May 24, 2002 will mark one year since our referral, since we first learned who our new family member would be. So much has happened since ... becoming parents, the whole China adventure, getting to know each other, her first Christmas, first Easter, turning two, her baptism ... So it seems time to put down the story of that first referral before it completely is crowded from memory.
May 24, 2001 was a Thursday. I was at work. Only a few days before, we had acquired a second cell phone: I had never carried one, but we realized we needed to be in instant touch with each other when the time came, and after our daughter arrived. CCAI, our adoption agency, had told Tam on about May 13 that our dossier had moved to the "matching room" in China and that we could expect a match around the end of May or first few days of June, so we knew that the long wait was nearing an end, but expected the news to come a week or so later than it did.
At about 4:30 pm I was preparing to leave my office at the Middle East Journal. I stopped in the stairwell to discuss something with my Assistant Editor, Michael Yerushalmi. As we were finishing up I heard the cell phone ring. I first asked Michael if he carried one since no one had my number except Tam and the adoption agency, and I knew Tam was to be in a meeting at that hour. I answered the cell phone and heard a voice say, I thought, "Jim?" I said no, you have the wrong number, and then she said, "Is this Michael?" She had initially said "Tam?", having been trying to call Tam and gotten our numbers transposed. She gave her name and said she was calling from CCAI, and I said yes, and she said "I have some information about your daughter."
At that point I told her I'd better get back to my desk, grabbed a piece of scrap paper and a pen, and began writing down what she could tell me. Her name, she said, was Chang Xiao Chao, she was 13 months old, at the Changde Social Welfare Center in Changde, Hunan. Xiao Chao meant "Dawn Exceeding"; she gave some other information. A photo would be E-mailed that evening; an overnight package with more details and an acceptance form would arrive the next day.
As soon as I got off the line I immediately called Tam, though I knew
she would be in a meeting. "Tam?"
"Yes," with a trace of annoyance at being interrupted.
"Are you sitting down?"
"I'm in a meeting with Sarah."
"Yes, I know, but are you sitting down?"
"Yes, I'm sitting down."
"Because we're parents."
SCREAMS, "We're PARENTS!", and then becomes incoherent ...
I passed the information on as best I could and then drove to meet Tam where she was, where we discussed what we knew, and then both drove home (separately as we each had our car. Once we got home I started checking E-mail regularly and by 6:30 or 7:00 pm we saw an E-mail subject line that said BABY!
With some trepidation -- we were about to get our first look at our daughter, we looked at the photo, the match photo that appears above. Neither one of us has been able to remember what we said. It may have been "Wow", or "Ohhh..." or just silence. Until the package arrived with a couple of more pictures the next day, that photo was our sole link with our daughter, but so much of that photo still looks familiar in the two-year-old she now is: the heavy black hair, the beautiful eyes, the flat little nose ... But the photo is unsmiling, and these days, she smiles so much more.
From May 24 to the end of June, when we left for China, we were swamped with things to do. We had not known what age we would get -- it could have been anything up to three years old -- so we had to furnish a baby room quickly. Throughout the whole adoption saga, and right up through the trip to China, I had adopted the attitude that, just as when you are buying a house, people keep telling you about yet another fee and yet another expense, so again here... and I just stopped thinking about the costs. Now we knew what she looked like, and that was worth it all. And we didn't even know her yet.
[Tam writing] Once we got the news, and then the email picture of her, we couldn't stop looking at her, and already welcoming her into our hearts and home. We got further information about her soon after, and then about ten days later, got photos of her as of February showing a much older baby, closer to what she would look like when we would travel in late June/July to get her. Michael had plastered copies of her match photo all over the house, with messages like, "Good Morning Mom" on them. We still have some of them up, just to remind us....
I was really glad to get the older pictures, I think it helped prepare
me for who met us on July 2, and helped to overlay that earlier image of
the younger baby. From the match day, we were just really busy, signing
more papers and sending them FedEx to CCAI, getting all the travel needs
in order, some key furniture for her room, like the changing table that
can later be converted to a combo chest of drawers and book case, etc.
Just a hectic time...but so happy and anticipatory.