Thursday, December 14

Celebrating Three Years with Emily

Today we celebrate the three year anniversary of the day that we first held our daughter Emily. On the anniversary of her first year with us, I wrote about the journey that led us to a conference room in a hotel in China where we finally became parents. It’s a six page story, so I thought that I would break it down into a few segments starting with making it public and our “gotcha day,” which we now call our Family Day. That way, you won’t have to send out for lunch while reading it and I’ll have blog content for a few days while I try to finish up my Christmas to-do list! Enjoy!

December 14, 2003...seconds after being placed in my arms

And, now...

Once we decided that we were going to adopt a baby girl from China, we were giddy with excitement!

Making it Public

We had a family vacation planned early the summer of 2002 and decided that we would share our news with most of our family then. Since we had been trying so long to become parents, we wanted a special way of telling our families. I made note cards that read, “When a child is born, invisible red threads reach out from the child’s spirit and connects to all important people who will enter the child’s life. As the child grows, the threads shorten, bringing closer those people who are destined to be together. Please pray as we begin our journey to bring home the daughter who grows in our hearts, and to whom you will be an important person.” There was silence as everyone read their card and pandemonium ensued once our message began to make sense. My dad cried, my mother-in-law screamed, and my sister-in-law didn’t quite get it at first. She thought that I was pregnant and couldn’t figure out why I was drinking a margarita!

On that day, our adoption journey publicly began. A few days later, we were doing some shopping and ran into a family with twins who they adopted in China. This is really the first time that we met someone who had adopted their children in China and the first time that we told someone outside our family that we were adopting. We entered a whole new world with its own unique language. My husband enjoyed telling people that we were expecting and then, watching them look at my (relatively) flat stomach. We started to meet others who have adopted or who know someone who has adopted.

Friends with biological children told me how lucky I was going to be not having to experience labor and delivery followed by those first months home with a newborn. I’d now like to tell those same friends that getting your child in a hotel in a foreign country isn’t exactly free of stress or fatigue. However, like those who have gone through a pregnancy, labor and delivery, I quickly forgot the anxiety of the long wait for our referral and the grueling 24 hour trip to China when they placed our daughter in my arms. Our “gotcha” moment was not what I thought it would be. I played it over in my mind several hundred times during our wait. I imagined crying uncontrollably, maybe even falling on the floor, when they handed my daughter to me. But, I didn’t shed one tear! I was in awe of this beautiful, screaming child who I held in my arms. It was almost as if I was outside of myself and some sort of instinct took over.

Gotcha Day

Our gotcha day started early in the morning with a short bus ride from the Sino Swiss Hotel in Beijing to the airport for our flight to Changsha, the capital city of Hunan province. This is where we would meet our daughter, whose face we memorized from her tiny referral photo. Our flight out of Beijing was delayed and our group lounged on the floor of the crowded airport while we waited to learn when we would finally be on our way. We took pictures of each other, wrote in our travel journals, shared our stories, and made small talk. When we finally made it to Changsha, we boarded our bus for a 45 minute ride to the Gold Source Hotel where we would meet our babies. By the time we got off the bus, checked into the hotel, found our rooms and our luggage was delivered, we had about 10 minutes before we had to report to the conference room on the 29th floor. I was still in disbelief that we were actually going to become parents in a few short minutes. The nine families in our travel group milled around the conference room, checked that our cameras were ready to capture the moment, and engaged in senseless chitchat. A few minutes after arriving, we could hear babies crying in the hallway. That’s when I got that feeling in the pit of my stomach and I thought that I was going to cry. I vaguely remember our guide calling one or two families to come forward for their daughter. Then, I saw her! As soon as the nanny carried our daughter in the room, I knew that it was Emily. I heard the nanny say, “Dong Tian” very quietly and before our guide could say our name, I rushed forward to take my daughter into my arms. She was crying very hard and she was the most beautiful child that I have ever seen. She continued to cry, with a scream thrown in every once in awhile, and push my face away for close to two hours. Some time during those two hours, my husband called his brother to tell them that we had Emily. It was 4:30 am in Texas. I tried to talk to my sister-in-law, but couldn’t hear her with Emily crying in my arms. I carefully removed the heavily padded orange coat and pants that Emily was wearing and discovered that she had on two more layers. Her hysterical crying started to subside and was replaced with periodic gasps and hiccups. She finally fell asleep in my arms. I placed her in the crib provided by the hotel and we hovered over her just watching her sleep.

We were parents!

When Emily woke, she was much more relaxed and happy. We carefully peeled off the remaining layers of clothing to uncover a child much tinier than we expected. We gave her a sponge bath on the bathroom counter and dressed her in an outfit we brought from home, which was much too big on her. The two of us couldn’t stop staring at her.

Coming next…Our Introduction to Parenthood and photos from the Family Day celebration that we'll have tonight.