As I prepare to write this final blog many thoughts, feelings, and emotions have emerged over the past 3 weeks. With not being able to share our experiences in a timely manner due to censorship in China, I have been given a gift of time to separate some of my emotions and reflect on the experience of our trip to Taiwan and China, but also on the experience of writing this blog.
As I have tried to discern my intentions in writing this blog I have settled on the following. When I started writing a great deal of media attention was on the new abortion proposals. Obviously adoption is very dear to my heart and quite frankly, the abortion proposals were keeping me awake at night. We have our own story of adoption and we are surrounded with other adoptions that have brought tremendous blessings into our lives. We have several Godchildren who are adopted. We also have several nieces and nephews who are adopted, and we have many friends and children of friends who are adopted. Each and every one of these adoptions has a unique story. Each adoption has its own exclusive beginning, its own journey, and each individual has his or her own heart desires. Just as each birth is unique, so it is with each adoption.
Attachment, abandonment and rejection are not unique to just those who have been adopted. The really cool thing is that there is so much more research and much more understanding of the brain and how all of the issues mentioned above can be sorted out and worked through. I say all of this because each and every child is a blessing and a gift. Sometimes, circumstances make it necessary for a child to have more than one mom and dad. This does not diminish the love that each parent has for that child.
With all of that said, the following is our experience of meeting Marie’s birth mother and her Taiwanese brothers. I wrote this reflection two days after our meeting so time could not change or warp my immediate reactions.
Meeting Marie’s Chinese Family
I sit here on a small balcony outside our room early in the morning, enjoying the quietness of our surroundings. I am unable to sleep due to a multitude of thoughts and emotions running through my mind. As I share the experience of meeting Marie’s birth family I am writing from my perspective and observations alone. I have intentionally been vague in the details of the meeting to protect everyone’s privacy as each person’s feelings and emotions are still very raw.
We came to Taiwan at this time of year at Marie’s request. She wanted to attend the Lantern Festival. Taiwan has a very unique way of celebrating the Chinese New Year. Each year individuals gather together on one day to write their wishes, desires, and ideas that are most important to them on a paper lantern which is lit and released into the air. It is believed that the ancestors will then help those things happen. This is why the lanterns are released today. However, the Lantern Festival has a significant historical background.
Taiwan, being an island, has a long history of being invaded by other villages, tribes, and nations. When it was being invaded the people would flee to the mountains where they could hide and be safe. When the invasion had ceased, a lantern would be lit and released signaling to the people that, “It is safe to return home.” For me this idea is significant for Marie’s and our journey.
The Orphanage Visit
After our first day at the Lantern Festival, we were scheduled to be at the orphanage to meet with the Cathwell staff early the next morning. Cathwell staff wanted to meet with Marie to get an idea of how she was doing and to see if she had any specific requests for the meeting. I cannot say enough about the work that Cathwell has done, and continues to do, across the globe to find a home for a child and to help unwed mothers. Cathwell has helped unwed mothers since 1971 and in 1984 they set up a nursery and started helping children. Father Bai, director of Cathwell Services puts it very eloquently when he said,
“After God created the world, humans need to develop ourselves. We have to overcome by every step. To break through, to leap over the selfishness, then we can return to God.”
I am so very proud of Marie as she has taken a risk and done this. I believe her birth mother has done this as well. After spending the morning with staff we took a break and rode a gondola up a mountain to go to lunch. It was a scenic ride and it allowed us time for our nervousness and emotions to settle. I have to admit I was probably the most nervous. Doubts were creeping in about encouraging Marie to do this. With doubts come the, “What If’s.”
Lunch provided us with the opportunity to just be together and take in the beautiful surroundings. It also provided me with a chance to just look at our daughter and marvel at how beautiful and courageous she is.
It was then time to head back to the orphanage to meet Marie’s family. We had discussed earlier in the morning if it would be best for all of us to be together or if it should just be Marie and her mother. We decided to leave it up to Marie’s mother to decide what would be most comfortable for her. It turned out that we were all able to meet together and later Marie and her mother would meet together separately. There were two Cathwell staff members to help with interpreting, Marie’s mother and brother, Marie, and her dad and I.
The Language of Love
Language was a bit of a barrier, even with interpreters; however, a mother’s love can transcend many obstacles and barriers. It was so very clear to me how much Marie’s mother loved her and continues to love her. It was also clear just how painful it was to give her to another family to raise. As Marie sat next to her mother sharing a photo album we had put together of Marie’s life, it was obvious that mother and daughter not only shared physical characteristics, but some similar personality characteristics as well. How wonderful for Marie to hear, “I understand how you feel because I have felt that way too.”
Marie and I have significant personality differences so at times I struggle to understand what makes her “tick”. I understand Marie because she has been mine for the last 27 years. Her biological mother understood her at an innate level. What a wonderful experience to have both.
Two Mother’s Love
Language barriers, oceans, and time cannot hinder the love and understanding that two mother have for their child. As much as Marie’s mother could not stop touching Marie so it was for her mother and me. When we got the chance to embrace all differences melted away and there was an unspoken understanding that we both loved this girl deeply and would do anything for her. I am so deeply grateful for her sacrifice. Marie has blessed each of our lives in unimaginable ways and we cannot imagine our lives without her.
Brothers from the same Mother
Having Marie’s Taiwanese brother there was such a blessing. He was a support for his mother and with Marie growing up with four brothers she was clearly comfortable visiting with him. It was fun to watch them tease one another and act like brother and sister. God is so good to take care of all the details.
Taiwan and China
The rest of the trip was about learning about Taiwan and seeing the sights in China. It was also about immersing Marie into the Chinese culture. There is much to learn. Because Marie looked like she belonged to the country it was not uncommon for others to start speaking Chinese to her expecting her to respond. They assumed that Marie was Stephen’s and my guide. When they discovered differently, they could not keep themselves from staring. I am sure they were curious about our story. It was a fantastic trip and ended up being more than what we dreamed it would be.
It’s Safe to Come Home.
Thank you for sharing this journey with us. My biggest hope in sharing this is that there is more understanding and less judgment for those who unselfishly give children life, hope, and a way for her or him to find their heart’s desires.