Things that adoption has taught me (so far):
- Waiting is not my favorite. I mean, duh, right? But this kind of waiting is unlike any other kind I’ve ever experienced because at the end of this wait lies my child, my youngest, my baby. It is very different from a pregnancy wait, too, because there are so many factors out of my control or ability to do anything about. We simply have to trust that the people who are doing all the things we’d rather be doing ourselves are doing them well, and we believe they are. We are so lucky to know that she is very well cared for and well loved and safe, but the process of entrusting someone else with the care of your child is rough.
- Control IS my favorite, and I don’t have any of it. We are currently at the mercy of the Chinese government, then we’ll be at the mercy of the US government, and then it switches back and forth until the end. We’re at the mercy of plane ticket prices, hotel bookings, and other people’s plans. We are dependent on others for advice, direction and “how to’s” on just about everything. I have been so grateful for the people who work at our agency and the people we’ve dealt with in government and the people who have walked this road before me for their advice and patience and reassurances, but I am looking forward to having some sort of solid ground back. But I just realized as I’m typing this that adoptive parenting is, in some ways, a whole new ball game, so I should just resign myself to not knowing anything for a while.
- Fundraising is hard. PLEASE don’t misconstrue that to mean that I am not beside myself with gratitude for all of your contributions. I just mean that I hate asking. I don’t like being the needy one. I am an extremely uncomfortable self promoter. I don’t ask for help well. I am a hard core introvert. I worry that people will get sick of us. I worry that people will make unkind judgments. It’s just a recipe for a lot of discomfort. But we truly could not do it without help, so we’ve asked, which leads me to my next point….
- We have the awesomest people on Earth, ever in the history of the world, period, full stop, do not even try to argue with me, I mean it. I will do a full post about this later on, but just know that we have been truly blown away by how you’ve rallied for us, and how well you’ve loved all of us through this process. People I knew would show up, and people I never expected have lavished us with love and support and good will in way we will never be able to repay. If you want to see me ugly cry (you don’t though, ask Josh), ask me sometime about the things people have done for us this last 8 months. And know that it’s is not only or even mostly, financial support that that we’re talking about. It’s the questions, and the interest and the kind and supportive texts and emails and calls. It’s the people who say “if you need anything, let me know” and mean it. We have such an amazing community supporting us and Jia and we are so thankful.
- Love crosses oceans and doesn’t even need to meet in person to be real. We love Jia. She’s ours and we’re hers and we’re us all together and we haven’t even met yet. That is the craziest, realest, most surprising thing about all of this. It will grow and change and go deeper once we meet, of course, but it’s there and it’s real and it’s not going away. In much the same way that you love your biological children before you meet them in person, we love Jia, and that love gets deeper when you’re in the thick of life together and it’s built on shared experiences and memories and showing up when you’re needed. I can’t wait to get started on that next part.
So, those are a few things I’ve learned so far, and I can’t wait to learn more. This process has been crazy and hard and magical and humbling and achingly beautiful and full of bone deep grief and mind boggling delight. This is adoption, and it’s brutiful (brutal/beautiful).
When we first started this process, I felt like I knew quite a bit about international adoption in general, but very little about China specifically. A lot of the reading I’d done on adoption centered around Haiti and Ethiopia, so I knew a lot about the underlying causes of the orphan situation there, but not as much about China. Maybe you’re in the same boat, or just want to know more, so if so… read on!
- The one that always surprises people the most is that there are more boys then girls in the Special Needs Program. If you are open to adopting a boy, you very frequently get matched before your even submit a dossier, and will get matched very quickly after. The ratio is about 60/40 boys to girls.
- The reasons for abandonment in China are both simple and complicated. First, you have the cultural preference for boys over girls. Second, you have the one child policy, although it has been relaxed recently in most parts of China. Third, you have a cultural stigma regarding people with disabilities. And lastly, you have a health care system that requires all money up front. So, let’s go through an example. A Chinese couple finds out they are expecting a wanted and loved baby. The baby is born with cleft lip and palate and is a girl. They don’t make enough money to pay for the surgery to fix her cleft lip and palate, and don’t have access to the kind of bottles you use to feed a baby with cleft, so their daughter quickly becomes malnourished. There are aid organizations that perform the initial surgeries to repairs the clefts, but any additional surgeries would be out of pocket. They don’t know how to access those organizations and their daughter is getting sicker. Then throw in the cultural stigmas for both girls and special needs, and you can start to see the heart breaking challenges presented. If they abandon their daughter, she will get the care she needs and potentially be adopted. They can go on to have another child. It’s a devastating reality for many of these kids in the Special Needs program.
- I keep using the word “abandon” and I’m not using it lightly, or as a synonym for “placing for adoption” which is the common terminology for most US adoptions. In China, it is illegal to place a child for adoption, so children are truly abandoned, usually in a public place where they will be found quickly and taken to an orphanage or in “baby hatches” where they are put into a small room and the parent rings a bell and hurries away, and the child is retrieved a few minutes later. The paperwork we get will likely include P4’s “finding spot”, whether it be a public place or a baby hatch. This also means that we’ll have no medical or family history for P4, something that breaks my heart any time I think about it.
So, that’s some pretty depressing news, huh? Let’s see if I can offer a little bit of hope, here.
- Our agency, CCAI, pioneered what they refer to as Lily Orphan Care Centers, which are designed to put children in the best possible environment even though they are in an orphanage. You can read more about it here: http://www.ccaifamily.org/OrphanCare/Lily-OrphanCare.aspx and http://www.ccaifamily.org/OrphanCare/Henan-Project.aspx
- For non-Special Needs Adoption, adoption by Chinese families has significantly increased in recent years, which is amazing news. If possible, it would be best for a child to be raised in their birth culture, and we’re encouraged that that seems to be happening.
- Many children are also starting to be part of foster programs, where they are raised by foster parents among a smaller group of children. This is also great news because foster care almost always is a much better option then orphanage care.
So, there are some China adoption (true as far as I know) facts. I don’t claim to be an expert, by any means, but that’s at least a start to the new things we’ve learned since starting this adventure.
Have questions or want more information? Leave a comment or shoot me an email and I’ll see what I can find out!