Sunday coincided with two holidays: Valentine’s Day and the Chinese New Year. As the former celebrates the concept of love and the latter celebrates the cycle of life, today seems like a good time to make an announcement about the intersection of the two:
I’m a daddy again!
Ladies and gentlemen, introducing the Ladybug’s little sister, the Butterfly:
In case it isn’t immediately obvious, we are once again adopting a little girl from China. She’s ten months old (today!) and living in an orphanage in the Guizhou Province of China.
Wait, what? You didn’t know we were adopting? Looks like I got some ‘splainin’ to do.
We started this adoption about a year ago.
The Queen B was feeling a new little-girl-shaped void in her heart, and started looking into the process of adopting a second child. I was admittedly fearful about the prospect, partly because I was worried if I’d be able to manage my fatherly responsibilities to a second kid and partly because I was worried about the practical issues of needing a bigger house and a bigger car and (of course) a bigger paycheck to handle a second kid, but mostly because I was worried about the karmic implications of a second kid. You see, the Ladybug is an awesome kid, and I know it: she smart, beautiful, funny, self reliant, and very loving. The only way I could see the universe balancing out the positive surplus of karmic goodness we’d received from bring the Ladybug home would be if we now adopted Damien Thorn.
Of course, the Queen B had a secret weapon in her arsenal: a seemingly never-ending supply of pictures of her online friends returning home from China and Korea and Haiti with beautiful happy children. Besides, the Queen B added, the Ladybug is acting more and more like the empress of the home, and a kid sister will dissuade her from believing real fast.
Her logic was irrefutable, and so consequently we started again down the long and windy road to adoption. But this time, we noted happily, we were experts on the process, which was comforting.
It turns out that in the intervening three years, the U.S. government has overhauled itself. In particular, there is no I.N.S. anymore… it’s now the U.S.C.I.S., which sounds more like a crime series spin-off than a government agency. Part of the re-branding of the agency meant changing all the paperwork, so the forms we had agonized over when we adopted the Ladybug (and from whom we were hoping to copy this time as exemplars) had ceased to exist in a puff of bureaucratic smoke. Instead, they were replaced by forms with names like the I-8562384-B and the W-867354 and notorious U-R-S-O-L.
In addition, somewhere around 2008 the U.S. joined adopted Hague Convention, a set of international guidelines for international adoptions designed to protect adoptive children and to thwart child trafficking. While noble in purpose, the Hague Conventions added a new slew of paperwork we weren’t expecting that often had to be completed before certain U.S.C.I.S. forms could be finished, although frequently such U.S.C.I.S. forms needed information from Hague Convention paperwork.
To get an idea of the changes, the old process, slow as it was, might be modeled as a flowchart of the form
The current system is a little different:
As if this wasn’t maddening enough, our adoption agency had started a new program that specialized in placing children with minor or correctable special needs with adoptive families. The Queen B and I felt comfortable with this, and communicated so to our agency. “Oh good!” said our agency, “that ought to speed up the process.” Then they mailed us a packet of paperwork approximately the size and thickness of my PhD dissertation and added “Here’s some new paperwork to fill out!”
It’s also worth pointing out that most of these forms have a dollar amount that needs to attached to them, and most have a time-sensitivity efficacy… that is, they’re only valid for XX months after they’ve been approved. Of course, the XX in question is different with each form, which means some document is always on the verge for expiring. Keeping track of which forms need updating is a bit like doing Mayan calendar calculations, albeit without the threat of the world exploding in 2012.
The upshot of this: with the Ladybug, we finished a bunch of forms, sent them to China, and then waited. This time around, we’ve never stopped sending in forms… in fact, getting the referral for the Butterfly has seemingly only accelerated the paperwork!
During this purgatory of paperwork, the Queen B and I have been pretty tight-lipped, sharing the news to adopt only with our parents and a few close friends (who we needed to write character recommendations for us) and, of course, the Ladybug. Why the secrecy?
Well, when we went through the process of adopting the Ladybug, we discovered that once someone knew we were adopting the only question they could think to start any conversation with was “Did you get her yet? How ’bout now? Now? Now?”
I know that those questions were only asked because folks cared about us, and were excited for us, and wanted to see our daughter, but it took two years to get the Ladybug home, and answering the interminable stream of bubbly “Didja get her yet?” queries with the inevitably grim “No” reply over and over and over again only served to remind us each time just how heart-aching the waiting process was. We just thought it would be easier on us to wait until we had something definite to share.
And now we do.
On May 16, 2009, while the Ladybug was making jokes about the Chinese Lunar Festival and I was frantically trying to wrap up grading final exams, half a world away in the province of Guizhou a passerby discovered a baby girl by the roadside. She was a little mostly-bald thing with a serious expression and something of a missing wrist who the police name Yan Chen, or Beautiful Morning. She was placed in an orphanage in the city of Luizhi. The authorities took her picture and file to the Chinese adoptive authority, and the process began to find her a forever family.
I previously described the process of adopting the Ladybug in terms of the red thread metaphor, a popular belief among adoptive families that in a nutshell says that children and their adoptive families are connected by an invisible red thread that, while it might stretch or bend from time-to-time, never breaks and eventually pulls to the two together. Apparently the Queen B and I had unspooled enough red thread when we went to Guizhou Province to fetch the Ladybug, because it tied itself to this little girl, and eight months later, in January 2010, we received the file that said we were getting a second “spicy little Guizhou girl.”
Just as before, we had a packet with with her medical file and three (rather out of date) pictures, suddenly giving a face and a personality to what had previously been a hopeful fantasy. We had another little girl!
According to her file, the Butterfly likes to “smile, listen to music, and urinate,” which I can only hope are not causally linked. Her left hand is a little under-formed, with a missing wrist and little nubbin fingers, but besides that she’s healthy and happy, if a little on the small side. A few weeks later we received a second packet with updated information and (even better!) updated pictures, including the fact that she’s pretty active, crawling and standing on her own. She’s also apparently hell-on-wheels in a baby-walker… which brings us back to that karmic issue I mentioned above.
She’s also very, very beautiful, and suddenly the Ladybug’s favorite thing in the world. Even more than Tinkberbell. It’s funny, too, because although there’s alomst certainly no possibility that these two girls are biologically related, they certainly bare a striking resemblance at four months:
We’ve still got a ways to go before we can head back to China to bring the Butterfly home (the Queen B has all the paperwork we’ve still yet to complete listed out in painful detail on her blog), and we probably won’t be leaving anytime before this summer. As a result, the Queen B and I are getting ready for the assault of expected “Didja get her yet?” questions sure to come now… but at least now we know who “her” is…
…and she’s perfect.
Butterfly, welcome to the family.