On Thursday we left the hotel early to head to Beihai, the city in which the orphanage at which FangFang lived is located and which is likely the city nearest to which her birth parents live. This trip to her city was somewhat emotional for me in and of itself – knowing that I’m probably closer to her first mom than I ever have been before and will be for quite a while. I wonder who she is and what her life is like, I wonder how our daughter will think and feel about her in the future and if we’ll ever have an opportunity to meet. I hope to honor her as I care for FangFang.
I dressed the girls in their matching shirts, and it seemed to help Madeleine CaiQun feel more sisterly toward FangFang – we’ve found that matching clothes are a good tool for attachment-building between siblings.
Glenn picked us up at our hotel, and we boarded a bullet train to Beihai. We went to the orphanage first. Different provinces have such different rules – when we adopted Madeleine CaiQun, we were allowed into the orphanage, allowed to take photos of the room and the crib in which she slept and the room in which she played, and allowed to take photos of other children in general and specifically those who had families coming for them who had asked us to take photos. The Beihai Social Welfare Institute (SWI) considers that an invasion of privacy of the children living there. Glenn said that this specific caretaker with whom he was communicating about our visit is pretty laid back, and that’s the reason we were allowed inside the compound at all. We were allowed to take photos of the outside of the buildings and of the courtyard, and we were allowed into the lobby of the orphanage itself. We never saw any other children, and we were not allowed to go into any rooms beyond the lobby. It’s less information than I’d like to have for FangFang as she grows up, but I completely respect the perspective of the orphanage, and actually, it’s one with which I agree in principle.
So many of the nannies came out and said hi to FangFang and seemed excited to see her. There were only 5 children adopted from Beihai this year, so it is not a frequent occurrence to have a child leave through adoption. They said there were about 80 children living there, all with special needs. I was impressed with and thankful for the number of staff members involved in caring for the children.
I had been pretty concerned about how FangFang would react to being back at the orphanage. It wasn’t the most recent place she’s called home, but it was her home for a time, and we’d be seeing people she knew and seeing the people who brought her to us earlier in the week. She happily went to each nanny and the nurse who wanted to hold her, and she told the main nanny that she missed her nannies. When asked what she thought of her new mama, she replied, “so so.”
I don’t think the orphanage visit itself changed much about how FangFang is interacting with us. She seems, more and more each day, to be preferring Sharon and sometimes Daniel, too, to me. Mostly she’s not thrilled with me. She doesn’t outright reject me, but she doesn’t really seem interested in bonding with me, either. If I’m engaging with her, she’ll play with me, but in a situation like riding on a train, in which we’re all together and she needs to be with someone, she wants to be with Sharon.
I messaged with a friend of mine, a much more experienced and knowledgeable adoptive mama than I am, on Wednesday night – sidenote to any of my prospective adoptive parent readers out there – the wisdom of BTDT experienced adoptive parents is gold. Before you travel, one of the most important things you should do is make sure you have the names of a few experienced parents you can text or message or reach out to in some fashion while in country. I’ve been here before, I’ve done this before, but every kid is different, every adoption is different, and adoption travel is always emotional. You’re more likely than not to need those resources. I’ve talked with multiple BTDT adoptive mamas this past week and have been so encouraged by their words. Anyway, my friend encouraged me to relax about it, not to force things, but to focus on pursuing overall felt safety – obviously pursue FangFang, but if she feels safe with Sharon, great; if she feels safe in the stroller, great. We’ll have plenty of time to build our relationship. I’ve been trying to hold onto that wisdom.
After our time at the orphanage, we visited FangFang’s finding spot. It’s not generally legal to place one’s child for adoption in China, so children available for adoption are technically “found” somewhere. We know anecdotally that paperwork does not always match reality, but we don’t know for sure what is true in either of our daughters’ cases. We made the visit and took the photos. My personal feeling is that the specifics of this part of FangFang’s story are private, for her and her alone to share if and when she desires to do so.
After that visit we went out to lunch at a local restaurant. Usually we can find a place with pictures and/or brief English translations of the names of the dishes, but this time we had Glenn with us, so he ordered for us off of the totally-Chinese menu. FangFang was thrilled that we ordered a yogurt-milk drink that Glenn suggested for her – apparently that, not standard milk, is what she prefers drinking. She also announced to him that she thought diapers were itchy and she preferred using the toilet! I was shocked, as no one had ever mentioned potty training her. I took her into the squatty potty there, but I quickly realized that in order to hold her up above the potty, I was going to have to grab and hold her up by the legs, putting her at major risk of a femur fracture, and as I have no desire for her leg to break in a Chinese bathroom, we called off that one very quickly, much to her dismay. I asked her foster home when we got back to the hotel, and they replied that no, they had not begun potty training with her! Perhaps that will be something we’ll try once we’re home, but I’m not about to try to potty train a not-walking, Mandarin-speaking child while we’re in China 😉
After lunch we had a little bit of time before our train back to Nanning, so we drove around Beihai a bit, and then Glenn took us to an old, historic street, now a popular tourist destination, and we walked up and down it until it was time to go. Madeleine CaiQun was not a fan of the walking…or of several other things that day…which was not much fun for anyone, but we made it through.
It was pretty late by the time we got back to Nanning, so we just grabbed dinner at a restaurant in the mall attached to the hotel. Then it was back to the hotel to get the kiddos in bed and begin packing up for our trip to Guangzhou. We were all exhausted. Once everyone else was in bed, I did a little bit of packing, but I really just needed to get some sleep, so I fell into bed around 11:00.