Monday, August 29, 2011

An Update and a Name!

We got an update today! This afternoon, I was on a little work trip taking a tour of the production facility that spits out the tens of thousands of copies of the films we produce (it was pretty dang cool).

Suddenly, I had an email, then a text message, then a phone call... something was urgent. The text message said to check the email, so I open the mail app on my phone, and this is what greets me:

OH NOES. This is so cruel. Mean and cruel. This is the first pic we have of her smiling and it's just adorable.


It came with a quick update from the orphanage (apologies for Comic Sans, it was in the original and I am a designer, after all):

8/26/2011 Update

Update from Eagles Wings:

As of August 2, Yin Ci weighed 8.9kg and was 69cm. She is very healthy and happy. She sits unassisted. She is crawling well, and will likely take her first steps in the next couple of months.

So there's that. The thought that she might be walking soon, and I'm on the other side of the earth is crushing.

I still know it'll all be worth it.


After lots of thought and deliberation, we've decided on a name! It's actually one of the very first names that came up and we fell in love with immediately. We thought we should at least look at a few other names, and we did, but kept coming back to this one. Friends, I give you:

Eleanor YinCi Jackson

We'll most likely be calling her by the shortened version Nora. Ellie / Elly would be the obvious choice, but there are already 3 Ellies running around extended family right now. Plus Nora is awesome.

We've always been huge fans of the Jane Austen names (Elinor, Margaret, Emma, Mr. Willoughby, etc.), and fell in love with Elinor / Eleanor, then decided on the more common spelling.

So now we have something more concrete to call her, rather than Xiu-Face, Yin-Face, and Mrs. Squirrel-Cheeks.

-- Kevin

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Apparently, the world really is small

We had a couple pretty cool things happen this week. I had forgotten (and I don't know if Kevin even knew) that once you receive pre-approval, the agency sends you the physical file that China sent them including original documents and pictures. Some families will go so far as to have their picture taken with the UPS guy since he is essentially playing the stork for them. Yeah, I don't quite get it either.
Friday I arrived home from work and found among the typical letters offering me credit cards and amazing interwebs service our referral packet. Cool! I figured it would be kinda neat seeing the original Chinese documents and it was. What I didn't count on was two pictures that had not been sent to us. The first being a tiny black and white pre-surgery shot. Sadly, the lack of colors doesn't properly display the majesty of the blue sweater, and she almost looks like someone made a part in her hair with a bandsaw. Still, we take what we can get.

Then I turned to the back of the file where the color photos were and wasn't I surprised to see this.

It may not be the most amazing shot, and I'm sure it has a different effect on other people, but when I saw it I immediately started crying. The thing is, if this picture had been included with the original referral, I doubt it would have taken me so long to recognize her. Its those eyes.

Anyway, that is not the coolest thing that happened. I was advised to join a Yahoo group or two, so I did some searching and picked three groups: The FCC (Families with Children from China) which gets together for picnics and Chinese New Year and stuff, Adopt Cleft which is a support group for families adopting cleft lip/cleft palate kids, and a group that is devoted to adopting from Zhengzhou (basically pronounced jeng joe, for those playing at home) province. Fun fact: I tried to join our local FCC about a year ago and they turned me down. I'm tempted to bring YinCi around and shout hysterically, "Am I good enough for your group now??" while weeping and wailing. Maybe not.

I posted a pretty boring and standard into into the groups and got a very quick reply from one of the other newer members of the Zhengzhou group welcoming me. I was glad to see that it seemed like a friendly bunch and figured it would be fun to connect with people whose kids are from the same area and YinCi, maybe even her same orphanage. The next day I got a message that I was certainly not expecting:

Welcome, Jen! Your little girl is totally adorable, healthy and a lot of fun. I will miss her very much, but still wish you could get here next week. Congratulations! PS - And she has about the best lip repair I have ever seen thanks to operation Smile.

Yup, her orphanage director is a member of the same group. She knows our girl, she is there with her and can tell us first hand that she is healthy and happy. I wanted so badly to just write her a huge email with tons of questions and request some more pictures as well as updated measurements and who knows what else, but I stopped myself.

Here's the deal. Our agency has sent us instructions on how to proceed as far as care packages, etc. and one of the big things they have stressed is that we are not to make any direct contact with the orphanage. It could jeopardize the adoption, the agency, and the orphanage as well. There are procedures for these sort of things, and you don't make friends with China by going against the rules. Rather than take a risk, I chose to send a simple message letting her know how much I appreciated her taking care of our girl and assuring her that I didn't want to do anything that could jeopardize anyone's standing with those in charge, so I wouldn't ask any questions or request more updates. It was hard, but I figured it would be for the best. We'd have plenty of years of pictures when we got her.

I got a response from her that night (yay 14 hour time difference!) basically saying that she is in close contact with our agency and told me to feel free to send as many questions to her as I want through our agency contact. In addition she said she would be sending pictures very soon since the ones we had were months old. She sent great info about sending care packages and just further emphasized how awesome she is and how indebted we feel to her and her organization. Seriously, guys, they are an amazing charity and I can't say enough great things about them. The fact that they doubled our daughter's low weight in only 3 or so months should give good indication of how much time and effort they put into these children.

We're so excited! It's finally feeling real. There are actual baby clothes in our house. There are pictures on our fridge. There is a little girl halfway across the world who has no idea what a miracle she is to us and those around us. Hang in there, sweetie! We'll be there as soon as they let us! Zaijian women de bao bao.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Here she is!!!

We finally got our Pre-Approval from China, so we can post info and pictures about our little girl!!

Her name is Zhou Yin Ci (Zhou is the last name and pronounced like Joe. Yin rhymes with tin and Ci sounds like tsuh. Of course, we could be off a bit or it could be slightly different based on local dialect) born October 12, 2010. She's in Henan province in central China and was born with a cleft lip that has since been repaired.

Here is the first picture we saw of her

Those cheeks! That sweater! It was all over for us.

After her surgery.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Call: Kevin's Side of the Story

Over the weekend, it started to feel like I could finally let some of this sink in. It was like my brain, if not having processed everything, had at least managed to sort things into an orderly line, like at the DMV, to wait their turn and eventually travel across my synapses, splatting at high speed against the wall of my psyche.

Here was my last Tuesday:

Tuesdays are usually fairly calm for me at work. That morning, Jen called me and said that she was at our credit union, we were due for another program fee to our agency and she needed to know the amount. This is the money that keeps them hard at work managing the orderly flow of paper and finding us a daughter. Thus far, I can't recommend them highly enough. They've been wonderful, helpful and thorough every step of the way.

Fast forward to after lunch, wherein my ill-advised giant spicy hot dog from the convenience store declared itself gang lord of my stomach contents. I am at my desk in my work's media office, where myself, our other designer and the VP of Marketing reside in front of our giant Mac Pros and their giant monitors, humming along with the fans we have to run to keep from cooking to death in the summer.

My phone rings, and it's Jen. I usually duck out of the office for personal calls if I think it's going to be more than a few minutes. Many of my conversations at work with Jen deal with the exciting and engaging topics of What We Are Having for Dinner and Whose Turn Is It to Cook.

Jen seems slightly out of breath, but composed. She asks if I have a minute to talk. My eyes are a bit glazed over as I go over some website graphics I'm working on. "Sure."

"I just got a call from the agency." Crap. I gave her the wrong amount and now I've got to run to the credit union.



There is a slight pause: this idea is a mountain and my brain is attempting to ski uphill wearing rollerskates. Then, as is my fantastic gift with the English language, at times like these I become fiercely eloquent.

"Uh... WHAT?!" I decide that this call will probably last more than a few minutes and sprint out of the office, realizing later that the looks of terror on the faces of my two office mates probably meant that they thought I had just been given horrible news.

Jen explained about her call with the agency and I took in every detail, trying to piece it all together. My heart raced as she told me the details of the call and wished I could just head home. I worked my butt off getting done what I needed to and then told my supervisor that we just got a referral and could I take off a bit early?

In the meantime, Jen had emailed me the file and I pulled it up out of curiosity, though I thought I should wait until I got home to look at it with Jen. The first picture came up and I felt my heart skip for a second... is this our daughter? I had so many questions and my head was reeling. I was starting to feel a bit dizzy and I raced home (safely, observing all local traffic laws and posted speed limits).

We sat down and opened her file together. Jen told me what she knew as we looked into her medical history, the pictures before and after surgery, and I looked at her goofy knitted blue sweater and her big chubby cheeks and tried to take it all in. There was a bit of discussion about her condition and the big question still hung heavy in the air, is that... her? It proved difficult to separate the two opposing halves of emotional response and practical considerations about taking in this little girl.

What sealed it for me was this: I asked Jen to set aside the discussion about surgeries and care. Ignore all that. What did *she* feel on seeing this adorable little girl? Jen said "Kevin, I've seen these eyes. I know this face."

Then the tears came to me, and I felt it. I knew. I knew it because she was reflected in Jen's eyes. Jen had once again proven that she is gifted with a sight beyond my own. There were no more doubts, there was no more discussion. This girl is our daughter.

Holy crap. This girl is my daughter.

- Kevin

P.S. We promise to post pics and more info as soon as we have permission. In the meantime, drop us an email if you want to know more than what we can post openly for now.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The Call: Jen's side of the story

There is a lot to tell, so I will probably spread it out over a few posts. Also, until we get Pre-Approval from China (PA) we are not at liberty to post too many details about her or any photos. Words will have to suffice, for now.

Tuesday began normally enough. I had a few fittings at the shop to go to in the afternoon and I realized I hadn't blogged in a while. I wrote this entry having absolutely no idea that anything would change about our wait time. In fact, I remember thinking, "Well the shared list for August will probably come out on the 22nd, but I think we won't get matched until the September list. Better fill the time!"

On my way to the fitting I was stressed and called Kevin. We needed to send a check to our agency and I didn't know the exact amount, so he called them. They told him the amount and gave not one hint they would be calling me less than 2 hours later. Jerks.

I finished up my fittings and was getting in my car when my phone rang with a non-local area code. I get a fair amount of brides from all over, so this isn't so unusual. Then I realized it was the area code of our agency. "Crap! They told Kevin the wrong amount and now they want to get on my case to hurry the check up." I tossed the dresses in the back of the car, turned on the a/c, and answered the phone. Transcript time!

Me- "This is Jen."
Phone- "Hi Jen, it's Sarah from the waiting child department. How are you?"
What I was thinking- *waiting child department? Why are they calling about the check?*
Me- "Hi Sarah, I'm good, how are you?"
Sarah- "I'm really good!"
Sarah- "So Jen, I'm calling because we have a file for a little girl that we'd like you and Kevin to look over and decide if she's your daughter."
Me- "SERIOUSLY?!?!?!?"
Sarah- laughing, "Yes!"

Next I scrambled to find a pen in my car, which is a feat even when I am completely aware of the world around me, which I was not. Hooray, I found one! Crap! I dropped it between the seats! Oh good, another one! Eff! Where is something to write on??!?!??!?!?!?!?

Sarah just chuckled and told me to take my time while I explained my various difficulties with all the eloquence of a walrus. Not my finest moment, to be sure. Finally, I found a pen that wasn't under the cruel grips of an unusually strong gravitational pull, and a paper that was bigger than a gum wrapper. Winning!

She then told me her name (which I wrote down wrong since my phone makes it hard to distinguish sounds and my brain had turned into paste), birth date, province, and what her special need was: cleft lip and palate. Operation Smile performed her lip repair in April and she is being sponsored by a charitable organization that puts kids into smaller group-home style orphanages so they get more one-on-one attention and tend to do much better. She then said words like "lively" and "active" and "cutest cheeks ever" and who knows what else. "Would you like me to email the file to you for review?" Honestly, does anyone ever say no? I didn't.

I got off the phone and called Kevin, who freaked out his co-workers by answering the phone nonchalantly, then saying, "WHAT!???!?!?!??" and walking out of the room. I'll let him tell his side later. I drove home and didn't even crash or hit an old lady. Sometimes I amaze even myself.

When I pulled into the driveway, I decided to call my friend Nanette since I had to talk to someone about this craziness, but family was out of the question. We didn't know if we'd accept the file or not and if we told them and then turned it down, well, it would have been hard on everyone. Apparently, Nanette was busy having tea with the queen or something and didn't answer. I was all on my own.

I opened my email and saw a message from Sarah with the little girl's name as the subject line. After a few minutes of trying not to hyperventilate and a quick prayer that if we are to adopt this child that it may be made clear, I open it. She's on our agency's list rather than the shared list, so we have a week to decide. I look at her pictures and there is no instant pull. I just see adorably chubby cheeks and a bulky sweater. Her medical info looks really good, the repair looks great, she is obviously cute and well cared for, but is she ours? I really couldn't say. Honestly, it didn't feel real at all. I didn't know whether to laugh that our agency was pulling such an effective prank on us, or cry that we had to decide the future of this sweet little girl. Talk about pressure and conflicting emotions!

Nanette called me about 5 minutes later, and after the initial shock of it all, we talked about this girl and who knows what else. She told me about feeling connected and not with her biological kids (which helped so much, Nanette, you are made of magic!). I kept looking at her picture trying to figure out if this was our daughter. I knew we had time, I knew we should talk about it together, and I knew we needed to have a doctor look over the file to see if everything looked good. I knew all of that, but I still wanted some indication of what to do.

I didn't have an instant recognition or confirmation. When I first looked at her picture I saw her cleft (it wasn't bad, it was just the thing I was most concerned about so I naturally was going to notice it first), then her cheeks, then a ridiculous blue sweater; a sweater knit by someone who wanted to do a good deed and keep a baby halfway across the world warm. I saw her eyes, of course I did, but I didn't really look at them. I don't know why, I just didn't.

After about 20 minutes of being re-assured that it was a lot to take in and whatever choice we made would be the right one, I looked into those eyes. Really looked. Then it slowly dawned on me, I knew those eyes. I had dreamed those eyes for months. I knew that face. "I think I am looking at my daughter." And I knew.

Friday, August 12, 2011

We Got The Call!!!

Less than 4 hours after my last post about possibly seeing my daughter's face soon, I saw her face and everything changed.

We got a referral Tuesday, August 9th at 2 p.m. and sent our Letter of Intent this afternoon. We have a baby girl!!!!!

Can't post photos or details until we have our Pre-Approval (next week hopefully), but you'll have to trust me for now that she is so beautiful!

I'll write up the whole story tomorrow, but we just wanted to share with everyone!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

On Symbols

There are many things you start to take for granted once you've begun the process of adoption. Lings like abbreviations (of which there are many for Chinese adoption because of the huge amounts of red tape), time lines, symbols, even basic stuff like why international adoption is in place at all. Today's post is on symbols.

Some have been around for centuries (red= good luck), some have been adapted to fit the adoption community (the red thread legend), and some have arisen as frustrated waiting parents have tried to find hope in little things. Such is the case when it comes to ladybugs.

If you've looked around Chinese adoption forums or blogs you have no doubt seen an unusually high number of ladybugs. The ladybug has been used as a symbol of good luck. A number of years ago there was a major slow down in the referrals that came out of China due to reorganization taking place withing China. Waiting parents were getting nervous, frustrated and anxious about it. One day a number of parents from different parts of the country started reporting that they were having lady bug infestations and sightings. Right after that referrals started pouring out of China making a lot of waiting parents very happy and providing a new thing to obsess over for those of us with nothing to do but wait. It's now said that if you have a ladybug sighting it means a referral is right around the corner.

Some people find the ladybug offensive (not sure why except maybe that it assumes only girls are being adopted) others are downright crazy about the little bug and surround themselves with it on quilts, T-shirts, baby clothes, etc. Us? We fall in the camp in the middle. I am not surrounding myself with them, but I can appreciate that it's nice to find little reminders here and there.

In addition to these symbols that are commonly known, there are those that belong only to the individual. Something they have personally chosen to represent their journey. I have one of those.

A while back, Kevin and I had decided it was probably a good time to have children. About 6 months after that decision when there was still no pregnancy I decided to not cut my hair until I got pregnant. It was mostly a joke, but figured it would give me an excuse to try to grow it. I figured it would be another 6 months tops. Well, time went on an no haircut was needed. I got a bit upset when someone commented that my hair was getting longer (not that they knew what that meant to me, but still). We saw some doctors and, long story short, the infertility diagnosis was given. We could have pursued more avenues and aggressive treatment, but opted not to. Frankly, it was a relief to be done and move onto the next step.

It's not that we didn't want biological children, but we cared so much less about biology than we did about being parents. There were some hard times and dark days. I jokingly asked, "Does this mean I can never cut my hair?" I chose to leave it be for a bit until we had a firm plan.

Then came April 11, 2009. That was the day we decided to adopt from China. We knew we had a long wait ahead of us so I opted to continue with the no hair cut resolution. I figured the longer it got, the closer we were to getting our little girl. So what does our adoption wait look like in terms of hair?

Where I started (well, actually about 5 months after I started):

Where I was the other week:

Three years with only one tiny trim (hey, there was some serious mullet-ing happening! Don't judge me!)

My hair doesn't grow extremely fast and it is now longer than it has ever been. It's no longer just people who know me who comment on my hair being long, it's everyone. Yes, my hair is long and so is this wait, but I'm finding my peace with both. Each month, each inch is one more closer to seeing our precious little girl's face.

And speaking of seeing her face, while working in the room that will one day be the nursery I looked above the window and saw this little friend.