking of the child and the child alone. The family followed through with the adoption and handed the little girl to a new family upon arrival in the US. As horrible and tragic and emotional as it was for everyone involved, I still feel this was the right decision. It was done in the best interest of the child, who had waited a long time for a family. I wish more agencies would advocate for the child. Especially when they know with absolute certainty that nothing is permanently wrong with the child. Instead they seem to give in to the parents. Recently with another disruption, the agency I spoke with told me that it was "easier" to just get the family a new baby. Sometimes easier does not equal right. The first baby who was rejected has now been labeled "mentally challenged" even though the agency knew the child was really going to be okay. I think all of us, who realize that delays occur and babies can usually overcome them, should be the children's advocates. We should continually try to educate new parents on what to expect in China. By helping them be better prepared, we just might stop a future disruption. I love Chinese adoption with my whole heart. It is my life's work. I want every family who adopts to do so with their eyes open and as emotionally prepared as possible, for the child's sake.

9:17 PM

it'd be Christmas if you were here

I am slightly obsessed with this song by Carolyn Dawn Johnson. She gets Canadian winters, and some how she is singing the song of every waiting mama this year. It's a new song, otherwise I would link the video. You will have to find it on itunes for now, or just trust me that it is the perfect amount of melancholy. I never knew Christmas could be so sad, until part of my heart was in another country.

cold, its just cold and its not fun any more
it's a hassle to fight the through crowds at the store
there's a tree in the den and a wreath on the door but i've lost interest
somethings different
if you were here i'd hear the bells
i'd join in with the neighbours singing chistmas carols
i'd make hot chocolate and gingerbread
keep the oven on till every one was fed
i know its not really like me to be bitter, its just winter
but it'd be christmas if you were here

if you were here i'd here the bells
ya it'd be cozy, not so lonely
if you were here i'd hear the bells

10:36 AM

Come what may,

Suddenly the world seems such a perfect place, suddenly it moves with such a perfect grace. There’s no mountain too high no river too wide, storm clouds may gather, stars may collide but I will love you until the end of time.
My husband and I danced to that song on our wedding night. Back when he was the centre of my universe. Thankfully that universe has expanded as we grew a family. This may sound strange but I think the most special part of having our son was how it changed my love for my husband. Something changed in him in that moment our baby was placed in his arms, he grew in an instant to become this incredible man. He has always been a great guy who I loved, needed, trusted. It was just something in that moment though that was an absolute magical mystical moment, and my love for him doubled. In the days, weeks, months and years that have followed it continues to grow as I watch my lover become the world’s best dad.
To my great joy it is happening again. Since the moment of our referral my husband is metamorphosing into an even more incredible dad. He has been my rock throughout this past month, he has calmly guided me through all my emotions with the steady hand he has always given me. I have fallen for him all over again watching him plan “in secret” his Christmas gift for her. When he defended her like a lion and when we stared at her photos together for the millionth time. The best is yet to come. I can’t wait to witness all the thousands of special daddy daughter moments our future holds.
People have believed that he was a reluctant husband, they have misinterpreted his silent calm as passiveness. There have been times I wondered myself if we were truly on the same page. I know now without a shadow of a doubt that we are totally in step on this journey, you need only look into his eyes when he says his daughter’s name and you would know it too. He loves me enough not just to allow me my dreams, but he loves us enough to make them his dreams too. So we love him, more and more each day.
Only my true star twin could travel this journey with me.

5:45 PM

Moments like this that make me so happy to be a mommy.

Conversation with Emery yesterday:
Mommy: Emery let's think about what gift we want to give our friends, what would make them smile? What should we get William?
Emery: Dora.
M: And what should we get Noah?
E: A big white buba (translation: a milk filled bottle)
M: And what about Scarlett?
E: She wants Emmy, Emmy, Emmy, she says Emmy all the time. (translation: Scarlett calls Emery Emmy, so he wants to give her the gift of himself)
M: And what should we get baby sister?
E: She needs a daddy. She misses daddy.
Made me choke up.
Told this story 5 times already, still choking up each time.

1:45 PM

Learning all that I can about Wenzhou. And documenting it here so I don't forget.

In the ancient times, Wenzhou was called “Ou City”. When the Qin dynasty unified China, Wenzhou came under Minzhong Prefecture. In 192 B.C., it became the territory of Zou Yao, the king of East Ou. In 138 A.D., Dongou Town in Xizhang’an County became Yongnin County, the first county set in Wenzhou. In 323, Yongjia Prefecture grew out of four counties which are Yongning, Angu, Hengyang and Songyang in the south of Xilinhai Prefecture. It was the beginning of Wenzhou. In 662, Dongjia State was established and in 675, the emperor set a state called “Wenzhou”. The name remains the same and so does the territory. After the 1911 Revolution on November 8th a Branch of Zhejiang Military Government was established in Wenzhou.

In June 1914, Ouhai Dao was established and with government office set in Yongjia County, it governed Wenzhou and Chuzhou Prefectures together. In 1932, the Administrative Supervision District was established. Wenzhou District was initially called as No. 10 County Administrative Supervision District with office set in Yongjia County before changing its name for several times.

On May 7th 1949, Wenzhou was liberated peacefully and Wenzhou Military Control Commission was established at the same time. In the same year on August 26th, Wenzhou City was established. After the establishment of China, its name and the counties under it changed few times. In September 1981, Wenzhou District and Wenzhou City were merged into Wenzhou City.

Wenzhou is renowned as the “City of Clothes” and the “City of Shoes”. Not only the styles of the clothes and the shoes are new and fashion, but also the price is very low. The main streets of the old downtown area, such as Chan Street, Wuma Street, Park Road, Chengxi Street, Jiefang Road, Shengli Road and Fuqian Road, and the Wenzhou Trade City almost become the sea of clothes and the world of shoes. If time permits, wandering in the night markets may bring surprising to travelers.

The landscape in Wenzhou is known for its finest scenery consisting of many famous mountains and beautiful lakes and is the famous one in southeast China. It has national level important scenic spots like Yandang Mountain, Nanxi River, Baizhangji and Feiyun Lake and national natural reserves like Wuyanling Mountain and the Nanji Island. The total land area of the scenic spots including small and big comes around 2279 square kilometers and occupies 20% of the entire city.

Wenzhou is one of the most suitable residences for human beings on the west coast of the Pacific Ocean.


“Rice molding” also named “powder molding”, is the unique folk craft of Wenzhou, is famous along with the north “noodle molding”. Choose the boiled rice dumpling as the material, kneading, pinching, nipping, carving, making, and take various of colors to refine the crafts of human, dragon and phoenix, flower bird, animals shapes, after dyed the colors, it looks of the same resemblance.

Wenzhou rice molding have long-distance history, according to the record, it has appeared in Song Dynasty. Mostly used in old people’s birthday party, wedding, feast banquet and sacrifices to Buddha. Chongyang cake is easy to find, especially the peach cake in “Lanjiefu” in lunar March, numerous of drama player shape with different gesture, looks very lively.

1:38 PM

Adoption Etiquette 101:

Hi friends read and reference this post to learn more about the PC ways to discuss adoption. A lot has changed in the past decade, adoption is no longer taboo but it’s still a long way from being sensitive to the children and families involved. We know you never intend to offend, but here are some handy tips to help you. Thanks!
1. I, just like many of you, look at my daughter's beautiful face and I am filled with wonder, awe and cosmic flutters. She is just so perfect, it seems as though she was always meant to be ours. It is important to remember however that when an adopted child hears that this was meant to be they can interpret those words to mean that their loss and hardships were deserved. That being with out parents all these months was meant to be for her, not for every other child she knows, but for her. She may wonder if she was being punished by the fates. Instead we say "How magical is it that our adoption agency selected such a perfect match for us." Bob at our agency is 100% responsible for not only selecting this child for us, but he also played a critical role in getting Ontario to approve this match. He is renowned for the amazing matches made for countless families, he really deserves all the credit :)
2. Birth parents AKA first parents are not a dirty word in our house. They are not a secret, or evil, or bad, or heartless. They are cherished and honoured members of our family, even though we do not know who they are.

You may have never heard the word Albinism before, let alone used it in a sentence. No worries, we had not either! The most important thing is that we do not want Elora to be defined by her special need. We say Elora has Albinism rather than Elora is Albino. Just like it is more polite to say my friend has Cancer rather than my friend is Cancerous, the same applies to Elora and her medical need. When people are still confused, I will also let them know she has a medical condition that causes a complete lack of pigmentation. We have also had curious folk ask if she will have red eyes like a bunny that lacks pigment. Go take a look at her new photos to see her beautiful steely blue eyes. P.S. Humans with Albinism never have red eyes though some do have violet.

The topic of luck. Elora is not lucky because there is nothing lucky about losing your first family, country, language and culture. However you can say “It is so lucky you found each other” or “We are all lucky to live in Canada, where health care is free and does not determine your ability to care for your child” or “Damn Sylvia and Jeremy are so lucky they have the most awesome/cute/well mannered kids!”

10:32 PM

All I want for christmas is you.

4:19 PM

I just miss my girl

I miss my girl. The excitement is wearing off and the wait has sunk down on me hard. I am 17,715 km away from her. No problem, according to google maps it suggests that I simply "Kayak across the Pacific Ocean" for a mere 4436 km. No really, no joke. Google predicts that if I drive to California with my kayak in hand I will reach baby girl in 37 days and 18 hours. So that hardly gets me there any faster, plus there is the whole risk of sharks and pirates. Sigh. Back to waiting.
Another impact on my mood is that we found Elora's finding ad online. I want other mom's to know that it is indeed possible, difficult, but possible to find it on your own. Not every one gets lucky with this but I am very grateful to the mamas on the journey ahead of me who coached me though it. We are keeping the details private. But I will say that I was not prepared for the sadness I experienced in seeing her finding ad. A real deep hurt filled my heart and I hurt for her. The glossy glow of match day got a wake up call. As exciting as this is for me, it's not at all for her. Again something I have always known, but now I am starting to truly get it.
I have also been bombarded with stupid comments/questions from people at work. I get it, we are odd, we are adopting, we don't "need" to, we chose China, we chose special needs, she has a special need that is visible and that many people don't understand. I know I have a life time of dealing with people who have no filter. I get that because we are visibly odd to you, you think we should have that fact called to our attention. I am handling it okay in the moment, but after I just get so sad that baby girl will have to deal with this EVERY day of her life, just simply because people are mean/ignorant/rude. I don't really like people as a whole, I have a very low tolerance for rudeness, and I have no tolerance for rudeness to my babies. I totally get why some parents move to a city where they are not the only trans-racial family on the block, because how can I let baby girl ever have one day like the one I had today. I know I need to go through this to learn how to teach her how to cope. But as a mother you just wish you could shield your kids from every thing. I just want to yell at every one: come on let her be, hasn't she suffered enough already, can't you just let her belong here. Please just welcome her, with out question, just welcome her.

5:43 PM

Totally Smitten.

We got new photos of Elora today from a care package I sent out yesterday! That just blew away any whisper of doubt I may have still had. I am head over heals in LOVE!

12:45 PM

We got Pre approval

We got pre-approval today (PA) and that means three things.
1. China is now reviewing our file for this specific child
2. We can send a care package (s) !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! We hope to get new photos from these packages.
3. We are about to enter into the longest most unpredictable part of the wait. The wait for LOA. This is the final approval from China that she is really ours. Theoretically this is just a formality, although questions may arise from our file that they require more info on. The wait is between 45 to 157 days currently and there is no rhyme or reason from what any one can tell about why the wait can vary so much. But the count down is on we can only hope that we get in the fast lane and get approval in record short time.

6:45 AM

Match day went down like this...

Firstly totally not at all like I expected. But here is the play by play:

So match day was Tuesday, and Monday night I managed to sleep more than any other match day, because of 1. Vodka and 2. no hope of a match at all, but still did not sleep well at all. As Tuesday moved along I checked my email every half hour and kept my cell phone on me but by 12:30 I officially gave up and went out to lunch with the girls at work to help me get on with my day. I noted to them how this month was easier than it had ever been, I really was in a good, not happy, but fine place. After lunch I went to a few meetings and did some actual work (rare for me on a matchless day in the past), on my afternoon break at 3:00 I checked my hotmail account one more time, more to see if any of my other waiting mommies would be making an announcement and there it was. An email from my social worker that had arrived at 1:48 pm. It simply said, "Child Proposal, I got a package from FOI call me." I was (oddly enough) alone in my cubicle pod when I read the message and I gasped and I squeaked a bit but over all not as blubbery as predicted. I called Jeremy and told him first, he was very calm and told me to call the social worker, oh right, duh. I did not have her number. He did not have her number. About 10 minutes of frantic google and email archive searching finally produces her number. A co-worker returns to the pod and finds me acting odd, I tell her this is it (!) and make the call. Social worker's husband answers the phone, no she is not home, no he's not sure when I can reach her, no he does not have her cell phone number, try back in an hour. OMG
I excuse myself from work, shriek a little bit more, call my mom and BFF, pick Em up from daycare and rush home to call back.
I get her on the phone and she says all cool and calm, I have a child to propose, I ask her to come to the house ASAP to do the proposing (I thought that is how it had to go). She says, well just look at the file, think about it, talk to your doctor and call me back in a few days. "I am pretty sure we don't have that much time" I stammer. "No you have five days, not to worry" She replies. FYI we really only had until noon on Thursday. More confusion continues as she thinks I got the same email from FOI that she did at 8:04 AM, but I got nothing but that previously mentioned email from her. No calls or messages to the 7 other methods of contact I had sent her the week before either. ARG! Then she says, well she is a 15 month old girl. "15 months??? but how can that be? Ontario's 18 month rule will only allow us an 11 month old this month?" now I am really confused. She just says that it is nothing to worry about, yet I am still worried.
I get off the phone and check my email to find the file from FOI forwarded to me and the first thing I see is a cute face of a little girl and I think "gee, she is cute, but there is no way that I can have her." I had the same reaction that I have to countless other referral photos I have seen on blogs, RainbowKids, and other photo listings. So sweet, but not mine, wish she was, but she is not. I immediately email my social worker back and ask her to please triple check that there is truly no issue with her age. I am pretty sure there is, and I am not so confident in her judgment in this moment due to the 5 day comment from a few minutes ago. Although I am pretty positive this is not my child I follow through with the next step of the match plan, and email Dr. Janista to get a better understanding of her health. Surprisingly she calls me back to do the evaluation in under an hour, great! Except, I am home alone with a cranky toddler who is really acting up and will not eat unless I feed him, and only with the horsey spoon that is missing because he tossed it in the dog bed of all places while I was trying to take notes and listen to the Dr. Siiiiiigh. Any ways the results of the Dr's evaluation are all very positive, she is in very good health considering her living situation, she is hitting all milestones and is in the smack dab of the growth carts. Great I tell my self, but she is 15 months old. So she can not possibly be mine.
Meanwhile back on the forums, my cry out for help has brought me oodles of replies from others who have fought the 18 month rule and won. Gather your tiger mom courage and fight for your girl they tell me, you can do it! Well, I have no fight left in me, and I am not sure this is my girl. I am pretty sure no one is going to let me have her no matter what I think or feel about it. I think back to what another mom said that turning down a referral is not hard at all when you know that it simply was not possible to accept it. That is how I feel.
My husband finally arrives home and we review the file and the Dr's notes together. He has questions, he is quiet. I tell him that I am pretty sure despite what every one has told me so far, that Ontario will not allow this. He convinces me other wise, tells me to trust in the people who got us this far. So, slowly, ever so slowly we start to think this could really be it. I open her photo and we just stare at her, we zoom in on all the tiny details of her hair, eyes, toes... and we think okay lets just get some rest and then come to a decision in the morning. I check my email one last time only to find an alarming response to my question I posed my social worker earlier. Turns out when she did triple check for me, the exact wording of our child request in our home study combined with the fact that this child was outside the ministry guidelines was in fact a big problem. It is near midnight at this point, but I know that our agency takes calls at all hours near match time, so we called. Basically they thought we could get this through the ministry when they made the match for us because he thought we were with this other social worker who has an amazing track record for getting these waivers. No, I tell him, we have the social worker who did not send us the file until 5PM even though she got it at 8AM because she thinks we have 5 days to make this decision. This is her first special needs adoption. Well, the agency's tone went from that of calm-reassuring-of-crazed-new-parent-with-typical-jitters to that of serious concern. We quickly devised a plan. 1. Husband and I had to make our 100% commitment to this child by the crack of dawn. (we just lost another 30 hours of thinking time, making this decision in about 12 hours, of which usually 8.5 of them were typically reserved for sleeping) 2. Call social worker in the morning express our interest and encourage her to call FOI for coaching. 3. FOI coaches social worker, we have been told ultimately it is all in her hands, the power of her influence and argument are our only chance to get this approved. We love her, but these words do not fill us with confidence, AT ALL 4. Social worker makes the call and we need the go ahead before Thursday at noon, it is currently 11am on Wednesday. The timeline is another hurdle, have you ever got any thing from a government office in that time frame? Nope, we had not either, that is until this day... we got the approval at 3pm Wednesday. That's it she is ours.

She is ours? Really? For keeps? No jokes? I have a toddler??? And she is blonde???

And I have not slept in 2 days.

I looked at her photo again for the first time in 20 hours. Still not getting the "she's mine!" vibe. I feel badly about that. I also feel badly that I could not get all hyped up and fight till they let her be mine. I did that with Thailand, that was not even as real as this, yet I just could not do it. The odds seemed so stacked against us that it did not seem fair to us, my family, or to her, to fight and keep us all in limbo. Ultimately I had to just let it go and see if it was meant to be. But you have to know by now that control freak Sylvia has never done that in her life, at least not willingly. How was I at so much peace with letting go in THIS moment? I am still not sure, but it got me though those days, I survived them so calmly.

Now slowly a few days have past and some sleep has been had, and slowly she is becoming mine. ours, and I am seeing her in our family.

There have also been some other realizations that have lead her to feel more familiar, and finally ours.

Firstly, her need, albinism. Back in 2007 when I was planning for us to be in the China non special needs line up, I heard about albinism as a special need for the first time. I fell for a little girl on Rainbow Kids who had albinisim, she caught my eye because she looked so much like my husband. He is 1/4 Chinese and 3/4 french Canadian, he is the only one of his 50 cousins (who are also all 1/4) who is blonde with blue eyes. He has had to spend his whole life defending his Chineseness to even his own siblings who joke he is the mail man's son. He is the spitting image of his dad in fact, just different coloration. That was it, albinism seemed like some sort of cosmic fit for us. Ultimatly it was the photo of that girl who opened me up to special needs adoption. She planted that seed.

Secondly, when I looked back in my blog to see what we were doing on the day she was born, it turns out that was the day we decided to enter the China waiting child program. We had finished grieving Thailand, and found our heart lead back to China.

On her first birthday, I wrote on my blog my "match plan" and my worries about knowing from a file if the referral would really be my daughter. I was clearly thinking about her nonstop on her special day. :)

Also around her first birthday my mom had a dream, she told me of a chubby white haired baby who had squinty eyes, she said she was so sure that the dream was right and that this was our girl. I remember laughing and telling her no orphanage babies are chubby.... look who's laughing now!

6:28 AM

Introducing Elora

We are excited to announce that we received a match for a little girl who is currently 15 months old. The call came at 1:48 pm Tuesday, November 29th and we saw her photos for the first time later that evening. She is a very healthy girl who is developing well, at nine months she was crawling and sitting by herself. Elora also has Albinism (the medical term for a person who lacks pigment, sometimes called Albino). Yes, she is very blonde with bright blue eyes and she will turn into a lobster if not slathered in sun screen, in other words, she’s exactly like her Mom and Dad! She is living in an orphanage in the south east of China in Wenzhou City, in Zhejiang province. She is described as quiet, a deep sleeper, always has a ready smile and enjoys music. We hope to travel to China to pick her up in the early spring of 2012.
Thank you all for your support and encouragement throughout this loooooong journey.
More Photos comming soon. I think it's against China's rules to post a photo before PA, but here is a sneak peak any ways :) More to come too on how match day all went down. What a roller coaster ride, honestly we are still recovering from it, hence the MIA this week. But soon I promise.

10:55 AM

Understanding the wait

This past week I have been having some deep thinking about the wait. I have experienced the gamut of emotions, from envy, anger, fear , depression and frustration peppered with moments of hope.

In the process I remembered something from our PRIDE classes, an exercise we did regarding loss. We were each asked to think about loss we had suffered in our lifetime and use those feelings to create understanding and empathy for the loss our children suffer. I am no stranger to loss, but now I have another experience to add to this exercise.

I think for the first time I really understand what adoptees mean when they say that love is not enough. I understood that before like how you can understand the concept of heart surgery from a text book, but performing heart surgery is a totally different matter. Love is not enough to heal me, I am surrounded by love during this wait. I have my precious boy, my heart bursts with love for him, he cheers me beyond measure and makes this wait bearable, but still nothing can erase the pain of the wait completely. It is possible to dull it, but never to lose it. I really get how my baby girl will carry her pain somewhere in her forever, regardless of what we do. My wait is preparing me for that reality. Just as I hope my family will not take it personally when they are unable to chase these shadows from me, I will draw on that understanding and help little girl to know that it is okay to be sad about what she lost. I know that I will forever be sad for every single day of her life that I was not able to be in, she will be forever sad about those days too, when she was alone and for the what ifs and whys.

There is another harder part of the wait just around the corner, the part I fear the most. Once I see my precious girl’s photo I will have to wait 4 to 6 months before I can hold her. I was trying to tell someone the other day about how scared I am of this wait, how will I be able to know she is real and waiting and not go to her. It is against every mother’s instinct. In describing these feelings I said “it would be like giving birth and then leaving my baby at the hospital”. No sooner were the words out of my mouth then I had a light bulb moment. This part of the wait gave me my first real glimpse of what Elora’s first mother must be feeling right now. Empathy and understanding for our children’s first mothers can be the most difficult, each woman is coming towards motherhood with opposing outcomes, and it can polarize the situation, creating a huge barrier towards empathy. I am coming to understand through this journey that she and I have more in common than I thought. There is one big difference though, she is stronger than I am, she is living with a pain bigger then I can imagine, a pain I am only getting a sliver of, and who’s intensity will only dim with time. I know she has no such light at the end the tunnel.
Today, I am actually grateful for this wait. I am not happy about it, I still reserve the right to wail and whine, but I have a new respect for it and the lessons it will teach me.

The only source of knowledge is experience.
- Albert Einstein

4:15 PM


It's the day after match day and the day after Halloween and between the sugar and the anticipation I did not sleep a wink. No match for us, and I don't even have the words. I feel pretty hopeless right now. There is just this ever present fear of an international adoption shut down, I guess only another waiting parent can really get this fear, and one who has had to switch programs totally knows what I mean. We are not owed a child at the end of this, nothing is for sure, you have to just live with that. Some days you can and other days, as one of my bloggy buddies said, it is like a foot on your chest. SO accurate.
In other news I love Halloween and I love dressing up. We had a great time as a robot family this year. Check out our other family photos from years past as well to get a glimpse of our full enthusiasm for the holiday!
Robot Family - 2011

Princess and the Frog - 2010

12:37 PM

Affording your adoption 102

The theme of this lesson is cross border shopping. So if you are an American or live too far from the border, you can skip this lesson.
The Canadian dollar has been at par (or near it) for more than a year now and I have been really taking advantage of the great deals, especially online, and the immense selection south of the border.
We just ordered Squeaker’s bed from the Walmart in the US and are picking it up this week in Buffalo. A similar bed would have cost me over $2000 in Canada. Granted that Canadian bed is of a much higher quality solid wood. But in this case I am looking for affordable not heirloom, and unfortunately only the US offered me the kind of choices I wanted.
There are some road blocks for Canadians who want to shop down south, but if you do the math it is really worth it. Shipping to a store in Buffalo (or whatever your closest American city is) is free but I will need to declare it at the border and pay the 15% duty. The bed was still less than $450 after NY tax and exchange rate, saving me over $1,500.Here are a few things I have learned about the process:
You need to use pay pal, they will not accept a Canadian credit card. Trust me I tried, and it got us in trouble with the fraud department at our bank … tee hee.
You have 30 days to pick it up after you place the order otherwise they ship it back to the warehouse and you get a full refund.
Don't buy too many things at once as they ship at different speeds and can cause difficulty with finding a pick up date since it is 30 days from arrival at the store not order date.
If you don't like it you can return it at the store. Check everything for marks, missing pieces before driving away.
Call the actual store that you shipped to confirm your order is there before you drive.
There are real deals to be had out there and the websites are amazing with tones of consumer reviews, you can really get an idea of the product even though you cannot see it. My friend got a new double Schwinn jogging stroller with MP3 player jack and speakers for $200!!! In terms of baby and kid gear you will find almost everything you need at 60%-50% less, and have I mentioned the variety!! Word to the wise though, American car seats even though they look identical are not legal in Canada.
I also shop at several American retailers for my own outfits. At home I need to go to specialty stores like Tall Girl (gag me with a spoon) to get pants long enough for me. Not only are those stores blah but they are very expensive. In America most stores carry a short, regular and long lengths on most of their items.

Expensive Version

My Version

These pants are from Wet Seal, a teeny bopper store, but don’t be dismayed, they offer a wide variety of sizes including plus sizes. My teenage niece declared that these jeans were in fact skinny enough to be classified as skinny, aka cool. I love them because they fit me, with a 36” inseam I can still get a little crinkle of jeans at my ankle, rare for this “tall girl”. Best part is the price though they regularly have a 2 pairs for $25 deal. So they cost me $12.50. I seriously would pay $40 or more for their glorious length alone J Oh Happy days! They are now shipping to Canada.
The top in this photo comes from my newest hidden jem of a store, Burlington Coat Factory/Baby Depot. Don’t let the name fool you, this store is not in Burlington and it’s not just coats and baby stuff. It is like a ghetto fabulous winners. Stuff is cheap! And stuff is glittery! Want to impress the mom group with the latest blinged out baby phat track suit? This is the store for you! In amongst all the apple bottom jeans and sky high stilettos is some really fun stuff. Some of my fav wow items have come from here, including a kimono type top and this one in the photo (cost me $15.00). Here is another tip, buy seasonless clothing whenever possible.
Now for the piece de resistance of this outfit, the boots! People will always tell you to spend your money on the classics. I respectfully disagree. A classic item will take you on the first class train to boredom. Being a mom, it is more likely that my clothing no matter what the price will be ruined by a stray red sock, diaper blowout or any other of the daily calamities a mom and her clothes experience. I am not spending big bucks on anything and most certainly not on something boring, er.. classic. Also classics require special laundering and (gag) ironing. You have got to be kidding me! You mean some people are taking on more laundry by choice!?! No Thanks!
These boots are 10 years old. They can be worn up (as seen) or slouchy. They are real leather, easy to walk in and cost me $60 on clearance at the time of purchase. They were likely in the clearance bin due to their unclassical colour. These babies add punch to any outfit and they have had more mileage than any basic brown or black pair. Happy Shopping!

2:57 PM


In my mind I am two MONTHS overdue, if this was a pregnancy some kind soul would have put me out of my misery weeks ago.
I am a stress ball. To date during this adoption I have lost a chunk of hair, sported a heck of a bald spot. This particular side effect to stress is the gift that keeps on giving because now I have a hunk of hair growing back that is like 2.5 inches long sprouting from the top of my head and it sticks straight up. It will not be tamed by product nor pony tail. (Look carefully in my photos below and you will see it waving at you.) I have a mysterious rash all over my chin and nose that has migrated around but none the less stayed with me for about 3 months now. I am currently having abdominal pains that may be the worst gas ever, or more likely just that I store my stress in my stomach, since it’s not.. um… passing.
Today is not match day. Hopefully next week is and hopefully China does not count that as the November list, and skip this month altogether. Just one more week you say? Try telling that to a women 2 MONTHS overdue!!!! She will bite your head off.
This is not my best moment. I know for my own health and safety as well as for others who are near to me, I NEED TO CALM the ^%&*#* DOWN. But again try telling that to a woman who is TWO MONTHS overdue!!! Near impossible. Even when that woman is yourself.

4:23 PM

Defending the indefensible

There is a video out there making a lot of waves. (I am not posting this video, I saw it by accident, did not know the content, and now I am having nightmares about it. I urge you to not view this video.) In this video a young girl is playing in a street in China. A driver in a van hits her, stops as she is under his car and then continues to drive over her a second time then flees. It is caught on security video. Then people pass by ignore her as she bleeds and struggles for life. Finally her mother rushes over and finds her and carries her away. Reports is that she is now in stable condition in the hospital.

There is a global uproar about the behavior of the driver and the citizens who did nothing. There is a lot of chatter about how “they” could have so little regard for human life. I have heard this accusation from adoptive parents, my own coworkers and of course the public at large. This assumption that something so terrible could only happen over there where “they” (read: uncivilized barbarian comies) could allow this to happen. Only they could be that uncivilized.

I am never going to defend those individuals who made those choices to ignore a hurt child and especially not the one who hurt her in the first place. BUT. I find myself in the position of needing to defend China. Firstly the legal system is vastly different; there can be extreme consequences to citizens who try to get involved. http://www.whatsonxiamen.com/news16675.html

Also this keeping to one’s self mentality comes from all the abuse that occurred during the cultural revolution where everyone was asked to watch and report on the behaviors of their neighbors, the results a witch hunt that took a civilization to its knees. So needless to say, the social norm is different, and the (non- existent) support of the legal system reflects that.

Still, taking that into account not helping the child is indefensible.

There is another story of an indefensible act I know, a story of a murder. This murder was oddly enough 2 years ago yesterday. Two years to the date that I unintentionally see this video of this little girl. This was the murder of my childhood friend. Who was attacked on the streets of Toronto, and then brutally run over by his attackers in their SUV. It is on tape. There were several witnesses, but most have never come forward. No one intervened, no one took note of the license plate while the occupants of the vehicle beat him up. No one in this story had any cultural conditioning or valid fear of authority as reasoning behind their lack of action. I guess they were just too scared. And I am not sure if put in the same situation I would have been fearless enough to have done anything to change the outcomes of that night. I like to think I am brave, but… I am humble enough to know that being in that situation is more paralyzing then you might think.

Follow up stories to the video of the little girl report that the driver of the vehicle is in custody, and the little girl is recovering in hospital. So at least in China there is going to be some justice. Nothing so kind has been given to the family of my friend. There are still no leads, and no witnesses coming forward, the case is at a standstill.

This is not the first time I have struggled with the need defend China. It is complex because underling racism and general misunderstanding regarding the world outside of North America bubble to the surface at moments like this, in people who I generally think are good, kind, smart people. I am just disheartened at how quickly every one turned on and judged an ENTIRE country because of this video. It is maybe partially China's fault that this happened, but things like this happen every where in every country, there are humans who do awful things to others. We are not immune, we are not better. I think China needs to improve it's human rights. But I think Corporate America is maybe equally but differently raping it's citizens too. I think humanity has a long way to go still in every country in every race.

I want to see change in China’s human rights; there are many things I wish could be different. Here is the kicker, if they were different, I would not be getting a daughter.

One of my favorite authors, Tom Robbins, discussed the theme of good and evil. Specifically how one cannot exist without the other. The world is kept in balance by an equal and opposite reaction to every action. I think this is the closest reasoning I have found to explain why these horrible things happen, even to good people. Because somewhere out there a equally amazing thing is happening. A butterfly affect of sorts, or a universal balancing act.

How can I defend the indefensible acts? How can I teach my child to be proud of her self, all the parts of her? How can I explain the chain of political and cultural events that lead her to be mine? How do I prepare her to be the one who feels the need to make the world understand that it’s just not that simple?

2:38 PM

The only thing more fleeting then summer is childhood

Well October is certainly flying by. I am so glad. You know what else is flying by? My babies’ childhoods. Each day I see my son do or say something new. He is on the precipice of being a big boy. Some days he seems so ready and asks for the big boy chair, the big boy bed, or to do things “By Self”. On one hand this is fantastic timing, I need the high chair and crib for Elora soon and I am glad we won’t have to be rushing him out of these things. On the other hand, I regularly look at my dining table and see an empty high chair. Since Squeaker is still back and forth on this grown up stuff, I keep both accessible for him to choose from. So every once and while, I will glance over my back while I am cooking and see my little family at the table, with one empty high chair and I get this emotion soup flood me. I am so proud my little baby boy is growing up, I am so sad that my little baby girl is growing up without us. I want to speed time up and get her home, at the table with us where she belongs. I want to slow down time or even reverse it and see a toothless baby babbling at me from that chair, how did he become a philosophical toddler already?
Squeaker tells me the strangest things, recently he has been saying that his face is growing and sometimes he says that a growing face hurts, other times, he tells me that it’s scary. The solution to this is to kiss his face all over. But we have this conversation about the growing face a few times a week. He is also using his toy robot to act out big boy activities. He will tell me that robot wants to sleep in the big boy bed or sit in the big boy chair. He tells me he is the robots daddy and that he will feed him and help him to be a big boy. As you can see I am not the only one in the house who is trying to keep up with the emotions of a babyhood that is slipping away.
I truly savor every moment with my family, the moments at work, not so much. But I am trying not to wish all my days away, trying not to live from one match day to another. But I guess what they say is true, time flies when you are having fun.

A Boy and his Robot.

4:35 PM

Affording your adoption 101

Yes, international adoption is expensive. Most adoptive parents find creative ways to save up for their adoption(s). As a family we are doing many things but one of them is tightening our purse strings. Just one little problem. I am an admitted shopaholic. This is an addiction that is mostly in check but does flare up when I am stressed out. The problem is that not only is adoption expensive but it is also stressful! Today my friends I am here to tell you about how we are surviving the wait with style!

I love shopping, almost as much as I love my family. I also love me and the kiddos to look fashionable and it gives me great joy to dress us up, just so, with the must haves of the season. I have always been a thrifty shopper, I deal in volumes you would not believe, so bargains have always been a must. But what was this fashionista to do when even the steals on the steal or splurge page would cost you your whole year's clothing allowance? I just got thriftier, and now I am going to show you how you can do it too.

I have taken photos two outfits I wore to work this week and with help from my co-worker Sasha, who by the way was also the inspiration for this blog post. Both of these looks cost less than $50 including tax and accessories!!!

First up we have the the bow blouse inspired by mad men (or as I call it, Granny goes sexy)
The fashion pages look by Alice Olivia $220.00 (for ONLY the blouse!!)

Now my look

Shirt from Talize $3.99 This store rocks, for so many reasons, the profits support local charity, it is a great way to recycle and the prices can not be beat. I know, for many fashionistas shopping second hand has a certain insurmountable ick factor. If the prices can't get you over that check your washing machine for a sanitize feature. I take all of my purchases directly from the shopping bag to the washing machine and sanitize the bageezus out of them until there is not a whiff of that odd mothball smell left. I personally like to brag that I only payed 1/4 the amount you did to look twice as great, but if you are more demure, when every one heaps the compliments on you, simply tell them it's a one of a kind vintage find. Yep, vintage is celeb speak for second hand. To duplicate this look find a second hand store that has a high population of seniors, because this shirt was actually made in the original decade that the designers are now "inspired" by and some woman has been wearing it since it was the height of fashion. Now it is yours to snag. Be sure to wear it with other items that are modern and a tad vampy to ensure that you don't go too far the other way. The key is a touch of granny, for yesteryear elegance, go to far and you risk dorky librarian or frump.
Pants from Giant Tiger $10 last spring on clearance. Always shop in the clearance rack for the following year. Only suckers pay full price.
Shoes from Forever 21 $12 a few seasons ago. The lesson here is that dramatic shoes can make a plain outfit pop. You can never have too many shoes. Never. Especially if they are less then $20 a pop. Always be hunting for amazing shoe finds, always.
Grand TOTAL THIS LOOK: $26.00 Head to toe. Now that is a steal!

Second look is some times called the equestrian look.

This is from the JC Penny catalogue, unknown price.

Now my look

Sweater from Talize again $3.99. One more thing I would like to mention is that if you love high quality craftsmanship and detailing then "vintage" is the solution for your tiny budget.
Pants are Alfred Sung, Alfred Sung for Zellers that is. :) A few weeks ago they had the fall pants on sale for half off so I got two pairs of these beauties for $14.99 each. Another tip, if you like it and it flatters you buy it in as many colours as you can afford.
Shoes are from Joe Fresh, for 29.00, best part is NO TAX since they came from the CHILDREN'S DEPARTMENT!!!! I wear a size 7 ladies and that translates into a size 5 in Joe's girls department. I know the math is screwy but a size 8.5 womens can wear the girl's size 6 at Joe (sorry that's as big as they come). The moral of the story is be creative look in unexpected places.
Grand TOTAL THIS LOOK: $47.00 head to toe

I hope this will provide you with some inspiration in your wardrobe and budget. Remember to embrace your inner MILF and flaunt it!

Public Service Announcement:
Yes adoption is expensive but I would like to take this moment to remind you that it is the fees associated with transferring guardianship of a child and travel for 3 to the other side of the world that adoptive parents "buy". We never "bought" our children, because that would be human trafficking and illegal. So please don't ask "how much she cost" or where you can "get one of those".
This announcement has been brought to you by annoyed adoptive parents of the world in association with the educate the public with no self filters foundation. AAPotW, EtPWNSFF.

4:17 PM

Another Matchless month

Wow this was the hardest month yet. It is like a slow sinking realization that just gets more and more sad with each passing hour, you are less able to muster any hope with the ticking of the clock.
This was really disappointing, tomorrow is my husbands birthday and I was so sure we were going to have a cute story to tell about how we got a daughter for his birthday.
So we have waited 3 months now at the top of our agencies list, and we have waited 166 days since we were approved by China.
I am trying to look on the bright side more here are some good reasons to wait some more. (Ha, as if I had a choice)
1. We have more months to save up for the fees.
2. I may actually be able to time this so that I will only have one child in day care at once
3. Travelling in March is way better then travelling in January, less snowsuits to pack
4. Will have time to celebrate the birth of my twin god-babies in January with out worrying about missing the birth
5. ummm waiting sucks
6. this list is pathetic attempt to self sooth
7. wine and chocolate work moderately better
8. singing love sick songs at the top of my lungs in the car helped too

4:14 PM

My Match Plan

So when you are in your second trimester you get asked by everyone around you what your birth plan is. Are you going to do a water birth, are you going to film it, who do you want around you, what music will play? That and so many more questions get you thinking about what exactly you want that moment to be like and what tools you are going to use to help you survive it.
When Squeaker was born I had the best birth plan and it was executed like a perfect symphony. It took major temper tantrums on my part but I actually got to have the perfectly controlled birth I always wanted (scheduled section), including an ipod play list for the occasion.
So I have been thinking what would make my match moment perfect, how do I want it to play out? I am just thinking that getting "the call" at work maybe nearly as embarrassing as having my water break in the board room. I think I am going to be a blubbering mess with a pinch of a chicken sans head, not pretty. I know some of you have the amazing restraint and calmness to only look at your referral together as a family while you are filming the moment for your future blog post. I bow down to you! I am not sure if I am even going to be able to wait to be with my husband. So here is how I see it going down...
My Match Plan
The call comes to my phone, I am at work
1. Run screaming to the empty cubicle while on cellphone
2. Call the hubby on the landline, chances that hubby will actually answer his phone 50/50, if not available repeat call but proceed to step 3.
3. Log into email
4. Hope hubby got email too, no way I can forward it with out looking
5. SEE HER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
6. Blubber
7. Ask to leave work. Try to keep blubber to a minimum until I get home.
8. Try not to call every one in the world and post photo every where until doctor evaluation.
9. Email Dr.
10. Wait.
11. Wait.
12. Okay, tell a few people.
13. Wait.
14. Okay, just tell one more person...
15. Hubby better have called me back by now, if not, drive to his work and hunt him down.
16. Write LOI
17. Pick Squeaker up from Daycare (oops)
18. Tell the world, she's coming home!!

What was your match plan? Did it go like you expected?
I know I am crazy to think I can plan any of this. Just shush you, I need to plan, I need to control, even if none of it comes to any thing. Do you really think I can just sit here and wait?! Please let it be this month, oh please oh please oh please.

You know I have read time and time again that parents say, of course it could not have been any earlier, now that we have our precious child we know, it could not have been any earlier because this was the only child for us and she was only ready when we got her. I am so torn when I think of this, and the whole matching process. What a beautiful complicated mystery. That is my baby and she will come to be mine by 95% luck of the draw, 5% judgment of my agency director. I have more control over so many more insignificant things, but this this massively important life altering step is pretty much a lottery. You would never choose a husband this way, and yet this is how I will get a life partner (of sorts). I guess it is similar to birth, but you just have this false veil that leads you to believe that you know the child that is coming, and you never ask these questions to your self. You can never wonder what if because it just is. Mostly for my match day I just hope that I see her and know. I just want to know that is her. My girl. And that is so silly because I warn every expecting mom that the movie moment may not be what you get in the delivery room. You may look at your bundle of joy and think any number of strange things. For example I thought, okay, sure I will take that one, really I will take any one at this point, I just want to go home with a baby. I did not know Squeaker at all, did not feel like he was even mine. But for some reason, even with all my been there done that wisdom, I still just really hope I see her and know. And I am scared of what might happen if I feel doubt, even though I think that must only be natural.
So thinking more on the luck. That part is unchangeable that means that my agency is EVERYTHING when it comes to choosing our girl. What an incredibly stressful and beautiful job that must be to bring families and babies together. I feel like I will owe him so much on like a karmic level. But in the end will it come down to any thing more then luck? My mind wanders the philosophical mazes of this process over and over again. Bringing to light what my beliefs are and what impact my romanticism of the process means for my daughters story and how she will interpret it.
So much to think about.
Day dreaming fiercely.

5:43 PM


Well no match for us in August. Despite the dreams and the horoscopes that fooled me into thinking it would.
So NOOOOWww I am sure it is this month. I am ready. Bring it September!

8:17 PM

good reads

I recently finished reading Silent Tears by Kay Bratt. It was very informative and I dare anyone to read it and not want to fill out a homestudy and adopt on the spot. It gives a very detailed account of orphanage life that is eye opening for parents about to adopt and just plain heart wrenching.
Also this article is a must read. Covers so much on China adoption in today's climate, from birth parent searching to modern twists on the one child policy.
I have copied it in the entirety again because I want to keep it in its entirety.

One might easily see such a thing in a Shanghai alleyway and think nothing of it: a bundle of fabric tied up with a rope. Except that this particular bundle was screaming.

I could not tell at first if the squalling child was male or female, but I knew exactly what it was doing there: a desperate mother had swaddled her newborn infant in several layers of clothing and left it alone in the winter darkness – so that it could have a chance to live.

For me, it was an all-too-familiar story: my own two daughters were abandoned at birth, left alone in a Chinese street to the mercy of strangers. But that was more than a decade ago – a decade in which China has become a powerful force in markets from natural resources to sports cars, from luxury goods to aircraft carriers. In a China of diamond iPads and gold-plated limousines were babies still ending up in anonymous alleyways?

This child’s mother had chosen the spot carefully: only steps from one of the best hotels in Shanghai, beside a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise patronised mostly by foreigners. I had been meeting my friend John there for a quick doughnut fix, and it was he who heard the baby’s cries as he chained his bicycle to the alleyway gate.

“There’s a baby outside!” John exclaimed as he slid into the seat beside me, still blustery from the cold. “What do you mean, there’s a baby outside?” I asked in alarm, bolting out of the door to see what he was talking about.

What I found was a scene whose every detail spoke of maternal care, and anguish: the multicoloured quilt was bright, thick and tied just so – the corner lay over the child’s face, to protect it from the pre-Christmas chill. Beneath the angry bundle lay two plastic carrier bags bulging with brand new baby clothes, tins of infant formula, packs of nappies and scrubbed-clean bottles, the only love note a mother could dare to leave for a child she would never know. China’s version of the stork myth is to tell children they were found in a trash can; in the case of the baby in the alleyway, that story was too close to the truth for comfort.

“There, there, little guy,” I crooned as I awkwardly picked up the quilt bundle, which immediately stopped crying. The doughnut shop staff had already called the police to report the abandonment, so I knew I would not have long with Baby Doe (or Baby Donuts, the nickname suggested irresistibly by the location). I knew that the police would call for an ambulance, too, that would whisk the child away. So for half an hour I cradled the infant (which I only later discovered was a six-week-old girl) and bawled.

I cried for the baby, for the mother, but most of all I cried for my own children: abandoned at the far more dangerous ages of one and six days old – and in weather possibly far colder. I cried for women I do not know, who were forced to discard the children who became my daughters. I cried for the fact that they may never know their child is safe, and cherished.

I had mourned for those women before: on my children’s birthdays I always remember the women who gave them life. But I have never wept as I did holding Donuts. The weight of her body, the soup├žon of coldness around the nether regions that suggested a possibly wet nappy and the way she protested when I sat in one position for too long, were altogether too real for comfort. I knew all about abandonment in theory; now I knew about abandonment in nappies.
An abandoned Chinese baby girl

A mobile phone photograph of Donuts, taken soon after she was found

I suspected right away that Donuts had a medical problem: something about the way her mouth puckered when she breathed, and the fact that she was sweating, gave me a hint; but more than anything, it was the fact that abandonments of healthy infants are increasingly uncommon. Most children in Chinese orphanages now are disabled. To adopt healthy children, foreign parents must wait for up to five years.

Healthy babies do still find themselves on the street sometimes: China’s one-child policy continues to produce surplus children, especially in areas where rural people believe boys are needed to carry on the family name and support parents in retirement. The result is that girls are abandoned or aborted. Indeed, only days before my friend stumbled upon Donuts, dead twin girls had been discovered near my own local subway station in a prosperous Shanghai suburb. And in May, a Chinese microblog site carried a particularly striking photo of a newborn girl, dressed in pink and found in a box containing the equivalent of $200.

I knew that I could not simply walk off with Donuts (though I was sorely tempted). I was all too aware that for any eventual adoption she would need the all-important “certificate of abandonment” – and for that she needed to have a police report of the circumstances in which she was found. If I just took off with her, neither I nor anyone else could ever adopt her: I wanted her paperwork to be impeccable.
"If I just took off with Donuts, neither I nor anyone else could ever adopt her"

But paperwork is one thing, and finding a squirming, squalling baby in one of the richest streets in Shanghai is quite another: it unnerved me. I wish I could say I had the presence of mind to look out for the mother (such mothers often lurk nearby to make sure that their baby is safely discovered); I should have taken pictures of the carrier bags, with their eloquent testimony to a mother’s devotion; most of all, I should never have let her out of my arms.

Maybe I should have insisted on riding with her in the ambulance to hospital, or on going with my friend to the police station where she was processed for admission to an orphanage. I should not have let him do all of that alone.

But because I have adopted children in China, I knew that the system had to be allowed to work and that, realistically, I had to step aside. It was my friend who had found Donuts, so only he was expected at the police station that night to give his account. It was there that he learned from a police officer that the hospital had made a preliminary diagnosis of a heart defect in Donuts. So instead, I went home and hugged my own kids and fretted over how to help this newest orphan. I started e-mailing and texting friends around the world, and within hours many of them responded with offers of money to repair Donuts’ heart. Several of them volunteered to adopt her. Under Chinese law I am too old, and too single, to do so myself; but I vowed that if I could not be her mother I would be her guardian angel.

And so began a frantic race to find and help Donuts. I had no name and no identity number; all I had was a copy of the police report handed to John, as the official “finder”, and a mobile phone snapshot of the infant that he’d taken. I contacted a number of foreign charities to see if they could assist. Several of them (notably the Baobei Foundation and Heart to Heart Shanghai) asked Chinese members of staff to try to locate her by offering potential medical help – fearing that if the offer came directly from foreigners it would be immediately rebuffed. They were rebuffed anyway.

About 10 days later, just before New Year, we got word that Donuts, still with no name, was at a hospital in central Shanghai. But when I took my children, then aged nine and 11, to try to visit her – bearing chocolates to soften up the nurses – I was told (doubtless dishonestly) that the hospital had no paediatrics unit. We even looked for her in paediatric emergency – a gruesome experience not for the faint-stomached. When my Chinese colleague inquired after her, by phone, she also turned up nothing. I began to despair that I would ever know if Donuts lived or died – and all because China has suddenly learned to resent the hand that donates to it.

China is still smarting from the national humiliation of having had to export as many as 100,000 babies in the past 20 years. Foreign charities are still allowed to help some of the sickest babies from the poorest provinces; but Shanghai prides itself on being able to pay its own way. Foreign volunteers used to be allowed into the Shanghai orphanage weekly just to cuddle the kids; now they are not. Shanghai wants to make one thing perfectly clear: if its abandoned children need a heart operation, they no longer have to go begging.

I immediately recognised the attitude: a new Chinese self-confidence – some call it arrogance – that has emerged. From babies to banking, China is flexing its muscles. But one of the upsides of that new confidence is that the government has begun to care about what the rest of the world thinks of it. Knowing that, and having failed through other channels, I turned eventually to the information section of the Shanghai department of foreign affairs, and explained my intention to write an article about Donuts – in which I might find it necessary to mention that the system meant I was not allowed to help her.

Their staff quickly located the baby and reported on her condition – she had atrial septal defect (a common heart condition), a large angioma on her right eye and one webbed foot. When she was about four months old, they arranged for me to visit her at the Shanghai City Children’s Welfare Institute, where she was taken after her hospital stay.

It was there that I discovered that being a ward of the state in China these days is not nearly so appalling as it used to be. For as China has grown wealthier, so have its orphanages. There are homes in some smaller, poorer or more remote cities that remain grim, but at Donuts’ orphanage, visions of Oliver Twist are a distant memory.

Its grounds are beautifully landscaped, the compound is painted in cheerful primary colours and staffing is ample. Today, Donuts is nine months old and is cared for in a large, bright room reserved for babies whose health needs monitoring. Four trained nurses are on duty at all times, for about 20 infants with special health needs.

The orphanage where my elder daughter, Grace, spent the first eight months of her life was rebuilt recently, with underfloor heating, flat screen televisions, a Little Tots climbing frame and a bouncy castle. And the US charity Half the Sky Foundation – which has trained staff in scores of Chinese orphanages to nurture children rather than just keep them alive – recently announced that Beijing will start to shoulder the financial burden of building special nurture centres in additional Chinese orphanages.

. . .

Soon after Donuts arrived at her temporary home, orphanage staff gave her a name and a birthdate. Her name was chosen according to a formula that applies to all new arrivals: 2010 arrivals all receive the same surname, Jiang; the orphanage wishes to keep the rest of her name private. Her official birthday is October 28 2010, arrived at from an educated guesstimate. Like both my children, for the rest of her life Donuts will celebrate a birthday without ever knowing how accurate it is. Where other children have a birth certificate, a genealogy and a family tree, they have a “certificate of abandonment”.

The first couple of times I visited her, Baby Jiang seemed to be doing well: she was responsive, alert, relaxed, and she cooed a lot. Charm, in an orphanage baby, works wonders: babies who smile, coo and engage their carers get far more attention, and for her, that might make all the difference.

Aware that babies are not all created equal in the eyes of many orphanage nannies, the first time I visited, I came bearing expensive presents: Lindt Lindor truffles and a posh European tea sampler, gifts chosen to convey a sense that this was a baby of substance. I need not have bothered: Donuts already had her own PR strategy.

The head matron told me right away that she “sleeps well and eats well” – what more could one ask for, in an orphan? But the look in the eyes of the bucktoothed, sweet-faced nurse who held Donuts – making the same silly faces a mother would make – told me that she is also a favourite. The nurse may not be Mum – but she will do nicely for the moment.

The tale of an abandoned Chinese infant is not always so warm and fuzzy. For centuries, rural Chinese women were forced – by circumstance, and often by their mothers-in-law – to strangle or drown or simply throw away girl babies at the moment of their birth. Xinran, the Chinese radio show host turned author, recounts in her new book, Message from an Unknown Chinese Mother, an incident from Shandong province in 1989, when she was present at the birth of a granddaughter to the village headman.

“Suddenly, I thought I heard a slight movement in the slops pail behind me,” she writes. “To my absolute horror, I saw a tiny foot poking out of the pail… Then the tiny foot twitched! It wasn’t possible. The midwife must have dropped that tiny baby alive into the slop pail!” Xinran accosts the grandmother, who explains calmly that “a girl baby isn’t a child”.

It is that kind of story – which, however, gruesome, is far from apocryphal – that makes it, paradoxically, relatively easy to explain to our Chinese daughters why their parents abandoned them. When traditional preference for sons meets the one-child policy, the inevitable outcome is abandonment (or sex-selective abortion).

Families that need a son may keep the first daughter and try again (most rural families are allowed to have a second child if their first child is a girl). But if they are unlucky enough to bear another girl, abandonment may be their only option. Single mothers may abandon a baby of any sex. And mothers of children with costly medical problems like Baby Jiang’s may be unable (or think they are unable) to get help for their children any other way.
Patti Waldmeir and daughters Lucy Helen Xinke and Grace Shumin

Patti Waldmeir and daughters Lucy Helen Xinke (left) and Grace Shumin: both were abandoned as babies

But as my daughters grow up I become more aware that vague generalisations about the one-child policy are not the same as concrete facts about where they were born, and when, and to whom – and the real reasons why their parents could not keep them. I was living in the US when I adopted, and that is where my daughters spent the first few years of their lives. Soon after we moved to China three years ago, we returned to the hometown orphanage of my oldest girl for the first time. She was eight then, and not long after our visit she challenged my version of her abandonment myth: “She could have paid the fine,” she said to me one night. “Who could have paid what fine?” I replied, dissembling: I knew she meant that her mother could have chosen to pay the stiff penalty (sometimes as much as a year’s income) imposed on those who break family-planning rules.

She wanted me to stop making her abandonment story into a fairy tale about the good parent and the evil one-child policy: maybe her mother was a businesswoman who was just too busy to have a baby. Maybe she could have paid the fine.

I have started to hear more and more stories of foreign adoptive families that have, against the odds, located birth parents. Dr Chang Changfu, a Chinese academic, has recently made two of these stories into a heart-wrenching documentary film, Daughters’ Return, about two Chinese adoptees, one Dutch and one American. They discover birth parents who went to great lengths to keep them, but in the end were defeated by the one-child policy and the traditional quest for a male heir. Both girls, now teenagers, are left torn between the family that bore them and the family that raised them.

Indeed, “root-seeking tours” – which sometimes include birth family searches – have become something of a cottage industry in China as more and more foreign families bring their children to learn about the land of their birth. Some unscrupulous orphanage directors exploit those visits for their own personal gain, soliciting or even requiring cash “donations” for those wanting to visit their child’s orphanage – cash that sometimes never makes it to those children who remain there.

Beijing actively encourages orphanage reunions, even offering an all-expenses-paid culture camp this summer in Shanghai for adoptees willing to come to China. Several orphanages have held lavish reunions where overseas adoptees are feted and showered with presents. Some government officials and orphanage directors say privately that one goal of the tours is to counter the psychology of abandonment: they do not want Chinese adoptees abroad to think their homeland discarded them lightly.

So increasing numbers of families are taking the risk of looking for birth parents. Some are afraid of what they might find: what if the parents want the child back? What if, horror of horrors, they discover that their child was one of the small minority who were sold to an orphanage? Recently, adoption circles in the US were abuzz with reports that one adoptive family received a request from the US state department to provide a DNA sample to Chinese police, presumably to prove that their child was not abducted.

That story, coupled with recent increased Chinese media reports linking child trafficking with international adoption, has made some parents think twice about doing any “root seeking”. On August 10, A Bright Moon, a website that offered to help adoptive families locate birth parents, said it was closing down because its office in Beijing was “constantly questioned by the police relative to families desiring to search for their child’s birth families”.

. . .

Those who do look often find that things are not as random as they thought: sometimes the child’s finder (whose identity is usually disclosed in the police report) may well know the father or the aunt or the grandmother – or may even be the grandmother. Some families designate a relative to “discover” the child – to make sure that it gets safely to the orphanage. Often they know much more than they at first disclose.

Officially, the Chinese authorities discourage birth-parent searches. But once local media get wind of a human interest story of those proportions they are often willing to help publicise the search. In many cases that leads to a reunion – with the parents or siblings of the searching child (and sometimes with the parents of a different child, abandoned around the same time).
"I tried to find the person who discovered my daughter … to my secret relief, I failed"

After I had read several of these birth-search stories in the local press – and especially after meeting Donuts – I decided to dip my toe in, by trying to find the person who discovered my daughter Grace, the former Yang Shumin. To my secret relief, I failed: after nearly 12 years, her police report could not be located. I visited the police station, where the officers on duty showed not the slightest interest in my quest; and I visited the place where she was abandoned, where I found no one who remembered anything.

The next step would be publicity – but Grace Shumin does not want that. She says she only wants to know whether her birth father is tall – because she likes being the tallest girl in her class, and hopes she comes from tall stock. But she is not willing to take the risk of finding out any more than that. As a pre-teen now, the last thing she wants is more mothers and siblings to deal with: she is finding the ones she has quite annoying enough.

As China grows in confidence, in wealth, in world stature, the first generation of international adoptees will grow to maturity – and ask more questions. They will come to China, to study, to work, to seek an ethnic identity they lost at the moment of adoption. Some may find the ugly truth that they were abducted; others will find (as in one recent case from Jiangsu province) that they were a child who had simply been lost, but ended up in an orphanage believing themself to be an abandoned child. They will hear heartbreaking stories of why they were abandoned; they will meet mothers who feel no guilt – and others who have never recovered. And some of them will find nothing: lost police reports; obstructive authorities; false documents.

Perhaps my own children will want to know more about their birth parents, when they are 20 or 30 or 60 years old – or maybe they will never have the slightest inclination. Maybe they will never know what the weather was like when they were abandoned, whether it was snowing or balmy, dusky or crepuscular, whether their quilt was tied just so – or whether they had a quilt at all. Maybe they will never care.

Soon, with any luck, Donuts will embark on a new life as the cherished daughter of a loving family, in China or maybe overseas. Just before this article went to press, I heard that Baby Jiang had had her heart defect corrected in a Shanghai hospital. Orphanage staff say they will monitor her progress and make her available for adoption as soon as she is strong enough.

But wherever she ends up, and whenever she gets adopted, I will make sure that Donuts knows just how well she was swaddled; and that her mother chose a mild night, after a run of freezing evenings; and that she picked a busy time at the doughnut shop; and that she put her baby against a wall, behind a gate, sheltered but easily discovered – by people who went there craving a doughnut fix and came away touched by an event they will always remember.

And most of all, I will tell her the one thing that I can never tell my own children with certainty: that her mother loved her. Because if it was not love lurking among all those nappies and bottles and formula tins, I have never seen love before. I hope one day she will think on those things, and forgive the mother who left her there.

Patti Waldmeir is the FT’s Shanghai correspondent. Additional reporting by Shirley Chen in Shanghai.

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