Kay, did you ever adopt a child?
Lately I’ve read a lot of posts from the IA community about the at times intrusive or offensive questions they get from strangers.
Are your children adopted? Do they know their fathers? Are they sisters?
While some people are genuinely interested in a good way, others can be rude and far too probing. In a small way, I feel can relate to how you moms and dads must feel.
How? Because many times after someone reads my memoir, Silent Tears, about working in a Chinese orphanage, they reach out to me and ask, “Did you ever adopt?”
Four small words that pack a punch.
Please, don’t get me wrong. I don’t get offended. But I do squirm a bit and feel uncomfortable. Why? Because while technically it could be a yes or no question, especially if I want to guard my emotions, there is so much behind why I did not adopt, so much I could say to defend my choice, though really– it should not need defending.
But I try. And fail.
For how can I describe what I experienced and what formed my decisions, all in an email reply or a short FB message? How can I tell them about Squirt, the little boy with the long eyelashes and petite fingers who stole my heart, who I felt a huge connection with, then came in one day to find that he had died in the night?
Or Charlie, the first baby boy we began to raise funds for, trying to beat the clock on his failing heart. He, so pitiful and weak, who I came in repeatedly to find sitting in the corner of his crib, tied to keep him upright, his anguish evident in his cries and outstretched arms, begging me to do something. Anything, to ease his pain. Sure, I could see him as a part of my family but when he was matched after his surgery, and I later made contact with his new mom, I knew that I had only been the connector.
Then we had Li Li, the tiny baby girl that when she was failing, the director let me take home to try to nurse her, and who went into heart failure under my very roof. Did I love her as I sat up all hours of the night, rocking her and singing to her, coaxing her to take on drop of formula at a time? I know I did…as I loved many. And when the ayi we hired to watch over her after surgery fell in love and introduced her to her daughter, who would become Li Li’s mother, I considered it a blessing.
But those were a few of the first children to burrow into my heart. The next one we all came to know and love through the stories I told of her early traumatic life. Xiao Gou– our little Sunshine who I first discovered in the ICU before she was abandoned, then later found in the orphanage when her parents never returned. That child– Xiao Gou — there is no doubt in my mind that I was put into her path to help her reach a new, more loving future. I advocated for her left and right, and through it all she was not put on the adoption list because of a snafu of legalities and her birth parents’ greed.
At one time, I would’ve adopted her in a heartbeat. But it wasn’t to be so. Still, she was a part of me and I never closed the door on her until I was able to see her adopted into a family that couldn’t be more perfect for her needs.
The last child that lingers in my mind was Xin Xin. She, like Li Li, was so frail with a struggling heart, and was the child who I last stood in the gap for. With funds raised, I begged, pleaded, and bargained for her to be allowed the medical care she so direly needed. When it was post-phoned, I requested she be given one-on-one care. Doctor visits, meetings, phone calls….her case kept me busy day and night, trying to move her through the mountains of red tape just so that she could have a chance at life.
Then one day the phone call.
Xin Xin had died in a taxi on the way to the hospital. Heart failure. I remember that call so vividly and even today — at this very moment– I am brought to tears at how callous the news was given. I can see myself as I stood holding the phone, then as I for the first time ever in my life, completely lost control. Screaming, crying, cursing, pleading with Ben to tell me it wasn’t true, on my knees too weak to stand. In my bed for the next days, too depressed to move, too frozen by the vision of her tiny lifeless body laying somewhere in a morgue.
Alone. Abandoned. Again.
Xin Xin was the child that tendered my resignation. She was one loss too many and I left China with the hope of adopting a child reduced to ashes in my heart. I closed the door on it all. Emotionally and physically drained, my body depleted and feeling like no more than an empty shell. The journey was over. I’d done all I could do, and some of it had been in vain. I wanted to forget.
But after some time I began to recover physically, then emotionally. I opened my heart again and decided that my China journey wasn’t over, that my time there was only the beginning chapter. With the platform gained because of my memoir, then through more speaking engagements, I used/use my reach to advocate for other children in China, helping more now than I ever dreamed of even while I was there.
So no, I never adopted a Chinese child. But you know what? I’ve loved many.
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