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Jaclyn's Adoption Story
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Jaclyn's Adoption Story

 

The Joy of Jaclyn: An older child adoption

Very good friends of ours attempted to do an identified child adoption back from China in 1997 of a 2.5 year old.  They were told that she had already been  referred and she was not available.  So they received a referral of a 9 month old baby and traveled 1/98 to get her.  While investigating adopting a second child  from China in 9/98 they ran across the same 3 year olds' picture on an adoption agency's web site.  Our friends were devastated to think this child had not been adopted and had sat in the orphanage another year and half.

They aggressively pursued adopting her and were told repeatedly they could not as her papers were not right.  Their agency got involved and found that this girls papers just needed some administrative work. Our friends scrambled to get a dossier put together and did so in 6 weeks time.  Their agency went over and above to assist them.  Finally things came together and they were able to travel to get their, now 4 year old daughter, in 6/99.

They sent us e-mail from China everyday and it just filled our hearts to read it everyday.  They put together a brief synopsis of the "adventure" to publish in their local FCC newsletter.  It is below...get out the tissues:

Ginger Keller 

The Joy of Jaclyn: An older child adoption

 

When we first began the process of adopting our third child, we queried friends who already had 3 children about how this child would change our lives. Their frank responses were these: everywhere you go is a big production. Expect incredible amounts of wash. A dizzying amount of activity in even less time. But because we simply couldn’t not adopt this child, we moved ahead undaunted. And in a short time, I can already say that all these warnings have proven true. But none of them capture the most significant change in our household, which is simply this: the amount of laughter. Sometimes the walls seem to actually reverberate with the giggles of three little girls. Because, to know Jaclyn is to know joy. This is a child who embraces life. She runs down the stairs each morning with a smile on her face and exuberantly hugs me. She belly laughs while teasing us with her delightful sense of humor. She can hardly wait to see what each day has in store for her, which is amazing given where she has been. And watching her unbridled joy has already added immeasurably to my life.

But to know Jaclyn is also to know sorrow. Sometimes, when it is dark, all the feelings that she cannot express overwhelm her. As wave after wave of grief, homesickness, fear, pain and other feelings, too strong for words, wash over her, she clings to my neck as if she is drowning. When she is in these depths it seems she cannot hear my words of comfort. But, somehow, she finds her way out of these murky waters, gulping for air, grasping for safe ground again.

Jaclyn beats back these feelings, like she does all things, with remarkable bravery. To know her is to understand what courage really is. Once she got beyond her initial shock, she has faced the adoption journey with bravery belying her years. She held her tears in check for weeks, blinking them back and swallowing hard when taken from her orphanage home and family, her town, her country, her life. And at each new juncture-the airplane, the doctor, her new school-she sucked it up and bravely set forth with only her eyes betraying her fear.

I wish I could say the same. Because, in knowing Jaclyn, I have also learned about fear. The heart-stopping, choking, sick-to-your-stomach kind. The kind I had never known existed. When I finally found myself eyeball to eyeball with her, my legally adopted daughter, it suddenly hit me: my long sought after child was a complete stranger. And the enormity of what lay before me filled me with paralyzing terror. It was too big. Or, more accurately, I was too small. When I confessed this to my husband, he admitted he was afraid, too. Which somehow made me feel much worse. When I finally squeaked out, ‘What are you afraid of?" He said, "All of my fear is for her. If we feel like this, what must she be feeling?" Yes, of course. I was the adult; she was the child. But I am ashamed to admit she somehow seemed so much more capable of handling the fear. I laugh to myself when people say how brave I was to adopt her; Jaclyn is the only brave hero in this story.

To know Jaclyn is to know wonder. She had no memory of ever being outside the gates of the orphanage and everything she saw was a marvel. Many things in life, so routine and mundane to us that they are barely noticed, are wonders to Jaclyn. She continued to peek under the toilet lid, enthralled with it, finally flushing a bracelet and checking periodically for its return. She tried to eat the ice in her drink with a fork. She squealed in delight at french fries, eyelashes, scissors and bathing suits. One of her first English words was "WOW! And her wonder is contagious. Our first time in China we timidly made our way through the street markets. Some in our group could barely disguise their revulsion at the sights. "How interesting!" was our most enthusiastic response. This time, seeing it all through the eyes of Jaclyn, we could hardly get enough of the street scenes. The cornucopia of sights, sounds and smells became something to revel in; they were wondrous.

But the journey to Jaclyn has also shown us what is ugly in this world. Government systems that put process before life, errors in paperwork that victimize children, the lifelessness of children who live with no expectations, legally adopted children who are denied immediate status as US citizens. Racism, disapproval, thinly veiled contempt. Sadly, we have been sickened by the ugliness of all of these.

To know Jaclyn is to know gratitude. I’ll never forget her first trip to the grocery store. I was frantically racing the clock, haphazardly throwing things into my cart. She squealed over each item that went in, wanting to touch and hold them all, asking over and over, "For Jaclyn?" She watched, with eyes as round as saucers as I loaded all the bags into the car. Then, with fierce emotion, she embraced me and said, "Oh, Xie xie(thank you), Mama!" Her gratitude made me ashamed. She has illuminated what was sorely missing from my own life: simple appreciation of the abundance in it. Occasionally I find her opening the refrigerator and freezer doors and just marveling at all the treasures in them. How can I not do likewise?

But to know Jaclyn is also to know want-unspeakable want. Jaclyn is from a showcase orphanage in China-one that they were rightfully proud to show us. On the day we visited, they had run out of food. So Jaclyn’s old group of friends had been ‘skipped’ at mealtime so that the younger children could eat. And from the waif-like appearance of most of the children, it clearly was not an isolated event. Jaclyn told her friends, "Don’t worry. I’ll ask my mom to give you something to eat." If I had only known; I have never felt so inadequate in all my life. Instead, she gave the one hard candy she was holding to the oldest child who carefully divided it with his teeth so that each of 20 children could have a sliver. The memory of that raw need will haunt me forever. I wonder how God looks down upon these children without weeping.

To know Jaclyn is to know the strength of love. I already knew the healing power of love; I had seen how it restored life to my first China baby. But Jaclyn showed me a different kind of love. This barely 4-year-old child told us proudly about her ‘job’ at the orphanage: she was entrusted with the care of two toddlers. She told us, "Big girls like me can take care of ourselves. So we need to help the little ones." Her charges shared the bed next to her so she could dress, feed, and wash them. But she also told us how she protected them from the big kids and comforted them when they were sad. She said she took good care of PoPo, but she gave ’all her love’ to Shim Me Me. She delighted in telling antidotes about her charges. In a world many imagine as loveless, a life without mothers, Jaclyn knew how to give selfless ’mother love’. And this is how she first showed love to me. So grateful for my loving care that she wanted to love me in the only way she knew how- by washing my hair, covering me up, giving me her doll to sleep with.

But this journey has also shown us incomprehensible pain. Shim Me Me cried silent tears when he had to say ‘good-by’ to his child-mother. Jaclyn’s comforting rocking and loving caresses of this child, barely a head shorter than her, were excruciatingly painful to watch. But nothing compared to hearing her best friend wail, "I wish I had a mom and a dad!" and the choking, heart-wrenching sobbing that followed. There are no words big enough to describe this pain. Watching it, I knew that this is what it feels like when your heart breaks.

Ultimately, to know Jaclyn is to see the embodiment of hope. In the small glimpse we had of her life inside the orphanage, it was readily apparent that this radiant little soul did not allow the darkness of her situation to diminish her life-affirming hopefulness. As I have come to know Jaclyn, I better understand the tears that were shed as she left the orphanage. I know some of the sadness was over the loss of this bright light in their lives; I am sure the darkness has become even thicker with her gone.

I know my own life has never been brighter. On our fourth day as mother and daughter, Jaclyn turned to me, and out of the clear blue joyfully said, "I lubba you. I LUBBA YOU!"

I love you, too, kid.

Jaclyn's mother, Cindy Champnella, would be happy to talk to anyone interested in the adoption of older children. You may email her at cchamp@ferndaleschools.org 

Pictures of Jaclyn and her sisters
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If you have comments or suggestions or if you find any links that don't work, please email me at gkeller@columbus.rr.com

Copyright 2001 by George Keller. All Rights Reserved.