March 30

Dearest Molly,
After a year and a half of waiting, planning, saving, and talking, it is finally happening—I am on my way to you! Aunty Sheila and I are on board a China Southern plane and in about 14 hours, we’ll land in your country of birth. I can’t believe I have finally arrived at this point in my journey to you.

March 31
5:23 a.m.

We are now about 1000 miles from Guangzhou—another two hours or so. I’ve slept off and on for the last several hours and will arrive tired, but able to face the day. I wonder what you are doing now. Are you still sleeping? Are you awake and having your first bottle of the day? What else do you eat? Who is caring for you? Do they love you? I have always prayed that someone has loved you while you were at the orphanage. Over the last few days, as I prepared for the trip, I’ve wondered if I am doing the right thing for the both of us. I wondered if it’s fair to take you away from where you were born. Or if I will really be able to give you the wonderful life you deserve. I know right now that this is the right thing for me—I will love you and care for you always in the best way I can. I can’t predict what the future holds for us, but I promise I will always be there with you and for you. I promise to be the best mama you would ever want to have, even though you might not always like what I do or say.

March 31
6:00 p.m.

I’m sitting in Room 1248, China Hotel, Guangzhou. In a few minutes, Aunty Sheila and I will be heading to the lobby to meet the rest of our travel group for dinner. It will be the end of our first day here and will bring me that much closer to you.

April 1
5:40 p.m.

What a day it has been! I saw your precious face for the first time! I didn’t know until the last minute whether I would look at the photo or wait until tomorrow to see the “real thing”—I couldn’t wait! You are beautiful! You look a little scared in the photo, but oh so sweet! Lots of hair, a sweet little mouth—I can’t wait to meet the real you! After finishing all the paperwork, at least our part, we waited a while longer, then got to climb the stairs to the small Civil Affairs office. Madame Chu was there to make the adoption final. Then we each took our turn being interviewed by Madame Chu, with Norman translating. She asked each parent their age, occupation, yearly income, and if we were satisfied with our babies—of course I am! She then asked if the parents promised to care for the children, not abandon them, and love them as their own. Again, YES! YES! I will always love my girl! Then, Madame Chu said, “From today on, Jiang Xiaopan will be your daughter.” What an exciting and wonderful thing to hear! 

April 2
6:55 a.m.

Today is the day! We finally will meet and be a family!! I am nervous and excited and anxious! And you are probably either still sleeping or having your bottle. Do you know what a momentous day this is? Can you feel it in the air? 

6:00 p.m.

Darling girl! You are everything I imagined and more! The trip to Jiangmen was about one and a half hours of pure wonder! We drove out of Guangzhou through the countryside to Jiangmen. We saw beautiful countryside—fish ponds/farms; water buffalo in the fields; and farmers tending their crops, riding bikes to work, or carrying produce. We passed many, many apartment buildings where the farmers live. It was fascinating and beautiful, but my mind was always on you. We turned off the main road and onto a small lane that went past the gate to the orphanage. We drove in the gate, and everyone got off the bus. We were finally there! We waited, not so patiently, while Norman and Mrs. Chen arranged to have all the babies brought to the room. This has been your home for so many months. It has a peaceful feeling to it. Finally, someone saw a baby being carried toward us!!! We all hurried back to the waiting room to await the arrival of the girls. Norman announced the name of the parent(s), then the name of the child as the director of the orphanage carried her into the room. I know I was shaking as I waited for you, and when you were brought in, you stole my heart! You came to me immediately and started looking around. It took you a just a few minutes to start looking closely at my face and begin grabbing at my lip and cheeks. You were so bright-eyed and alert. We sat, and I talked to you and memorized your face. After all the presentations, we had time to ask your aunties (caretakers) about you and how you were cared for. I learned that you are a happy baby, that you try to talk, and that you are ticklish! It was so obvious that the caretakers and Mrs. Chen knew you and loved you. It was playtime! I put you on the bed, on your tummy, to play and you gave me the surprise of my life—up on your hands and knees! No more playing on the bed for you!! It was down to the floor, where you surprised me again by crawling!!! It’s obvious that you are just learning because your coordination is not quite there, but you are definitely on your way!! How fun it is to have you look around for me, then crawl to me! I love you more every minute! 

April 4
2:30 p.m.

Yesterday was a free day. After breakfast, we joined Sam and Winnie, Jeff and Donna, Hank and Shelly, Nicole and Patrick, and all the girls for a walk in a large, beautiful park that is about a block from the hotel. There is a lake and the surrounding area is green and lush and about 10 degrees cooler than the street outside the park. All the babies fascinated the local people. Luckily, Sam, Winnie, and Shelly all speak Cantonese and could talk with the people who approached us. The people all thought you were a “good baby,” “lucky baby,” and “beautiful baby” because of your fat cheeks! I agree, and not just because of your fat cheeks! Today Martin took the group to the Six Banyon Tree Temple. Not only did we get to see the beautiful, 1600-year-old temple with the three bronze Buddha, but we also got to toss coins for good fortune and take part in a blessing for prosperity and good fortune for our babies and our families. It felt like a blessing from China as we take you away to America . . . 

April 5
9:40 p.m.

The morning routine is getting pretty good. We manage to get ourselves and you ready in time to get breakfast and make the bus for the day’s activities. Today we went to Sun Yetsen’s Memorial Park—it was a beautiful place with lots of trees and benches, as well as a statue of Sun Yetsen and a memorial hall. The last few days have been so overwhelming with change. It is still so hard for me to believe that I’m your mama and that you will come home with me. I love you more each day and wouldn’t change the decision I made, even if I could. But it frightens me to think that this little miracle named Molly Jeanne Xiaopan is now 100% dependent on me. Little one, we’re in this together now. Please forgive me if I make some mistakes. I promise to forgive you, too! 

April 7
9:45 p.m.

You’ve kept me too busy to write!! It is so much fun watching you explore and learn things. And I love to see your smile when you see me!! You crawl to me now, and while you still go to everyone, you definitely show a preference for me. I guess this is what they call bonding! I call it falling in love!! Yesterday was a BIG day! We boarded the bus and headed to Shamian Island for your visa pictures and medical exam. We went outside the clinic to meet Aunty Sheila. We waited for a while and watched the people passing. Two groups of preschool children walked by, waving and saying “hi” and “bye.” Very cute—made me wonder what you’ll look like at that age! 

April 8
2:45 p.m.

After breakfast, we headed to Luihua Park. It was quite warm outside the park but beautiful in the shade by the lake. We got stopped many times by people who wanted to see you. Everyone thinks you are a beautiful, happy girl! Lots of schoolchildren came up to us to ask us where we were from. They didn’t know California or the United States, but they did know America. One group even brought their teacher and head mistress to meet us! We had quite an audience as we fed you! People waved at us and some high school boys even said how beautiful you are! Tomorrow is our last full day in China. We have to go to the U.S. Consulate and get your entrance visa. I hope all goes well! Everyone who went today said it was easy. We’ll see! 

April 9
2:42 p.m.

You’re a California Girl! We went to the consulate this morning. Thank heavens for having a name early in the alphabet—we had the first interview. First, a young woman checked all the paperwork to make sure it was complete and that we had everything with us. Then we waited while they checked the paperwork of the other four families in our group. One of the consulate officers came in and we were called first. She asked just a few questions. Has anything changed significantly since the home study? Is everything accurate on the forms? I had to sign an affidavit promising to get your immunizations done when we return to California. I also had to sign the paperwork showing that I have enough income to support you without ever going on welfare or other public assistance. Once that was done, the consulate officer told me your entrance visa would be ready tomorrow afternoon. We’re done!! We can go home tomorrow! In a few hours, well be leaving the land of your birth and heading to the land where you will grow up. I hope we will be able to return to China someday when you are old enough to enjoy seeing and learning about the country. Until then, I promise to teach you as much as I can about your homeland so you will grow up loving and respecting the place you came from. 

April 10

We arrived home about 5:00 p.m. Since that time, I haven’t written a single word in the journal, but we have etched a million smiles, memories, and moments of love in our hearts!