Fighting for Phoebe: An Adoptee in Search of a Bone Marrow Donor
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Hope Ambassador Kelsey
“An invisible red thread connects two people who are destined to be together from the moment they are born. The string can be stretched or tangled, but it can never break.” Chinese Proverb
I am a mother of three amazing children who do nothing wrong, and I am blessed by the amazing gifts and talents they bring to this world every day! They are incredibly smart and excel at any activity they get involved in. I am truly blessed beyond words!
Okay, okay … the reality is I am truly blessed to have three amazing children. However, I also recognize they are not perfect in the choices they make, but they are a perfect fit into my life and my family. They are not academic all-stars, but they try their best and are learning to be humble in their accomplishments. They face many of life’s obstacles and learn from their mistakes along the way. Simply put, my children are no different than any other adolescents in this world that are navigating childhood while trying to just get by.
This summer I did reach a pinnacle moment as a mother of my three children. As a family we traveled to China to experience, what is known to international adoption families, a heritage tour. In 2007 my husband and I traveled to China for the first time to bring home our six-month old daughter. She was born in Wuchuan Village in the Guangdong Provence and was abandoned the day she was born. We do not know anything about her birth family. This trip was our first trip back since bringing our daughter home, and the first time for our twin sons to visit.
Overall the trip was quite simply amazing! We traveled with ten other families that were returning for the first time since bringing their daughters home. To say we all got along well would be an understatement. Instead, I will state that a bond was created immediately that is most difficult to put into words. The company that arranged our two-and-a-half-week trip handled every detail with spectacular care and compassion. From the first day our guides immersed themselves into supporting the vast needs of every family, and, more importantly, ensuring the children, ranging from ages four to 17, were at ease in a country unlike the country they called home.
Throughout this trip we learned not only about the vast history of China, but also the current lifestyles and traditions. This helped each family member connect more with the mother country of our adoptive children and their humble beginnings. As the days drew on and new cities were introduced, the bonds that developed were becoming unshakeable. I saw each of my children having life-changing experiences as they learned about everything from day-to-day life within a city of 24 million residents, burial sites that date back to before Christ was born, local cuisine, to a day in the life of elementary students in a small village.
However, what I thought I was most prepared for, and realize even today I cannot quite put into words the emotions I experienced, was seeing my daughter’s finding location (or most commonly known as her abandonment spot). Throughout our tour families would separate to travel to their daughter’s orphanage and finding location city. When that day came for us, I remember praying that I would feel something, anything, which would connect me to my daughter’s birth mother.
This was so important to me because from the first day of our adoption process, our case worker made it very clear to never give false hope to a child that was abandoned. She stated that our daughters should never be told, “Your birth family loved you so much and wanted you to have a better life, so they gave you up.” The reason was to ensure we were open and up front about their beginnings. As difficult as that may seem as I read what I just wrote in this small paragraph … over the years, I have realized just how powerful that advice was and still is.
The morning came that we left Victory Hotel on Shamian Island in Guangzhou, in the Guangdong Provence, to travel by van for five hours to Wuchuan Village. I got up that morning and put on the dress that I had carefully selected and packed for this special day. Climbing into the van I started thinking about my initial reactions, those of my husband, our two sons, and most importantly, our daughter. I knew a lot of our questions would not be answered and probably never would, though I could not stop thinking about “that moment.”
After five hours of riding in a van with excessive heat that even air-conditioning on full power could not begin alleviate, we finally arrived. Our first stop was to check into our hotel, only to find the 114 degree heat was also welcoming us in our hotel room. We checked in, took a few minutes to get settled and headed out to our daughter’s finding location. During the drive we witnessed poverty that may never be witnessed on the streets of the United States. People were living in old shelled out store front buildings with blankets and tarps anchored by sticks and old metal poles to help provide some privacy. The heat was so blistering that the thought of having or even seeing grass was not an option.
Finally our van came to a stop at what appeared to be an old abandoned street corner. On one side there was a makeshift structure that we were told was a bus stop. Behind that structure there were several large trees that housed a hammock, and a man was lying in it taking a nap. Beyond that was a shed about the size of a one-car garage. Looking across the street at the other corners there were old abandoned buildings that looked like families had made into their residence with various discarded materials.
We climbed out to look around as our guide spoke to the man that had exited the stand-alone shed. He came back to us to let us know that this was the location our daughter was abandoned. I remember at that moment a lump rose to my throat as I looked around again with a completely different mindset. Immediately, I was searching for a connection to my daughter’s birth mother … what was she thinking the day she laid LeAine in the paper box on this street corner? Did she ride the bus here after just giving birth knowing that would be the final time to hold her baby in her arms?
I walked around for a moment and then realized I wanted to savor as much of that moment as possible and started taking pictures. Quickly I turned to check on my daughter to make sure she was doing all right. Surprisingly, she was fine and seemed to be just taking it all in. Beyond her I located our boys and I could tell by their expressions they too were not quite ready to truly witness their sister’s first moments in life.
As I continued to survey the area, my eye caught my oldest twin son showing the poster we had made of LeAine’s life to one of the locals. Then, within five minutes, we were surrounded by nearly fifty people who saw us and wanted to know what we were doing there (not often you see blonde hair, blue-eyed people hanging out in the southernmost part of southwest China). They took special interest in our poster that documented LeAine’s life and helped us hang it on a tree so that, if by chance, her birth mother came to visit, she would see LeAine was healthy, happy, and loved by her forever family.
Overwhelmed by the amazing outpouring of response we received, our tour-guide decided it was time for us to go. As we said our good-byes, I turned around one more time to survey the location and the surrounding area, overcome with emotions I’ve never experienced before. I felt for the first time in my life I connected with a person I have never met … LeAine’s birthmother.
Visiting my daughter’s finding location was “that moment” I had been waiting for her entire life. Regardless of what our case worker had originally told us about “never giving false hope,” I knew at that moment, LeAine’s birthmother wanted more for her. She wanted LeAine to have a life that she would have never received in that small village that was overflowing with poverty. The moment she dressed LeAine in the cream colored baby suit, wrapped her in a red blanket, placed her in a paper box, and laid her on that corner, she knew that LeAine’s mother was 7,972 miles away in center of the United States and would give her a life far better than she would have gotten there.
It has been two months since I walked the steps of my daughter’s birthmother and I am still trying to translate my heart’s emotions into words. I will never forget that moment, though as quick as it came and went, the seconds seemed to have lasted an eternity. The experience of that moment was that I felt for the first time LeAine’s life coming into full circle and finally connecting her red thread between her birthmother and me, her forever mother.
I would like to dedicate this post to all the adoptive mothers of the world so they may also find the red thread that connects them to their child’s birth mother. I’d also like to dedicate this post to Red Thread Heritage Tours for making our family’s trip of a lifetime, truly, a trip of a lifetime, and for the life changing friendships we made in that two-and-a-half-week period. If you are looking to learn more about your adoptive child’s birth country, take a heritage tour to learn more about the history, traditions, and current life styles.
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