The most precious Chinese gift of all

Our China story started in the early 2003, when we decided to adopt. After assessing many domestic and international adoption programs, we chose China. We gathered our paperwork and it was submitted to the China Center of Adoption Affairs in Beijing in June 2004. Then we waited.

It seemed like a long time, but barely 6 months later, on December 11, we got an email and a fax with the picture of a beautiful baby girl. She was just 10 months old. Our adoption agency told us we would not be going to China until after Lunar New Year, probably in late February or March 2005.

Then on January 11 we got a call, “You have travel approval – you have to be in Guangzhou on January 25.” We scrambled to get visas, plane tickets, finish the nursery, and pack. The week of our departure it began to look like a massive blizzard that would be hitting our area on our travel date. I called the airlines and asked if we could change our tickets to leave early. “No problem.” So now we were leaving 2 days earlier. I emailed the hotel in China to book two extra nights and asked them to confirm the booking, but was surprised when I got a phone call at 3 am. As our plane taxied down the runway, the first flakes of snow started to drift down. It would turn out to be one of the worst storms on record, closing the airports for three days.

Twenty-two hours later we arrived in Guangzhou at 10 at night. Since we were arriving ahead of the rest of our travel group, there was no one to meet us. A gentleman from a hotel helped us get a cab and gave the driver instructions. Luckily we had exchanged money at the airport in New York so we had some cash.

The extra days were a blessing. We unpacked, did some sightseeing, slept and got organized. Walking on beautiful Shamian Island was calming. The rest of the travel group arrived on the 25th at 6 in the morning. At 2 pm we all piled on a bus to go to the Guangdong Adoption Center. In the lobby we saw a group of four ayi (nanny), each carrying two babies, one front, one on the back. We weren’t sure which one was ours, since we’d only seen a tiny picture.

Upstairs we nervously waited. Then an ayi (nanny) appeared at the door with a baby and a name was called. The third baby, they called our names and handed me a tiny girl who was busy trying to chew the wrapper off a cookie she was holding. In that instant we became parents, given the privilege and responsibility to love and care for this little person. I found out what love at first sight felt like and wept for joy through the rest of the paperwork.

We spent two weeks in Guangzhou finalizing the adoption and getting to know our new daughter. We were able to do a little sightseeing, and fell in love with the beauty of our daughter’s culture. The city was preparing for Lunar New Year with red lanterns, glittering lights and fresh flowers. Then it was time to go home. The flight home was awful, as our daughter’s little cold quickly became an ear and chest infection. The flight attendants and some kind passengers helped us to cope, bringing hot drinks and walking with her for hours. When we landed at JFK, we turned in the brown envelope of adoption documents and she became a US Citizen.

About a year later we decided to look into adopting a little sister. China was our only choice. This time the paperwork hit all kinds of delays and it was 18 months from our first look at her picture to travel.

Finally in September 2007, we were in the air on our way back to China. We brought our first daughter, then 3 and a half with us. We planned to see more of China this time. We spent three days in Beijing and managed to cram in Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, Hutong tour, Great Wall, Ming Tombs, Temple of Heaven, and acrobat show and a look at the Olympic venues under construction.

Then we boarded a night train for Xi’an. Rolling through the country side at dawn the next morning was a memorable experience. That evening we met our second daughter. She was a toddler, 2 and a half, and well prepared for her new family. During our week in Xi’an we did more sight seeing; the Terracotta Warriors striding out of the earth, Great Goose Pagoda, city wall, Drum and Bell Towers, Great Mosque and Muslim market. We got to know our new daughter, who had strong opinions.

Then we flew to Guangzhou, where all US adoptions are finalized. Having spent two weeks there we felt like we were old hands. The days sped by, and we were on the train to Hong Kong to get our flight home. As we stumbled out of customs in the US with a giant pile of suitcases, our second daughter became a citizen.

That was almost four years ago. We are planning to return to show them their homeland when they are nine and ten, just a few years. Meanwhile, they are off to Culture Camp this week. Both girls are thriving, bright and beautiful, and the center of our lives. Because of our daughters we are tied to China forever.

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Source: China Daily

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