December 27, 2010

The A Word in Adoption


Webster's defines abandoned as "given up, forsaken." And Webster's defines forsaken as "to renounce or turn away from entirely."

The questions have begun crashing in for our little girl. My Mom asked me if I thought her overhearing our talks with her older brother about his China Mommy had brought this about more quickly than they might have come. We don't really hide these discussions from her; in fact, we are very open about his continuing relationship with his foster Mom. But our little girl didn't have a foster mom in China; I'm not sure she quite understands that role. Somehow I think her questions were coming regardless. And sooner than later.

When can I see my China Mommy?
When can I talk to her?
Why can't we go to China and see her?

And that one stopped my heart for a moment. I had prepared and planned for this question. And yet the words failed me. Finally I mustered the simple phrase We don't know who she is. And she cried. And I cried.

The truth is that I don't know who she is or if we could ever find her. I do know this though.

Much worse things than abandonment could have befallen our little girl. And yet how does she reconcile the fact that her first mother (China Mommy she calls her) is not her Mommy?

I don't know.

Each night the grief comes at bedtime. It is so very much for a little girl of five years old to process. As she cried the other night asking me what did her China Mommy look like, I told her this: I imagine she must be very beautiful just as you are so very beautiful and I imagine she has a beautiful singing voice just like you do.

She cried more and begged me for a photo of her, to SEE HER. I have never wished to be able to do the impossible more than in that moment. I told her I didn't have a photo and had no way to get one at this point as we don't know who she is. But I told her to ask God to give her a VISUAL IMAGE as she slept that night. I also told her that I believed she had seen her China Mommy as she held her tightly after she was born. Our little girl looked up at me with a tear-streaked face and said, "But how do I remember?"

I thought for a moment and just told her to search in her heart. She thought for a moment and then lay down on her pillow and closed her eyes. The next morning she told me God had indeed given her a visual image of her China Mommy and that she wanted to draw it on paper. Then as quickly as she grabbed paper and pencils, she decided to play with her five-year-old brother and his cars ... and left the paper and pencils on the table.

Last night was no different as she asked for her China Mommy at bedtime. Except for this. There were no tears as I reminded her that she could look within her own heart for that connection to the woman who gave birth to her, who CHOSE to abandon her when there were other alternatives.

After reading this book (MUST READ in my opinion), I am of the conclusion that abandonment in China is far more of an adoption plan than many well-meaning but uneducated westerners might think. After finishing this book recently, I have been particularly burdened with thanksgiving for the woman who did not practice infanticide herself or allow anyone else to do this with our three children from China, all of whom were abandoned by their first parents. I have also been overwhelmed with the knowledge that children just like our children from China are daily aborted before they are ever born or perhaps worse are killed upon birth.

You see, abandonment may be a word we don't want to speak out loud, but in my mind much worse fates await many children even today all over the world including the US. While I am in no position to personally understand our little girl's feelings or those of the mother who abandoned her, I am in a position to help our daughter sort through her feelings when she feels the need to confront her loss and abadonement.


  1. Yes, it is so hard to imagine what drives a family to abandon their child at a hospital or police station. Yet it happens here all the time, as evidenced by the full orphanages. Most parents would go down with the ship to save their children. Yet these parents somehow had to get off the ship- to either save themselves or their children. Many children are abandoned with the hope that they will be adopted by a Western family.
    It's hard to imagine the social and economic realities that are here. Minimal health insurance for the lucky few. Hospitals that are paid in cash- per day more than many people earn in a month. A one-child policy that says that you need a healthy child to take care of you in your old age. No healthy one to help you and no social safety net either. Plus there is a lack of intrinsic value of human life- that people are valuable no matter what their needs.
    I often look at our foster son and wonder about his mother. Where is she? Is she missing him? Or (too terrible to fathom) did she abandon him because he had Down Syndrome and therefore was unworthy of life. It's so hard to think about.
    All I know is that his father and mother are missing one of the sweetest babies ever. That makes me feel very, very sad indeed.

  2. Your sweet girl is indeed wise beyond her years! I have had similar conversations with my girls, but it was more of a curiosity.
    Thank you for sharing your experiences with Lil' Miss so that I can be more prepared for what I will say when my kids become more adamant to know the details on their first mothers.

  3. Oh my, not sure if I can read that book...
    I'm reading Silent Tears right now.
    those conversations are 8 y.o. is having them 5 y.o. just listens

  4. As the mother of a 5 year old with lots of question to which there are no answers, thanks for this post.

  5. I haven't faced the tear stained face asking questions ~ yet...
    Thank you for sharing some ideas of how to love your precious girl through the hard times. My heart both breaks and swells for you guys.
    I've got that book on my list.

  6. It just breaks my heart for these children....

    Lauren has been inquiring about her "mom in China" recently. The other night as hubby was putting her to bed, she told him how much she "really, really, loved her mom in China". Out of the blue she will tell me that her mom in China used to feed her carrots. I believe it is a void that will remain with our children. I am so grateful that a loving choice was made by the birth mother....because there were other choices...but they chose "life"...which in a bittersweet way has blessed us all. While their arms are empty...our arms are full. I think about the birth mothers quite often and I'm sure many of them have a void equal to the void in our children's hearts. I wish the word "orphan" did not exist...but sadly it does.

    May you and your family have a very blessed New year!

    Love and blessings,