The Surprising Visit That Changed Everything

We pulled up to the compound gate.  Large imposing concrete walls on all sides and a guard waved us through.  We drove through the streets of building after building.  We had just entered the social welfare institute of Hefei city where they kept the orphans, the disabled, the mentally ill and the forgotten of society. 

Just two days prior, we had met our sick little boy in a sterile office in the local government building and our lives would never be the same (read more about that here).

The hazy, smog-filled sky loomed overhead, a warm and humid summer day in June.  Our van driver took a right to our son’s building.  We waited for the orphanage director to come to get us so we could go meet the nannies that had cared for him for the last two years after he had been abandoned at 900 grams (not even 2 lbs) on a dirty street corner.  

As we waited,  we gazed through the tinted windows of the van.  I felt silent tears trickling down my face.  I was overcome at what my senses were taking in.  Nannies were pulling little wagons and all you could see were limbs hanging out.  Golf carts being loaded with children for their afternoon dose of fresh air.

Children with such severe and profound needs were being carted around outside by smiling and doting nannies.  I could not fully comprehend what I was taking in.  I had never seen anything like this and to think this was taking place in every welfare institute in nearly every city in a country of 1 billion people broke me.  I hugged our son a little tighter as my heart broke into a million pieces.

The director came and we were paraded like royalty through the throngs of hurting children all with smiles on their faces.  Smiles.  It pierced my soul.  How could they find joy in the midst of all they were missing?  No family.  Severe health issues.  Many without the ability to speak, walk or feed themselves and yet they joyfully received us.

Once inside, the orphanage, we walked up a cold set of stairs to our son’s home of two years.  Little flowers and decals peppered the white cinderblock walls and light poured in through the barred windows as we passed by a little plastic playground. 

I had seen my son playing on that plastic playground in a picture they sent with his referral file.  This place was real.  This was where my son had been.  I hadn’t allowed my mind to believe this is where he had been.  Without a mom and a dad or siblings to kiss his cheeks and ruffle up his hair and wipe away his tears.   

When we turned the corner his nanny came to him, a huge smile on her face and they reached out to one another for a loving embrace.  He clung to her and she whispered to him in Chinese.

This woman had been by his side since he had arrived after a 12-week stay in the NICU.  She lovingly made a baby scrapbook for him so he would know about his first two years of life.  An unbelievably special gift we will cherish.  

She felt his forehead, felt his belly and checked that the clothes I had selected were satisfactory.  She cared so deeply.  As an aside, I put him in pants knowing that would set her heart at ease even though it was in the upper 90’s!

Our guide translated for us as I asked questions and listened intently to her instructions.  At the end of our brief but informative session, she said, “ please take care of him, he needs good medical attention.  He’s so sick.” 

And with tears streaming down my face I promised her with every fiber of my being I would give him every possible advantage and resource we could possibly find.  He would never know hunger again, he would know love and family and have a momma bear that advocated for his needs!  He would also know that his brave birth mom gave him life and that his nannies loved and cared for him the best they could.  They were heroes in our book and always will be.

After the conversation, we continued on our tour.  We peered in the windows of the playroom as sweet toddlers, like our son, played.  Grasping tightly to a block or a little cup.  It explained why our son was content with just the stacking cups we had brought along no matter how many toys we piled beside him.  

A few kids came up to the window and we played peek-a-boo with them which elicited smiles on all of our faces.  I looked over to see my 10-year-old son overcome with emotion, silently weeping.  The situation not lost on him.  As we got up to continue on our tour, I tried to forcefully send all the love I had through the window willing them to feel it.

We stepped into the crib room where beds lined the walls.  His little ward had 16 beds and his crib was already occupied by a new resident.  He had only been gone for 2 days.  

I asked about our son’s best friend and they said he was still waiting for his forever family and I silently prayed at that moment for God to move swiftly.  My legs felt week, I knew God was here in this place.  Holy ground.  He saw these babies and he loved them so deeply.  He had never abandoned them.  He just needed people to set fear aside and come in faith.

It was feeding time so it was time to go.  We waved goodbye to the kids and I willed myself to convey the words my heart felt.  I wanted the nannies to know the gift they gave our son and our family.

We took one last picture and our son started to cry as his nanny kissed his cheek and rubbed his back one last time.  She handed him to me and it’s like he knew he was leaving her and the only place he had ever known.  While we knew it was going to be for his good, he didn’t. 

As we hopped in the van and drove away, I  held him tight as tears poured down both of our faces.  I knew I’d never be the same.  Adoption had changed each of us.  It had changed everything.  Our family would never be the same.


If you are just getting caught up on our adoption story, you can catch up on some of the waiting process in these posts –

 China Adoption Gotcha Day

China Adoption Trip Part 1

Adoption Announcement

Adoption Process Part 1

Adoption Process Part 2

Adoption Process Part 3

Adoption FAQ

Until next time, keep on keeping on with a simple purposeful life.
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