In 1999, we were blessed by a tiny bundle of a girl named Le Xiao (Now Madeline). She was born in Jiangxi Province and was 19 months old when she joined us. We always knew we would add to our family at some point and in early 2001, started discussing a "MeiMei" (little sister) for Madeline. Early on in the paper chase, we were sent ASIA's list of "Waiting Children". It was never really our intention to go "Special Needs" and we hadn't really considered an older child, but there was Sheng LiHuan, 8 years old and looking like she was ready to show the world a thing or two!! The report said that she was in good health, had a repaired cleft lip and was a dancer!
Over the course of a few days, I found myself noticing this young lady more and more. Eventually I found myself asking "Why NOT have this child join our family?" and then I finally showed her picture to my husband who immediately agreed "Why NOT?"
Once this decision was made, we began to ask ourselves some questions about how this would affect Madeline, what LiHuan would need to settle into our family and what having a "big kid" would mean to us. Some of the things we considered while doing our home study were:
- Would this child be able to bond? There were clues in her write up that she had the skills and ability to bond with us in time.
- How would Maddy feel about being a little sister after ruling the roost for two years? Adopting out of birth order takes a lot of thought. We came to the conclusion that, since Maddy usually enjoys being with older children rather than younger, this might actually be a better fit for us.
- What resources are here for us, so far as medical, emotional support, cultural, educational, etc.? Here, we established that we were very close to OHSU/ Dornbecher should she need further repairs on her cleft lip, counseling could be arranged, if needed, a very active FCC group and a very welcoming Chinese community are in the area and Salem/ Keizer has a noteworthy ESL program.
Now that all of our ducks were in a row, we went ahead with the required paperwork and began building a support system (AOKchina on Yahoo has been invaluable every step of the way). One blessing of the Waiting Child program is that the process can be MUCH faster than the traditional route. In late October 2001, I got a phone call from Danielle saying THE REFERRAL IS HERE! SHE'S YOURS AND WAITING TO COME HOME!
In Early December 2001, I traveled to Guangzhou, leaving my current family behind to meet the one who would complete our family. Sitting in the lobby at the White Swan with our guide, I saw a child in a bright red jumper wearing the scarf I sent her! She was here! All I could think of is how nervous and scared I was and how absolutely terrified this kid must be. After meeting her with smiles and hugs, I asked her in very broken Mandarin "Wo keyi zuo ni de Mama ma?" "Can I be your mother?", to which she replied "Keyi" "You can". These have got to be two bravest words ever spoken by a child.
Our two weeks in Guangzhou were a whirlwind of appointments, sightseeing, shopping and getting to know each other. It was very clear from the start that this kid was a bundle of nervous energy, but cautiously game for almost anything.
Arriving at Portland International Airport three days before Christmas, my daughter Maddy's first words on meeting LiHuan were, "Now I have a sister to play with!" On Christmas Eve, she announced to the pastor of our church, "We changed our family". Truer words were never spoken.
Almost two years later, I am the mother of one Kindergartener with a jack-o-lantern smile and one fifth grader who is growing daily in confidence and abilities. I feel very privileged to be a part of these girls lives and look forward to having a lifetime connection with my daughters, as they become young women finding their way. Whatever doubts, questions or insecurities I may have had in the past, one thing I know is that Miss Lily Rosemary LiHuan (and Madeline Jade Xiao for that matter) are going to show the world a thing or two, and my husband and I want to be there to see THAT!