I have two daughters, ages 6 and 3. Both of them were adopted from China. My 6 year old, K, was adopted when she was 14 months old, and she can recite her story by heart. We talk about her birth family, and China, and we visited the orphanage she lived in when we went to China last June to adopt her little sister, B. Mostly, it has all been very matter of fact for her. While I knew she would not feel this way forever, I didn’t know what might change her feelings, or when.
Last week I got my usual monthly email from Beth O’Malley, who writes books and publishes articles on creating a lifebook for your adopted child. I’ve done one for K, using Beth’s guide, and we read it often. I still need to create B’s book, but her story is very different and in many ways she’s been living a lifebook. More on that another time. I’ll defnitely still do one for B, and need to update K’s, but it’s less of a priority.
Anyway, in the email this month she mentioned that she was soliciting kids age 5-9, adopted from China, who would be willing to work on a new workbook she had just created and provide a few sentences of review. I emailed her back and the workbook arrived yesterday. It is very similar to the lifebook I did for K, but it is more interactive with the child, with places for them to draw pictures, fill in the blanks and ask questions. K was having fun answering questions about her favorite foods, things she likes to do, things that bug her, and the meaning of her Chinese name.
Until we got to the page which talks about what probably happened on the day she left her birth family. “Chances are they traveled away from their home, quietly chose a place to put you and said goodbye.” When I read that line, K looked at me and said in a small voice, “they said goodbye?” and the tears started to roll. All I could do was take her in my arms, and cry too. She cried for quite awhile. And even though we’ve talked about her story time and time again, it apparently never really occurred to her to think about the actual parting with her birth parents. An event which is hard for me to even imagine. And as painful as it was for K tonight, I think about her birth mother, her birth father, and imagine their pain at letting her go, and the pain I imagine they have everyday, wondering whether their baby girl is alive and loved. And missing her. Maybe wishing they could take her back. I ache their ache, but know also that their loss is my gain. Which makes me feel guilty, especially those days when K is pushing buttons like mad and I want to be as far away from her as possible. But of course that feeling is fleeting (for the most part) and is not something I truly want, and yet for them, she pretty much IS as far away as possible. With the added “bonus” of having no idea where she is. K talks often of being so sad she’s growing up because her birth family won’t recognize her without her “stick-up hair”, and that she can’t remember what they look like, a sentiment she repeated tonight.
I hope the rules change. I hope China relaxes the mindset and allows those who have abandoned children to register their DNA, so our daughters, if they choose, can find them one day. Right now, I wish that day were today. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.