international adoption

China Adoption Trip | Gotcha Day

arriving in Hefei for our gotcha day

Our train pulled into Hefei and we were struck with miles after miles of apartment buildings.  Not just 5 story buildings, skyscrapers.  Miles of them.  Quincy’s town was larger than we could have imagined and the smog haze prevented us from seeing the sun.  It’s known as the “smog city” and located in the Anhui Province of the People’s Republic of China.

We arrived Sunday afternoon, June 9th.  We stepped off the train with our 3 kids, 5 pieces of luggage, a stroller (and what felt like a partridge and pear tree) and somehow navigated the hundreds of people and down the escalator unscathed. We found our guide and hopped into the van to head to our hotel.  We were finally in Quincy’s province and tomorrow, June 10th, was Gotcha day!

hotel crib for adopted child

When we walked into our hotel room there was a tiny crib in the corner.  It was hard to believe.  This was it, tomorrow we would get our son.

signing adoption paperwork

The kids stretched out in their adjoining room while we chatted with our guide about what the next day would look like. He went through all the scenarios of what Quincy might do when handed to us and what we should focus on in the first 24 hours.  Then, we signed all the preliminary adoption paperwork.  If we weren’t nervous before, our hearts were racing a mile a minute at this point.

Our guide headed out, we unpacked and grabbed a quick bite to eat (meaning the kids were not a fan of the noodles so they literally ate a bite) in the hotel noodle restaurant before calling it a night.  We somehow slept, not great, but we did sleep.  We were SO nervous.  It’s hard to explain but we were walking into unknown territory.  We felt the prayers of those back home and we knew God had led us to this point so it was “go time”.

Thankfully, our gotcha day time was in the morning so we didn’t have to sit around all day and wait.  We got up and went to the top floor for breakfast.  Every hotel they booked for us had a western breakfast buffet so we tried to eat despite all the nervous butterflies and also met the other adoptive family that would be joining us.  It was such a comfort to be with another American family.  We could share in the nerves and excitement together.  Having them there felt like a piece of “home” was with us.

adoption gotcha day selfie

Around 8:30 AM, we packed up the diaper bag full of snacks, little toys and the gifts we had brought for Quincy.  A soft navy blue blanket from Nana, a plush football from Solon, a little play phone from Vera and a small stuffed rabbit from Lucy.  We hopped in the van and off we went through the streets of Hefei to the government affairs building.

The building itself didn’t look like a government affairs building, it was just in a row of other buildings along the street.  We hopped off the bus and followed the guide through the non-descript front door.  The only indication we were in a government building was two guards at the entrance who nodded at us as we walked in.  We rode up to the floor that handled marriage and adoption certificates and they filed us into this room with a large boardroom like table and chairs.

There our guide instructed us to get out all the paperwork we had brought with us from the United States while our kids played on iPads and we waited for Quincy to arrive.  Shortly before 9 am, our guide got a call from Quincy’s orphanage letting him know they would be delayed because Quincy wasn’t feeling well.  I didn’t think much of it other than the fact we would have to wait a little longer.

Meanwhile, we got to witness two other families to welcome their children.  Both of those children were older and one little boy was adopted by a Spanish family.  It broke my heart as tears trickled down his face, he was so scared as he cried out for his nanny.  Adoption is born from brokenness.  Meanwhile, we tried to remain calm and prepped Solon with our DSLR camera and Vera with my iPhone to snap photos and videos when Quincy arrived.

I’ll never forget the moment he arrived, the door opened and there he was.  His nanny walked in and he just looked so somber and sober.  I reached out for him and he came to me.  He was warm and collapsed against my body.  We introduced him to the kids and to Scott while our guide handled the paperwork.  He just stared at us with his deep brown eyes.

At one point, I looked up while holding him to see a pile of medication on the table.  I thought to myself, “someone must be quite sick, that’s a lot of medicine.”  Well about 10 minutes later, I realized all that medicine was for Quincy.  He wasn’t just under the weather, he had a high fever and a respiratory infection.

adoption day adoptive mom

Our guide started to go over all the Chinese medicines and how to dose them.  Some we would have to mix with water, others we would have to grind up and place under his tongue.  Scott furiously took notes as my mommy heart started to feel really anxious.  I missed our American healthcare system, I was scared.  Our guide translated other pertinent information to Scott like Quincy’s schedule and that he took 5 bottles a day and had two snacks.  He didn’t “eat” much food.

gotcha day

We finished up the paperwork and had our official adoption photo taken.  Unfortunately, since I was so anxious about Quincy’s health, my one regret is we didn’t get any family photos beside a quick selfie on his gotcha day.  We packed up all of our things after the paperwork was completed and loaded into the van to head back to the hotel for the rest of the day.

Since the orphanage didn’t send any formula or bottles with him, we asked our guide to help Scott locate that.  Our guide, Scott and the other adoptive father left us at the hotel and walked about 15 minutes to the nearest mall to grab essential supplies and food at the grocery store.

The kids and I took Quincy upstairs and snuggled him.  He didn’t have much interest in too much since he didn’t feel well but the kids did get a couple of coos out of him with the stacking cups we had brought along.  After Scott got back and our guide gave us instructions on how to make the bottle (2 scoopfuls of rice cereal along with the formula).  We tried to get him to drink with not much luck.

We spent the rest of the day nursing his high fever and praying fervently that he would be okay.  By the end of the day, we were all mentally and physically exhausted.  Since Quincy was sick, we didn’t want to leave the hotel for dinner, so we reached out to the front desk to help us order a pizza.  Thankfully, the did and delivered 2 pizzas to our room ;).  We sat on the floor of the hotel room, utterly exhausted from the day, for a carpet picnic.  Pizza never tasted so good.

gotcha day matching pajamas

We dressed everyone in the matching pajamas my sister got the kids shortly after and got Quincy tucked into bed, he hadn’t really napped combined with feeling ill, he was exhausted.  We were tired too.  What a day.  A day we will never forget.  The day Quincy James became our son.  Our gotcha day.  It didn’t go quite as we expected but we had a lifetime ahead of us!  Our family was complete and our long-prayed-for son was in our arms.  It was surreal!

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 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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China Adoption Trip | Beijing

Many of you followed our adoption trip on Instagram (follow Simple Purposeful Living here) but I thought I would share more of the details of our trip here!  So let me begin with our 3-week adoption trip with the first week spent in Beijing, China!

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

Adoption Announcement

Adoption Process Part 1

Adoption Process Part 2

Adoption Process Part 3

Adoption FAQ

China Adoption Trip Part 1 | Beijing

Day 1 & 2 | Travel

We got matched on February 26th with our sweet Quincy James and spent all spring finalizing paperwork and getting a gotcha day date and consulate date so that we could buy plane tickets and head to China!  Scott’s parents took us to the airport bright and early on June 4th to start our journey.  We all hopped out of bed and were ready to go.

 

We had a 4-hour layover in Detroit but its a great place for a layover.  They have a fun underground tunnel between terminals that has lights coordinated to music plus moving walkways so we got a little exercise. We then rode the elevated terminal tram and enjoyed the large water fountain before going to Max & Erma’s to enjoy one last all-American meal!

Then it was time to board our flight for Beijing.  We had 3 seats together so the girls and I sat together and then Scott and Solon sat across from us.  The flight took about 12 hours and unfortunately Scott and Solon’s tv’s along with their whole section did not work.  Thankfully, we had downloaded movies and tv shows from Netflix so they were fine.

Unlike domestic flights, international flights still offer meals so about an hour after we boarded we had our first meal.  The kids didn’t love them but I had packed lots of protein bars and snacks to supplement the meal.  On international flights, they also offer complimentary drinks so I enjoyed a glass of wine with my meal ;).

We all watched some TV.  I chose to watch both Momma Mia movies before we dressed the kids in pajamas and got them ready for bed.  They each brought a blanket and these blow-up footrests helped the girls to lay flat while they slept.  They each slept for about 4-6 hours and Scott and I slept on and off as well.  I wore my favorite joggers (found here) so I was nice and comfy too.

 

 

We arrived in Beijing at about 3 pm (which was 3 am our body time) and went through customs.  At this point, we were all pretty tired (like your body aches tired), but we got our bags and found our guide who took us to our hotel.  When we stepped outside the airport, I instantly noticed how thick the air was in China.

Beijing’s footprint is the size of 20 New York City’s.  It’s HUGE!  Of course, we arrived at rush hour so we didn’t arrive at the hotel until about 6 pm and by that time we were ready for a shower, dinner and a bed.  Our guide ordered us 1 large Pizza Hut pizza to be delivered to our room.  She used the Chinese equivalent of Grub Hub.  Fun fact the pizza was the size of a medium but we all ate it, showered and went to bed.

Day 3 | Great Wall of China

The next morning we met another adoptive family from Kansas City and our guide and hit the road for the Great Wall of China.  We went to the Mutianyu portion of the wall which took us about 2 hours with travel to get to from our hotel.  It started to rain when we arrived and I only brought 3 ponchos so I bought one more for $3 for Lucy and me.  She was strapped to my back.

 

The awesome part about the Mutianyu portion of the great wall is it is a little less busy and you can take a chairlift up and an alpine slide down.  Unfortunately, due to the rain,  we couldn’t do the alpine slide but the good news was there was NO one there which is unheard of in China.  There are always people EVERYWHERE.   We enjoyed walking the wall.  It was all built by hand which is mind-blowing!

There were some really steep parts and Solon and Scott traversed up.  The picture doesn’t do the slope justice.  We all had fun exploring before we took the chairlift back down!

After a late lunch of traditional Chinese food, we stopped by a Jade factory where we saw a lady making a jade family ball.  It’s one piece of jade they make into interconnected balls.  The ball represents the family and we picked one up in Guangzhou.

That night we went to a Kung Fu show.  we were really tired and it wasn’t quite what we thought it was going to be so we all ended up nodding off, whoops.  After the show, we headed back to the hotel and went to sleep.  The kids all slept great.  Scott and I kept waking up at 3 am.  Not sure why that’s the magic time but we did the same thing when we came home.

Day 4 | Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City & Old Beijing

Our hotels all offered a western breakfast buffet included with our stay so we always ate a big breakfast.  After breakfast and a couple of cups of coffee we met up with our guide and other family to head  to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.  It was actually the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square protests but no one discussed that in China.  All our guide mentioned was that it was the largest political square in the world.

From Tienaman Square we walked into the Forbidden City.  It was MASSIVE.  Huge building after huge building with huge courtyards in between.  Our guide was very good and filled us in on all the history and facts.  The kids enjoyed the ice cream stand in the middle the most!  Did I mention it was HOT?  It was in the ’90s with humidity!

After the forbidden city, our guide took us to a local Chinese restaurant and ordered for us.  We had a large variety of food including coke 😉 and the kids loved using the lazy susan to pass the food.

After lunch, we went to the Hutang part of Beijing which is considered “Old Beijing”.  It sits along the dragon line which means good Fung Shei and therefore expensive, prestigious real estate.  We rode rickshaws around and even toured a local family’s house.

After that, we stopped by Starbucks for caffeine and snacks before going to see an acrobatic show.  This show was incredible.  We had great seats and I had to cover my eyes for some of the stunts they did.  Our guide told us the performers start training at 3 or 4 years old and their families basically give them to the art.

After the show, we headed back to the hotel and said goodbye to the other adoptive family who was heading to their son’s province.  We would meet up with them again in Guangzhou.

Day 5 | Summer Place, Dumpling Cooking Class & Temple of Heaven

We started our last morning of sightseeing at the Emperor’s summer palace.  If you can believe it, it’s even larger than the forbidden city.  They even built a lake and a hilltop temple.  There was a nice breeze and lots of shade which was a nice break from the heat of Beijing.

After visiting the palace, we went to a dumpling making class for lunch.  This was another highlight of our trip.  It was so fun to work as a family making dumplings.  After we made them, they cooked them and then we had them for lunch.

After lunch, we headed to the temple of heaven and at this point, my kids were over it.  It was SO hot.  Literally, Scott said he thought his shoe would melt to the marble floor – ha!  We survived but barely.

Did I mention it was hot?  It was hot so we opted to go to the mall down the street from our hotel that night to get out of the hotel.  Their malls are a little different.  It consisted mostly of one large department store with all these little boutique sections.

Of course, they also have American/International stores like Adidas, Lego, Croc, Nike, etc. as well.  We stopped into the lego store and the kids played while we found some cool Chinese special edition legos to give to Quincy on one of his gotcha day celebrations.

Day 6 | Travel to Hefei

The next morning we packed up and got ready to head to Quincy’s province, had breakfast at the buffet and walked down the street to a local park.  Most parks in China don’t have kids playground equipment so our kids were a bit bummed but we saw people practice sword and fan dancing, tai chi and ballroom dancing.

We walked back to the hotel and met our guide to go to the train station.  We took the bullet train to Hefei which we were all excited about.  Our train’s top speed was 230 mph and it would show above the door how fast you were going.  The trip took about 4 hours but it was super smooth and so much easier than plane travel.

Our favorite guide of the trip was Helen!  She was AMAZING.  Our agency recommended her.  She booked our hotel, train and show tickets, came up with the itenerary and took us out to eat.  I call her the “fairy godmother” of Chinese adoption because she also delivers birthday and care packages to orphans from their American families while they wait to come get them.

We arrived with all of our luggage in Hefei and we couldn’t believe we were so close to Quincy.  It was all setting in that the next day we would meet our son.

Why did you go to Beijing first?

Many people asked why we went to Beijing first and not right to Quincy’s province.  Every situation is different but our agency suggested we go a few days early to get adjusted to the time change (hello 12 hours difference) and get to know our son’s culture first-hand.  It was a great experience and we weren’t holding our eyelids up with toothpicks when we arrived in Hefei.

I’ll be back with our next part of the trip – our week in Hefei, Quincy’s province!

You Might Also Like –
doption 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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International Adoption Process Q & A

Lucy, our youngest daughter, was just 5 months old when Scott’s sister and brother-in-law brought our nephew home from China.  We had walked with them through their international adoption process.  Never in a million years at that moment, did I think we would walk through it ourselves.  Yet, here we are on the brink of bringing home our son from China.  Anytime, I mention that we are adopting I get lots of questions so I thought I would answer some of the most frequently asked questions when it comes to the international adoption process.

My husband and I also did a Facebook Live and covered many of these questions, you can watch it here.

Why did you choose adoption?

Many people assume adoption is reserved for those that cannot have biological children of their own and while that is a reason, it’s not the only reason.  We have 3 biological children and actually thought our family was complete.  You can read this blog post to my last child (God has a sense of humor!).

Shortly after my nephew came home from China, I started to feel this “pull” to adopt.  I remember with trepidation voicing the desire to my bible study small group and shortly after to my husband.  Like I said we were done having children, so my admission was a surprise to everyone, even myself.

I asked Scott to pray about it and he didn’t.  He didn’t know how serious I was so a year later on our 10th wedding anniversary cruise, I asked what he thought about us adopting and he had to admit he hadn’t prayed.  He agreed to pray and over the next 6 months, God revealed to him that we should adopt too.  We started the international adoption process in late August 2016!

We chose adoption because we answered the call God placed on our hearts.  It sounds silly but it’s true.  On average 1/3 Americans have considered adoption but only 2% actually adopt (source).

Why did you choose international adoption, specifically, China?

For us, there was no question in our mind.  We felt called to China.  We will never understand fully what it feels like to be adopted but we could give our child 2 cousins that would share their heritage and experience.  They would have cousins that looked just like them in photographs and they could grow up together knowing others like them.

Not only that, as far as adoption goes China has a very reputable long-standing relationship with the United States and the process, although slow, is very straight-forward and by the book.

What does the International adoption process look like?

We started by locating an agency that specialized in the China adoption process.  We were given the advice to go by word of mouth recommendation so we opted to go with the same agency as my husband’s sister’s family used.  We filled out the application and were accepted into their program.

Home Study

The next step was completing our home study.  Since our agency was located out of state, they recommended a local agency to do our home study.  A social worker within that agency was assigned to our case and made several visits to our home to interview both my husband and I as well as our kids.  The social worker than compiled all of the personal and financial information into a large document that would eventually be sent with our file to China.

I-800 & Dossier

When that was complete, we started the immigration process by filling out the I-800 which is the pre-approval necessary to immigrate a child into the United States.  Once we got that back, we could compile all the collected paperwork and submit our dossier (all collected paperwork) and submit it to China.  When they received our dossier and accepted it, we were officially logged in.  We were officially logged in (LID) July 2018!

Waiting for a Match

Then, we waited for a match.  This by far was the hardest part of the process because there was literally nothing we could do except pray and wonder when we would receive a file.  Then, on February 26th we got a file and accepted our match.  You can read more about our match day here.

Prepare to Travel

Once, we got matched we officially accepted with a letter to China and waited for our letter of acceptance (LOA).  Once we got that back, things were official and we could start the ball rolling to go get our son.  We sent in the rest of our immigration paperwork (I-800A) and started filing for our Chinese visas.

Once we get the I-800A paperwork back (takes 4-7 weeks) then we can schedule the day we pick up Quincy (gotcha day).  They are always on a Monday and book plane tickets based on that.

What will your stay in China look like?

We plan to fly into Beijing 4 days ahead of our scheduled gotcha day to acclimate to the time difference.  It’s literally halfway around the world (13-hour time difference).  We will use the time to acclimate and sightsee around Beijing.

Then, we will travel to our son’s province.  During our stay there, he will officially be placed in our custody and we hope to see his finding place (the place he was abandoned) and visit his orphanage.

Then, most likely after that, we will travel to Guangzhou where the US Embassy is located for the remainder of our stay.  There, we will have a variety of medical and consulate appointments.  In between, appointments a guide will take us to different sites in the area like the local zoo, a river cruise and a visit to the pearl district to name a few.  We will travel by train to Hong Kong and then fly out of Hong Kong back to the United States.

Our agency helps us plan the entire trip thankfully since we probably will be in a bit of a new child haze most of our time in China.

Will you travel to China as a family?

Yes!  Our kids have been part of the entire adoption process and we want them to experience our son’s birth country and culture.  We want them to learn the value of global citizenship beyond the scope of central Iowa.  There are lots of opinions on this but for our family, based on the recommendations of those we trust, we have chosen to all go!

How much does adoption cost?

The short answer is between $25,000-$35,000.  The fluctuation in numbers is due to travel expenses based on the time of year you travel and how many people will be traveling.  The thing I didn’t know about that number is not all of the money is due at one time.  Our international adoption process has taken 20 months so far and we have paid portions of that throughout.

When we were praying about adoption, everyone who had adopted said do not let money stop you, God will provide.  It’s true.  In a million different and unexpected ways, God has provided.  We have learned a lot about what contentment and have really refined our spending habits in this process, definitely an unexpected benefit.

How much do you know about your son?

Before we ever got matched, we had a conversation and training on what we were willing to accept.  It’s heart-breaking to have to decide but it’s a life-long commitment and we had 3 other children to consider.

So, when our social worker sent us our match she knew exactly what we were looking for.  So, before I even opened his file I was pretty sure he was our son.  We got a fairly extensive medical record and all the information they knew about him plus a few pictures and 2 videos.  We had that information to make our decision.

We consulted our local pediatrician and she looked over his file too.  We were going to have an international adoption specialist review his file but it wasn’t necessary in our case.  We most likely won’t get any more information on him until we meet him on Gotcha day.

How can others be supportive of adoptive families in the process?

Ask questions.  The biggest difference I noticed when adopting is that since there was no protruding belly, there was no visual reminder to prompt people to ask how it was going.  The adoption process can be lonely and the wait can be extremely hard.  Just asking how it’s going means so much.

Prayers.  Knowing you are being prayed for is huge.  Even though we are matched, we still covet prayers for smooth paperwork, safety in travel and bonding for our whole family.

Support.  Whether that be a financial contribution, help with fundraising, taking care of the housework while they are away or a meal when the family gets home.  Just knowing there is a community there to support you is huge.  We invite our friends and family to meet us at the airport to meet Quincy when we get home.

Understanding.  Due to the need to bond, the adoptive parents need to be the primary caregivers for the first 3-6 months which means they can’t attend a nursery/daycare setting.  In addition, his primary needs like feeding, diapering, and holding should be done by his parents alone.  Although it seems different, it’s essential the child feels bonded to the parents.

What adoption resources would you recommend?


How do you find an adoption agency?

We had been given some good advice to go with a word of mouth recommendation.  If you know someone who has adopted, ask them who they used for their adoption.  Then, set up a time to chat with them in person or over the phone and ask your questions.  It’s important you feel comfortable because they will walk you through the process, you want to have a good rapport out of the gate.

 

Bringing awareness to adoption

We love to bring awareness to the international adoption process and share our adoption journey with others.  Keep in mind, every country and adoption is different and the international adoption process looks different than the domestic adoption process. However, When we were deciding whether we should adopt, I loved reading about other’s adoption journeys.

Also, if you have any questions, please email me at erin@simplepurposefulliving.com.  Plus, don’t forget to watch our Facebook live where we share more about our adoption journey and answer more questions!  Watch it here.

 

You Might Also Like –
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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