Tag Archives: Leo

Adoption finalized/City wall

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Today Leo woke up and was disappointed to see that he wasn’t back home with his foster family. He is very stoic though, and has only had a few periods of crying today. Mostly he looks forlorn, sad, or confused. We got him down to breakfast and he ate a bowl of congee (the Chinese version of oatmeal, made of rice cooked down to a porridge consistency), some steamed buns, and fruit. We tried him on two different kinds of fruit that he made a face at before I remembered the picture we had of him with the watermelon. Mary Evelyn handed over one of her pieces and he ate it right away.

After breakfast, Matt and I met Denise in the lobby to go back to Civil Affairs to finalize the adoption. Leo is still very curious, and looks around at everything as we are driving. Finalizing the adoption took a surprisingly short amount of time. We left the other children back at the hotel with Linda thinking we would spare them an hour of tedious paperwork but apparently international adoption involves fewer signatures than buying a house. Leo loved getting his red fingerprint stamped on the paperwork. We got him an extra piece of paper and let him stamp all over it.
He was very excited to see the orphanage director and her associate again. It was great to see his real personality as he laughed and played with them, giving them hugs and kisses. He even gave Matt and I a kiss when they told him to. But it was hard on him when they left again.


We had worked out a schedule for the week with Denise. We would like to visit his orphanage in Lianyungang, which is a 4 hour drive. Denise has now gotten us permission from both the civil authorities and the orphanage director. We had another optional trip, which Denise said she doubted we would want to do if we visited the orphanage. For the visit, we have to pay a fee which will cover a van rental, driver, and having Denise for the day. The other trip is basically the same. She said “You see lake, there water and trees. I think you see these at home before, right? I think you not want to pay if you go to the orphanage.” We agreed, but I asked if there were other things we could see within walking distance of the hotel. She said that she would return to drop off the adoption decree and we could walk to see the city walls at that time. Then tomorrow morning, we will walk to the Confucius Temple area, which is a kind of touristy pedestrian park area. We came home and let Leo take a nap, then met Denise again at 3 pm.


Denise warned us that it would be a 15 minute walk, and worried that Vincent might get tired. We tried not to laugh at her too much. Which reminds me of a story I didn’t tell you about Sunday. When we were in the Beijing airport, we stopped next to one of those moving sidewalks to use the restroom. While we were piling our stuff on the floor, Vincent reached up and grabbed onto the moving handrail, tucked up his feet, and let it carry him a few feet down from us while giggling his head off. He did not appreciate Matt plucking him off the conveyor belt and stopping his fun.

Anyway, we put Leo in the ergo carrier, which he loves, and walked to the city walls. If we had any idea how many intersections we needed to cross, we would have just gone to walk in the nice sedate mall some more. But no one died. The city wall was very impressive. Denise said that it was built about 600 years ago by the Ming emperor who eventually moved the capital to Beijing. She said he required the craftsmen to sign their name on each brick to insure the highest quality of the bricks. There was even a large ramp so that they could bring horses to the top of the wall.


We then walked to a riverside park and followed the wall along the river for a while. We saw many people relaxing. If we were a spectacle before as the crazy white family with four kids, we are even more of one now that we’re the crazy white family with four kids and a Chinese baby. People would call out to each other to turn around and look so no one would miss us. Several people asked Denise questions. But everyone is very friendly and good-natured, so we haven’t been bothered by the attention. We met a grandfather walking his 18 month old granddaughter who had a bird perched on her stroller.


When we reached the end of the river walkway, Denise said that we should go back a different way, since we had gone so far. We followed her along through the backstreets of Nanjing. It was similar to our hutong tour in Beijing. We saw so many little shops where the owners had children playing out front next to where their laundry was hanging. People gathered to smoke and play cards. People were walking dogs, or riding bikes, or talking to neighbors. It was really a lot of fun at first, but the walk went on and on. Denise let us through one street after another. There weren’t really any crazy street crossings taking this back way, but often she preferred to walk in the street when a perfectly good sidewalk was available, so there were always motorbikes and the occasional taxi zooming pack. Finally, a good two hours after we started off on our walk, we made it back to the hotel. Denise even took us to a good restaurant across the street which was cafeteria style (tonight’s total was $10) and helped Matt to order before she headed home.


After supper we came back to the hotel and gave Leo his first bath. He finally perked up a bit and started to play with the children again. He’s been clinging to either me or Matt all day and not as interested in playing with them. As bedtime approached, he started to sag and make this little grunting noise he makes when he’s trying not to cry. He lost his battle and started to have another good cry. I just patted him and said soothing things to him. We know he misses his foster family. It is great that he likes me and Matt and lets us hold him, feed him, and care for him. That means that he will build a strong attachment to us. But it will take time. The children are doing well with understanding why he is sad. Vincent came over to pat his back and tried to comfort him by saying “You know, I was about your age when Mama and Papa came to get me, too.” The orphanage visit on Thursday might be hard for him, but I hope it will also help him to have some closure, too. Being able to see everyone one last time and say goodbye can be important, even for a little guy.


Meeting Leo

As you probably knew, today really dragged by. This morning we ate another big breakfast, then Matt and Linda took the kids swimming while I did laundry. Lots of laundry. After that we just sat around played cards or things like that until 2:30 finally rolled around. Denise came with the van and we drove to the Civil Affairs building. Leo was already there, and Denise was actually trying to drag us in because Matt was trying to show Linda how to use our camera to take a video. Then we went in, and there he was!


We spoke to him and gave him a sucker. Matt tried holding him first and he started to cry. Then I took a ball out of the backpack and distracted him with that so he ended up in my lap. We passed him back and forth as we filled out guardianship papers and the children talked to him and rolled the ball with him. It really wasn’t long at all until we were out of the Civil Affairs office. We will come back tomorrow to finalize the adoption. Today we are his guardians for a 24 hour “harmonious period.”


Denise then took us to a local store so we could buy any baby supplies we needed. I brought some of the clothing that I had packed and it seemed to fit fine, so we mostly bought some snacks for him. Then we headed back to the hotel. Leo was mostly withdrawn in the van and at the store, looking around with a hesitant look on his face and not saying anything. Once we got back to the hotel he looked around at the tv and beds and burst into tears. He just cried and cried for probably 10 minutes. Matt left with Denise to get some food. I changed his diaper and then offered him a box of milk. He was very thirsty and gulped down the milk. After that, he seemed to really settle in well. He started playing with some of the toys that we brought.


After he had some food and more milk, he was having a lot of fun. He loved the giant green balloon and chased his brothers around whacking them with it. He was giggling and laughing. He liked Mary Evelyn too, and she got the only hug and kiss from him. He had a 10 year old foster sister in his foster home, so I wonder that helped. When it got close to his bedtime he started yawning and rubbing his eyes. We got him changed and he sat on my lap while I read Frog and Toad to Vincent. I stood rocking him and patting his back for a bit and then put him in the crib. He was asleep about one minute later. We definitely had a good first day together.



Adoption has kind of a fairy tale connotation for most people.  Like the movie Annie, the poor orphan is whisked away to a life of luxury and love in the wealthy US.  Certainly Leo’s life will be better over all for having been adopted, but it is important to understand that every adoption involves a lot of loss for the adoptee.

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Leo spent about a week and a half with his family before he was abandoned.  We will never know his family’s circumstances, but it’s likely that they could not afford the medical care that he needed.  He was wrapped in a blanket and left in a very public place where he would quickly be found.  He won’t remember that short time with his family, but he still suffered a loss when he was separated from them.

When a routine search for his birth parents didn’t turn up any family members, he was placed in an orphanage.  His orphanage is a very good one, where the nannies care for specific children to foster attachment.  They have plenty of toys and books, and he was well fed, which is not always the case in orphanage care.  Leo was described as being attached to his nanny, but she had several other special needs children to care for.


As Leo grew older, his caregivers noticed that he was starting to lag behind a little.

Lian Yu Qiang (3)They thought he would do better with some individual attention so he was enrolled in the Half the Sky infant nurture program.  He was assigned a “grandmother” from the local community.  She came to visit him a few times a week.  She worked with him one on one to meet his developmental milestones, fed him snacks, and served as a special person in his life, just as a grandmother might in real life.

(Everyone asks me about how he is dressed in this picture.  The orphanage doesn’t have a central heating system to the children are dressed in multiple layers to keep warm.)

When he was around a year old, he was selected to move to foster care.  His orphanage director knows that children grow best in a loving family, and there are several foster families in his city who keep children from the orphanage.  He joined a foster family with a mother, father, and foster siblings.  Not only does he get more individual attention than he does in the orphanage, but he learns what family life is like.


When he moved to the foster family he did not lose his relationship with his nanny or grandmother because his foster mother brings him to the orphanage for several hours a day, similar to a daycare arrangement.  Leo does not know that he is an orphan he is being cared for by paid childcare workers.  Everyone he knows lives in this orphanage or in his foster family!  He has a nanny, a grandmother, and a foster family.  But that is all about to change.

A photo album of our family was sent to Leo’s orphanage along with a letter I wrote to his caregivers telling them about our personalities and the activities we enjoy as a family.  I am told that his foster mother shows him the pictures often and has taught him to call us Mama, Papa, sister, and brother when she points to the photos.  But because he is so young, he will not really understand what is happening to him.  We will basically be kidnapping him, taking him away from the life he knows.  We look different, we don’t speak his language.  But at least he will still be in China.  Until we travel to the US, and then he will have even more loss.


Through this adoption he will lose his orphanage, nanny, grandmother, and foster family. He will lose his language, and his country, with it’s familiar foods and smells.  Even a two year old will go through a grieving process, and he might be angry at us.  Eventually his life will be better for having been adopted into our family, but we have to recognize that this isn’t something that he is excitedly looking forward to.  Adoption is wonderful because every child deserves a family, but every adoption begins with loss.