Every parent who adopts a child from China knows that the birthparents abandoned the child, often just a few days after birth. The reasons vary wildly, but I truly believe that these women are making what they feel is the best or only choice for their child's future. I cannot even begin to imagine the horror of having to make that decision, of feeling like that's the best option.
Every parent who adopts a child from China also knows that he or she has spent time in an orphanage. No matter how clean or how new the orphanage, no matter how loving the ayi, the hard fact remains that one side of your child's head is flatter than the other because she spent so much time lying in a crib; one ayi for 18 toddlers doesn't allow for much holding or one-on-one attention.
Every parent knows these things on a logical level. I knew them -- I'd even seen pictures of the orphanage online -- and yet I was completely unprepared when the reality smacked me in the face.
We drove three hours to Shenzhen to visit her orphanage. As we arrived, Jason explained to Nan Yu that we were here for a visit, she wasn't going to sleep here, and she'd stay with Mama and Baba and jiejie. I hoisted her into the mei tai and apprehensively trailed them into the building. The staff and the ayis all called out to Nan Yu and tried to kiss her, but she wanted nothing to do with them. She even refused the drink they offered. She was, with them, how she was with us on Monday afternoon.
The orphanage was new -- one of the nicer ones, actually -- and yet it was so sobering. Bars and locked gates everywhere. Rooms of cribs full of toddlers, some sleeping, some standing and staring at us. A row of special-needs wheelchairs with trays and headrests. Each child's crib with a mosquito net and two changes of clothing above it. To say it was institutional would be an understatement. It was quite clear that the ayis loved Nan Yu and that they did the best they could, but it still broke my heart to see it in person.
Not all was horrible, though. Two good things, one amusing thing:
(1) We discovered that her birthmother left her with a note. That's quite rare, and we were able to see the original and make a copy. We were also able to see the picture from when she was first brought in -- it's the only baby picture of her we'll ever see.
(2) Her foster mom loved her and came to visit her twice over the last few weeks. That made me both happy and sad and I've asked whether we can send a note and pictures to the foster mom once we return home.
(2) Nan Yu's ayi told us we didn't have enough layers on her. You've seen the Michelin Man Effect, right? When we got Nan Yu on Monday, she had on at least three layers, and it was warm outside. I've been waiting for someone to yell at us for "only" putting a shirt and coat and pants on her...
I can't even describe this; it's really Beatrix Nan Yu's story to tell, if she chooses to do so, when she's older. Suffice it to say that I can't remember the last time I've cried so much.
She was so sweet - she grabbed a tissue and wiped away my tears. Thinking about what must have been running through her birthmother's mind when she left Beatrix Nan Yu there... it just kills me. (And now I'm crying again.) This might have been one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life, but I'm so glad I did it. If or when Beatrix Nan Yu has questions, I can at least answer some of them for her and show her the pictures.