THE STORY OF EMELINE'S ADOPTION
Bringing Home Our Baby
Our daughter Emeline Shenlei is a bright, sweet child with delicate limbs, a small frame (17 pounds, one for each month of her current age), and a sunny disposition.
And this is a story about our wonderful journey to China to adopt her.
The Chinese government asks adoptive parents to spend several weeks in China's sightseeing and getting to know the Chinese culture so that adopted children can be told later about their native homeland. So on October 24, 1997, we traveled to China with a wonderful group of people from New England. Altogether, 10 baby girls would be coming home to new families when this trip was over.
We arrived in Beijing tired, but excited to be in this exotic country. In the first few days, we went to the Great Wall of China which was truly amazing, visited several ancient Buddhist temples and spent lots of time walking the city streets. On October 27, we flew to the city of Hefei where our children would be brought to us at the hotel the next morning from the orphanage that had been their home.
We didn't sleep a wink but lack of sleep didn't keep us from pacing the steps and sidewalks outside our hotel while we were waiting for the arrival of our baby. Buses and cars honking, hundreds of people on bicycles streaming by, vendors with pushcarts ... very much a Chinese streetscape. It seemed to take forever. Finally the orphanage van with our babies arrived! As we watched them carried in, we asked our guide to point out which one was our daughter, little Emeline Shenlei. As we went up in the elevator that took us to the hotel conference room, she stared at us solemnly from the arms of orphanage caretaker.
Each child was presented ceremoniously to their new parents, most of them crying and fussing. But Emeline came readily into our arms, smiling and curious, wearing a handmade pink mohair sweater and red Chinese Mickey Mouse shoes. We went back to our hotel room and sat with her on the bed, quietly playing and getting to know one another. Her immediate acceptance of us was as if spiritually she knew that we were parents, and we too felt that, truly, this was our child. She was delighted to take a bath in the hotel sink and try on some of her new clothes, but she insisted on wearing her red Mickey Mouse shoes.
The first night, she went right to sleep in the collapsible crib which the hotel had set up in our room. But in the morning, when Kevin got up to check on her, he found that she had somehow slipped right through the crib and sleeping peacefully under it on the floor! Yup, we thought, we definitely got the right baby: she can handle us! She was ready for any adventure. Perhaps she thought that this was a sign of honor ---- when adopted into an American family you get to sleep under the crib!
During our two-week trip, we stayed in beautiful hotels and ate delicious Chinese food three meals a day. Our Chinese guides were lovely, caring people who demonstrated through their words and actions their country's belief that "the children are the flowers of China". Due to the one child per family government birth policy and the ancient cultural preference for boys, about 5000 girls are adopted from China internationally each year.
We greatly enjoyed walking the streets and marketplaces with Emeline in her stroller. People would gather around her, admiring her and staring at us in curiosity. We had a card written in Chinese that said she was our adopted little girl and the we loved her very much. The card was passed back and forth, everyone beaming and patting both us and Emeline. She would stare at the strangers solemnly, Buddha like, everyone fussing over her.
We were thrilled to be a family, although at one point I began to think about how sad Emeline's birth parents must have been to have had to give her for up for adoption. I began to crying. Tears ran down my face as I thought of their loss and pain, and Kevin put Emeline into my arms to comfort me. She put her little hands on my wet face and said softly for the first time "Mama, Mama, Mama!"
Soon it was time for us to fly on to Guangzhou where the adoption embassy is located. There we had to go through more paperwork and more medical exams. We settled happily in to the fabulous White Swan Hotel. We also walked the streets, ate amazing food and enjoyed our baby. In the mornings we walked in the parks where hundreds of older people begin their day by doing Tai Chi exercises as well us a ballroom dancing. There we would often be admonished in Chinese with much finger shaking by multiple Chinese grandmothers for not dressing the baby warm enough. "Okay, okay!" we tried to tell them, "even though its 80 degrees will put her snow suit on!"
It was finally time to head home, and we arrived in Massachusetts on November 5,1997. Our luggage had been misplaced (later found) so the only thing Emeline had to where was her Halloween costume. Thus, she arrived in the U.S. dressed as a Dalmatian dog complete with tail.
Since then Emeline has settled right in to her new nursery and surroundings. She sleeps through the night, eats lustily and tottering little walk. We are truly gifted to have this marvelous child in our lives. We walk around beaming and laughing, and our hearts heard from loving her so much.