With more than 50 adoption trips behind us collectively, our contributor team reflects on their journeys and what they might have done differently. The consensus? Less worrying, less formal touring and more soaking up authentic daily life in China. And, we wish we’d bought a few more coffee mugs!
I wish I’d spent more time…
Desireé: Visit your child’s finding spot. Get as much information about your child’s foster home/orphanage as possible. It’s painful while you are in China, but you’ll want the info when you get home.
Mandy: Making out with my husband and dating him before we left. I am serious.
Whitney: Sight-seeing in home province. The weather was awful, though, which made it really challenging.
Rebecca: Soaking up China even more. By our second trip, we learned to appreciate the significance of the moment in time even more, and spent less time longing for home. We spent more time walking the back streets, shopping street markets and enjoying local parks and not going on the guided tours. I’d skip the pearl and jade markets and the GZ zoo.
Amy A: I honestly feel like we did all we wanted to do in China!
Stefanie: Exploring. Lots of time spent in the hotel room and I wish I’d gotten out more on foot and just walked around, taking pictures. China is so beautiful and, in my experience, quite safe – I wish I’d been more adventurous.
Amy S: Enjoying Beijing. We were so tired by 5pm that we were just existing after that point. Another day to sight see and soak up China before we had Grace with us would have been great.
Carrie: Asking for information regarding her finding from the orphanage.
Jennifer: Seeing China – time is limited and you are exhausted – we did what we could cram in and not totally overwhelm our newly adopted child.
Jean: Relaxing, being more tender and realizing that once home on my own turf is the time to implement behavior guidelines. Don’t worry about “teaching” much at all when you’re in country. When you’re in China you just need to survive as best you can and be as happy as you can be!
I wish I hadn’t worried about….
Desireé: Packing so much. We had quick access to WalMart at all times.
Mandy: I was a full-time professor with a successful career. On the flight to China, I was awake the entire time working on so much stuff before my adoption leave. I wish I hadn’t worried about work and I wish I had told my boss I couldn’t do it.
Whitney: I don’t think we worried much. We just kept our focus on getting through each day.
Rebecca: On our first trip, I spent a lot of time worrying about shopping, so afraid I’d miss a family member or an important souvenir. These things are important, but consumed a bit too much of my energy. I was often not in the moment because I was plotting how to get back to the island to shop in GZ!
Amy A: No worries honestly 🙂
Stefanie: Trying to buy so much to bring home. It’s great to be able to bring back some mementos, but on my first trip I tried to buy for everyone and for my daughter for every family day anniversary – it became overwhelming and I ended up missing some sweet last days in country with my new daughter.
Amy S: Oxygen concentrator drama. We only needed to use it once in flight and we used plane oxygen. The worry about the batteries and the battles with the airlines just about did me in emotionally. It wasn’t worth it.
Carrie: All the things that could have gone wrong… It’s a long and crazy list. Everything from travel woes to major medical issues to huge emotional traumas. But the old “take it one day (or moment) at a time” adage kicked into high gear once we were there, and when we set expectations and plans aside and just responded to each situation in the moment that it arose, it felt a bit like surfing a crazy-big wave. And we didn’t drown.
Jennifer: What anybody thought.
Jean: Do they like me? Do I like them? Why won’t she sit next to me? She’s Mommy shopping? I worried about a lot… I should have realized God has it all under control… so I don’t need to…
I wish I’d remembered to bring home….
Desireé: Chinese outfits for my son in different sizes. Now that he is grown, I don’t have anything to put him in.
Whitney: More souvenirs. Always more. I wish I had asked for something from her orphanage while we were there.
Amy A: A Nanning or Beihai Starbucks mug.
Stefanie: A rock or some dirt or momento from my child’s finding spot/hometown. Also, we didn’t always remember to get a local newspaper on our child’s gotcha/adoption day.
Katie: More pearls as thank you gifts.
Amy S: Can’t think of anything! Probably more souvenirs. I wish I had a mug for my coffee from China.
Carrie: I can’t think of a single trinket or gadget I forgot and have missed.
If I could re-do one thing about my China trip it would be…..
Mandy: I so wish we could’ve gone to her orphanage.
Whitney: Bring more familiar snacks for us while hanging out in the hotels/sight-seeing.
Rebecca: More savoring, more in the moment living, more taking it and people watching, more sitting at noodle shops and less of the guided tours that took me to factories and giant tourist buffets.
Amy A: I would have a book of my son’s pictures to give to his nanny.
Stefanie: More questions for the caretakers. More pictures of the little things on gotcha day. More pictures and video of just the daily stuff during our trip – scenes of us on the street, in restaurants, our travel mates, etc.
Katie: Eat more authentic foods.
Amy S: Enjoy our week in GZ. We were messed up from an allergic reaction, which lead into the consulate closing, and changing our flights home. It was hard to stay positive and really enjoy our time there because for a few days we thought we might be staying an extra week, and it ended up only being a couple extra days.
Carrie: Genuinely can’t think of anything. I felt like we had a really great trip.
Jennifer: Bring a suitcase to take home more amazing items and goods from markets.
Jean: With a few of the adoption trips we had to have “rules” in order for everyone to survive and be safe. I then went back to China and learned that not every child needs the same “rules”. Each child is so different and some only needed the guidelines.
Anything else you’d like to share about your experience?
Desireé: It’s ok to feel overwhelmed emotionally and culturally. The primary focus of being in China is to get your child, but don’t let your overwhelmed-ness blind you to the amazing culture and people that gave you your child.
Mandy: I am so thankful for the other adoptive families I met. They were so encouraging. I am so glad we asked the orphanage director to write Lydia a note telling her what she hoped for her life. I treasure that we have this letter.
Whitney: Our trip was not one of those “good” and “fun” trips you might hear about. We didn’t love it all the time, but we did enjoy parts of it. It was hard. So very hard. But you know, even knowing exactly how hard it was, I would do the exact same trip all over again to get our girl home.
Rebecca: Give yourself grace for any emotion that you might feel. Many of us have felt a full range of both the sweet, and the not so sweet emotions, involved on adoption trips. Take it day by day, and be lavish with grace.
Stefanie: As difficult as it is to imagine, one day your China trip will be a distant memory. Do all you can do document, photograph and remember your time in China. Try to take a few minutes when you child goes to sleep to write down a few memorable things from the day, if you are able. It’s the beginning of your child’s “baby book” and you will be truly grateful for any efforts you make in creating something they can look back on in the future.
Amy S: Expect the unexpected. Think about where you would go for a medical emergency and notice what floor the clinic is on if there is one in your hotel especially if you’re traveling with a medically fragile child. Pay attention to the people and the sights and the sounds. You may be the only link to China your child remembers through your pictures and memories.
Carrie: Remember you’re there for an adoption not tourism. Don’t try to cram too much into the trip in your free time. Rest, walk in parks, sit by a pond… Just pretend it’s a lazy Sunday afternoon in your hometown… Where your agenda would be minimal and your plans and small. But DO venture out of your hotel if your child is up for it… China is a spectacular country! Embrace the adventure!
Jean: Our children LOVE to hear about, talk about their adoption journey! They remember some of it, but not all of it – it was such a stressful time for them. We laugh about the “things we thought”, things that happened and we are so thankful for where we are now in the journey!