On Monday, I became a daddy!
…And two days later, on Wednesday, I got the first chance to see my daughter. Introducing the newest member of the Clan Komplexify, meet the Ladybug:
In case you didn’t know, the Queen B and I have been waiting for fourteen months for an adoption referral, which itself has been part of a greater twenty-one month epic process of going through an international adoption from China. This little bundle of black haired beauty has been the goal, and she’s been worth every single second of that wait… all fifty-four million, six-hundred ninety-one thousand, two-hundred of them.
I haven’t actually mentioned anything about the adoption on komplexify up to this point, partly because this blog is a place for me to pontificate pithily ‘pon pointless ponderings (and an adoption is never pointless), but mostly because the Queen B has done a much better job documenting the process on her own blog. However, given the sheer euphoria of finally meeting our daughter — if only via a packet of paperwork documenting her medical history, her personality, and three weathered photographs — I want to shout from the rooftops of the world all about her.
This blog will have to do until I find a tall enough ladder… (I know there’s one in the garage somewhere…)
The red thread
In the Chinese adoptive community, there is a widespread belief in the invisible red thread, a concept partially rooted in Chinese legend but adapted by Stephani Ellison, which posits that
An invisible red thread connects all those destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break.
Now, while I have some difficulty accepting the chromatic aspect of this idea (if the thread is invisible, how can one determine if it’s red?), it has taken only twenty-four hours of looking at this little child, reading her story and thinking of the path that brought us to her and her to us, for me to I know in my heart of hearts that this little Ladybug was destined to be my daughter and me her daddy. We’ve never met, but already I love her so much it hurts.
Here is her story.
In mid 2004, the Queen B and I were returning home from coast after visiting with family. While we waited to switch planes at some indeterminate airport hub, we struck up a conversation with the woman in line ahead of us, who was flying with two gorgeous little Asian girls. Her daughters, it turned out; she had adopted them from China, and spoke emphatically about the profound effect the little girls had had on her and her family. B and I played with the little girls until we went our separate ways, completely unaware that those little girls tied the invisible red threads that would bring us to our Ladybug.
The airport experience initiated a series of ever more thoughtful conversations about the meaning of family and the possibility of starting ours by adoption. The Queen B took it upon herself to learn virtually everything there was to know on the subject of domestic and international adoption, and then to condense the information into byte-sized modules of knowledge with which to spoon-feed me. We weighed the virtues of a domestic (i.e. within the United States) adoption versus an international one, although the memory of the happy little Chinese girls stayed with us, and these conversations always turned to China. These conversations, though, remained purely academic: discussions along the lines of what additions we should put on the house if we ever had that kind of money, or what car we should buy should one of ours unexpectedly go belly-up, or whether or not Robin Williams would ever make a really funny movie again.
That changed in late 2004, when the red thread tightened a bit. On my wife’s birthday, one of the US’s oldest and most respected international adoption agencies, Holt International, had an informational meeting for families with questions at the local Y. There, social workers answered questions and provided information, and adoptive parents also shared their experiences. But the real success of the meeting was not the information, but the children: beautiful little girls and boys from Korea, from China, from India, from Haiti, playing on the sides with each other and their (non-biological) siblings as their parents spoke. It was the little kids that did it — the very next day, the Queen B and I sent for an application packet to adopt from China.
Though inspired initially by the little airport angels, out choice of China was, oddly enough, the only country for which we qualified as adoptive parents! At the time, I thought this was a curious coincidence of red tape. Turns out I got the color right, though not the material.
Our adoption packet arrived in early January 2005, and the Queen B and I went through the rather monumentous process of completing it. Among the necessities of the paperwork included a pair of $900 physicals (wherein we discovered that (a) we were both in moderately good health and (b) South Dakota health insurance sucks), criminal background checks, multiple sets of fingerprints, a white glove home inspection with a social worker, several classes on parenting skills, essays and letters of recommendations, transcripts, algebra problems, and the gom jabbar. The end result was a massive packet of paper known as the dossier, which is French for “I decimated most of an old growth forest to print all this stuff out.” The dossier was then sent to Washington, sent back, queried, lost, found, sent to the Chinese Embassy, sent back, subjected to public inquiry, lost again, and finally bound and sent to China to officially announce us as potential parents, looking to adopt an orphan child.
For us, this process took about seven months, after which we were so sleep deprived and delirious that we bought a house.
Our dossier was officially logged into the China Center for Adoptive Affairs on July 26, 2005. Once logged in, there is nothing to do but wait and wait and wait… It’s the kind of wait that can drive you crazy, and so the Queen B and I took to various projects to keep our minds off the agonizing torpor of the process. The Queen B hooked up with adoptive mothers from across the country, forging internet friendships from coast to coast; she started her Ladybug blog to document the wait; she participated in secret pal gift exchanges and “cyber”-showers with her e-pals; and she learned how to quilt, in order to make a Bai Jia Bei, or 100-good-wishes quilt, for the kid. I mowed wavy patterns into the lawn a lot and learned a lot more backstory about Nickelodeon’s Avatar: the Last Airbender than any functional adult ought to. Clearly, one of us knows how to budget her time better than the other.
This wait would last an agonizing fourteen months, although our friends and family helped with support and a seemingly endless supply of fabric squares for the wish quilt. In particular, on March 28, 2006, my mom celebrated her birthday by sending us 5 different quilt squares, with 5 different wishes for our as yet unknown Ladybug. One of her wishes read:
Your life will be filled with more new experiences than there are squares on this fabric. Wishing you peace and contentment on your journey and a lifetime of wonderful memories.
Half a world away, on that very same day, a little girl was found abandoned in the Guizhou Province of China by a villager. She was taken first to the police, who named her Yu Huan, and then placed into foster care. Her file and her picture would work its way into the Chinese adoptive authority, where the red thread finally pulled our names to her little mugshot:
Yu Huan became our daughter.
Of course, on our side of the Pacific, we did not know. For fourteen months, we lingered in a state of aching ignorance, watching as friends and family members gave birth to beautiful children. On Sunday, September 24, the extended Komplexify family grew again, as my sister gave birth to a healthy baby boy.
And then the very next day, we got the phone call from our social worker telling us we were parents of a healthy baby girl. In two days, parents became grandparents twice, siblings became aunts and uncles twice, and fourteen months of waiting vanished in a blink of inconsequence! The Queen B and I were finally parents.
Two days later, her official paperwork arrived. The Queen B and I ripped through the FedEx envelope and pulled out the medical history, pored over her brief background story, and then simply stared at the three pictures of our daughter. Our lips burst into smiles, and our eyes burst into tears, and the Queen B’s head literally burst into confetti and party streamers and pink “It’s a girl!” balloons.
And one very worn, very sturdy invisible red thread.
Welcome to the family, Ladybug.