I should have explained why I posted about Maddy's finding spot right out of the blue yesterday. I posted it because I just got the photos yesterday. Another family was traveling to her city and agreed to take some pictures of her finding location for me. I expected one or two but they sent me a dozen or so. I'm incredibly grateful for their generous gift and I know Maddy will be grateful to have these pictures when she's old enough to understand the whole thing.
Today is Friday and I'm still feeling a little bit emotional about the photos and can't quite bring myself to play a new round of FFFF just yet. It's Memorial Day Weekend and a time to reflect on the sacrifices of others. So many people have given so much so that we might have what we often take for granted. This week of FFFF silence is dedicated to them.
I was feeling a little bit blue so, before nap time, I took the girls out into the front yard for a quick game of hide and seek. These cherubs are the best cure in the world for the blues! Just look at those sweet faces! Gosh, I love 'em so much! I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday weekend.
At 5:10 am, as the hot summer sun was about to make it's daily debut, a 4 pound Chinese baby girl was born and screamed her first protest at the world.
And the world totally deserved it.
Her family was probably worried about the baby's obvious prematurity. In China, it's a common belief that premature babies are likely to die in early childhood even if they beat the odds and survive infancy. This little baby was just barely 4 pounds and her future was uncertain. She also had a very minor cleft palate -- something her family might not have noticed because it's very VERY minor.
Or, perhaps, their concern was the fact that this infant was female and the family already had a little girl and really needed a boy to guarantee their security in old age?
Whatever the reason, someone bundled up the tiny infant and carried her down this dirt road towards the gate of the local High School.
It was a Saturday on the last day of July and it was HOT. But we know for certain that most of the teachers lived on campus and someone would probably find her right away. Her family probably knew this too.
They quickly scribbled a note on a torn scrap of paper that stated her birth date and time. She was only a few hours old when they set the tiny newborn girl down on the ground. Then they turned around and walked away.
From this heartbreaking act of desperation, our family was completed.
That little girl was Madeline and Maddy will soon be 3 years old. As the third anniversary of her birth approaches, I'm certain her birth family will think about her and wonder what happened to the tiny child they left alone at the gate of that school three years earlier.
As a mother, I'm sure they can't find any peace with what they did. It's just the nature of moms to fear the worst and that's probably the case with mothers in China too. How can they possibly expect that their baby is a thriving, robust, little fireball living with her virtual twin sister in a lovely house in Silicon Valley, California. They can't know that she's got a Mommy and Daddy who love her to pieces (and a kitty who fears her)? They would probably love to know that she adores everything Elmo and her favorite food is watermelon, sliced ham or KFC coleslaw.
Someday, this little girl - who we've affectionately nicknamed "Our Scientist" - will attend Stanford University. We're absolutely sure of it. And we'll celebrate birthday after birthday with her and watch her grow up and fall in and out of love and marry and have babies of her own. But her birth family will probably weep each year as they remember the little baby they left at this gate -- the baby they gave back to The World.
And, every year, we'll remember them and be gratful that their difficult choice put their baby on a path to us. And we'll quietly hope that this will be the year they find peace with their choice.
I've gotten lots of emails over the last few weeks asking if everything was okay since my presence, on line, has been really sparse. I appreciate all of the love and concern and I *am* sorry to have been so absent! I've just been really absorbed in some BIG PROJECTS.
Pictured here are two of the projects:
Madeline's Life Book & Gwendolyn's Life Book.
I finished Maddy's last week and I'm really proud of the result. It took hundreds of hours to do this but it was fun to work on it in all of my spare moments. Naturally, my spare moments are few and far between so it meant that something else had to be sacrificed and (unfortunately) that meant my on line friendships, reading and commenting on blogs and participation in adoption forums -- including my own forum (which I horribly neglected during that time).
Here are all 130 pages of Maddy's finished book! (click on the image to see a larger view of the thumbnails).
I was so excited about Maddy's book. I even started it first so hers would be "best". From experience, I know that the 2nd child always gets the hand-me-downs and the 2nd rate baby book (if any book at all). I wanted her to have the best life book so I did hers first.
I started by asking her Yahoo SWI group to email me any high resolution photos they had of her orphanage and her city of birth (Qinzhou). The photos in the albums on the Yahoo Groups are very low quality and won't print nicely in a book. You can use them but they'll only be about 2 inches wide, at most. Lots of people were happy to help me out and sent me some good photos. One family, traveling to Qinzhou on vacation, offered to stop at her finding location and take pictures for me! I can't tell you how grateful I am for that since we weren't able to visit Maddy's city when we adopted her last summer.
The finding ad cost around $35 and the CD of city photos was about $45. The finding ad photo was very good quality but the CD of photos from the cities (I also got a CD of Gwen's city) were pretty horrible. Still, they were MUCH better than nothing at all! The resolution wasn't bad but the images were faded and almost always crooked. Also, each photo has their site name (which is acceptable) but also an imprint of the name of the photo. I didn't need that since I planned to add captions to the photos in the book. So those imprints had to be removed.
I do recommend that you scour Google Images for as many photos are you can so you can supplement what you get from Asia Threads. I was able to use their photos in the lifebooks because I have good photo editing software and I was able to enhance, straighten, fix perspective, and remove the photo name from every single image before uploading it to the book publishing software.
Then I combed through every single picture I had of Maddy and put everything in chronological order. I used an online book publishing company to make the book. They don't think my blog's 500 hits per day is worth their time so they won't make me an affiliate (so I won't link to them). Their software is free and very easy to use and you can research "online publishing" and probably find them.
Okay, so what's in her life book?
There are lots of resources to help you make a good Life Book for your adopted child and I don't think anyone can do the wrong thing when it comes to this particular project. As usual, I didn't consult any of the experts. I just plowed straight ahead into the project without fogging my mind with advice from anyone!
Here's Maddy's Table of Contents:
Page 4: Earliest photos of Maddy
Page 9: Finding location
Page 11: Birth note
Page 12: Finding ad
Page 14: The Orphanage
Page 21: What does Maddy's name mean
Page 22: The City of Qinzhou
Page 39: Referral pictures
Page 42: Our Paperchase
Page 43: Our Timeline
Page 45: Quarterly reports from GHC
Page 52: "Gotcha" day
Page 66: Adoption day
Page 69: More Nanning pics
Page 73: Guangzhou: Six Banyon Tree Temple
Page 74: Guangzhou: Red Couch Photo
Page 75: Guangzhou: Shamian Island
Page 77: Guangzhou: Pearl River Cruise
Page 79: Guangzhou: Maddy eats an apple
Page 81: Guangzhou: Tomb of Nanyue King
Page 82: Guangzhou Zoo
Page 83: Home
Page 85: September photos
Page 91: October photos
Page 96: November photos
Page 100: December photos
Page 106: January photos
Page 107: February photos
Page 112: Maddy (and Gwen's) room
Page 114: March photos
Page 122: April photos
Page 129: May photos
I didn't add any bunny rabbits or baby graphics or soft pastel colors or try to sugar-coat anything. I *did* enhance the photos to make them more clear and colorful and less dull. I want her to have good feelings about the place she came from and not assume that the horrible photography represents the "true colors" of her birth city. Yes, there is horrible poverty in Qinzhou but there are also lovely flowers and smiling children there too! The book was written directly to Maddy and we purchased an extra copy for her keepsake box since one of the copies is likely to get lots of use over the years. We even purchased one soft-cover copy for her foster parents in China and we plan to have a Chinese friend transcribe, in Chinese characters, some of the pertinent text of the book so her foster family in China can understand it.
Maddy's books should arrive in the mail any day now. Gwen's book is still a work in progress. Her situation was quite different than Maddy's since she was never in foster care and we have no photos (other than referral photos) from before Gotcha Day. But we adopted her at 14 months (instead of 25 months, as was the case with Maddy) so we have plenty of photos from that day forward.
I'm so proud of these books! I hope other families will consider doing this. It's not only good for your kids but it's incredibly satisfying to your own soul too!
We were at the mall on Saturday and Gwen was running and tripped and smacked her face - right across the bridge of the nose! It was the most horrible sound and I was almost certain we'd have to go straight to the emergency room since the bruising and swelling was instant and I wasn't sure how bad it was going to be. But this is as bad as it got and she recovered pretty well by the time we got her to the car.
My poor baby girl! She cried for 30 minutes and I just wanted to cry with her (but didn't because that would make her cry even more). She's such a little beam of sunshine most of the time so seeing her cry just broke my heart to pieces. Daddy and Maddy were really feeling her pain too!
It's been a few days and the bruising is much better and she back to her usual very happy self!