A Single, Solitary Moment

Silence.

Those words, uttered by our coordinator, silenced all the nervous laughter. 

They dried up all tears. 

They sucked all air from the room. 

All attention focused on her.  I instinctively reached for my husband’s hand as the coordinator told us the procedures we needed to follow.

We would be called by last names.  When our name was called we were to proceed to the conference room next door where we would meet the child we had been waiting to meet for so many months.  Once our child was in our arms we were to proceed to the director of the orphanage and give her the gifts that we had brought for her and the caregivers.  Names would be called alphabetically. 

I scanned the room and repeated the names of each family.  My grip on my husband’s hand tightened.  We were going to be the first family called!  I started trembling at my very center – a trembling that I had never before experienced.  The coordinator said she was going to check to make sure that the staff of the orphanage was ready for us.  She stepped out of the room.  I felt like she took all the oxygen out of the room with her.   I had no idea what I needed to do.  My mind was an absolute blank.  I stood there as the room erupted around me.  My husband handed the camera to my mom.  My father was making sure that the video camera was ready.  I was frozen to the floor, unable to breathe, feeling like I was looking at things from a million miles away.  Moments later the door opened and the coordinator stepped back into the room.

She called our name.  I hesitated for roughly .001 second and moved towards the door amid cries of well-wishes from our fellow travelers.  The coordinator was standing outside the door gesturing to the room on the left.  Suddenly I could not move fast enough.  I was moving as fast as I could without running.   I remember hearing my mother laughing at how fast I was moving.  No one was keeping up with me, yet I was incapable of slowing down or waiting on anyone. 

I walked into the room where national flags from all over the world hung from the ceiling.  There  were ladies holding babies sitting on sectional couches against the far wall.   The air was still and warm without the fresh breeze that was drifting into the conference room we had just left.   All of this I recognized within the recesses of my mind, but what I saw,  the focus of all my attention, was a woman standing in the middle of the room holding a bright-eyed, obviously curious little child.  I stopped abruptly and just stared.  This whole trip I had remained relatively in control.  I had shed no tears while I was getting up so very early to catch the plane, during all the flights, at breakfast, not even with the money exchange issue.  But now my eyes welled up.  The ayi holding this precious child was pointing to me and saying “Mama, Mama”, encouraging the child to look at me.  This sweet child looked back and forth between her ayi and me.  I felt the small hand of the coordinator urge me forward.  I approached these two people who had become the center of my world.   This little girl looked at me for a moment.  I gently opened my arms, not wanting to scare her or force her to move too quickly.  She looked down at my open hands then back up at my eyes.  Never taking her eyes from mine, she opened her arms and moved towards me.   I took her in my arms and stepped back next to my husband.  I could vaguely hear the camera snapping, but never once did we break eye contact for a few endless seconds.  DH gently murmured his greeting to his new daughter.  She broke eye contact to look up into his face, her face showing curiosity.  She calmly looked back and forth between the two of us as we gently touched her closely cropped hair, and looked at her tiny hands.  We were in a bubble.  The world moved around us, yet we were still and silent in our own little place.  I felt her soft hair.  I felt her light weight resting in my arms.  I felt her warmth seeping into my body.  I felt the soft, well-worn cotton of her little onesie.  I breathed in the scent of her sweaty little head.   We were finally all together.  All of our heartache over the last 10 years finally made sense.  All of the prayers that we had uttered we answered.  The answers were not always yes, but they were answered.  The broken pieces of my husband’s life, of my life and of this precious child’s life had been joined.   We were not made for each other.  Our pieces were not broken from the same vessels. But they fit, and they complemented each other, and we became a family.

On the go, only to wait…

The buses we rode during our stay in China were terrific – wide seats that reclined a little, private air vents, and plenty of room so that we were not all sitting on top of each other.  They also sat very high, so we had wonderful views of passing scenery.  After meeting in the lobby and taking final pictures of ourselves as a childless couple, the very kind men in top hats and scarlet tails helped us board the bus.  I obsessively checked and rechecked that we had all the red gift bags in hand and that the diaper bag was zipped and slung over my shoulder.  Even when I sat down on the bus, the diaper bag strap stayed firmly over my shoulder and I clutched it in my lap, like it was some sort of life-preserver.  And maybe at that moment, that was exactly what it was.  It was a something concrete that was in my control to protect.  Soon we pulled out of the driveway of the hotel and merged into the city traffic.  One road merged to another bigger street which eventually merged into a multi-lane, elevated highway.  When we exited the highway back onto surface streets the roads were much more congested.  The congestion was utter chaos.  Buses, mini-vans, subcompact cars, sub-subcompact cars, motorcycles, motor scooters, tricycles, pedal powered cargo wagons, and bicycles all danced around each other, horns honking, competing for every inch of road space and missing each other by mere fractions of an inch.  It was frightening, yet amazing to watch.  As we pulled up to the Civil Affairs building and started to turn right I looked down beside the bus as a bicycle rode along the right side of the bus and passed in front of the us, even as the bus was actively turning.  All of us on that side of the bus let out gasps, yet the man on the bicycle calmly kept pedaling and the bus driver kept turning and we all were safe.  At that moment I decided that driving in this country was something that I never wanted to attempt!

Our bus driver  pulled into the driveway of the Civil Affairs building, only to be told that the bus was too large to pull through the gates and turn around in the parking area.  We disembarked on the sidewalk and made our way to the front door of the building which was located on the corner of two busy streets.  It sat back from the street just a little with the sidewalk opening out in front of it.  We walked through the lobby to the elevator.  There was a single, shiny brass colored elevator on the left with stairs winding around the shaft tower just beyond.  We were headed to the second floor.  A few people headed up the stairs.  The rest of us crowded into the elevator.  As the door closed I remember thinking about the weight limit and giggling to myself that we would be stuck on the elevator as our daughters waited for us!

The elevator opened up into a small waiting room with two couches that sat at right angles to each other along the walls.  There was a reception desk in front of the elevator, to the left of the waiting room.  A window stood open above the couch facing the elevator. There was a faint breeze coming in the window.  We all gathered in this small area, most of us standing because there just were not enough seats.  The window over the couch looked down on the parking lot courtyard our bus could not enter.  Conversation stuttered among us as we all attempted to appear calm.  Yet any close observer could see the fiddling hands and hear the nervous laughter.  Every time the elevator dinged all heads would  snap around to see if the girls were arriving.   People wandered out of the waiting room to the left to look out the window that overlooked the street below.  Standing at that the window  they turned left to look down a hall that ended in a huge wall hanging proclaiming Guangdong Adoption Registration Center.  It seemed as if we waited and moved around this small area forever!  Finally our coordinator said that we were going to move to a larger room.

We took off down the hall towards the wall hanging and turned right to go through a door that opened into another hall that headed to the left.  There were closed doors all along both sides of the hall.  The floors were tile, the walls white with pictures of children who had been adopted, the doors were  dark wood.  Though warm, the hallway was airy and wide and bright.  We were escorted to the second door on the right.  The room smelled closed and hot, the air heavy with the humidity of the subtropics in October.  The far wall was covered in huge windows.  A vinyl covered sectional couch sat along the wall to the right and under the windows.  About a four-foot space was left  between the couches  by the windows.  In the center of the room was a massive conference table.  Someone found the latches to the windows and opened them, allowing the some air movement in the room, though the breeze was not very cool.  Each family staked a claim on various parts of the couches.  We chose a place 1/3 of the way down the couch along the right wall and unloaded all our belongings.  It was the first time since we left our room at the hotel that I let go of the diaper bag.   The families moved around the room.  Emotions ran even higher than they did in the small waiting room.  Ms. Flower and Ms. Britain became tearful as they realized their life-long dreams of having a child were about to be fulfilled.  Mrs. Diamond stroked the hair on a doll that she had brought to give her daughter.  Mr Adams set up his camera on a tripod so as to capture a picture of each child as they came through the door.   I was hot, very hot, but my hands were cold as the adrenaline of the moment coursed through me.  There we sat, seven families, waiting to hear four life changing words.   Finally our coordinator walked into the room, closed the door behind her, and uttered what we had been waiting 16 long months, traveled thousands of miles to hear,…

 

 

“The girls are here”

The start…

The 5 of this month marked my oldest’s 9th birthday. 8 years ago,  DH and I celebrated her 1st birthday, though separated from her by 1/2 the world.

Candles spell out the traditional English birt...

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It was a bittersweet celebration.  We celebrated that someone gave her life.  We celebrated our impending parenthood.  But we mourned as well.  We mourned that she did not have someone to hold her and cuddle her on her special day.  We mourned that our joy was at the cost of the most precious bond – that of first mother and child.   But we knew that we would celebrate each future birthday fully and thankfully.

Today, the 18th, marks not only my father’s birthday, but also the day that we boarded a plane 8 years ago.   This was the day that we headed to China for the first time.

We arrived at our local airport at some horrifically early, the sun was not even up, I did not know there was a world out there, my

body does not recognize anything resembling vertical movement, do my eyes even open, hour of the day.  We had to arrive so early because it was only a year post 9/11 and security delays could be huge.  You know what?

X-ray machines and metal detectors are used to...

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At that hour of the morning -

there are no lines at baggage check-in,

there are no lines in security,

THERE IS NO ONE

AT THE AIRPORT!!!!!!

And so started one of the most emotionally charged, amazing trips of my life.