Another Piece of the Puzzle

In March 2011, we received our travel date to fly back to China to adopt our second daughter; the wait was finally over!  However, I had a dull ache in my heart, and her name was *Jillian, our daughter who we adopted from China in 2008.  I wasn’t obsessively concerned about leaving behind our homegrown boys (*Jon, age 12, and *Jack, age 8) since they had been separated from us when we traveled to China the first time. Now, though, Jillian had begun to regress by showing signs of clinginess, nail biting, and the quivering bottom lip– all were running rampant in this five year old’s demeanor.

Not long after receiving the travel dates for China, I was sitting on the edge of my bed, tying my shoes, when Jillian crawled into my lap to face me, wrapped her arms tightly around my neck, and, with intense articulation, pleaded, “Mommy, I can’t let you go.  You have only been my mom for three years, and I cannot live without you while you are in China getting my new sister.”  Then . . . the gut-wrenching sobs came.

Somehow, I knew that part of Jillian’s journey was to travel back to “Her China”– the nickname she often called her birth country.  Our daughter had always been very inquisitive about her past—her foster family, the orphanage, her birth parents, and the Chinese culture in general.  The confirmation came when I found out that Jillian’s Chinese social worker was in the states and had agreed to ask her foster family back in China if they would like to meet us.  When I received the resounding “Yes” from these surrogate parents, I knew that the “three” of us were traveling back to China to adopt our new daughter and to also personally thank this family for taking such good care of Jillian!

May 2011, Guangzhou, China

We are now in “Jillian’s Town” and are finalizing the adoption of our second daughter.  Up until this point, my oldest has embraced both her Chinese culture and her people, although the stinky tofu on Snack Street in Beijing wasn’t a big hit!  Even though I still have some concerns about her going through a new season of grief and unfamiliar emotions, adding another piece to “her adoption story” trumps the decision.

The afternoon finally arrives, and we all cram into the back seat of a taxi, holding our daughters on our laps, while our guide sits in the front.  As we are zipping down the highways, which seemingly took us all the way across the city, our guide chats away on his cell phone, Cantonese style, to our daughter’s foster father, trying to get more specific directions.

Finally, the taxi comes to a halt, and Jillian’s foster father is waiting for us with much compassion and happiness etched on his face.  I could tell immediately that he wanted to scoop up our daughter and carry her back to the apartment, but I could also sense her uneasiness since she was clinging to her daddy’s leg.  Without delay, I spoke to our guide, asking him to inform the foster father of Jillian’s apprehension.  My husband scooped her up, and I carried our new daughter; we, then, began to follow our guide and the father through the weaving alley ways which were, surprisingly, very clean.  The tall, eight story apartment buildings, that were all similar in appearance, loomed over us as we walked and made me wonder who was watching us, but I knew we needed to do this for both closure and healing.  Finally, after climbing many flights of steps, we had met our destination: Jillian’s Chinese home.

Walking in and seeing the same set-up of furniture and décor’, like our daughter’s pictures, was all very surreal. The foster mother was pleased to see us, but I could sense some nervousness mainly because they were currently fostering another child and could lose their jobs for agreeing to see us.

It was apparent they loved our daughter deeply.  Between the triangular conversations: the foster father, the guide, and us, I could tell they still adored Jillian.  I nearly cried when they brought out a stack of baby pictures to show us; some I had never seen. Before we had time to give our tokens of gratitude, they blessed Jillian with a singing pink poodle; she was so delighted with this present!  Then, we presented our gifts from Maine: salt water taffy, handcrafted jewelry, a letter written by Jillian with the Cantonese translation, and a picture album of our family.  The foster father had questioned where Maine was, and we were able to write our names on a world map that hung on their living room wall.  While we were doing this, Jillian began to relax and joined her new sister who was already playing with toys.

Suddenly, a miracle occurs-Jillian squeals with delight and pulls out a stuffed cat wearing a jogging suit from the toy box.  This was the childhood toy we had often seen in her pictures–we had even tried to find her one of these stuffed animals in the states.  She loved this toy and would often point it out to me.  Ironically speaking, this family had two and gave Jillian one of them!  Finally, after drinking our hot water, nibbling on some exotic Chinese fruit, and exchanging both emails and addresses, it was time to call a taxi and head back to the White Swan.

Sadly, I felt mixed emotions; I could tell that Jillian was happy to have met her foster family who had cared for her until we could fly over on the big plane, as she often said, but I was also nervous about the emotional impact this meeting would now have on her.  As we said our good-byes and took pictures, Jillian’s foster mother handed her a fiery red, golden embossed envelope with two hundred Chinese currency inside and a huge tin of cookies.  I will never forget the look this foster mother had for Jillian; the love and affection in her eyes will be ingrained in my heart forever.   Our daughter had been deeply loved in China, too.

Home Once Again, Winter 2012

Now that we are back home and have finally settled into a routine of having a new sister and daughter to love, I find myself often gazing up at the gifts: the pink poodle and stuffed cat that Jillian loves so much.  Though Jillian doesn’t say much about the visit, she looks at her life book frequently, and I find her smiling at the pictures of her foster family.  At one point, right before bedtime, Jillian questioned who she was suppose to love now since she felt torn between her loyalty to us and her foster family.  My only response was to tell her that she could love us both.  She, then, smiled and kissed me goodnight; I knew that this answer was only sufficient for now. It is inevitable that Jillian will have more questions about her story in the future, and because of this, our family will begin to pray for the next piece of the puzzle.

*Names have been changed

*This article was originally published in the April issue of Adoption Today (2012).

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