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Adoption Blog: The Yin and the Yang

Looking Back: Meeting Our Daughter in China

After all the paperwork and the waiting, we traveled halfway across the skies to China. On November 1, 2004, we awoke in a Hong Kong hotel room. By the end of the day we would be in another city, in another hotel room, with our daughter. But first we had to meet Dong Zhi (now Hanna to us)…

Today is the day we meet Dong Zhi. At 4 a.m., Jonathan, our daughter Kathryn, and I awake in the scarce light of our Hong Kong hotel room. Kathryn, who has recently turned seven, cries for her blanket left at home so far away. I think she is really crying for the familiar, afraid of all that is about to change. I know I yearn for familiarity as I gather myself for what is next, knowing it is up to me to usher this Chinese child out of her world and into ours. Feeling fragile as rice paper, I pray I won't shred. Lying next to my weeping child in a strange land, I will myself to be whoever I need to be this day for my husband, daughter, and the baby girl who has drawn me across the seas and beyond my fears to be her mother.

At 9:15 a.m. we stand downstairs in the smoky air of the hotel lobby mingling with the seven other assorted sets of parents-to-be who will travel with us deeper into China where are children are waiting. Up until now our family has traveled alone, flying from Tampa to Chicago, Chicago to here. Our adoption agency in Florida has lovingly handed us off to International Social Services (ISS) Hong Kong, their counterpart here in China. For the next 10 days, we will be escorted through the beginning of the end of the international adoption process by two Chinese social workers. The first step will be meeting our baby in Nanchang about six hours from now.

One of the ISS Hong Kong social workers was waiting for us in the hazy lobby when we arrived this morning. Later, the second social worker joins us and together these two diminutive women herd eight families and 20-some pieces of luggage out of the hotel and through ticketing, security, and immigration, onto a Chinese plane and off: back through immigration; onto a private bus; and into the Gloria Plaza Hotel in Nanchang.

Excitement peaks as we gather in our second hotel lobby of the day at 3 p.m., hearts thumping and arms loaded with baby items, cameras, and gifts for the adoption officials. Our bus careens through the city streets, narrowly missing a crisscrossing cacophony of pedestrians, bicyclists, motorbikes, cars, and trucks and arrives at the adoption administration office 15 minutes later. Our group of families climbs up a narrow set of stairs to a room lined with long, polished wooden benches, crowded with women and babies. We huddle in the hallway outside the door until our social worker pulls the heavy curtain away from the window letting in a flood of light and says in her cheery, choppy voice, "These are your babies."

Wordlessly we fan out to search the room. Jonathan and Kathryn are at my heels, but I am alone in this: a mother about to find her child -- the one I imagined, the one I hoped and prayed for, the baby who is sitting on one of these benches. Not her. Not her. I scan the babies' faces for a sign of familiarity. My stomach drops. What if I don't recognize my child? I stop still, eyes closed, feeling for her presence. I turn around and open my eyes. Oh, there she is.

Dong Zhi, only nine and a half months old, sits across the room on the end of a bench playing with the pink shoes on her feet. Approaching, I see a small tag with her referral picture pinned to her yellow sweater. "Dong Zhi?" I say to the caretaker next to her. The woman smiles and nods. At the sound of my voice, Dong Zhi looks up with her deep, chocolate-colored eyes directly into mine. Her little rosebud lips are pursed. Her hair flops in a ponytail on top of her head. She sits, staring, quiet and still as a flower.

Dropping slowly down to sit on the coffee table in front of her, hands folded in my lap, I say, "Hello, sweetie," barely above a whisper. "I am so happy to see you." She steadies herself with her hand against the back of the bench, holds my eyes with hers. I want to hold her. I want to cry. I do neither, because I do not want to scare her.

Jonathan and Kathryn tiptoe forward, love's soldiers sneaking into formation. Jonathan peers out teary eyed from behind the video camera. "Hi, hi," he says in his gentlest voice. This long-anticipated moment is surprisingly quiet. There are no shrieks or cries, only silence as we look at one another. With few words, our family meets, intertwining ever so slightly, without a touch.

Then Kathryn slips onto the bench beside her baby sister and hands her a miniature stuffed polar bear she has carried all the way from Tampa, Florida, in her backpack. Dong Zhi clutches the bear, studies it a moment. Returning her eyes to mine, she drops the bear, reaches out with her little hand and grasps Kathryn's T-shirt as if to say, "This one is mine."

Eventually I hold Dong Zhi in my arms, rub her back gently. She is warm and solid and still. Her hand rests on my arm, her heart beating against mine. She runs her fingertips across my lips as I whisper to her in a language she cannot understand.

After we have all three held Dong Zhi and the official pictures have been taken for the adoption certificate, we step back out into the bright sunlight of a late fall Nanchang afternoon. The sky is brilliantly blue and a soft breeze blows as I carry our daughter down the sidewalk to the bus and into our lives.

On the bus, Dong Zhi sits motionless on my lap, her deep eyes silently watching. Still not a cry, peep, or smile from those pouted lips. Then, as the bus grinds out onto the main road, Dong Zhi grabs my thumb in her tiny fist and holds on tightly.

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Stacy Clark

Stacy Clark


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