Since the mandatory waiting period is over, I just filed our re-adoption paperwork so my youngest can have an easily accessable U.S. birth certificate. We skipped paying the lawyers $700, because the parts that go through the courts are just a few form letters (I also did all the paperwork for finalizing our older two children’s adoptions; it’s actually pretty easy).
As I was typing the form letter off my copies from “Adoption in Virginia” from the city law library, I came across a phrase that stopped me… “Said child was surrendered by [his/her] birth [mother/parents] for the purposes of adoption.”
Actually, she wasn’t surrendered.
Like all Chinese adoptees, she was abandonned.
When I was talking to the clerk at the circuit court, I checked to see if there was any information for the name change and birth certificate forms that I might not know off the top of my head and would need to find before I went to drop off the paperwork. “Well, there’s birth date, place of birth, birth parents’ names…”
Um… This is China we’re talking about. Nobody knows their child’s birthparents’ names. It is illegal in China to place a child for adoption (yet another nasty effect of the One Child policy), so every baby is abandonned. The clerk sounded surprised.
People talk about this on the adoption groups. What should I tell her? When should I tell her her adoption story? How much should I say? Should I just make up something? Should I pretend that her birthmother would feel and react just like I would in that situation? Wouldn’t that be easier?
I’m firmly in the camp of always telling your kids the truth. We don’t do the Tooth Fairy. We don’t do the Easter Bunny (Jesus is good enough, thanks). We do St. Nicholas and a huge nativity scene, but not Santa Claus. So, although I have not discussed all of the details of their birthmothers’ situations, we have talked about the fact that they were in difficult situations and made the hard decision to place them for adoption.
I will not be making up a story for the youngest about her Chinese birthmother to fill in the gaps. We just don’t know, and I’ll tell her that. I don’t know if her birthmom would’ve kept her if she’d been a boy. I don’t know if her birthmom cried or just felt relieved that nobody saw her put the baby down. I don’t know if her birthmom waited and watched to make sure someone found the little bundle quickly, or just left. I don’t know if her birthmom resented the culture that said girls aren’t important… or if she just hoped her next child would be a boy that would win her some approval from her in-laws. The fact that her birthmother carried her to birth might speak to love for her baby, in spite of government prohibitions or family dislike… or simply a lack of an ultrasound machine to determine gender early enough to get an abortion. We know almost nothing.
We try to guess based on what little we know, but that’s all we can do. We can guess that the fact that she was dressed warmly in proper baby clothes means that her birthmom did worry about the cold, that her birthmom wanted her to make it safely to the orphanage, maybe even knew that she might be sent overseas. Her birthmom abandonned her in a fairly busy place, risking discovery to buy a better chance at a quick rescue for her baby. We grasp at the scarce, tiny details that filter out of her life before she met us.
But the reality is harsh anyways.
I came across this photo by photographer Chen Rong in the book “The Chinese Century,” then found a copy online. Looking at it now, I want to go check to make sure Dumpling is safe and warm enough in her crib.
Nobody in the photo looks terribly concerned about the baby wrapped in a blanket lying on the ground. Some look bored, some look a little perplexed (“What is that doing here?”), some look away… but nobody looks like they’re about to pick the bundle up.
What is the woman in the middle thinking? Or the man behind her with the slumped shoulders, looking at his feet? Are they remembering a child they abandonned? A younger sibling? She hugs her scarf closer to ward off the cold… but hasn’t yet picked up the baby to protect her, too.
This is the beginning of life for untold thousands of Chinese babies, almost all girls. What does this do to the women looking at this abandonned baby girl, to think that they could’ve been in the baby’s place? Or that they could be forced into doing this to their own child?
We won’t start telling the youngest’s story with this photo. We’ll start by telling her about China’s beauty and history. We’ll tell her about how she loved her foster parents so much that she cried and pushed away every time she looked at me for the first day because she wanted Mama, and that wasn’t me, yet. How she sobbed and panicked every time she woke up and realized that she wasn’t at home with her foster parents, she was still with these funny looking people who didn’t know anything that she liked. How she only started to trust us as we fed her crackers and noodles and bits of pizza and anything else we had… and how, after a few days, she eventually relaxed enough to lay her head down on my chest and fall asleep.
Eventually, though, we will get to that photo.
Why? How could they? I don’t know that I’ll ever have enough of an explanation for her. God had a plan to bring good out of this evil, but often that faith is the only answer we get this side of Heaven.
Sometimes, tears are the only answer.