Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Adopting Xu Xiao Yan


Usually I write fiction. This story in nonfiction.

This month Hannah, whose Chinese name is Xu Xiao Yan, turns six-years old at almost the same time that my sister Mary and her husband Tom adopted her five years ago. Xiao proved unpronounceable to us, although Mary comes close. My best Xiao sounds like Sh-eow, rhyming with meow.

(Above is Hannah’s baby picture, taken by the XuZhou Social Welfare Institute when she was a newborn, restored or more aptly redrawn as best I could via Photoshop.)

I’ve written about the adoption before, but because the trip remains among the most significant and memorable journeys I’ve had the privilege to take, I’ll attempt to retell it here. How Hannah’s blessed us and opened our lives and continues to fill us with joy far surpasses anything I can write, of course, but I never stop trying.

Following protracted adoption preliminaries, the agencies gave Mary and Tom unusually short notice, partly because the 2002 SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) epidemic in Guangdong province had been contained, and so any pending business was rushed ahead. My unexpected invitation to accompany them came on the heels of that. Tom and Mary brought me along as a mother. I knew something about babies, if practically nothing about China. And with no time to study, I didn’t try.

We flew to Beijing and then Nanjing where we met Janice, a representative from the US adoption agency. Under Janice’s guidance, Mary and Tom and I stayed at Nanjing’s Howard Johnson’s Hotel along with approximately ten other US or Canadian couples ready to adopt baby girls. On the third afternoon, a buzz of excitement zipped through the hallways. As I remember it, those minutes hovering after years of expectation filled the rooms and hallways with great flutters of emotion and hushed, hushed voices. “The babies are here,” whispered a guide. “Come, it’s this way.”

My sister and I grabbed hands and pinched each other’s forearms, too overwhelmed for words. As we got closer, Mary and Tom may have lagged; for soon I was moving fast toward a half-way open door. An older woman wearing a hairnet was holding a baby girl with a tiny green bow tied to a thatch of long dark hair on top,shaved in back and along the sides. I knew instantly. Everyone else dropped from view. A rush of affection and unmistakable recognition—I knew that baby belonged to Mary. “Is this Mary’s daughter?”

The woman was nodding and now Mary was beside me. “That’s her,” I whispered. “That’s your little girl.” As I recall, Mary caught Janice’s eye to be sure. This bright-eyed, tiny, startled baby was Mary’s daughter. Never have I felt surer of anyone’s identity than I did upon first glimpsing Xu Xiao Yan: She belonged to Mary, to us. A few heartbeats later, Mary was cradling Xiao and Tom was lowering his face close to the baby and calling himself Daddy.

6 Comments:

Speedcat Hollydale said...

This was soo fun to read ... what a wonderful story ~ (smile)
I usually do not have emotional reactions to the posts I read, but this one really touched my heart.
Thanks for sharing!!

Eric

KK said...

I am amazed in your writing ability. That story is so heart touching. Nice article.

mauniejames3 said...

Oh wow such a touching and beautiful story...and how lucky little Mary is to belong to such a terrific and loving family..thanks for letting us share this story with you..of course, I cried..but happy tears.

Mo said...

A very lovely story, thank you for sharing it.

nobe said...

hi! i found your blog at entrecard and i just wanted to see how it looks like, so here i am!


i am nobe, and you can find me at the following addresses. hope you can drop by sometime. :)


www.deariago.blogspot.com
www.nobe112681.blogspot.com

kathleenmaher said...

Welcome nobe! And everyone else thank you for responding to the story of how my sister adopted my niece.

From reading blogs, and especially from writing one, I've learned posts that run longer than 500 words are generally too long. So I've just posted a Part II to Hannah's story. To me, it's the more interesting half.