Now. Hannah D Photography
Six months ago I didn’t know that you ARRRR like a pirate when you’re mad, that you amble like a drunken sailor or that your face drops with worry when you see someone crying. Six months ago I was sitting, waiting in a nondescript government office with a thousand questions and worries. What if he doesn’t love us? What if he isn’t really deaf? What if his spirit has been so damaged that he’ll never recover? I never could have imagined what was in store for us. Baby boy, you have challenged us in so many new ways and proved to me that my heart really wasn’t complete before I met you. I could burst from this love. Thank you, a thousand times.
Now, amidst all that gooey love, I don’t want anyone to think this has been easy. In these past months we have concluded that pregnancy, childbirth and caring for a newborn are a walk.in.the.park compared to adopting a toddler. When B first came home it was clear that he had to be a lone wolf in the orphanage. He didn’t cry when hurt, since crying didn’t likely net results anyhow. He used his smile and charm to get more food, sometimes to the point of overflow. And after all these months he is still trying to figure out what role daddies play. It took time for him to trust us enough to fully, finally, let his guard down. Now when I see him laugh so hard that he blows snot out his nose, or when he wipes tears from my cheeks on particularly hard days, I can tell that everything will be okay. Somehow, even with a rough beginning, Bennett came away with a huge, empathetic heart and a wicked sense of humour. And energy. Oh lordy, does this kid have energy.
Six months of access to language has turned this kid into an opinionated toddler. No! I want peanut butter, not jam on my toast. No! I don’t want shorts, I want jeans. No! It’s MY TURN on the bike!! Well, he certainly had opinions before but instead of being able to tell us what he wanted he would just scream. Or bite. Or hit. He continues to learn new words every day, we’re thrilled that we have completely lost track of how many he knows. He will watch and parrot full sentences back to us, and is starting to learn how to put more complete sentences together himself. “Mama push bike, please.”
We knew the language would come once he was immersed in it, but the part that has been even more interesting to watch is how language is tied to his problem solving skills. Mila is often his best teacher. I watched them the other day doing puzzles together and saw her explain (in ASL) that his piece was upside down, that he needed to flip it over. He did what she said, and after that checked every piece to make sure they were right-side-up. Later she was reading a book of fruits to him. She showed him the apple, signed apple, he repeated. Showed him the berries, signed berries, he repeated. Showed him a green fruit with brown skin, signed peach. He paused and pointed to the picture with a puzzled look. She signed peach. He pointed again, and again, and again until she spelled (the the best of her 2-year-old ability) K-I-W-I. He was satisfied, they moved on.
Seeing him experience this cognitive dissonance and helping to find a solution blew me away and made me realize how far we have come. Six months ago he didn’t even know that objects, feelings, people have names and labels…now he is schooling his sister in what those labels are. Killin’ it, B.
Child relinquishment in China is a complex and controversial topic. It is true, as in any country, that some children are simply unwanted. In other cases, families are truly unable to afford to keep children who they desperately love. The costs can be related to providing medical care to children with disabilities or severe health issues, or for payment of government fines for having more than one child. In any case, when a family relinquishes a child in China, they are breaking the law. Unlike in the US, when parents are unable to care for their child, there is no system in place to legally relinquish parental rights. This means that many parents have to leave these children in public places and hope they will quickly be found and taken in to care and eventually adopted. For most of these parents, they never are able to find out what happens to their children.
Some children are found with brief notes, explaining why the parents couldn’t care for them but these notes rarely contain any personal information. “Please save my baby, his heart is bad” is often the extent of the note. Including birthdates, birth locations or any information about their birth families can lead the police back to the birth parents and land them in legal trouble. We knew that Bennett had a note with him when he was found, but weren’t able to get a copy while we were in China. Finally, a month ago, our agency contacted us with a scanned copy of his note and an English translation. Our caseworker told us in her 10 years of this work she had never seen anything like it. It is a full page. His letter contains his birth date, extensive information about his birth family and mostly importantly makes it clear that he was very loved. It would have been quite risky for them to include all of this information, and we will be eternally grateful to them for that gift. We hope that someday we will be able to let them know that he is alive, loved, and astonishingly cute.