CHINA GIRLS

Cathy Arnst

ON Nov 17 fellow Working Parents blogger Amy Dunkin wrote here about National Adoption Month. November is also my own personal adoption month, since I received my fabulous daughter, Jesse, in Nov. 1999 in China. Every November we get together with the seven other families we traveled with that year to celebrate our "Gotcha Day," and this past Sunday was another reunion.
It is always so wonderful to see the China Girls, and their parents. When we all went to Yueyang in Hunan province those many many months ago we barely knew each other--we were grouped together by our adoption agency, Spence-Chapin Services in Manhattan, only because we had all filed our paperwork around the same time. We were four couples with no children; a husband, wife and her biological daughter, Marion, who came on the trip; and three single mothers, one who was going back to China for her second child. Our professions ranged from corporate lawyer to real estate agent (and former Broadway dancer) to professor to social worker to health care administrator to me, the journalist.
I was also one of those single mothers, and my loyal and good friend Nancy Bobrowitz came along to give me moral and parenting support. I will be forever grateful. Since she has two children of her own and grew up as No. 6 of 12 kids, she has seen it all. When our children were brought to us, in the garden of the county hall, we were nervous, giddy and most of us were crying. Not as much as the babies, as it turns out, all of whom were either 10 or 13 months old. My daughter Jesse cried hardest of all, and I walked up and down that garden for hours singing songs from the cast album of A Chorus Line, the only music I could think of on that strange day. Jesse got all her angst out of her system that first day, however. She woke up in the hotel the next morning smiling and hungry, and for the rest of the trip we joked that she should win the Miss Congeniality award.
Our girls are eight now, and all of them lovely, healthy and thoroughly American. One family moved to San Diego, but the rest of us get together two to three times a year as a group, and many other times individually, so we've been able to watch the progress of all "our" girls. Each has a unique personality. Some are doing great in school, some would rather play all the time, some are learning Mandarin, and Jesse's learning hip-hop (what can I say, she's a Brooklyn girl). Most have the occasional behavior problem, sure, but no different than any other kid on the block. In other words, they are perfect, or at least, perfectly ours!
People always ask me if it was difficult to adopt, and I never know what to say, because this is NOT my definition of hard. Sure I had to go through a lot of process, and it took about 18 months, but the end results were so great that I really can't remember the preliminaries. Isn't that what they say about labor?
So if you're thinking about adopting, take my advice and go for it. And the next time you see a Chinese girl and her Western parents, don't automatically think, "lucky baby." Because it is truly, truly a lucky family.