Saturday, November 21, 2009

Zhongshan Orphanage Visit

This has been a long post coming...

How do you blog about something like visiting your childs orphanage?
At least on Delivery Days, LOA Days, Referral Days, etc... there is a common thread of happiness, hope and the fulfillment of dreams that we can all grasp on at least a very basic level.

But to visit the home where your child has lived their whole lives, with people that they know far better than you, is so very very hard.

And there are so many many different things which can throw you for an emotional loop.

There are the obvious things we look for, what is the condition of the buildings?  Are they clean?  Are they safe?  And you would think that if they are clean, and safe, and nice, that we would be happy, knowing that our children have been cared for in a safe environment... where they could play safely and be healthy.  But even that, can compound the guilt we feel for now tearing them away from their home.  Their safe, clean, and familiar home.

So maybe part of you as an adoptive parent thinks, "great, let it be dirty and broken down, then I will feel happy to know she will be in a nicer place"... but then if you see the squaller and torn down rooms of those in some really really... really poor nations, your hear would break into a million pieces knowing that your child has had to endure the worst conditions you could imagine for the past 4 years.

Then there are the NOT so obvious things... like, what kind of information can the caregivers give you? And what are they WILLING to tell you?

Our Ping has a few scars on her, some on her knees, one above her eye, maybe one on her side as well.  Where did these come from?!  How did she get them?!  Was she bullied?!  Did she just play rough and get them honestly like I have over my child hood?

These caregivers have looked after them for their whole lives... and you ask the questions you fear to ask, not because you are too cautious to ask, not because you feel it is too sensitive and/or private to ask... you fear to ask the questions because you fear the answer.  And there is no answer worth fearing related to our children themselves... I have Pings medical records, I have enough history on her to know there is probably nothing they can tell me that will scare me.  

What I fear in the answers, is what they WON'T tell me.

Not that they are trying to hide something.  Not that they do not know something.  That would be easier to handle.

Get this, because this is huge, its the answers they don't give... because they could not take the time to notice.

With our children, we watch everything about them.
Especially our first child... right?
Honestly, those of you who have children, with your first did you not sit up ALL night just to watch them sleep?
Did you not memorize every face they made?
Every time they smiled?
We saw them take their first step.
Watched them learn to walk, run, play.
We watched them learn to talk, and make friends.

If you were at work when your child took thier first step, did your spouse not immediately call you on the phone and start crying saying "he took his first step!"

The questions which can not be answered are the questions which we as parents would never have forgotten.

The answer I fear, is if I ask the person who has cared for my child to tell me all about her, that the answer is going to be only 4 words long "she is nice girl".  How could 4 years of care be boiled down to 4 words?!

And that breaks my heart.

But I get it, I do.  By our third child, the fact that they took their first step had fallen from a phone call at 2pm from a crying wife about how our child is only days away from college, to a passing comment at the dinner table over super while mopping up spilled orange juice.  I can only image for these caregivers that by the 500th child takes their 1st step, they are not mopping up spilled orange juice, but they are meeting the needs of the other 499 children who require attention.

So I am happy that Pings teacher knew who Ping was, and was able to give me as much information as she did, she did offer more than 4 words.  I'm happy that she spend a few minutes with me to answer questions.  That she got bashful and awkward when I asked if there was anything she wanted to say to Ping.  Not so crazy that she answered a cell phone call in the middle of the questions, but that might be a different issue.

As for the Orphanage itself, it is beautiful.  Our guide said she had "never seen such a beautiful orphanage, and she never though she would ever see an orphanage that nice.".

The caregivers there are wonderful.

The children looked happy and healthy.

The staff is wonderful.

The grounds are gorgeous.

For all that it is worth, the Zhongshan Orphanage is a beautiful orphanage.

But is an orphanage visit for everyone?  Maybe.  Maybe not.


  1. I'm surprised how nice the orphanage appears to be. I honestly expected something older, dirtier. It must be well funded. The cynic in me thought something didn't look right but I'm glad everything worked out.

    I miss my coffee buddy!! fige gurb kgr bl grbibiub lb rlbg

  2. Interesting reflection. Sitting here, I feel just the shallow, "oh it looks great" "they look happy" etc, but I am not united with Yi yet. (and I wonder if she was in one of those green jackets eating- can't tell for sure-but it'd be great to get another glimpse of her)
    Yet, I can understand what you are saying. Do we alter our views/responses to make it feel like we are rscuing.
    One question I still have- why are there so many 'healthy' children in the orphanage? A new one- Could it have such a great reputation that people want their children there- like a boarding school? I am rambling, but our 6 yo is "healthy" and I do wonder why so many are still there. Yet there seems to be such a wonderful volunteer community. Hhhmmm.
    My turn will be here soon. And I will live those questions you have touched the surface of...

  3. So glad to read your post and see the photos. Your right the orphanage is beautiful. We too will have to live that very soon. Good to ponder those questions....

  4. Wow, that was incredibly deep. Very true too. Its amazing what really lies between the lines. You may never know but at least you are trying to uncover what you may not know. As I time goes on maybe Ping will enlighten you into some of those questions. But as for looking at the surface they do look healthy and happy. Ping looks well adjusted too. Thank God for that!


  5. Adrian,
    I hear your heart loud and clear. My daughter's orphanage is one of those that is poorer, less funded... our son's orphanage (also in Guangdong) is much 'nicer' a facility than my daughter's is/was.
    Our son also came to us with several deep scars on his head. Scars that are a constant reminder to me that he had a life before 'us' and that there are so many unanswered questions.
    He grieved quite deeply while we were in China during our adoption trip when we first met him (adopted at nearly 3 years old, this past January). The person he called out for whenever he grieved was his "Ye Ye" (he was in foster care for 6 months). As of late, he's told me that his "Ye Ye" (who I think was his foster father) "hit" him across the face. When I ask him if he "loved" his foster parents he says "no". Yesterday he told me he loved one of his "ayis" though. So, there's hope that he was really loved. At least at some point during his life in China.
    It's a difficult road to travel (adopting internationally) -- one that is not for the faint of heart. And, as well meaning as most people are, I think it's fair, and safe, to say that only parents who've travelled this road can really understand the depths of these kinds of losses, unanswered questions, and the myriad of "unknowns" that come with the territory.
    I'm so glad that Ping has a long future with parents who are willing to explore these emotions and questions with her. It's an honour and a privilage that we as their parents have. One to be cherished.
    God bless you and Roberta as you begin your lives with your new little girl.
    (from the Canadian's Yahoo list)
    Mama to Jia-Li (Hunan) and to Davian (Guangdong).

  6. Thank you for your words of wisdom. No amount of swimming pools, playgrounds, nannies, and manicured gardens will ever match the love you will give Ping.