Tag Archives: birth mother

“Đây Là Những Gia Đình Của Em” (These Are My Families), Part Three

The next day, we went to see some things in McKenna’s town.  We went to the Ministry of Justice where her Giving and Receiving ceremony took place.  And I now know that the reason Thao (I am using a different name for McKenna’s birth mother to preserve her privacy) was not there not because she “went to visit a friend” which is what I was told by the adoption facilitators in Vietnam.  But that she was given too short a notice by them to be able to get back from the town she was working in to be there.

We went to a museum “of the people” which was really cool and Steve got interviewed by a new organization about what he liked there.

We stopped and bought McKenna’s little sister a birthday present and tried to find something for her little brother but nothing we found at the store we stopped at worked and so left without anything for him.  And we felt very badly about this.

The time was getting close for our second meeting and we needed to get back to the hotel and get cleaned up.  McKenna asked me all day about whether or not she was going to get to meet her brother and sister.  And I just did not know.  I wasn’t sure how this situation would be explained to them.

“You have a sister who has come from America.  She won’t be staying….”  I didn’t know how they would explain it.

I had been nervous all day with an underlying fear of one thing.  Meeting the grandparents.  What if Thao’s mother, who I met at the Ministry of Justice 12 years ago, was not the grandmother who came tonight?  Then that would mean that these lovely people were not really McKenna’s birth parents.  And we would be in a pretty emotionally icky situation.  One that we would all be doggy paddling in.

Luckily, when the knock on the door came that evening and in walked Thao’s mother, it was the lady I had met and I hugged her with a lot of relief.  She remembered me too and we had our picture taken together.

This meeting was when McKenna’s birthfather’s magnanimity and personality came through.  He first presented McKenna with a beautiful bracelet.  He had drawn on the box where he also put his name and the date.

He presented both Steve and Sheridan with embroidered scenes that are famous in Hanoi area.

We took lots of pictures of these presentations. 

He and Steve drank beer together at dinner.  His sense of humor showed through and we now know where McKenna gets hers!

Before we had dinner with them, we took a lot of pictures of all of us together.

We had a wonderful dinner with the whole family and, in retrospect, I so wish that I had known some Vietnamese then so I could spoken with McKenna’s grandmother.  She was the main connection we had to McKenna’s past and I wanted to tell her how much her rush to get to the Ministry of Justice that day 12 years ago meant to me.  I wanted to tell her how heartbroken I was taking her granddaughter away….seeing how heartbroken she was.

What we did not get to do was really spend any time alone with McKenna’s birthmother Thao.  The next day presented that opportunity for me for a few minutes but I blew it.

The last part of this series will be posted in a few days.

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“Đây Là Những Người Bố Em” (These Are My Fathers), Part Two

“Hey, Billy, my baby
Hey, kid, look at me.
It’s clear you’ve got your mother’s eyes
But who do they see?
The nurse just called me ‘father’.
Well, hell, I guess that’s what I am.
But what makes her think
I’m a family man?
 
Those fathers of fathers, fathers of mothers,
How can you know what it’s worth?
For all my aspiration, are you to be the indication
That I walked the face of this earth.” — Richard Maltby, Jr from Closer Than Ever (a musical revue in two acts)
 

McKenna and I spent about 30 minutes working on her hair.  She has very wavy, curly long hair.  And it had been awhile since she had gotten the underneath part brushed properly.  We were both nervous.  I could tell she was nervous because she kept asking me questions.  Mostly ones I couldn’t answer.

Why did my birth father come back and marry my birth mother?  What is his name?  I have a brother and sister?  What are their names?  What kind of store do they have?  The elephant in the room was of course if they stayed together, then why did they give me up?  She didn’t ask that question out loud, but it was there hanging around us as I worked through her tangled hair.

We decided on braids for her hair and a different outfit.  She fretted about everything.  Looking back at the photos we took, she seems like such a little kid compared to almost a year later.  She has turned into a young lady in such a short time.

And the things that must have been going through her head and heart as we waited for them to arrive………..

Then there was a knock on the hotel room door.  And suddenly the moment was there.

The door opened to two people who enveloped her the minute they saw her.  They hugged and held her away to look at her, their flesh and blood.  So long ago gone from them.  McKenna cried. They cried.  Steve and I were crying.  And we had no tissues.

They sat on the bed with McKenna between them holding her tight and we exchanged questions through Mr Long, our guide and sudden interpreter, for about an hour.  I had brought a photo album that chronicled many of McKenna’s important moments.  Her first step, first day of school, school programs.

The picture of her birth grandmother holding her.

Finally, the big question…..one that was very difficult to ask………and difficult for them to answer……

Why did you give up McKenna?

The reason was a circumstance from his family that was very compelling but was remedied too late for them to keep her.  But then he worked through it, came back and he married Thao.

He did most of the talking and answering of questions.  He turned out to be a very nice person, not who I envisioned.  He told us they would make no requests except that McKenna be able to meet her grandparents and of course we were more than willing to have her meet as many members of her birthfamily as possible.

We arranged for another meeting the next evening which was McKenna’s little sister’s birthday.  After they left, McKenna and I lay on the bed and took silly pictures of ourselves.  What had happened that evening was just too much to talk about.

We goofed around instead and went to sleep that night in anticipation of the next evening when she would get to see them again and get to meet her grandparents.  I don’t know how she could have slept very well.

And I wonder what they talked about the rest of the evening.

“Này, Billy, tôi bé
Này, cậu bé, nhìn vào tôi.
Rõ ràng bạn đã có đôi mắt của mẹ
Nhưng họ làm những người nhìn thấy?
Các y tá chỉ cần gọi cho tôi ‘cha’.
Vâng, địa ngục, tôi đoán đó là những gì tôi.
Nhưng những gì làm cho cô ấy nghĩ
Tôi là một người đàn ông trong gia đình?
 
Những người cha của cha, cha của bà mẹ,
Làm thế nào bạn có thể biết những gì nó có giá trị?
Đối với nguyện vọng của tôi tất cả, bạn sẽ được chỉ dẫn
Điều đó tôi bước đi trên mặt đất này.”

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Ngày Hạnh Phúc Của Mẹ! (Happy Mother’s Day!)

I remember my first Mother’s Day.  I wore a yellow dress and Sheridan wore a cute little outfit with a little yellow hat.  We went to MY mom’s house and took pictures to commemorate the big occasion.  My FIRST Mother’s Day.  The long awaited first one.  Now, so many years later, it is old hat, but I still enjoy it thinking about what it means to me.  And I think about them…………

Happy Mother’s Day to the birthmothers of McKenna and Sheridan.  Every Mother’s Day I can’t help but think about the series of events that led to the fortune of my getting to be a mother.  And to be the mother of these two specific girls….

There are these two other mothers, who for different reasons couldn’t continue to keep them.  So, hey.  Too bad for them?  Great for me?  (A sad little yay, escapes my lips).  And while I always marvel over the wonder of being blessed with my girls, I can’t help but think of these two women, also mothers of these two girls and the circumstances that did or might have led to my fortune.

One mother, in China, had to leave her baby girl somewhere and walk away from her, in winter, at the gates of a government building.  And not.  Look back.  Did she have someone with her keeping her from turning around and running back to that gate?

Another mother, from a farm, who thought her baby girl was going to a local policeman’s family, only to find out later, she was gone, way gone.  She never got that locket with McKenna’s picture in it.  I don’t know why……….

How do you not feel a little bit like you’re a thief on Mother’s Day?

….(I know the above is a provocative thought and if you are an adoptive parent and can relate … or not …. and want to talk about this comment in the comments section.  I’m interested in others’ feelings and thoughts about this.)….

At the same time, I am also the mother of these cool girls.  And I am grateful for their senses of humor, artistry, intelligence, and wisdom.

Two possibly heartbroken women, at one time.  And it took an awful kind of courage to do what they did.  And I get to celebrate Mother’s Day because of them.  So, when Mother’s Day rolls around, and we are thinking about our mothers, my mind strays to China and Vietnam and wonder how two other women are doing.  I wish them much love.  We have two great kids.

There is no way to express the excitement I felt last week when I had an honest to God conversation in Vietnamese with my Rosetta Studio coach. It was AWESOME!! She asked me if I have any children. I told her that I have two daughters. One is from China and one is from Vietnam. Her eyebrows went up a little. (She understood me.) She asked me what their names are. (I understood her.) I told her. She asked me how old they are. I told her. (Understanding. Conversation.) In Vietnamese.

I was thrilled out of my wits. There is almost nothing like the feeling of accomplishment you have when you have communicated with someone in their language.

I have now gone through four Rosetta Studio sessions. And the last two just felt like a slam dunk. I knew all the stuff that I hadn’t known when I accidentally signed up for the first Unit 2 Studio session.

Now moving into the 4th Unit and reviewing the 3rd Unit, I need to set up Studio sessions for both units.  And I am not at all confident that I am ready.  I have recently gone back to work after a lengthy medical leave during which I was able to really focus on learning.  I made real progress on my Vietnamese study during that time.  I am slowing down some now, not having the same kind of focused time to work on it.

What I have found is that I can almost read tweets from @VOAVietnamese and @DaiAChauTuDo.  (By the way, Follow kidsarefromasia on Twitter, if you want)  I am also able to go back and read some e-mails from McKenna’s birthfather in Vietnamese now.  It is like unlocking another world or some wonderful code when you can read another language.

And do you want to see something freaky?

 Sheridan

 

Prisoner in Hanoi Hilton in 1936

Somewhere Out There

Today, my newly minted fifteen year old and I were driving somewhere and in one quick movement she turned off the radio and popped in her iPod earbuds. There was barely a moment for me to say a word between public and private music, neither of which is conducive to talking. I find myself more and more aware of how little my daughters need to talk to me anymore. I mean, it’s not like we don’t talk. It’s just that they don’t NEED to talk to me anymore.

And simultaneous with that discovery, I realize how much I WANT to talk to them. It seems the more I want to ask them the more they pull in. No matter how delicately I tread, the goofier they seem to think I am. Or at least that is my perception.

So there she was, popping in the second earbud and I wanted to talk to her about anything. So I asked her about what seems to be at the top of my mind these days. Her birth parents. We got to meet McKenna’s birth parents in Vietnam and I have been wondering how she is feeling about not getting to have the same experience.

And when her birthday comes around, especially, I think about birth parents “somewhere out there” thinking about her and wondering if she is ok.

I asked her if we could talk. “Huh?” she said, popping out one side of her earbuds. I said it again. And she said sure. So I asked if she thought about her birth parents. Or if she felt bad about not getting to meet them. And she asked me if I wanted the brutal truth and I said yes and she told me that she didn’t really care.

I was really surprised by that answer. So I dug a little for some clarification. She had felt a little jealous-ish this summer with someone who had gotten to meet the person who found her. Sheridan seemed to have a difficult time remembering feeling that way and when I asked her how she felt about McKenna getting to meet her birth family she said she was happy for her.

Either she wasn’t giving me anything or she really doesn’t care. Either way, my only recourse was to let her know that regardless of how she feels now or in the future I would not pressure her to do anything one way or another but would always support whatever her feelings were. I also told her that if she ever did want to find her birth parents that I would do whatever it took to find them.

My little nine month old sweetheart is fifteen years old this week and the time went by far more quickly than I could have imagined. My main regret is not doing everything that comes to my children with much more intentionality. But despite feeling like I have stumbled through my role as a parent, Sheridan has turned out to be a wonderful, young woman.

I wish there was a way to tell an anonymous Chinese mom and dad how fabulous she is.