4:16 PM

The search

Our goal has always been to have an open adoption. We feel, and experts agree that it is the best thing for our kids. It was one of the reasons that Thailand won our heart back at the start of this journey, because of the greater possibility for openness. I learned about international adoption birth parent searching before we were even matched. Like many other parents, this possibility was news to me. I was excited by the possibility however remote, and we decided to conduct a search when our match came.

I guess you can say that I have been actively searching in bits and bytes for about a year now. I started shortly after we got our referral package. One thing I have found with searching is that there is info for parents on how to try to do it, BUT it is not easy to find that info or to act on it. Clearly this is virgin territory for everyone in the China adoption community. I understand why this is a topic that is not being talked about openly much, here I am a year in, swamped in emotions and we have not learned one single new thing yet, and yet talking about it, thinking about it even is hard. I want to talk about it, connect with others who are thinking about it, or doing it, but there had not really been anything to say. I guess I will start off by telling you what we have done and where we are heading in the search.

What we did so far:

• Located our daughter’s finding ad on line (pre travel). This gave me the info we needed to visit the spot on our adoption trip

• Made up a poster and placed it at the finding spot, took a photo of the spot. We had intended to do so much more but time limitations gave us less than 10 minutes at the spot and our guide was not keen on me putting up the poster, the whole thing was a weird, scary, rushed vibe.

• Once home we plotted Elora’s finding spot in google maps to see what was nearby. The goal here is to see if any clues can be found by the location. We did get a better understanding for the possible logic of the location using the map tool.

• A well known searcher was planning a visit to our orphanage with another family; we asked if she could get a copy of our daughter’s police report. We were hoping to get the name of her finder as this has not been provided to us. The searcher was not successful, but we were told that if we came in person we could have access to the file, just not through a 3rd party.

• I have been told that our best option is to make contact with someone who lives in Wenzhou who can help us. I have reached out to expat groups, random people on facebook who list Wenzhou as their home town, our guide, people who are blogging from Wenzhou, a friend of a friend whose parents still live there, a China albinism support group. Mostly I have just been ignored, sometimes we get a polite decline.

• I searched the Chinese search engines with various combinations of Chinese characters (white baby, albinism, girl found, date, orphanage name, city name, so on and so on). Scrolling though thousands of images and articles, analyzing every little face to see if it’s maybe a younger version of the child I love.

• We asked our tutor to translate a flyer I made and she helped me to get the addresses of businesses near the finding spot as well as other places of interest I located with the map, and the police station her paperwork states she was taken to. I mailed the flyers with a questionnaire included as well as self addressed envelopes.

I am no further ahead. All that searching resulted in nothing but the finding ad.

So now we have the opportunity to hire the same well respected searcher who helped us earlier to do a search for us in combination with a few other families from the same orphanage. Although some parents feel that an out of towner, even a professional searcher, will not be able to make the needed connections to bring results, we are going to try. I feel like I am at a junction in the road. It has been two years since her finding, although I am sure she will be memorable I feel like time is a huge factor. I have done as much as I can, although I will continue to plug away at it. I need someone, anyone, on the ground asking real live people what they can remember, before there is no one left to remember.

When this search began, back before I was Elora’s mom, I did not know so many things. I did not know how emotional each dip into the search would be. So emotional that each google search required weeks of emotional prep for me. I am not too sure why, I am not really scared of the results. I think it is more a sense of failure I feel each time I try. Each stranger I lay my heart on the line to only to hear nothing. Each time I catch a glimpse of a baby photo in my search my stomach flips, wishing that I have found the most precious jewel, a baby photo of my own child. Along the way the goal of this search has changed. I heard another mother describe it as a puzzle we are trying to solve. We may never get all the pieces of that puzzle but with each additional piece that is found the image becomes clearer, if we get enough pieces we may even be able to confidently identify the image. This is my hope, just one puzzle piece will mean the world to me, will be worth it.

Another thing I did not know is how much it would hurt to not know things about my own child. Having hurt feelings about this is so illogical, so irrational my brain tells me, she was not always here, but she is here now, just the plain old facts. My heart tells me she has always been here, maybe you are just forgetting those early months, how could you forget, why didn’t you take more photos, write more in her baby book. The fact that she is so embedded in my heart and our life makes it near impossible to remember on a gut level that it was not always this way, so I get this sort of shame feeling for not having funny baby stories about her, or medical records. My heart has even tricked my brain; I sometimes think I have memories of nursing her, seeing her first baby toothless smile… I don’t know why this happened. I do wish I was there, I wish I could have spared her all those months without a parent, but my brain is really OK with how it all came to be, so I am not sure why these false memories exist. Do all moms of more than one kid mix up their memories?

I can only imagine these raw emotions of failure, shame, rejection and hurt will be the same ones Elora will experience as she matures. I hope this search will provide me with the empathy and support she will require in the future. I am glad to be the pioneer of her search. I hope at the very least I am chopping my way through the jungle of searching to make her journey a little lighter. I also hope that I am not already too late to get her the gift of a few more puzzle pieces.


AmFam said...

Sounds like you are making a good start. We searched and located our daughter's birth family two years ago. I have written a small guide that I've used when I have given BP search talks in the past: http://american-family.org/finding-chinese-birthparents/camp-outline/

There is also more info about our experiences here: http://american-family.org/finding-chinese-birthparents/

If you are looking to network with others searching, let me know.I might have some info that would be useful for you.

AmFam said...

One more piece of advice. Since it looks like your daughter has albinism, I would suggest you find someone local (probably not a searcher that works the whole country) to make connections at local hospitals. It is very likely someone will remember your daughter's birth. It is also likely that her birth parents registered under their own names.