Monday, May 16, 2011
Ready to Talk About the Orphanage
I've had some time now to sort out my feelings on my visit to Jie Jie's orphanage and would like to share them with you in the hope that another adopting family will be able to use this to their benefit.
Jie Jie's orphanage was in a smallish rural city. My guide said that she'd rate it in the middle as far as orphanages go, and she's seen quite a lot of them. I'd seen pictures of the SWI, tons of them, inside and out, the bathroom, etc... I'd heard from other parents on my egroup that the children were "loved as their own." I only had to see the pictures of my daughter's smiling face, full of life, to know that she was loved.
When I arrived at the orphanage, my daughter and I had been together for only 24 hours. I wasn't sure how she'd react, but she seemed to be doing very well. We were greeted warmly and a wonderful lunch had been prepared. I would have rather the resources for that lunch gone to the children, but it was too late, there is was.
Honestly, after only a short time there, I had the most visceral reaction that I should grab my daughter and get out of there fast. I was repulsed by the squallor and filth and couldn't believe my daughter had thrived there. She didn't want to go to her caregiver. I placed her in this woman's arms and put my daughter's arms around her because the woman was clearly happy to see my daughter, happy she had been adopted, grieving terribly and trying not to show it, but the tears still slipped down her cheeks. I was told that the caregiver had not been able to sleep at all the previous night because of worry about Jie Jie. This woman had been my daughter's caregiver for 5 years!
I saw a dining area and briefly peered into a kitchen. Went to the public restroom, which was horribly filthy, and saw my daughter's room, where she lived family style with her caregiver and three other children, two of them babies under 7 months old. All three children had special needs.
This SWI is a combination orphanage and old folks home. The old folks who are able take care of the children. Some are way too old and are taken care of themselves. There was a large courtyard, but I didn't see any play equipment anywhere at all. I only saw 5 other children, the three in my daughter's room and two others in strollers in the courtyard, both with severe special needs.
I peeked into another resident's room and it was so much cleaner and well-organized compared to the room that had been my daughter's. I got through the rest of the visit by telling myself that these are people who kept my daughter alive and loved her.
In the past few weeks, my daughter has been telling me her experiences. She has experienced corporal punishment and other things that are emotionally damaging, but considered normal for raising children in the Chinese culture. Sometimes she says she loves her caregiver and other times she says that she doesn't. Everything so far has been within the realm of normal for a child coming from this background. My agency did prepare me for this, but it's a bit different experiencing it and it's taken me time to put it into perspective. I also predict that my perspective will continue to change as my daughter shares more of the past with me.
The more I've learned about my daughter's medical condition before her surgeries and what it is currently and also learned more about her personality, the more I can find it in my heart to embrace the people who raised my child until I adopted her. They did love her, they did keep her alive against tremendous odds. They never gave up trying to find medical help for her and it took them five years to find it, but they did, due to their perseverance. I will go back to visit them, if possible, when I'm next in China, and I will send them updates on Jie Jie.
I'm relieved to be able to have reached this point. A parent recently sent me a picture of her daughter's SWI, a state-of-the-art facility with several play structures and lovely paint, toys, big windows and more. I was envious. But, as another mother told me, there was a play structure at her daughter's SWI, too, but the children were never allowed on it. Was the child in this state-of-the-art facility loved? Did she have a consistent caregiver? How was she treated?
What I look at now for perspective is my daughter. She is doing great! She is brave and strong and full of life. She didn't get this from me, but from her past. She will reconcile her past, as we all do, throughout her life, and I will continue to do all that I can to meet her needs, as SHE needs them met, in order to help her do this.