The day after I finalized my daughter Cora’s adoption in her home city, we ventured out to a large park within walking distance from our hotel. After an initial period of rejection on her part, that day was the first that she showed signs of actually liking me rather than just tolerating me and thus became our first “fun” day in China.
On the way back to the hotel after many happy hours at the park, I had one of those “China moments” that will forever be etched into my mind. It was a busy day, with lots of vendors lining the sidewalk. I was carrying Cora and browsing the different varieties of local snack foods and trinkets being sold from the carts we were passing when suddenly an attractive young woman in her mid-twenties appeared right in Cora’s face.
Her expression was void of emotion, but it was clear that she was searching. She paid no attention to me or the fact that she was seriously invading my “space bubble”. This woman had eyes only for the little girl in my arms. She never spoke, or even reached out. It was a moment when time seemed to stand still, but in reality I know it was only a few seconds before the woman was slowly backing away and turned the opposite direction before being absorbed into the crowd… still completely expressionless.
I don’t know what she saw. Clearly something happened that caused her to want a closer look at the girl being carried by the foreign woman through the oncoming crowd. My husband asked me if I thought the lady could have been Cora’s birth mother. It’s possible. After all, we were in the city where Cora was abandoned. But whether or not she was Cora’s birth mother, I’d be willing to bet that she was somebody’s. Is she a woman who keeps searching the crowds for a little girl around three or four years old in hopes of an answer to her many questions? Or, did she see that day what I clearly see every time I look at a baby picture of my daughter: the same face surrounded by less hair. I’ll never know. I wish the language barrier hadn’t kept me from asking the questions on my tongue. I wish she would have made eye contact with me so maybe I could have seen the answer in her eyes.
That exchange was a poignant reminder, though. My two Chinese children are a gift that did not come easy. My delight in them is a direct result of another woman’s pain from losing them. While I sneak into their room to watch them sleep or anguish over leaving them in Sunday school without me for the first time, there are two women in China wondering what happened to their babies after they walked away from them. That they somehow made it into my arms leaves me speechless. My mind can’t even begin to comprehend all that went into two babies who were abandoned only weeks apart in two very different regions of China joining my family 23 months apart from each other.
But what’s even more amazing is the fact that two children who were once not mine are mine now. And not just in terms of name and legal paperwork. The process of watching your child’s feelings for you transform from resentment to love is breathtaking. As is knowing that you can love a child from another woman’s womb with the same magnitude of intensity as the children from your own womb. It’s bittersweet, though. This knowledge that your child(ren) had to be cut away from their birth family in order to be grafted into yours. The realization that behind the pictures of your happy family and your “when we went to China” stories are tears and heartache. The knowledge that no matter how badly you wish otherwise, there will always be questions about your child that you don’t have the answers to.