This will likely be my last post from China, as I do not know if we will have internet access at our hotel in Hong Kong tonight and I know I will have no access once we start all of our plane rides home. I want to start by saying a sincere THANK YOU to all those who have read this blog, commented here, on facebook and in emails. Your concern for us, interest in Jaxson, prayers, well-wishes and love has TRULY meant the world to us and helped us make it through an exciting and wonderful, but rather tough journey. I feel that so many of you have "traveled with us" by sending your prayers and love each day, and I will always be grateful for that encouragement.
Next, I would like to thank my wonderful friend, Hayley, who has now seen so many different sides of me and aspects of my life, that she might as well be part of our extended family. Her presence alone has been comforting and helpful. To say that trip would have been difficult without her assistance is an understatement. There were many moments were she entertained Alexis so that we could complete procedures, meetings, appointments with Jaxson, etc. All those things would have been more challenging - and sometimes nearly impossible - without her. Hayley, we will always remember your help and support during this experience and will treasure our days here with you. No one else will be able to fully appreciate and understand this trip except for you!
I was awake a lot last night thinking about leaving. Don't get me wrong - I really, really WANT to leave and I am so excited to pack everything today. However, it is very bittersweet because it feels like we are closing a chapter in our lives. I still want to provide some experiences in Jaxson's life where he can learn about and connect to China, especially since he is not a young "baby" and China has shaped who he is at this point in his life. However, I want to appreciate his story, his journey to us, etc., but I also want to help him move that into his past and start a new life with us. I want to treasure the things that were given to me by his foster director (his lock of hair, photo album) and our guide (paperwork, our adoption certificate, our adoption "donation" booklet, etc.), but I want to refocus my attention and energy on the ways he his going to be blessed, and the ways he is going to bless us. I sort of feel today like I felt during my college graduation. I loved my entire college experience and it was an amazing part of my life. I was so ready to graduate and start my career, yet I was so sad to close the door on that four years. It was also a bit terrifying to jump into the "adult world." Today I feel like we are closing the door on our adoption journey (yes, I know we still have a big "journey" ahead of us, but it will be a different path) and jumping forward into being a family of four in the "real world." It's exciting, but frightening at the same time. After 16 months of focusing on one piece of paperwork after the next, it is hard to wrap my ahead around the comment made to us at the consulate yesterday, "you are all finished!"
I wanted to briefly write about Jaxson's journey to us just so that I will have it recorded here, and others will know. I certainly won't mind to talk about it, but I want to try to not dwell on it for a while. :-)
Jaxson was born on November 4th, 2009 in an unknown location (we assume Maoming, but no one knows for sure). At around 3 days of age, he was found in a paper box outside an emergency room at the Maoming Hospital. Police searched for his parents for the required number of days, but no one claimed him. This is the standard procedure. He was then registered in the Maoming Social Welfare Institute (SWI for short) as an orphan. At this point in his life he had an unrepaired cleft lip and palate. Our guide, Simon, told us yesterday that over 80% of children abandoned in the southern cities of China are offspring of urban residents who have come to the city looking for work. He said the majority of children abandoned in the cities are the children of very young parents who have arranged marriages at home and often develop relationships here with friends or new acquaintances. He said that the illiteracy rate in China is very, very high - especially in impoverished areas - and there is not a lot of understanding among many teens about preventing pregnancy. These teens have to return home eventually and cannot care for a baby. He said that the one-child rule is more enforced in the cities, and that is a factor that contributes to many abandoned babies in the city, as well.
At around two months of age, Jaxson was accepted into the True Children's Home (started by American couple Alan and Twila True and run by Jenny Smith, who I met last Friday). A business in the US provided the money to fund his surgeries (very unusual for a baby this young to have both issues repaired at 5 months of age). He stayed in the True Children's Home (with a ratio of one nanny to two babies - wow!) until he was well enough to go to foster care (just for perspective, we were told that in some of the orphanages, the ratio is around 15-18 babies per adult).
In October of 2010, he went to Guandong to stay with his foster family. They cared for him and raised him until he was brought to us on April 9th. The best part of this story is that he has received TREMENDOUS care and love while in China. His level of care and nurturing is NOT the norm here, and I am so thankful for the wonderful love he received up until this point.
So, now Zhong Mao (his Chinese name) is with us. He is sleeping in the next room cuddled up with his Jie Jie (big sister) Alexis. We still have to call him Zhong Mao most of the time, but we are trying to slowly replace it with Jaxson. He is such a friendly child and tells everyone "hayo!" (hello) and "bye bye!" He is affectionate and loves attention. He REALLY thinks he is funny/cute and will try to distract us with his "charm" when he is not obeying. The language barrier has not been as tough as I had thought, but when it is tough, it is very, very frustrating. We were told he is stubborn and strong-willed and we didn't see a lot of that the first few days. Now we REALLY have! He can throw some amazing fits and try his best to do exactly what he wants. We think that his foster family did not set a lot of limits for him, because he does not like the word no (in Chinese or English). He is learning, though, and that will start to improve once we establish a real routine at home. It is just very hard for him to understand that we love him so much - enough that we will not let him be a wild boy! :-)
The plane ride home will be a challenge for him - he does NOT like to be still and has a very short attention span. He is smart and very inquisitive. He will not like being confined to a seat! But, we have an arsenal of snacks and toys and there are three adults. Surely we will survive!
I am going to try to post some pictures of the zoo from yesterday. It wasn't the largest or fanciest zoo I have ever seen, but it was nice and we loved seeing the pandas.
The consulate experience was less than impressive. The building was small....it was VERY hot....very crowded and hard to contain little ones in all the chaos. It was an important step - but a little stressful! :-)
Thank you, again, for encouraging us every step of the way. I will update the blog some once we are home. I am excited to say that our "waiting story" is almost complete and will unfold into a new chapter very soon.....