Our First Adoption
Eight years ago, we brought home our first adopted son from China. It was wonderful for our family and a happy time. But, it was also sad and hard. Our new son gained a loving family, but he lost the foster family that had raised him from six months old to two and a half. He lost the only mother and father he could remember, and he lost his foster brother that he had grown up with and loved.
For years after coming home and getting used to American life, our son continued to talk about “China Gugu,” which is what we called his Chinese foster brother. He would ask about him, look at his photo, and pray for him every night. We were able to keep in touch with China Gugu each year over a video call, sending photos, etc., always loving him, hoping he would be adopted, but knowing that he was with loving foster parents.
Current Adoption Story
Then, two years ago, our family had the opportunity to travel to China. We wanted to meet our son’s foster parents in person to thank them for how they cared for and loved him. When preparing for that trip, we discovered that China Gugu had been forced to go back into the orphanage when his foster parents lost their home and had to move to a new city. So, we arranged to visit him at the orphanage.
On April 1, 2019, our family arrived by sleeper train (that’s a whole other story) to the city of Taiyuan and traveled by bus to the orphanage. We went to a small, sunlit room filled with toys, where we waited to meet China Gugu in person. Finally, he came in, using his walker and looking very shy. Our son tentatively hugged the brother he hadn’t seen in so long, and then we all sat down to talk and play. China Gugu, whose name is Tong, was super shy but curious about our son and our family. We got to learn all about him and his life at the orphanage.
It was during this visit that I knew I was looking at our new son.
The orphanage was well maintained, and the staff seemed amazing. Honestly, it was much better than I ever imagined. But, when it was time to go, it will still so hard. Here is a boy that our family has loved from afar for so many years, and now we had to leave him in a facility alone. Some of our kids cried after the visit; I wanted to join them.
Over the next month, each of our kids came to us asking if we could bring Tong home. My wife and I had already been talking about it, and seeing our children’s love for Tong was inspiring. So, in May of 2019, we started the adoption process, knowing it would be a long journey.
Most Chinese adoptions take 12 to 18 months. Our first adoption was unusually long at 23 months. So, in early March of 2020, we were excited. We expected to travel in April or May, just one year after getting to meet Tong face to face.
Then COVID-19 hit, and the world stopped, and with it, our adoption. Today, a year after the pandemic started, and two years to the day that we met Tong in-person for the first time, our adoption is still on hold with no sign of movement on the horizon.
If I’m honest, the limbo we are in is awful. Some days it’s easy, many it’s not. At every holiday, birthday, or just family dinner, we all know someone is missing. His photo hangs on our walls, sits on our counter, and looks out from our refrigerator, reminding us that we are incomplete, reminding us that we have a son on the other side of the world, with no one to kiss him goodnight. It’s heartbreaking.
The bright side is that Tong knows we love him, and we are trying to bring him home. He knows there is a family with his photo on their wall. We have been able to video chat with him to show him his photo, room, and new home. We have told him that we love him in Mandarin (Wǒ ài nǐ) and seen him blush at the sentiment.
In April of 2020, we lamented the adoption delay and quietly celebrated Tong’s 11th birthday, hoping it would be the last he would spend away from his family. Later this month, that birthday will pass by again, another birthday missed, and no indication if he will turn 13 in China or the US.
So, what is next? Hope. It’s all we have. We hope to get to video chat with our son soon. We hope that the pandemic will come to a quick end through vaccinations and mask-wearing. We hope that the waiting won’t dampen our spirits. We hope that our son knows we love him. And we hope to be able to hug him before his next birthday in 2022.
One last thing. If you are reading this, thank you. Many friends are kind enough to ask how the adoption is going and support it in so many ways. Getting to the end of these ramblings indicates that you are one of those wonderful people. Thank you for your kindness, love, and support. It lightens our load and fuels our hope.