Does it feel the same? Bio and Adoption

February 23, 2010 by nohandsbutours 1 Comments

Does it feel the same? Bio and Adoption

I remember when I was pregnant with my oldest son Zachary. I had no idea what was in store for me. I had no idea of the scope of the emotions that motherhood would evoke. I was on the verge of the greatest love of my life.

I remember looking at him after he was born. I loved to just look at him. I would check on him all of the time while he was sleeping to make sure that he was still breathing and that everything was ok. His smell was the sweetest. I would hold him and look into his eyes and he would run his little fingers through my hair. I loved him in a way that I had never loved anyone. My heart was consumed with him.

When I discovered that I was pregnant again with Tyler, I worried. It was a secret worry. I wondered how I could ever love Tyler as much as I loved Zachary. I could not imagine loving two people that deeply and completely.

My worries were completely unfounded. When Tyler was born, it was like my heart grew and Tyler had his special place filled with all of the love and joy that Zachary’s place in my heart held. I was doubly blessed with my two beautiful sons.

Elijah was a surprise for me. I had not truly intended to have more children. He came to me later in life. I was an older and more mature mother. It was a very stressful time in my life though. Tim and I had not been married for very long and had a lot of new family issues to deal with. My job was shaky. I was put on bed rest for six months due to uncontrollable bleeding. It was a tough time. But when he was born, he brought us such joy.

Shortly after he was born, I started to think about the gap between him and his brothers. There are 10 years between him and Tyler. I didn’t want him to grow up alone. I was already re-living the baby years and truly enjoying them. I knew that another pregnancy was not advisable since I had had such a tough time carrying Elijah. Tyler had been a very difficult pregnancy too. I started to think about adoption.

Tim and I started working on our adoption of Sophia on our second anniversary. I was very excited about it. But the secret fear came back. Can I love her the same? Will the fact that she is adopted make a difference? My mind said, “absolutely not, it will make no difference”. But I still had the secret fear.

Our journey to Sophia was a very long and emotional one. Sometimes it seemed as if she would never come home. But after three and a half years, it was our time. We were going to China to meet our daughter.

The feelings I had when I first saw Sophia were not the same as was when I first saw my sons. I was completely overwhelmed with sadness and anger. I was unprepared in my heart to meet a child who had no one. I could not believe that there was no Aunt, Uncle or Grandparent who would come forward for this child. To be looking into the eyes of a beautiful child who has no one in this world will literally stop your heart. How could this happen to this baby? How could there be no one? Looking abandonment in the face was devastating to me.

And then my heart kicked in. I was no longer looking at abandonment. I was looking at my child. Right at that moment she became my child. No longer an orphan. No longer with no one. We had come forward and with us Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles and loves ones in America came forward too. We were now her family.

My heart grew Sophia’s place where all of my love and joy for her lives. It is every bit as real and alive as the love I have for her brothers. The secret fear was unfounded again. For me a child is a child no matter how God brings them to you and I am so happy that I can say that. I am so happy that I love her the way that I do.

My relationship with her is uniquely its own. There has been a lot of bonding and growing and changing over these past seven months. My relationship with each of my children is unique. They each have their own personalities that interact in different ways with my own personality. They are each uniquely loved by me, their mother. I feel so blessed to have the motherhood experiences that I have had. I am so humbled by the gift of my children. They are pure magic to me and I thank God for them.

Denying the Homeland…

November 23, 2009 by nohandsbutours 8 Comments

Denying the Homeland….The Americanization of Ma Weihong

On June 16th, 2009, I stood in a guard shack in a foreign land where I was handed one of the four greatest gifts of my life. I was surrounded by people who did not speak my language. They were having me sign documents filled with writing that I could not discern. In my arms was a child whose looks were so very different from mine. She was crying hysterically, calling out in Mandarin for a woman I did not know. I had been in China for one day. It was chaotic, emotional and bittersweet.

We stayed in Beijing for two weeks. We toured all of the national treasures, The Great Wall, The Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. Ma Weihong struggled some, but overall seemed comfortable with us. We had decided to name her Sophia a long time ago, and she was responsive. But whenever someone asked for her name, she would say “Ma Weihong”. Of course she would…she was almost four years old and this had been her name all of her life. I had very limited knowledge of Mandarin, but I knew how to say I love you. So I would l say “I love you Ma Weihong” in Mandarin and then “ I love you Sophia” in English. Sometimes when I held her at night I would call her Ma Weihong. I wanted her to know that even though I was calling her something else, I knew her Chinese name and that that name did not need to disappear.

After we returned home to the United States, I became dedicated to helping her learn English as quickly as possible and also to helping her maintain her Mandarin as much as I could. We have friends who own a Chinese restaurant near us and also a neighbor who is Chinese who all speak fluent Mandarin. My father had a Mandarin tutor on retainer to help Ma Weihong keep her native language.

At first, she talked with our friends who spoke her language. She was shy, but she would speak with them. She became very excited when Ni Hao Kai Lan came on television. She would talk along with the show and loved it when Mandarin words came through. She would count in Mandarin along with the characters. She would sing beautiful songs in her native tongue in the car when we were driving.

After about a month, things started to change. She was learning English very quickly and was becoming more comfortable with her American family and American life. And with each step that she was taking bringing her closer to us, she was decidedly leaving her past and China behind. My father bought her the Little Mermaid in Mandarin, she barely paid attention to it. She started shying away from the Chinese people we would come into contact with. She would not speak with our Chinese friends in Mandarin anymore. She made it very clear that she only wanted to speak English. I would count along with Ni Hao Kai Lan in Chinese and she would say “No Mama, one, two, three, four”. When I called her Ma Weihong, she asked my “Why Ma Weihong?”. When people asked for her name, she said, “Sophia”.

I was riding in the car with her the other day and I heard singing. I have always loved to hear her sing. I turned off the radio so I could hear her sweet words and my heart just sank. In place of her beautiful Chinese songs, she was singing over and over in English, “yummy yummy tummy chicken”.

As time passes, she has become more and more like all of the other children around her. She now calls Mandarin “China Talk”. She still refuses to speak it. She told a friend of mine that she won’t speak Chinese because she doesn’t want to be different. This saddens me, but I understand. She just wants to be like every other child in her home, her preschool and her ballet class. If you ask for her name today, she will tell you, “Sophia Jane Weihong”. She is comfortable with that. I guess I am too.


October 7, 2009 by nohandsbutours 6 Comments

Sophia and her brother Eli on their first day of preschool.

Kimberley Girvin/RMJ

I have a passion for adoption. I have one child adopted from China. I don’t know if I will ever go back. But I want to do more. I want to be a part of helping children come home. I want to be an enabler. This is where I am right now and I have heard from a lot of women in the same place.

This is the story of how people enabled me to bring my daughter home. This is how I know that I can still play an important role in the lives of families and children. These are some things that can be done to support the families who are still on the journey to their child:

When we first started talking about adoption, I didn’t know very many people who had adopted. My blog changed all of that. It became a lifeline for me.

I was a little nervous about telling our family when we made the decision to adopt. I didn’t know how they would react. I thought that they would be supportive but I didn’t know for sure. My anxiety was a waste of energy because our family has been wonderful, but some families are not as accepting. If someone in your family makes the decision to adopt, be their supporter and champion to the rest of the family.

I didn’t know a lot about what to expect or how the paperwork flowed, or what I needed to do. My agency was helpful, but truthfully my information came from women on-line. When I had a question, I would post it and I would receive the information that I needed.
This was a tremendous help and kept me on top of the things I needed to know. Reach out to adopting families and be a source of knowledge to those who are following in your footsteps.

I am a working mother with a large family, so I need help to care for my children and to keep my household running the way that it should. The key to my success in this is one woman. One woman who cares for my family and believes in Sophia’s adoption. Daycare person is not an adequate title for Lynn. She is my friend and enables me to be the type of mother that I want to be. When I approached her about the adoption, she was so positive about it and willing to take care of our new daughter. As time marched on and we decided to go the SN route, I talked with her about it and again her response was so positive. She was willing to be there for our family and care for Sophia, special needs was not an issue. When I received a file that we were looking at closely, I would go over it with her. She always had an open heart. She was willing to get her family vaccinated for hep B if we went that route, she was willing to care for a child with spina bifida. It brought me such peace to know that my new little one would be in wonderful hands while I was working. I needed Lynn’s support to be able to make this work. If you are in a position to play a role in the lives of families by providing care for their children, please be open to adopting families and understand that these little ones may need special concessions.

We waited a long time for Sophia. It was not a happy journey for us. Our agency kept changing the rules and providing us with information that honestly was just plain untrue. There is no doubt that I had to fight to bring my daughter home. I was in constant contact with my social worker. I was always two steps ahead of my agency in knowing what changes were coming down the pike. I knew so much more than they wanted me to about what they were doing (thanks to all of my waiting moms in blogland). There were times when I didn’t think I could make it to the finish line. There were times when I just sat and cried. My children had lost hope that this would ever happen. If it were not for my friends, the women who came out of cyberspace to support and love and pray for me, I don’t know if I could have made it. I was infused with their strength and it kept me going. Some of my closest friends now are a result of this experience. When you sit in a restaurant face to face with another woman just as sad and desperate for her baby as you are and she reaches for your hand and through her tears tells you she hopes you have your child first (and you know she truly means it), you are bonded forever. If you have the opportunity to pray for, befriend or emotionally support someone who is waiting for their child, please do it. They need you.

After we received our referral, there were so many things that we needed to do…it was just a whirlwind. We had a lot of fees that we were not aware of initially that came to light and had to be paid immediately. We didn’t have the cash to cover all of these fees. We needed to raise funds and I decided that an on-line auction was the best way to try to do it. I had never used my blog to ask for funds for myself, so I was a little nervous about it. The outpouring of love and support was overwhelming. A dear girlfriend of mine designed a gorgeous site exclusively for the auction. Women flooded my e-mail with offers to help and items to be sold. . I received so many donation items to auction, so many beautiful things. I also received checks in the mail from women I had never seen face to face. I put them in a box in my room and cashed them when we had a fee due. There were times when I was so touched that my eyes just filled with tears. All of these women wanted to help. They wanted to be a part of enabling us to bring our daughter home. And they were. We raised close to $5.000. All of our up-front fees were covered. It was such a weight off of my shoulders, the stress just left me and I was able to focus on getting things ready for travel and for our daughter. The only way I can re-pay these women is to pay it forward. If you are in a position to help a family raise funds for their adoption, please do it. No effort is too small, everything adds up to a miracle.

Sophia turned four years old shortly after we came home. I could tell that she was very intelligent, every bit as smart and able as her four year old brother Eli. I had Eli scheduled to start preschool and soccer in the fall and I thought Sophia could be in preschool and an activity too. It has been my hope that she will be ready to start kindergarten on-schedule. For this to happen, I would have to get her into preschool. I didn’t know if they would take her, she didn’t speak much English and I did not know what level she was at as far as education was concerned. There was also the issue of separation anxiety which we were dealing with. I called the preschool and explained our special situation. Without hesitation, they told me they would let her in. They had never had a child who did not speak fluent English, but they were willing to try. I will be honest, the first week of preschool was rough for Sophia, but after that she has had a wonderful time and her language skills are unbelievable. She is picking up English very quickly. Next came the issue of an extra-curricular activity. Sophia’s gross motor skills needed work. I don’t think she ever spent much time off of the floor of her orphanage. When we first got her, she took steps one at a time like a toddler and was a slow runner and was very cautious on play equipment. The dance school in our town has a class for 4 year olds, ballet/tap/tumbling. I called to see if they would be willing to work with Sophia and her special situation. Miss Kelly who owns the school agreed to allow Sophia into the little girl’s class and pays special
attention to helping her. Sophia loves her ‘ballerina school’. Last night I sat with tears in my eyes while I peaked through the studio door and watched my little girl walking on her toes and trying to plie. If you are a teacher or a coach, open your heart to these kiddos.

People on the ‘front lines’ of adoption need people behind them to support them and help them. If you are done growing your family, it doesn’t mean you can’t play a vital role in the adoption movement. Enable the people around you to complete their journeys, sponsor children who need help. Donate to organizations to pay for supplies and surgeries for children in need. Someone paid to heal my daughter’s heart, a surgeon somewhere in the world volunteered his time to give her a fuller life. I don’t know who these people are, but I owe them a debt that can never be paid. All I can do is pay it forward. I can be an enabler.