Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Big Ai-Yo!

Ai-Yo! is a Chinese phrase that expresses shock and disbelief. It appropriately describes my reaction this morning upon opening up an email from another member of one of the Yahoo adoption groups we've joined.

In a nutshell, she wanted to find out if we had any interest in adopting a Taiwanese baby girl from an unwed mother. The child is due sometime in September. The poster herself is Taiwanese-American and completed an independent adoption not too long ago. In fact, her son was born at the same hospital at which this child is due. Based upon that connection, someone at the hospital called to notify her about the baby for adoption.

Understand that the tricky thing about adopting independently is that you have to find foster care for the child during the 4-6 months in which the adoption case sits in the Taiwanese courts. Not many American adoptive families have family or other contacts in-country whom they can persuade to raise a newborn for that long. Because she knows that I have relatives in Taiwan, she very thoughtfully decided to contact me. It so turns out from a conversation with my mother earlier today that I just might have a relative or two who would be willing to foster the child until the court process ends.

Now I am a person who values predictibility, thrives on it. I am the Meyers-Briggs poster child of the INFJ to a fault. Just when I thought things were chugging along smoothly with our agency adoption, when we were ever so close to a referral, this proposition came along. Ai-yo! Don't get me wrong; we'd jump at the chance to speed up our wait. This adoption promises many advantages, i.e., a chance to get to know the birthmother more personally, for the child to establish better contact with her should s/he one day choose to do so, to ensure that the baby is in good hands with relatives and receiving one-on-one nurturing. Who wouldn't want that? I have to admit it's so tempting. I know there are countless parents on the Taiwan adoption message boards who would give anything to be in this position.

But alas, my risk-adverse, stay-the-course side screams out, "Crazy woman, what are you doing?!!!" We are this close to receiving an agency referral. What if the birthmother changes her mind and keeps the child during the 4-6 month court process? I don't know our agency's policy on switching to an independent adoption, but I would not be surprised if we got bumped to the back of the waiting list (which at last report was now at 18 months to referral for a health male child or up to 24 months for a healthy girl). What if we foul up the paperwork? We have no idea what we're doing when it comes to adopting independently. We're working on the assumption that this is a legitimate adoption offer, but in the back of our minds, we have to be extremely cautious. There are many horror stories about birthmother scams and we would be wise to take my Yahoo group member's advice to dispatch a relative to meet with the birthmother and her family to investigate further.

Ai-yo indeed.

This is definitely a matter for deep consideration, talk amongst ourselves, and prayer. I'm due to call back the woman who contacted us tonight. Stay tuned to hear what we've decided...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Best Face Forward

We just returned from a one-night vacation to Ocean City, New Jersey. It was a whirlwind 24 hours of sandcastle building, endless kiddie boardwalk rides, and subpar food, the stuff of which summer vacations are made.

While there, I decided to take some close-up shots of the three of us to send to our baby in a photo album. It's an odd and somewhat surreal thing to pose for a picture for someone with whom you're trying develop a close-knit relationship via FedEx. The closest equivalent might be submitting a photo for a dating website. Therein, you want to put your best face forward for your ideal date, to look attractive and confident - and if you're the average American, slimmer.

But how do we pose for a picture for a child halfway around the world? What exactly do we want to convey to the baby? Warmth, security, happiness, gentleness, I would guess. That's a tall order when squinting into the morning sun on a beach.

Here are the photos I've settled upon:

"Come on, Craig, smile at your baby!"

The picture above was salvaged out of 7 takes.

Considering we had our eyes open in these pictures and our six chins mostly tucked away, the pictures are good by our family's standards. We usually have to take at least 5 bad pictures to get one good shot of ourselves. (If there is an advantage to our child not sharing our genetic makeup, not inheriting our unphotogenic tendencies is a big one!) And no, there isn't yet a picture of Andrew; true to form, he was in constant motion and hard to photograph. At the end of the day, I figure if our baby doesn't break out into tears at the sight of our pictures, we've done well enough.

In specific adoption-related news, we are still waiting for our referral. September 9th will be our 5-month waiting anniversary. It's hard not to wonder whenever the phone rings or whenever the answering machine light flashes whether it is "The Call." Since our agency's last update nearly 2 months ago estimated our wait to be 2-4 more months, it could be any day now... Wow.

Monday, August 20, 2007

St. Lucy's Orphanage

As I mentioned before, St. Lucy's is one of the two orphanages from which our child might hail. It is located in Tainan, in southwest Taiwan.

I came across this post from Val, one of the members of one of the Yahoo Taiwanese adoption groups I've joined. She adopted two absolutely beautiful twin girls not too long ago from St. Lucy's ( With her permission, I've excerpted some of her comments about the orphanage:

"St Lucy's isn't your "typical" orphanage that one might imagine in one's head. It's very, VERY clean, extremely well-staffed, and the children receive excellent medical care. When they go out in cars, they ride in car-seats (not the norm in Taiwan), they have lovely strollers, wonderful, clean toys, and lots of sunshine. I only tell you this in case you are wondering if SLC is like some of the horror stories we hear about in relation to Chinese orphanages.. it's not. St. Lucy's is like a big, wonderful daycare center.. except the kids have to wait longer for Mommy to pick them up. :( ... I arrived, expecting to find detached caregivers, lonely children, and sadness.. but what I found was a place filled with warmth and graciousness. Children who had the staff wrapped around their fingers, gifts that were purchased for my girls with the staffs own money, because they loved them so much. After we got home, SLC staffers sent a handpainted photo album to us, with pictures of the girls and letters of love written by those who cared for them their first 10 months. SLC staffers cared for my girls SO well that even though they were born at 29 weeks, and were VERY tiny babies, by the time *I* got there they were only slightly smaller than their peers, and developmentally they were on par with their American counterparts. My daughters were driven to physical therapy, 3 times a week, and special exercises were part of their routine at "home" too."

Friday, August 10, 2007

Di-Di Mei-Mei, Meet Stick Figure Jesus

More and more, Andrew has been asking about his sibling-to-be, including him or her in his bedtime prayers of his own volition. Over lunch today, we were talking about all the things he could teach Di-Di Mei-Mei ("Little Brother or Little Sister", as we've taken to calling the child).

"You could teach him all the different names of construction trucks."
"You could teach him not to eat the marbles that came with your birthday present."
"You could teach him not to drink the poisonous stuff in the cabinet below the kitchen sink."
"You could teach him about Jesus."

The last suggestion was apparently enough to inspire him.

Now just when I was beginning to despair of Andrew ever showing interest in using any sort of writing implement, seemingly overnight, he has taken to drawing rough stick figures of whatever strikes his fancy (lately superheroes.) Following our conversation, he decided to illustrate memorable scenes from the Bible for Di-Di Mei-Mei.

There were the standards: a resurrected Jesus next to a big rock, Daniel in the lions' den, Adam and Eve being tempted by a tightly coiled, blue snake. And then there were some that made me wonder just why they would especially embed themselves in the memory of a 4 year-old boy - Rahab and the spies, the plagues of flies and frogs upon the Egyptians, Jesus changing water into wine.

At any rate, I was both bemused and touched Andrew's efforts. Like every human being, our child is going to one day make the choice as to what to believe about God. It goes without saying that we will love him regardless of what he or she chooses. Still, Craig and I will make every effort to share with him or her the great hope we have personally found in Jesus Christ in every way possible. We pray that our child would share in the joy of knowing this Savior that has our souls' need in a way that the best of relationships, money, worldly success could never. Of course it's remarkably un-politically correct. But having found something so good, why would we hold back? I don't know if Andrew shares this conviction yet, but if drawing a picture of a bald Jesus lacking a torso, hands, and feet will bring both him and his new brother or sister one step closer to this faith, I'm in full support.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


It's both odd and exhilarating to think that our child could already be born now. Alternately, he or she could still be in his or her birthmother's womb.

In light of this, I've been thinking about the birthmother lately. This is the first of what I'm sure are many bittersweet moments to come in our lives as an adoptive family. Certainly, this time is full of joy for us at the thought that we will soon be seeing the first images of our new baby. But at the same time, somewhere on the other side of the world, a young woman is going through the very heartwrenching process of giving her baby up for adoption. No doubt she's cried a lot over the decision, has run through every possible scenario trying to figure out if she can raise the child on her own viably. She might be feeling a lot of guilt, wondering if her child would ever forgive her for making the conscious choice to step out of his or her life at this point. She is in the unenviable position of holding her baby in her arms, the child she has carried in her womb for 9 months, and then forcing herself to relinquish the baby into someone else's care.

Perhaps I'm projecting too much, but my own instincts as a mother tell me that any woman of sound mind would sooner tear her heart out than be in this situation. I am deeply humbled by the birthmother's selflessness, courage, and determination to forge a new life for her child. I find myself praying for her, particularly that she might be stengthened and comforted as she goes through such a heartbreaking time. I pray this not because I stand to benefit - she will make the decision regardless of us - but because I cannot help but imagine the agony she must be enduring out of love for her child.

My hope is that one day our child will understand the depth of her sacrifice and the selfless love that motivated it. If the birthmother extends an invitation to meet her when we travel to Taiwan (I understand some choose to do so), I would leap at the opportunity to communicate our gratitude in whatever poor bits and scraps of Mandarin I can muster. The words "Shieh-Shieh" dont' even begin to encompass the sentiment.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Here's an interesting tidbit I read yesterday about the speed with which families have been receiving their referrals lately. It comes from an email that Laura Trinnaman, the FFC Taiwan Program director, wrote in response to someone's question on one of the Yahoo Taiwan groups we've joined.

"On average, FFC receives 2-4 healthy infant referrals from the St.
Lucy Center per month. In addition, we receive 1-2 healthy infant
referrals from Chung Yi.

Chung Yi's nursery at the moment is quite small holding about 7
infants at a time. Not all are available or identified for
international adoption. Because of the need for adoption placement
for many additional infants, Chung Yi is opening an additional
infant nursery on August 11, 2007. The size of this nursery is
approximately double the size of their current nursery. And we hope
to see more infant referrals soon as the need grows for families.

Since May, FFC has received many healthy infant boy referrals to
only one girl. Just more boys available right now. This of course,
leaves families waiting in the long list for girls, frustrated to
say the least:)"

Incidentally, FFC is trying to raise some funds to purchase some new cribs and beds for a new infant wing in Chung Yi. The new facility will accommodate 11 babies. Chung Yi is one of two orphanages (the other one is St. Lucy's) from which our son or daughter will come. If you are interested in making a donation, please let me know and I will gladly give you more details.

(Note: the picture above was taken at the St. Lucy's orphanage in Tainan, Taiwan. You can see more pictures of St. Lucy's by clicking on the link at the bottom of this page.)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Getting Ahead of Myself

OK, so we don't have a referral yet. I'm guessing we're about a month away. Nonetheless, the shopping craze has already kicked in to the extent that the adoption process allows. I understand that we'll be able to send a care package to our baby once we accept the referral. Contents will be limited to whatever can fit inside a shoe box. So alas, that giant baby swing that served Andrew so well will just have to stay Stateside.

I've taken a picture of what I've picked up already: 1) a soft photocube in which we can insert pictures of our family. It plays music when you press the pictures, 2)a soft photo album, same idea (this seems to be the ubiquitous item in all adoptee care packages), 3) a disposable camera, 4) a single-use digital video camera. I've read that the caretakers in the orphanages will take pictures and video of our child if you provide the cameras. We'll get the cameras back when we pick up our child. It will be fun to see how s/he grew up in our absence, and I know the images will go a long way in helping fill in the gaps when our child is old enough to wonder.

Maniac baby item bargain hunter that I am, I was overjoyed to discover a Tiny Love Symphony in Motion mobile on clearance at Target for $9.97! This marvel of rotating spirals, bizarre stuffed animals, and classical music standards typically retails for over $40.00. It keeps the child kicking and laughing non-stop. When Andrew was a baby, this should've-won-a-Nobel-Prize toy made the difference between whether my teeth went brushed or not any given day. Unfortunately, it's too large to fit into a shoe box. Still, I'm plotting ways to get this mobile to our baby, even if I have to mail it to one of my relatives in Taiwan and have him or her carry it to the orphanage.

While the care the babies receive in Taiwanese orphanges is better than in most countries, they don't receive the one-on-one stimulation that they otherwise would if they grew up in a normal household. This mobile is by no means an adequate substitute for human nurture. However, if it will make even the slightest difference in his or her development, if it will even elicit a tiny smile from him or her, I'm all for it.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

Sojourn to the Granite State

This weekend, I have been up in New Hampshire visiting my sister, brother-in-law, and their 12 week-old baby, Mei-Ling. It was certainly hard to leave Craig and Andrew behind, but no doubt they're having a good beat-the-drums, dance-around-trees, manly man weekend.

Here is a picture of her royal cuteness, Mei-Ling, yet another living affirmation of why Taiwanese/Polish kids give others a hard chase in the adorability contest.

In other adoption-related news, we received our updated passports this past Friday. We decided to suck it up and pay the extra money to expedite them. Although it may be several months before we're due to pick up our baby, we never know when Craig will get called upon to travel out of the country for work.

My passport turned out fine, though the picture surely attests that 4 years of motherhood have aged me. Poor Craig's looks like a bonafide chop job. The picture was photocopied into the blue booklet showing the staples that originally affixed it. I'm really hoping this won't give him any problems at the airports.

Five W's

It is said that every good journalistic piece should address the five "W's": Who, What, Where, When, and Why. Realizing I haven't explained much of the thought process behind our adoption, I'll attempt to apply the same framework to our answer:

Who: Our current family of three: Craig, myself - Judy, and Andrew, who just turned 4 years-old a few weeks ago

What: Adopting a male or female infant (Craig votes for a girl, I lean towards a boy, but we'd be thrilled with either)

Where: From Taiwan. Our agency, FFC, works with two orphanages, one in Taipei, the other in Tainan, in the south of Taiwan

When: We started the process in January and have been on the waiting list for approximately 4 months now. We were told by FFC that it would take about 3-6 months from the time we got on the waiting list to receive our referral (a.k.a., getting matched to a child). Given that, we could receive our referral any day now or in a few months. After that point, it would take 4-6 more months for the adoption to be finalized in the Taiwanese courts and for us to then travel to pick up the child. We're thinking our "Gotcha Day" would probably be sometime in the early spring of 2008.

Why: We're still trying to figure out a good, pat answer for anyone who asks us this question. If, like us, you're a Christian who believes God has a specific will for every person, then the answer would be "because we're convinced this is what God has planned for our family." If this logic sounds kooky to you, then I might also add, "because for some inexplicable reason, after seriously pondering the question for over a year and a half, our hearts feel more drawn toward adopting than trying to conceive another biological child." And you know what? At the end of of the day, both A and B are true.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Looking Back

What memories will we take away from these past 8 months? I'll give you 10.

1) The many "should we? shouldn't we?" conversations Craig and I had over whether we should kick off the process

2) Filling out the ARS and USCIS applications late at night and arguing over how bad my handwriting is and why I should never be allowed to fill out another joint application as long as I live

3) Dragging a very antsy Andrew from one doctor's office to another to get medical clearances completed and trying to assure the travelling notary that the doctor would be out to sign the forms any moment now. Really, he will. Um, o.k., maybe not.

4) Trying to come up with believable and arguably honest reasons why Aunt Kaity and Uncle Kevin couldn't come over to our house at the same time the social worker was scheduled to be there

5) The elation I felt at receiving what I expected to be the I-171H form from the USCIS (this form clears us on a governmental level to adopt internationlly). The shock and horror I felt upon discovering they had classified our application as "abandoned" due to a clerical error that made it seem like we never appeared for our fingerprinting appointment

6) Being called out by the social worker for the insufficient number of smoke detectors in our house. We now have more smoke detectors affixed to our ceilings than we do lighting fixtures

7) The very pleasant surprise at learning our wait for our child actually began the day our adoption agency, FFC, received our homestudy draft. We had expected it to start much later

8) The surreal experience of half-mindedly watching Andrew do flips on the high bar at The Little Gym while I called one friend after another, asking them to fill out character references for us

9) The countless hours I spent online trying to figure just how the adoptive process works in Taiwan and trying to select an honest, efficient agency with which to work. My naivete and disappointment in learning that so many adoption agencies are really quite crooked and profit-driven

10) Watching Craig choke up as we finally announced the news of our adoption at Andrew's family birthday party on July 7th, 2007. The love, support, and excitement that resounded from all of our family members

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

So Far...

We're a good deal behind on setting up this blog and have about 8 months worth of progress news to post. I'm just going to cut to the chase and give you our timeline in summary form. If you're not familiar with all the adoption lingo, much of this will leave you scratching your head. Believe me, we've been there, too. Of course, this list doesn't do justice to the loads of paperwork, copies, notarizations, and money spent so far.

1/26/2007 - Submitted I-600A Petition to Adopt an Orphan to USCIS - $545.00

1/30/2007 - Submitted application to sign on with homestudy agency, Adoption Related Services (ARS)

1/30/2007 - Began paperchase for required documentation - $1,361.85

2/7/2007 Submitted application to sign on with Families for Children (FFC) - $500.00

2/24/2007 - Fingerprinted in the Phialdelphia USCIS branch office - $140.00

3/21/2007 - Homestudy interview with ARS - $900.00

4/9/2007 - Homestudy draft submitted to FFC; the official wait begins

4/9/2007 - Submitted dossier materials to FFC

5/3/2007 - Mailed finalized homestudy to FFC and USCIS

6/15/2007 - Received notice of I-600A denial due to "no fingerprints"

7/6/2007 - Received 1-171H, clearing us to adopt internationally

7/24/2007 - Applied for expedited, updated passports - $155.00