Letters from China – An Adoption Story, Part 2

Read Part 1 here

There is nothing quite like the 24 hours before you meet the child that you have been planning to adopt. Think of Christmas Eve and the stomach flu all rolled together into one emotional roller coaster. I’ve done this four times now, with the fifth just a day away, and it never gets easier or more normal.

Since on this trip, we are adopting two children, we knew we would be riding this roller coaster twice. We’ve had our daughter now for nearly three days. The night before we were to meet her, neither my husband nor I slept well. There is little sleep the night before one of those momentous events that you know will change the trajectory of your life . . . and the child’s . . .  forever.

I lie in bed reminding myself over and over that the personality I’ve created in my head for this child is just that, my own creation. She could very well be completely different than what I have imagined.Which leads to questions of what is she really like? Has anyone prepared her for this huge change? Will she recognize us from the pictures that we sent? Did she get the pictures? What is she going to think of us? Will she like us? Do I look like the mother that she has imagined? Will her special need be one we can manage? Was her medical information accurate? Is she going to be scared? What if she has a difficult transition such as our first adopted son did? Can we handle that? Can we go down that road again? We know we are committed to this child no matter what, but what is that really going to mean? Yep, no sleep with these worries battling the runaway imaginary scenarios my brain kept thinking up of her running into our open arms because we are the epitome of everything she has hoped and dreamed of.

The morning finally arrives, both too quickly and not soon enough. I’ve spent weeks thinking about this child and what I should bring for her and what she would like. I’ve chosen clothes (oh, how I hope they fit). I’ve bought personal items . . . toothbrush (will she like the Hello Kitty one that I bought?), brush, hair clips (is she a bow-type of girl?). I’ve filled a new backpack with things I think she will enjoy doing, and also with the ulterior motive of hoping she will see these things and think we’re okay people. We’ve carried it across an ocean and now it is time to gather our things together to go and meet our new daughter.

A child with eight years of history that does not include us will suddenly become our daughter with a few signatures. The ever-present questions keep roiling around my head as we walk into the ministry office. Will she be there first? I have become hyper-vigilant looking around me for a little girl I recognize from photographs. We arrive first, but almost as soon as we arrive, our guide receives a phone call that she is on her way and will be arriving soon, and we are ushered back to the lobby of the government building to wait.

My husband and I sit literally on the edge of our seats as we keep watch over the revolving door in front of us. Minutes pass with us giving little jumps with every person who comes in. And then she is there, looking just like her picture, except this is the living, moving, breathing child.

Our breath catches and we stand up and walk over to her. The emotional part of me, the one that has been waiting for this child for months, wants to scoop her up and kiss her and tell her how much I love her. This is not what I do. I am a stranger to her; she has not been waiting months to meet me. She has been prepared, though, and identifies us as MaMa and BaBa (mother and father in Mandarin). We say ni hao (hello) and shake hands. And smile a lot. There is a lot of smiling. And staring. There is a lot of staring, too. Our guides rescues us all from our stilted uncomfortableness by ushering us along to the next step of the process, and our life together has begun.

Things have gone well for the last few days. There has been happiness and grieving and we are beginning to sort ourselves out. But my husband and I are back on the roller coaster as we get one more ride on this adoption trip. We have another daughter waiting for us whom we will meet in less than 48 hours. And the endless questions in my head begin all over again.