Welcome to The Nine States

This day is steeped in tradition.

In some parts of the country, it is known as Devil’s Night. Here it is called Angel’s Night.

Today is our Family Day. Three years ago today we opened our arms to Girl from the East, closed them around her slight frame and haven’t let go.

When we met her for the first time, we saw many things. Mostly, we noticed she was sick. We were jet lagged and soon after we were sick as well. Every year thereafter (except for our first anniversary in 2007), one or more of us has been sick. Last year I had pneumonia on our Family Day.

Today, the entire family is possessed by a respiratory virus. I am particularly disappointed because we had a costume party to attend this evening. I’ve spent quite a bit of time pulling it together, practicing the makeup and even painting my fingernails black. (I hate fingernail polish and haven’t painted them since the 1980s.)

In light of my lack of energy, I am reposting what I wrote last year with a few updates:

familyday

Three years ago today we awakened very early in China and rode a bus to the provincial civil affairs office in Nanchang. We were a bundle of nerves. During the bumpy ride, I clutched a stuffed bear in my hands to keep me from wringing them excessively. Two years of preparing and waiting and wondering were about to end.

Soon we would meet our Girl from the East, who’d been a plan, a hope and a dream for so long. Her referral picture was posted everywhere in our house. We looked at it constantly, held it up to the light, tilted it and stared at it in search of answers:  Who are you? What does your laugh sound like? Will you be happy with us? Will we know you when we meet you?

Then, it all happened so fast.

Our normally chatty group silently disembarked the tour bus. Our guide led us down a crowded alleyway, through glass doors into the marbled lobby of a high-rise, loaded us onto several elevator cars that ascended to a crowded, smoke-filled room. The din of voices in Chinese and English, the squalling of babies, the mixture of laughter and tears of newly formed families all blended to become a high-pitched babble. The sounds, the haze of cigarette smoke, the heat, all were almost too much to bear. I feared I’d cry on this day. Instead, I retreated to a bench and sat with my head tucked between my knees, praying I wouldn’t pass out. Girl from the West sat next to me and rubbed my back, assuring me that all would be OK.

Then, I heard our guide call out our family name. I sat up to see a cluster of orphanage workers rushing toward us with the tiniest living doll I’ve ever seen. And then she was in my arms. Smaller and lighter than I’d imagined. Her eyes wide, brows raised as if to ask: What’s all this about? Suddenly all the commotion retreated from the room and we were alone, living the moment in slow motion.  She let me hold her, but did not meet my gaze for more than a second. She wiggled and twisted around to face outward, content to look at the world around her.

Today, that tiny doll who was smaller than any 10-1/2 month-old I’d ever seen is now a robust, soccer-playing girlie-girl who knows she was born in China and waited for her family to come and take her home to “The Nine States.”

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Unforgettable day

Two years ago today we awakened very early in China and rode a bus to the provincial civil affairs office. We were a bundle of nerves. I clutched a stuffed bear in my hands on the bumpy ride to keep me from wringing them excessively. Two years of waiting and wondering were about to end.

Soon we would meet our Girl from the East, who’d been a plan, a hope and a dream for so long. Her picture was posted everywhere in our house. We looked at it constantly. Held it up to the light, tilted it, anything to reveal the unanswered questions: Who are you? What does your laugh sound like? Will you be happy with us? Will be know you when we meet you?

And then it happened so fast.

We are led into a crowded smoky room on an upper floor of a high-rise. A din of voices in Chinese and English, the squalling of babies, the oohs and aahs of parents-to-be and newly formed families, blend to become a high-pitch babble. It almost become too much. I feared I’d cry on this day. Instead, I retreat to a bench and sit with my head tucked between my knees, praying I don’t pass out.

Then I hear our family name called out by our guide and a cluster of orphanage workers rush toward us with the tiniest living doll I’d ever seen. And then she is in our arms. Her eyes wide and her brows raised as if to ask: What’s all this about? 

Two years later we are one as a family. We are so proud of both of our girls and the family we have created. Girl from the East proudly declares herself “a Chinese girl.”

According to her we all are Chinese girls. On the inside, we clarify. We all are Chinese girls on the inside.

I'm on a roll

A heaping side dish to an earlier post about foot-and-mouth sufferers.
The depiction of adoption, particularly from the People’s Republic of China, on national television so far off from reality I cannot fathom how this stuff gets the final OK to air.
I need to draft a firm yet educationally enlightening letter to the networks. In it I will plead: Please do your research before writing these completely false story lines about China adoption. You are spreading false information to the public, creating false expectations to potential adoptive parents.
Worst of all, network people, you are subjecting real adoptive parents to inane lines of questioning from the viewing public based on these totally false tales spun on television.
Case in point: the “King of Queens” series finale that aired earlier this month featured a longtime couple on the brink of divorce when their adoption agency calls, thereby saving their union, and says “come to China right now, your baby has just been born.”
Ok, it does not work like that at all. I’m not saying a sitcom has to chronicle every nuance of an international adoption. For that to happen, the show would be more like Ken Burns’ documentary, except 10 hours longer.
What I’m saying is that it’s a loooong process. For us, it was two years. The way things are going now, it could be much longer than that.
You don’t get a random call about your baby being born. Babies rarely become eligible for adoption before they are six or seven months old. They become eligible for adoption in part because their birth parents and circumstances of their origin are unknown.
And even when you do get “the call”, there’s still a lot of bureaucracy before you get to China.
Our little one was eight months old when we first learned her name, saw her picture. The information and photographs we received on her were from her five-month-old medical exam. Still, we had to wait an additional two months to travel, during which we applied for a visa to enter China, completed additional paperwork, and prepared carefully for this monumental experience.
You don’t just grab a pair of chopsticks, your passport, and race your soon-to-be ex-husband to the airport, as was shown in “King of Queens.”
God. And I kind of liked that show. But this finale really ticked me off.
I won’t even go into how offensive it was when Carrie takes a pregnancy test in China and learns she’s pregnant. Yeah, because that always happens. And then the couple has to decided WHAT TO DO ABOUT THE BABY THEY JUST ADOPTED. I wanted to be sick. I wanted to scream.
I mean how hard could it have been to even Google “China adoption” or read a few China adoption blogs, before writing the script?
Too hard, apparently.
“Sex and the City” did the same thing for its series sendoff. In this case, socialite Charlotte gets a folder in the mail with her newborn baby girl in China’s picture on it. Folder came directly from China.
That doesn’t happen, either. But enough is enough on this topic.
I’m just sensitive to this. Also, I’m concerned. If storylines about subjects I know well are this far off base from reality, how much else are we being fed on TV that’s all just a dish of crapola? Food for thought.