Friday, October 23, 2009


I think of Grace, Analiese and Matthew's birth parents often. I wish I had SOME information to share with my children about the people who gave them life and why they decided to leave them when they did. The following is a post I read on abandonment written by Amy Eldridge, the founder of Love without Boundaries (one of my favorite charities). Because two of our children, Matthew and Analiese, were considered "special needs", this really hit home.

"I think it is a fair statement to say that most of us who have adopted internationally think that our child's birthparents made the decision to abandon their child. I have read many essays and poems where adoptive parents imagine the birthmother hiding in the bushes or watching until the tiny bundle is found. Perhaps that is how you imagine it to be as well. I know I certainly did, until I helped run a cleft mission where many of our patients were rural children with families.
On that trip, parents told me one story after another that quite simply turned everything I thought I knew about abandonment on its head.

I want to share one of those stories today, as I have been thinking so much about my son's birthparents lately.On this particular cleft mission, we had far more babies needing surgery than space available, so very sadly we were having to turn families away. We had set a weight requirement for the kids' safety, and we soon learned that parents were sewing rocks into their babies' clothing in the hopes that their kids would meet our 10 pound requirement. We also had begun turning away babies who were obviously younger than 5-6 months because we wanted to make sure the kids would do well under anesthesia.

I was sitting in the intake room one morning when an anxious young woman came running in holding a tiny bundle. I could immediately tell that the baby was a newborn, and I asked our Chinese director to break the bad news to the woman that the baby was far too young for surgery. As she was given the news, the young lady burst into tears and began pleading and begging to have her child be seen. My friend came over to me and told me that I needed to go and speak with the woman in private, and so I did.

She pulled back the blanket to reveal a tiny baby girl with severe cleft lip. The mother told me that her daughter was 28 days old, and that their period of confinement was over in just 2 more days. As she was crying and talking, the mom kept kissing her baby's forehead, and she kept telling me again and again, "I love her....I love her so much." But then she went on to tell me that her extended family would not accept her daughter since she had been born with a cleft lip. They felt this tiny baby would bring shame to them all. With tears streaming down her face, she told me that her mother-in-law was coming to take the baby away from her in two days' time. The mom was begging me to heal her daughter, to make her daughter beautiful, so that she could keep the baby that she had carried inside of her for 9 months….the daughter she loved completely.

When I explained that the baby could not safely be put under anesthesia at four weeks of age, she fell on her knees and was sobbing at my feet, pleading and crying and begging me to help her. Right now...even typing this brings a pain to my chest that I cannot describe.Over and over on that trip, I heard stories from birthparents who adored their children with cleft, but who were told the children could not stay in the extended family.

I met a woman whose daughter with cleft had been taken from her by her in-laws while she slept. She never saw her daughter again. She had come to our mission after reading about it in the paper, to thank us for giving parents a chance to keep their children.....a chance she herself did not have.

That trip changed everything for me about how I view birthparents in China. Many people give pat explanations about infant abandonment that cover the issue in blanket terms: “Babies are abandoned because rural families want sons.” “Babies are abandoned because the medical needs were too great.” Simple, one line sentences, to explain a personal life event that is often very complex.

When it comes to human life, and heartbreaking decisions…..abandonment and loss.....I have learned that there are rarely simple explanations. Every single one of our children faced a great loss in their lives, but the reality is…..we have no idea about the deep, personal stories of the people involved. We have no idea who made the decision that a child couldn’t stay in the family. We have no idea of the anguish, or sacrifice, or resignation experienced. It is easy to think it was a birthparent who lovingly placed the child by the orphanage front gate, but it could have just as easily been an in-law or an uncle who was given instructions by the head of the family to remove the baby from the home.

Every child has their own unique story. It certainly hurts more, however, to think that any of our kids have birthparents like the woman I met on that very somber day. There is still such a stigma surrounding children born with special needs, especially in the rural areas of China. For those of us parenting these amazing kids, the unknowns of their beginnings are very sad to think about, aren't they? Have you thought much about this issue? Do you normally think of a birthparent making the decision to leave a child? Or were you already aware that especially for children with special needs, many become orphaned to not bring shame to the family at large?"


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Catching up

Here we are in the middle of October and I've not updated the blog in weeks! We've been busy--as usual. There has been lots going on so sit back and enjoy the post....

The girls received their report cards and all 3 are on the honor roll! We are so proud of what good students they are. Sarah, with the exception of Art (89), received all A's! She has proven to be a very responsible middle school student! She's had a few issues with time management but always gets her work and studying done. I've had to take a few steps back and allow her to figure out how to juggle school, homework and dance but she has come through with flying colors! The input I've received from her teachers has been very positive; Sarah is a delight, a good student, respectful to both adults and peers and she has transitioned very well!

Grace, even with her new schedule (more on that later), made all A honor roll! The teacher, no surprise, told me how sweet and wonderful Grace is. The only area we need to work on is reading comprehension. Grace loves school and is well loved in return.

Analiese also made all A honor roll! She is a wonderful student, she is actually ahead of her peers in many areas. This is amazing because Analiese is probably a year younger than what the Chinese told us. Behaviorally, we see the immaturity. Cognitively, she is very, very bright! According to Analiese's teacher, Analiese is compliant and is very eager to learn. This doesn't surprise us at all. Analiese loves to learn and puts all of her effort into everything she tries. We chose the best teacher who is doing a wonderful job of channeling Analiese's energy and challenging her to do her best. Thanks Aunt Kelly!

Sarah had another performance today. Her dance company volunteered at the Annual Walk for diabetes and then performed at the culmination of the walk. Unfortunately the weather was awful (no rain but cold and overcast) and they had to dance in the grass--not the desired venue for jazz!

Dave took Sarah, a couple of her friends, and Analiese downtown for the walk. I was out of town and could not be there. Sarah was sad because this was the first time I was not there to help her get dressed, do her hair and make-up. She cried and I really worked hard at assuring her that SHE was old enough to take care of those things her self. We practiced with her makeup and talked about how to dress warmly. Unfortunately, I did NOT talk to Dave about dressing Analiese warmly, I really thought he would just know what to do. WRONG! The poor, sweet little girl went to the walk in capris, crocks, no socks and a thin jacket! I sure don't understand how Dave didn't know to put warmer clothes on her (in his defense the weather forcast was for a much warmer day--the reality was so different).

Grace's gymnastics schedule has changed -- AGAIN! Surprised?? No neither were we! I had a conversation with the head coach and he indicated that Grace was ready to move to a more advanced TOPs team. That meant workouts in the mornings! All of the girls on the team she was to move to are home schooled. The school district would not work with them to allow for late arrivals or early check-outs. Dave and I had already discussed this issue and did not want to pull Grace out of school. So, I went to the principal (whom I love dearly) and discussed the situation. She had to discuss it with the "higher ups" but came back with great news! The school system is willing to work with us. They won't excuse the tardies but will not press the issue with social services. So, for the last two weeks Grace has been going to the gym in the mornings and after school!

Grace's new schedule is tough. She goes to the gym: Mondays 7-10/3-6, Tuesday 3-6, Wed Off, Thursday 8-10/3-6, Friday 7-10. The first week was difficult. Grace was tired and her body hurt. Last week was the first time I ever heard Grace express happiness at having time off from the gym. Last Thursday, when I put Grace to bed, she cried. She lay in bed and had tears streaming down her cheeks. We had a talk about what a great gymnast she was and how important it was for her to continually increase the amount of training she needed to do if she wanted to reach her goal of being in the Olympics. It was so hard for me. I just wanted to tell her that we could quit and she could just continue with her current program. But, that really wasn't the truth.

We were told, by Grace's coach, to expect tears, pain and more tears from Grace. She said that she works the girls hard but she does it so the girls can reach their potential. She works them hard so they can qualify to go to the Karoyli's camp (3 of the girls are going in December), compete Nationally and eventually be part of the National Team! She thinks Grace has the skills and potential to be one of those girls! Dave and I are committed to doing everything we can to allow Grace the opportunity to find out if she can reach that level!

Today Grace had a meet and, once again, won first place on all four events and first place all around! She got her best all around score--37.875! She only has one more meet before the state meet! Grace is nervous but we have assured her that all she has to do is what she has been doing and she'll do great! No matter what happens! I think Grace is finally realizing how much she wants to win and the competitive bug has gotten her! Go, Gracie, go!!!

Grace and I, with one of Gracie's friends, drove up to the meet on Friday. Grace had to be there by 8 AM and the drive was long enough that I just wanted to be closer and avoid the early wake-up, long drive and stress of making sure we got there on time. She had a great time. There was an indoor pool and along with her friend that came with us, another teammate came up early! The girls just swam, giggled and yelled the night away. I guess this was just a small preview of how the state meet is going to be. There are a bunch of us staying at one hotel with an indoor pool. Boy do I feel sorry for the non-gymnastic traveler at that hotel!

The rain continues here. We are so tired of all of the wetness! Of course there are the benefits but we so are ready for some dry weather!

At the end of the month Dave's boss retires. Dave will then assume the position of Assistant Vice-president of the library! Congratulations Dave, you deserve the position!

Even though we are so busy, we feel blessed that we are able to do all that we do! Life is good, god is good, we are sso blessed!