Posts Tagged ‘adoption

14
Aug
08

Pieces of China

Two years ago we were in Beijing and other parts of China, touring, soaking up culture and feeling like big, fat, pasty Westerners. We also were there to complete our family and make some kind of lasting connection. While we were taking away one of its daughters, we also left behind a part of ourselves.

So it has been with great interest that we approached the 2008 Olympic Summer Games in Beijing. We root for the United States. We root for China. We can’t help it.

In spite of all the charges of fireworks fakery and lip-syncing deception that have come out since the spectacular opening ceremony last week in Beijing, we’ve decided to hold onto the first breathtaking memory of watching it together.

We admired its grand scale, feats of athletic prowess and incredibly creative interpretations of Chinese history through dance and art. So many times we stared at the TV and asked: “How did they do that?” Most of all, we loved watching our Girl from the East point with glee at the TV and shout “China! China!”

Ultimately, she is too young to watch the games or gain anything through the special features. Her impression of China is firmly rooted in the bouquets of pyrotechnics coloring the night sky and the elaborately costumed characters.

Our visit to China took us to many tourist attractions, but it also led us down streets not highlighted in any official network feature — which seem to want to put a high polish on everything to keep international relations warm and fuzzy.

We walked away with many pieces of China. Some beautiful, some confusing, others haunting. You can’t walk through Tiananmen Square without thinking of the student protesters. You can’t walk among a sea of nearly homogenous people and not understand what it’s like to be a minority. You also can’t really know a place unless you’ve been there. Seeing the Great Wall on TV is no match for scaling its dizzying steps.

We realize there are many pieces to the China puzzle. We don’t know if all of our impressions are accurate, or if we’ve passed them through our American filter too many times. Will the Olympic exposure help us and others better understand China? If nothing else, it has sparked many conversations and debates.

We feel commited to learning the language, to studying the history and culture. We befriend Chinese people. Anything to hang onto that cultural thread, no matter how thin.
Yet China remains far away and largely a mystery to us.

Here is a picture sent to me by a shopkeeper I met in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province. Once a year I receive Chinese New Year greetings from “Tiffanie.” With a population of 4 million people, Nanchang is considered a small town by China standards. This image was taken during the Chinese New Year; it more closely depicts the China we saw. This picture is nearly the polar opposite of the BBC image at the top of this post. Both are pieces of China.

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13
May
08

Vulnerable mom

My motherhood has always been as vulnerable as a featherless hatchling twitching on the pavement. My introduction to it with Girl from the West came about by surprise, so I was caught off-guard and scrambled for months to embrace the notion that I — rock ‘n’ roll zombie at the time — was going to be a mom.

Following the birthing experience, I became a WORKING MOTHER and often felt the wrath of those who looked down upon moms who paid others to raise their offspring whilst they pursued careers to pay for their fancy shoes and expensive highlights.

Not long after, I was a DIVORCED MOM and a PART-TIME MOM, the former was fact backed up by court records, the latter was a label thrown at me by those who didn’t support my decision to end the marriage and share custody.

Then Girl from the West was old enough to join after-school activities. This is where I learned I was not only SINGLE MOM, but also FAKE MOM because my oldest daughter and I didn’t share the same last name. It didn’t matter that we had the same eyes, nose and laugh. I was a fake for sure according to one Brownie Scout. I suspected a few of the moms in that troop thought the same thing.

Of course, the FAKE MOM label is perpetuated now with the arrival of Girl from the East, who was born to another woman in China and legally became my daughter in 2006. We don’t share the same eyes, nose or laugh, but we certainly have the same last name. We share just as much love as any child born to me.

Still rather new to me is the STAY-AT-HOME MOM label, which is self-imposed since it’s how I answer the cocktail-party question of: What do you do?

Last weekend, Teleflora sponsored a Mother’s Day contest on NBC that asked viewers to nominate women in various categories, including the NON-MOM. I guess this is a more awkward way of saying “fake mom” when referring to an adoptive mother or other non-traditional caregiver. After a barrage of complaints, the sponsor issued a fine-print apology and correction to “adopting mom.”

In defense of all this, I call myself a MOM ZOMBIE. I do this partly because most of the time I’m staggering around in a sleep-deprived stupor. Some of it is my own doing. I stay up too late doing stuff I hate to give up: reading, exercising, making out with the Internet. I also have a big caffeine habit.

I also do it because sometimes I have to numb myself to the negative labels attached to my caregiver/nurturer role. Despite what the world and a few random Brownies wish to call me, I love my children and would do anything for them. They call me “mom” and that’s all that matters.

27
Aug
07

baby steps

This weekend marks the first anniversary of our adoption referral. For those outside the adoption community, this means after a two-year leap of faith we landed on solid ground holding the picture of a gorgeous baby girl born in Jiangxi, China.

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The portrait of our doe-eyed baby motivated everything we did for the next two months until we could travel to China.She motivated us to transform our restful coffee-bean colored TV room into a pink and green girls’ nursery. She motivated me to spread paperwork on every flat surface in my living room and dining room as I filled out travel visa applications, health forms, insurance forms, leave of absence requests and so on. She motivated me to stay up late night after night shopping and packing and planning on what to bring in one small suitcase for a baby we’d never held, didn’t know anything about.When we met baby girl on Oct. 30, 2006, we were strangers for sure, but the unrequited love affair wouldn’t last for long. Over the next 10 months, baby girl would fall in love with us, too, and learn to love all that life with a family had to offer.fountain31.jpgAll this leads to this week, when I watched baby girl in a candid moment. She lay on her back, holding her baby doll “Mei Mei” aloft and softly singing. She rocked Mei Mei over her head, letting her “fly” just as I do with baby girl.They say you can learn a lot about a child’s emotional state by watching her play. What I see is that baby girl has come a long way from the frightened infant who howled when we set her on the floor.The reason why stay-at-home motherhood has been so frustrating for me is that I assumed that by being a woman and a second-time-around mom it would all just come to me. What’s to know? What’s to learn?I soon realized that there’s plenty to know and learn. The hardest part for me was admitting I had a lot to learn. To let go and learn from women who’ve mastered this role was a huge turning point for me.The best piece of advice I received this year was from a mom of four who told me that it took her TWO YEARS to figure out how to do it all and be happy. Two years of trial and error and anti-depressants and near nervous breakdowns and threats of divorce. There is no magical formula for her to pass on to me or for me to share with you. So, I just have to keep that portrait of the wide-eyed wisp in plain view. Even though baby girl has changed greatly from that image, it serves as a strong reminder why I did all this and how far we’ve all traveled.




"It's not the tragedies that kill us, it's the messes." --Dorothy Parker
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