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Thursday, June 19, 2008

In The Shadows

Have you ever wanted to look at something that existed in shadow? Have you ever striven to touch something that seemed just beyond your reach? Have you ever wished to understand more fully a person about whom you knew very little?

What if you couldn't turn on the light, any light, not even a flashlight? What if you simply had no means of stretching across the span that separated you from what you desired? What if the person you wished to learn from couldn't communicate?

Can you imagine the frustration?

I can.

This is how I feel about my daughter's first year of life.

When the Husband and I decided to adopt from China, we knew that her birth family would always exist in the shadows. There is no information available about her life prior to the day of her finding. Our social worker and other 'been there, done that' parents prepared us for that fact. Actually, I don't know that you can ever fully prepare for what that means in your life, but you can try. And then you live it and learn even more.


We DIDN'T expect to see so many of these shadows in our daughter's life AFTER her finding.

But we do.

Like all of the other gals adopted through the non-special needs program from Tonggu County, our little Tongginator spent her first year of life living with a foster family. We know very little about her eleven-and-a-half months with them, not even their names. We also can't rely on the paperwork we received in China because it contained so many errors. For example, it said our little Tongginator could pull up to stand and cruise. She couldn't even sit alone nor roll over at that point. It took her five months (and therapy!) before she reached the pull up to stand stage.

The Husband and I send yearly updates to the SWI (orphanage). We not only wish for the staff to see her progress, we've hoped the Director would pass along our letter's second copy to the Tongginator's foster family. It's always a translated letter, with photographs, and a self-addressed, Chinese-stamped envelope with paper and pen provided. Unfortunately, so far we've received little to no response.

And no new information.

This isn't the case with a growing number of Tonggu families. The orphanage director recently and gradually began sharing more and more information about the foster care program, including the names of foster family members and also the names of other little children who lived with the foster family at the same time. This results in some amazing connections - a southern family now regularly e-mails a family from Barcelona because two little girls used to share a crib inside an apartment in Yongning Town.

It boggles the mind, doesn't it?

We received word this week that a Canadian family *may* know the name of our daughter's foster family. After three years of asking questions, finally - finally - we felt close to some answers.

The shadows suddenly seemed less dim. We could finally stretch enough to brush our fingers against it and hopefully - hopefully - grasp it. Someone finally spoke.

And then the world went dark again.

Because it wasn't our daughter's foster family after all. In the Mandarin language, many children appear to have the same name in pinyin (pinyin is when it's written in English, y'all) even if they don't have the same name in actual Mandarin characters. There are many instances of this among the Tonggu gals. For example, there are four little girls with the pinyin name Ying, but each girl's Ying character is a different one that means something very different.

Mandarin is full of homonyms like this.

And, unfortunately for us, our daughter shares a homonym with another little Tonggu gal who now lives half a world away from her birth place.

We can't even share in this family's joy because they aren't members of the Tonggu Families Yahoo! group. We don't know who they are.

Our world is shadowed again.

And I'm so disappointed.


Aunt LoLo said...

I'm so sorry for the frustration...but, somehow, it makes me think of how blessed Miss Tongginator is to have a family, forever, that she IS able to touch, with best friends from Tonggu, and grandparents, aunts, uncles...the repurcussions of the first year of life are with her forever, but, what she'll really remember is your arms in the middle of the night.

Briana's Mom said...

That is so frustrating. I am so sorry. Bri also had a foster mom and all I have are some pictures. The orphange never gave me her name or an address. At least I have those pictures of her. I may try to get a name, but I don't think it will happen.

Carla said...

Oh I so know exactly how you feel. Kunming is the exact same way. We know Katie was in one foster village because of a photo we got. We know if we sent questions to the orphanage, they would not be answered. We knew that any package sent to Katie would not be given to her until the day of adoption. We know if we send letters to be given to the foster families they will NOT be given to them. It breaks my heart as I want that connection for Katie. I want to know. I can only hope that eventually we can find these things out.


Janet said...

Oh, I'm so sorry! I also feel sad to think we have NO CLUE about the children's birth mothers, or their lives before the orphanage. I'm sorry you had to come so close, only to be so far away.

Cheri H said...

How hard it must have been to learn that it was not your daughter's foster family. I'm so sorry. I just don't understand why these SWI's just don't let us know up front. My daughter's foster family actually hid a note on her body the of our Metcha Day. I hope that one day you'll learn of your daughter's foster family.

CC said...

One reason we chose to adopt from Korea was to have some of that mysterious info to be able to share with our kids. That said, however, we still know nothing about their foster families. Some families I know also email and write letters on a semi-regular basis with foster families. One of my friends was even contacted by her son's birth mother and now emails with her!

Rochelle said...

How very frustrating... I'm sorry.

discombobulated said...

you are a powerful writer. i got goosebumps reading it. so sorry you took a step forward, then two steps back.