Today we visited the orphanage where Chloe lived until Monday of this week. When you adopt from China, your life as a family - Day 1 - begins on gotcha day. But the child's life begins much earlier than that, and that leaves an unknown history for parents to ponder. What was my baby doing the day before we arrived. Was she happy? Sad? Warm? Cold? Did she have friends? Did she like the people who took care of her? How did she get to the orphanage? What happened before that? Why?
So many questions.
The cold hard fact is that we don't get to know most of the facts. We are left to speculate. A person could drive themself crazy thinking too much about this. In some cases, we pick up bits and pieces of information that allow us to draw inferences about life before Day 1. If we are fortunate, those bits and pieces paint a pleasant picture, or at least a more pleasant picture than we might imagine in the absence of specific information. What we learned today made us feel fortunate.
Chloe had many nannies at her orphanage. We met seven of them today. To see their faces light up when they came into the room was to see everything. These women loved our little girl, and they could not conceal that fact today. And lest one think that they might have been putting on a show for us, Chloe put the lie to that. She lit up the biggest smile she has in her arsenal when she saw her nannies. That was more than we could have hoped to have witnessed today, and made us feel very good.
One nanny in particular was very special to Chloe, and her name is Chen Ling. Chen Ling is the nanny who presented Chloe to us on gotcha day, and appears to have been her primary caregiver. Chen Ling is part of Half The Sky, which is a charitable organization that specializes in working with orphaned children in China. Chen Ling clearly loved Chloe. We won't go into details about everything we saw but we can say that she cried when it was time to leave on gotcha day. Caught up in the moment, we missed that photo opportunity. Out of respect for her, we would not be posting it here if we had captured it.
Instead, we'll include only a single photo of her.
A Note about Half The Sky:
We heard about Half The Sky a few years ago, and chose to "sponsor" a child through Half The Sky. That child has since graduated the program, and we are now on to our second sponsored child. It turns out that Chloe was also a sponsored child. We can't know who is on the other end of that arrangement, but we can always hope that they are reading this blog. If you are reading this - THANK YOU! Know that we are paying it forward by continuing to sponsor a child.
Speaking of paying it forward, we had an opportunity to do that today. A few months ago, some adoptive parents visited Chloe's orphanage, much like we did today. We had connected with them through one of the many online adoption communities, and they agreed to try to get pictures and an update on Chloe while they were there. We received those pictures the next day, which gave us some valuable information (e.g. clothes sizes) for our upcoming trip, as well as an emotional lifeline - seeing new pictures of our baby while we sit through the agonizing wait. Today we were able to do the same favor for two families who are currently waiting for paperwork to be completed before they can come get their children. We can only hope that the information we provided gives them the same comfort it gave us when we received it.