In our house, August 19 is Family Day. That's the day we officially adopted Caroline in China, and we celebrate it joyfully every year.
It's hard to believe that 9 years ago today, Caroline officially became part of our family. Really, until then we were a couple. And Caroline made us a family. Don't we look blissfully happy?
That picture was taken at the orphanage in Chongqing, China, the very day we met her.
The events that led us to adopt Caroline weren't easy. We dealt with unexplained infertility for some time, and explored some domestic adoption situations that didn't pan out. It was an emotional time for Roger and me as a couple. But when we learned about the process of adopting a child from China, it seemed like the clear and right path for us.
In retrospect, it seems like the time flew by. But that wasn't how it felt at the time, of course. It felt like the paperwork was endless, and complicated. We sent papers all over the US to get them stamped and sealed as necessary, and then were in awe when they came back to us from the Chinese Consulate in San Francisco, stamped and sealed some more, with impressive Chinese characters and a red satin ribbon attached. We were so frustrated we could have chewed nails when the federal government shut down for 4 or 5 months over a political budget mess...Remember that? Our papers sat on someone's desk at Immigration all that time, and there was nothing we could do about it.
During that time, it seemed that I saw heavily pregnant women everywhere, and I felt pregnant as well...I even gained a few pounds!
Finally, after our papers went to China, we got our "child assignment" and received this picture of our as-yet-unseen daughter:
This was our first glimpse of Caroline. I framed it in this frame, and kept it on my desk at work. We made zillions of copies, carried laminated ones in our pockets, and sent them to everyone we knew. (It's funny to me that I see that same serious, contemplative expression on Caroline's face at times, even now.)
And then we waited for clearance from the Chinese government to travel to China. If I thought the waiting was hard before, it became harder when we had a specific child to picture and wonder about!
Roger and I handled things differently, not surprisingly. He got into the excitement of traveling to China, and he researched sites to see and read all about the places we'd be going. Me, I didn't care WHERE we'd be...I bought tiny clothes (pink, pink, pink!) in various sizes, as we didn't know how big she'd be by the time we got there. Would she be on the small side? We knew she was going to be around 6 months old, but we didn't know whether she'd be underdeveloped. I took clothes and diapers for 3 months, 6 months, and a year. Would she accept normal formula, or be lactose intolerant? I took regular and soy. Would she be sick and go through extra diapers? I took enough diapers so she could have diarrhea for the entire time and I wouldn't run out (that's a LOT of diapers). (We were told we could not count on being able to find powdered formula or disposable diapers.) Would she need medication? We took a medical kit (an amazingly complete little pack put together by an international adoption agency out of Texas) that had sterile hypodermic needles, various creams (for lice, scabies, etc.) and antibiotics. We even took duct tape, hearing disaster stories of luggage tearing. We were well prepared and well stocked.
We arrived in China on a Sunday, met up with the other four families we'd be traveling with, and got to meet our babies on a Tuesday. It was an astonishing emotional day, as you can imagine. But every child in our group was beautiful and healthy.
From there, we had almost two weeks of official errands to run to process the adoption... A visit to a health clinic for the most cursory medical exam you could imagine, official photographs for Caroline's passport, interviews with officials, and last, the interview at the American Consulate in Guangzhou so Caroline could get her visa. In between, we did some site-seeing and marveled at our new baby.
We also tried to nap whenever possible. China time is exactly 12 hours off of east coast time (we lived in New Hampshire when we adopted Caroline) so our bodies were in shock. Plus, guess what: babies wake up in the middle of the night!
But she was the cutest baby in the whole world. She gazed thoughtfully out at the world from her stroller as we pushed her around the streets of Guangzhou.
We tested her as a future hat model, but she wouldn't have it and second after every hat picture, she'd ripped it off.
Our day at the American consulate got us the papers to bring her home with us. Note her patriotic red, white and blue attire (well, the blue is hidden in this picture). (And isn't it cool that they had cribs in the American consulate waiting room? Baby swing chairs, too!)
Ah, it was a wonderful experience. I came home feeling that if I could travel in a foreign country with a brand new baby for two weeks, I could do anything.
And here is Caroine now: big and beautiful and smart as a whip.
I simply can't believe it's been NINE years.
We're processing papers to go again, and get a sister for Caroline. So we'll have TWO family days to celebrate, and two beautiful daughters to enjoy.
Meanwhile, we're celebrating. Chinese food for dinner, of course!