Monday, May 30, 2011

Tonggu Visit

I'd always hoped I'd get the opportunity to visit Mia's orphanage but never expected it. I also never really thought we'd be allowed to meet the foster parents. But today both of those dreams came true.

Last night was rough. Very rough. My happy sunshine girl has her two upper teeth poking through and two more trying to come out on the bottom. She was miserable. Nothing consoled her. Some tears were shed by both of us. 

Tonggu is 4 hours away from Nanchang by car. I was dreading the trip after our night. I wasn't sure how Mia would handle the ride...but my sunshine girl returned. She was a trooper. She slept through at least half of it on the way up and on the way back. Even with our kamikaze driver who cut almost an hour off our travel both coming and going. That's how fast he was driving. It was a little insane. 

We ended up in a minivan with only one other family who also wanted to make the trip. I was worried with all the bumps in that thing Mia would be car sick and I'd end up with her formula all over me. But no. She did great. I'll never forget trying to hold Mia on my lap, hold her burp cloth under her chin in case of spit up, Carla leaning over from the next seat holding the bottle while traveling about 70 mph through the curvy, bumpy roads in rural China. Somehow we got the job done.

We arrived at Tonggu SWI right about lunch time and immediately got to meet our daughter's foster mothers. It was overwhelming. There really are no words to express my gratitude to this woman for the job she did caring for Mia for the first 7 mths of her life. It was very emotional for me.  
I cried. I thanked her. I told her how much I loved this little girl. I promised to take good care of her.
It took Mia a little while to go to her. When I first handed her the baby, Mia started fussing. The foster mother called me "mama" and handed her right back. It was just so overwhelming. I don't know how else to describe it.
She very obviously loved Mia. This girl is so healthy, strong, smart and happy. That doesn't happen by accident. So I was really surprised by Mia's reaction. After all, I've only cared for her for a few days. Her foster mother did for months.
Our guide said that I should remember the foster mother cared for 2 other babies and ran the household. She could definitely love Mia and take good care of her...but not devote total and complete attention to her like I have. And even though her time with Mia is much longer, that attention makes a big difference. I don't know. Maybe that's it. It just seems so strange to me still.
Eventually Mia settled down and allowed herself to be loved on by her foster mom. I was so glad to be able to give them both that gift of saying good-bye. I think it was also good for Mia to see us together and to have foster mom reassure her and tell her I was "mama".
When I first got my referral pics, my mom gave me a pendant she'd had made with Mia's photo on both sides. I've worn it since then. But I asked my mom if she'd mind me giving it to foster mom. So I did. She was very grateful. I think the gift was made even more special when my guide explained that it was also a gift to me from my mother. It was just an amazing moment I'll treasure always.

Mia also visited with the orphanage director. He held her during the 4 hour bus ride on Gotcha Day and was the person who handed her to me that day. He gave her a kiss on the cheek when we said good-bye today. You can see how much they care about these babies.
The orphanage is very clean. We were allowed inside an administrative building but not the others. Mostly because they felt there was really no need since our daughter's didn't live there but instead lived in the foster family's house. In the office building were two collages of children's pictures with their adoptive families. One was all the American children who'd sent updates and one was all the European. It was very sweet.

When I sent my care package to Mia, I'd also sent along a journal book I'd gotten years ago from an online auction through Love Without Boundaries. It's written in Chinese with each opposite page saying the same thing in English so it can be translated. It asks every question I ever had about Mia from basic care questions like what her schedule is, what comforts her, what does she eat, to when she babbled her first word and other milestones, to info about the foster family, to info about her finding spot, who found her, etc. I sent it with a heartfelt note asking her foster family to fill as much of it out as they can and return it to me. But I had absolutely no expectation that I'd ever see it again.

I got it back on Gotcha Day...with every single question answered in the whole entire book. I brought the book with me today and cried when I told foster mom how much I appreciated it and how I'll treasure it.
The orphanage director took us and the foster mothers out to lunch. He toasted the new families and welcomed us as also part of their family now since we share these beautiful Chinese daughters. It was touching...and quite fun. The director is a party type of guy. We all really enjoyed telling stories and getting to know each other over some rice wine and Chinese beer.
In this photo is also our wonderful guide and translator, Sissi. She loves these babies almost as much as we do and takes fabulous care of her families.
 This was our last moment before saying goodbye. We didn't need a translator to convey what we were feeling. Foster mom and I shared a few hugs and some tears. I promised to stay in touch and send updates. And I'll keep that promise. It's the least I could do to repay her for the amazing gift she's given me.
I feel so incredibly blessed. Not just for this beautiful little girl but for the opportunity to visit what is most likely her hometown. It's a very small place in a very rural part of China. Sissi told me Mia probably is a farmer's daughter with many siblings. She said in the countryside the farmers need big families to work the fields so they basically ignore the one child policy and the violations aren't enforced. But the farmers need more boys than girls.
We took almost 200 photos of the area and were able to visit a couple of landmarks including the main square with this drum monument. It's what the city was named for. Tonggu means copper drum.

We were also lucky enough to visit our daughter's finding spots and get the original newspaper that carried their finding ads. I also had the disposable camera returned to me that was sent in her care package. Every picture has been taken. I haven't had the film developed yet but I'm happy to have these photos. It's all so much more than I ever imagined I'd have. I'm so happy for Mia.

I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to experience this place where my daughter came from so I can explain it to her some day. And I feel so incredibly blessed that although there will be many questions I won't be able to answer ....I now have so many that I can. I may not have the history of her first 3 days... but I can tell her and show her about every day after that.
Words can never really express what this day meant to me. I'm so very happy.


Laurie said...

A big day you'll remember for the rest of your life♥

Half Gaelic, Half Garlic! said...

I am crying happy tears of joy for you...... I know what the day means to you and what it will mean to Mia in the future. You are correct..... there are no words to express the range of emotions you go through when seeing their humble beginnings and meeting those that cared for them. These pictures will preserve the memories to last a lifetime!

So glad that she is feeling better and you survived the 8 hour road trip:)

Love and Blessings to you, Carla, and Mia~


Gail said...

Great post. Of course brought tears. I couldn't help but notice the "Red Thread" that is tied around the drum in the picture.
Beautiful says it all!

Traci said...

What an amazing blessing!!!! So thankful that Mia has so much information and a connection to her foster mother.

May God bless her foster family for their love and care of the babies.


Michal said...

I am so glad you had the opportunity to meet Mia's Foster Mother. What an amazing day. I had some thoughts as I was reading about how she wanted to stay with you and wasn't too interested in going to her Foster Mom- There is a palpable bond between you and Mia. It is a rare thing, this relationship I see unfolding in these pictures. There is so much love and trust- it comes through in every single picture. You and Mia- it's a special thing, I can feel it all of the way in Ohio. It is deep and real and true and these days in China will carry you all the remaining days of your life.

Teresa said...

That is an awesome visit! Amazing. You are very fortunate indeed to have had Mia in a foster home and to be able to meet the foster family is amazing.
Having all that information for her will benefit her enormously.
Congratulations again!

Lindsay said...

I received the gift of a beautiful book full of photos and information for Hannah from her orphanage and had the wonderful opportunity to meet 2 or 3 times Sofia's foster mother. Your post brought me to tears reliving both events over again - you are so right about how special these moments, these fragments of history are. I'm so happy for you both that you have received so much from the foster family - it is definitely something to treasure forever.

Anonymous said...

You thought of everything! How wonderful! You and Mia (and Carla) will have such beautiful memories! Can't wait until you're home!
Lisa B., Franklin, OH

Johnny said...


Anonymous said...

You made me cry! Beautiful, just beautiful, I am so happy for you all that you were able to have this wonderful and so precious meeting, it really is such gift for everyone, Mia, you, her amazing Foster Mother and all who were present. Thank you for sharing and what a fantastic mother and all round lovely person you are!

Anonymous said...

Wow. An amazing opportunity for both you and Mia. Love that you presented the pendant to the foster mom. Such a thoughtful and heartfelt gift. Jealous that Mia will keep a bow on for so long! Now get on your way and get that girl home! =)
- Shannnon (Ellie's mom) who can't seem to log for some reason...

KJS said...

I am so happy that the day went well.

~Kristen said...

What a wonderful day, getting to spend time in her hometown and create such an amazing memory with her foster mom. You exude happiness... I have been loving how much and how often you have been able to post. What a great journal of your time in Mia's homeland. She will treasure it forever!

China Dreams said...

How wonderful for you, for Mia, and for her foster mother! This trip will be a treasured memory for all of you.


The H Family said...

This is the most beautiful post I have ever read on someone's blog! I am so happy you had the opportunity to have this day! Sending lots of love your way!!!


Anonymous said...

I too am crying to read this post. So wonderful that you had this experience. We didn't get to do this when Jenny adopted Abby and we've always regretted it. Please ask Sissi if you could send us her email address. We had it and lost it and I would love to update her on Abby's growth. She made our time in Nanchang so very easy. Loving seeing Mia so happy. Such a beautiful little one. Blessings to you both. Sherry McCormick, Jenny's mom from Don't know why, but I can't post on google either.

Aus said...

Oh you guys are soooo lucky - we're over the moon for you!! We have managed to locate our son's FF - and have been able to exchange e-mails with them etc - but just can't wait for the chance to meet them one day!

Great joy for you - and what a great chance for clossure for Mia one day!

hugs - aus and co.

nicole said...

ok. tears. remembering our orphanage visit day. giving our foster mama her locket. taking all the pics. what memories you bring back. co planning to go and do it again!!! thx for sharing. i read every post.

Susan said...

I'm so glad you got to go to Tonggu. Our little girl is also from Tonggu. I wish we could've gone to the orphanage.
You're little Mia is so precious. Congratulations. Susan

Ani said...

What a wonderful, priceless gift you were given to be able to experience this piece of Mia's story. I cried through this post! Thank you for sharing this amazing experience with us.

a Tonggu Momma said...

OH, I am so happy for you. As one of the first groups adopting from Tonggu, we were not allowed to visit the county at all. This is a day you will treasure forever. And this is the FIRST TIME I've seen that copper drum statue. I know the story about the rock, but I didn't realize they have a statue commemorating the county name.

Anonymous said...

Oh!!! I am SO happy for you! Such wonderful gifts for you and Mia! Blessings unmeasurable!!!


Jen said...

What a gift that you got to do this!!!!!!! So happy for you guys. I think this will mean so much to your girl!

dreamer said...

Your experience echos mine so very closely when I visited the orphanage, saw the foster family and that same book I received back. I had no expectations that I'd ever see it again either. But like you, every question was in and so many memories that I wasn't there for but I can share. I know so very deeply how much this all means to you, I am so grateful you've had this wonderful experience too. Thanks for sharing the thoughts I never really did.

Sarah in MT said...

Krista, this day will stay in your memory forever. From meeting the woman who cared for your little Mia so lovingly in her early days, to the specially made pendant, to the well documented journal, to that wonderfully joyous photo of the two of you in front of the copper drum with the red thread. All so incredibly touching. Mia is so fortunate that you have preserved this little bit of history for her - and you are so fortunate to have all those questions answered about your girl's early life. I am filled with joy that you and Mia have found each other - your forever family.

kitchu said...

shedding tears. what a gift. what incredible, priceless, amazing gifts.

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