Drooling on the Pillow

Monday, June 20, 2005

China Story II 

I didn't want to have kids. That was a problem for the Goddess so we had problems. In fact, we spent a year apart before I realized that it didn't matter what she wanted because I couldn't live without her.

We lost a boy five months into the pregnancy and we lost two years and much more money than we had on the in vitro merry-go-round. She was despondent and ready to give up, but by this time I was totally on board with the baby thing and talked her into adoption and then talked her into China. Sometimes I'm smart.

The Chinese invented bureaucracy and are amazingly good at inventing hoops for you to jump through. The process took two years, which is longer than usual, but there was a bureaucratic war going on at the time as two government agencies were battling over the lucrative foreign adoption franchise.

But I'll say this; once you jump through the last hoop it goes exactly the way they say it will. You never run into a judge with his hand out as is the case in a number of other countries. If a judge tried it, he probably wouldn't have that hand for long.

The day we met Gracie was a hot, muggy, tropical day in April. Her home town, Zhangjiang, is only a hundred or so miles north of Viet Nam. We had a small group, two couples and a single woman and we went by van to the orphanage and waited in an enclosed courtyard for the nannies to bring down the kids. I can't tell you what a mess the five of us were after two years and 12,000 miles. With our referral came a postage stamp sized picture taken when the kids were a couple months old and a medical form that only assured us that they had the usual number of everything and were in good health.

In the adoption game there's a lot of fussing about something called 'attachment disorder' which is probably just a projection of the parent's anxieties that the child will not bond with them, or worse, they will not love the child.

I guess it happens, though I've never heard of a case with a Chinese kid, but I can tell you that we fell deeply and permanently in love with Grace the moment we met her. She's an easy kid to love. Happiest kid I ever saw. Sweet, openhearted, smart, athletic, sincere, hard working, eager to please and affectionate. I don't remember some of those first few minutes, but I do remember thinking 'This is the most beautiful child I ever saw.' Even though she was howling like a banshee.

So there we all were, in a state of stunned bliss, holding our children, hoping Grace will calm down soon. I look out into the open courtyard and see a woman weeping, making tentative little hand gestures to us. I do the looking around 'are you talking to me?' thing and she nods. I walk out into the courtyard, carrying Grace and the woman, still weeping, makes the tiniest little gesture with her arms, asking to hold her. I don't know why, but I gave Grace to her and both of them instantly stop crying. I did notice the nannies are getting agitated and unhappy and one of them runs from the courtyard. I have a very little bit of Chinese and the woman had about as much English and I'm trying to talk to her and find out what the deal is when the head of the orphanage storms into the courtyard.

She rips Grace from the woman's arms and hands her back to me. Everybody starts crying again except for the director who starts going up one side of the woman and down the other. It was a ferocious tongue-lashing and we're hustled into the vans and back to our hotel.

It's about an hour later and we're about to perform our first diaperectomy. Grace has calmed down. We open the package and find a little note inside in one of those little red Chinese gift envelopes. There's a short note and a couple small bills totaling maybe 20 yuan. We ran to Cherry, our translator and she tells me it's from Grace's foster mother and gives her address. The money is for stamps because, she says, she loved Grace more than any of the girls she's ever had care of and wants to know what happens to her.

Now the orphanage has denied, repeatedly, that Grace ever was in foster care, but I take a note in the diaper as dispositive. I don't know what was at stake for the orphanage in denying it, but we've written back and forth to the woman probably a dozen times over the ensuing seven years and when we're able to go back we'll visit her. She's a lovely woman and I have to credit her at least in part for Gracie's disposition. She certainly filled her first year with love.
Weblog Commenting and Trackback by HaloScan.com Listed on BlogShares