Mar 5, 201208:41 AMChina Mom
We’ve long suspected our daughter was in a foster home during her first eight months in China. Even though her orphanage director said she spent all that time in the orphanage, all of the evidence pointed to a foster family.
She was remarkably healthy – and heavy – when we adopted her. In fact, she weighed at least two pounds more than the other babies in our group – most of whom were the same age by a few days. She was more than just a big, healthy baby – she appeared to have been very, very well cared for – the other babies were cared for, but not to this extent.
And then there were the photos. While we were waiting, several other adoptive families visited our daughter’s orphanage and took photos of every single baby. Piper was not among them at any time during the eight months she was supposed to be in the orphanage. This was actually the first trigger. Where was she if she wasn’t in the orphanage?
Her referral photos held another clue. She was dressed in thermal pajama pants, a red fleece jacket and blue booties. Most of the other babies in our referral group were wearing matching yellow puffy jackets. Why wasn’t she dressed in the “standard issue” outfit?
When we were in China, we weren’t able to visit her village or her orphanage. We stayed in a hotel in her provincial capital and the orphanage staff brought her to us there, where we received our daughter – hot, sweaty and crying – in a conference room. The fact that she was so upset indicated that she probably missed her nanny a lot - and had strong attachment skills. This turned out to be true. Piper attached to us quickly - the tears turned to smiles and laughter in no time. Fostered babies usually have stronger attachment skills than institutionalized children, so there was another clue. And yet, the orphanage director said she was in the orphanage the whole time. It didn't add up.
In our referral package, we learned that Piper was left at the gates of an office building. We’ve never known what it looks like or what the office does. Our guide told us it could be the Communist Party's office building for the village or a branch office of the Party, but he wasn't sure. That's all we've ever known.
I’ve since learned the orphanage gates and “one other location” are the two most common finding locations in her village. I also learned that the more common a finding location, the more likely the chances that your child was trafficked. That thought has haunted me ever since – is our daughter's finding location the second most common location? And how will I deal with that? More importantly – how do you explain that to your child?
For the past six years, we’ve had bits of information and theories to piece together about the first eight months of our daughter’s life. For the most part, those months have been an empty space – it’s been as if her life didn’t begin until they placed her in my arms. Until now.
Last summer, we signed up to participate in a study of our daughter’s orphanage. The organization researched all they could about our children's village, their orphanage and their first few months in China – where they were found, where they lived, etc. And as a result, we received a remarkable gift.
We learned that our daughter was in a foster home. We know her foster parents’ names and received a photo of them and their home. We also have a photo of that office building where our daughter was found and know that the man who found her was also her foster father. He looks like a very kind and gentle man, as does his wife.
We also learned that in 2005 only one baby was left at that office building – our daughter. The fact that this is such an uncommon finding location indicates that it is highly unlikely that our daughter was trafficked.
The fact that it is a relief to me that our daughter was truly abandoned may come as a shock. But the alternative is that she was stolen or bought and sold – a possible reality for many adoptive families.
For our family - and our daughter - these bits of information are priceless. We may never know who her birthparents are or why they left her at that office building. But now we know who found her and who cared for her in the eight months that followed. We know who dressed her in that red fleece jacket. And we know who she was crying for the day they gave her to me.