Last month we unveiled Part 1 of an intimate and exciting series that retells one family's recent adoption experiences. In this newsletter we share the next segment below. We would love to hear your thoughts and questions as you join along in this series. We look forward to next month's segment as well!
Part 2 - Homeward Bound
First night together. He is asleep. No tears whatsoever the entire day. Dinner was super easy. Bath time was a breeze. At bedtime he laid quietly on me for the half-hour it took him to fall asleep. I looked down at him and smiled, and he actually smiled back.
He could not be easier to deal with, and to be honest it worries me a bit. If there is grieving or distress at the abrupt and total change in his life — and there should be, it would be the normal thing — it is buried deep. So perhaps it comes out later somehow. Or perhaps something worse is at hand: an orphanage experience that has left him utterly numb to place and caretaker, relentlessly pleasant and pliable as a survival mechanism. That is more than a little likely. It is a long road ahead for this little man. But he won’t have to walk it alone now.
The first week with child in China: Chinese bureaucracy in the child’s home city. Next week is about American bureaucracy in Guangzhou, which is where the US Consulate that handles China adoptions operates.
I thought that he was ours yesterday, when he was given to me at the orphanage, but it turns out that was considered a 24-hour trial period during which I could have returned him at any time. Of course I wasn’t going to do that: having effectively removed him from the rolls of adoptable children for the past seventeen months, and in the period of his life when the probability of adoption is highest, we have an obligation to see this through in nearly any circumstance. Anything else is just playing with the life and future of a small child.
Today it was all made legal. We went to get photos taken for the “red book” that formalizes the adoption, we got the adoption finalized and the “red book” issued at a Shanghai municipal office, and we met with a notary and submitted to an interview. It sounds straightforward but it took about six hours altogether: a woman at the orphanage apparently filled out a form incorrectly and we had to wait for everything to be set right. For my part, I had to memorize specific answers for the notary interview lest it go mysteriously off-course. I did, and it didn’t. The whole thing was an exercise in satisfying the specificity of bureaucracy, which as always and everywhere is mostly interested in its own ends.
As for our ends, the boy is ours.
Today we took Roy back to his orphanage. We saw the room where he slept and, apparently, spent the overwhelming majority of his little life. We met three of his nannies out of a total team of ten. We met the children who lived with him in that same room. We met his preschool class. He did very well in the visit, only seeming distressed when his classmates serenaded him with a goodbye song — in my limited Mandarin, all I understood was a line imploring him to call them when he is gone — and to be honest, I was emotional too. He leaves, and they stay. It is a lot for a child to process on either side of that divide. My impression was that the staff is professional but stretched with coping with the several hundred children at the institution. So much of childhood requires, by design, individual attention and the investment and intensity of love. The bottom line for me is that the orphanage let me in to see where my son grew up, and he is reasonably healthy and exceptionally happy. I am grateful for both. As for the other children who remain in the orphanage, they wait, and they will probably wait forever. But it does not have to be. Someone could see them, and say yes.
[The author of this series is a father, who, along with his wife are now parenting two boys from China. They adopted David in 2016 and Roy earlier this year. We hope you find this series informative and encouraging - wherever you may be in your adoption journey.]