Unseen Parents

Note: I wrote this entry several weeks ago, the day after Nico’s birthday. It seems timely to post now, in the wake of our visit to Lia’s birthplace.

I’ve been thinking about Han Kun and Na Fei’s Chinese parents a lot while we’ve been in Beijing. I notice men and women who resemble the kids. I look at Lia in the arms of a Chinese woman and imagine them belonging together, me the white outsider. I wonder how their Mamas and Babas would parent them. I do this not to be morbid or politically correct but from a desire to know, honour and acknowledge the full story of these children and all of their families.

I picture a couple living in the countryside near Lianyungang. A couple that conceived a child in the auspicious year of the Golden Pig. A couple joyful to learn that he was a boy, anguished to see his cleft. How did they talk about their predicament? Who got involved? Who chose the time and place to leave him and who walked away?

The natural parents in international adoption tend to be faceless. Unseen, unnamed (when we talk about her Chinese parents with Lia, that’s her first question, “What are their names?”) We don’t know the stories of how their children came to be left. We don’t see or hear the emotions that ravage them. They’re rarely on adoption panels. We can’t read their blogs.

A few weeks ago I came across this story about one mother’s pain and powerlessness as she fought to keep her cleft-affected daughter. The story is written by Amy Eldridge, who works with Love Without Boundaries, a non-profit that works with orphans in China:

I was sitting in the intake room one morning when an anxious young woman came running in holding a tiny bundle. I could immediately tell that the baby was a newborn, and I asked our Chinese director to break the bad news to the woman that the baby was far too young for surgery. As she was given the news, the young lady burst into tears and began pleading and begging to have her child be seen. My friend came over to me and told me that I needed to go and speak with the woman in private, and so I did. She pulled back the blanket to reveal a tiny baby girl with severe cleft lip. The mother told me that her daughter was 28days old , and that their period of confinement was over in just 2 more days. As she was crying and talking, the mom kept kissing her baby’s forehead, and she kept telling me again and again, “I love her….I love her so much.”

But then she went on to tell me that her extended family would not accept her

daughter since she had been born with a cleft lip. They felt this tiny baby would bring shame to them all. With tears streaming down her face, she told me that her mother-in-law was coming to take the baby away from her in two days’ time. The mom was begging me to heal her daughter, to make her daughter beautiful, so that she could keep the baby that she had carried inside of her for 9 months….the daughter she loved completely. When I explained that the baby could not safely be put under anesthesia at four weeks of age, she fell on her knees and was sobbing at my feet, pleading and crying and begging me to help her. Right now…even typing this story….it brings a pain to my chest that I cannot describe.

Yesterday was a happy day as we celebrated Nico’s birthday. Somewhere a few hours’ flight away, it must have been a sad day of painful memories for a family that mourned for him. I promise not to forget.

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