Emma

"The horrors of war pale
beside
the loss of a mother."- Anna Freud

Emma walked in first.

I recognized her from last year. 

My youngest son, the soon to be first grader seated next to me, recognized Emma and screamed her name. She giggled and ran over to him.  As she sat on the small chair next to my son I found myself wondering if she was adopted and if so from what Asian country.

As the very thought ran through my head, her not Asian mother and father walk in and approached Emma and my son at the Lego table. I smiled at the mom. Mom begins talking to Emma who was not interested in her but was very interested in the house my son was building. Mom walked away to inspect her daughters new first grade classroom.

I reached for blue Lego’s to complete the house I was building.

In walked Peth-Sara, followed by Ava and Lola. All three girls were Asian.

Adoption thoughts start to creep up on me. Could there really be that many Asian adoptees in my sons first grade class?

In came Ava’s mother (not Asian) with a small Asian infant on her hip. Ava’s father walked in next.

Peth-Sara and Ava began chatting with Emma. Lola walked away.

Emma’s mom approaches and introduces herself to Ava’s mother.

They are standing directly behind me. Conversation ensues.

"Hi, I am Ava’s mom. Are you Emma’s mom?"

"Yes, I am. Is Ava adopted?"

"Yes, from China." says Ava’s adoptive mother.

"Oooooooooooooh!" Emma’s mom squeals in delight "So is Emma!"

The squeal is loud and Emma and my son look up at the moms. The moms aren’t looking at them so they go back to the Lego’s.

"From what orphanage?" asks Ava’s mom.

Emma’s mom utters some Chinese word I don’t understand and cannot spell. Ava’s mom responds with her daughters orphanage. They say it as proudly as natural mothers might recite the hospitals or labor hours of the children they have birthed.

Adoption conversation, too loud in my opinion, continues.

I feel sick.

"How much did you pay for her?" asks Emma’s mother

I gasp and feel dizzy.

Ava’s mother mutters something low, barely audible. I don’t hear it but I do wonder why I never asked any of my girlfriends what their hospital delivery bills were.

Emma’s mother continues on, again, loudly, telling Ava’s mom how much she paid for Emma, where they "got" her from, how she is a single adoptive mom with no "life partner", on and on.

Emma looks up and begins listening to the entire exchange. Perhaps the five year old girl knows her story, perhaps she knows her orphanage and how much she cost, perhaps my discomfort with Emma hearing all this is just that – MY discomfort.  I wonder if Emma wants her 5 year old buddies to know how much she cost. More personally, I wonder if my son will over hear the adoption conversation and decide to tell everyone about his sister that he has never met.

Emma’s adoptive mother is now complaining about the adoption process, the fees, etc. (I wonder if Emma feels she is not worth the price. Did she cost too much?)

It seems so cold and inappropriate to me to be so loudly discussing this in Emma’s presence. The little girl with her large dark eyes and bob haircut is no longer focusing on the blue Lego’s and my son sitting next to her, she is now raptured with her mother talking about the agency, the costs, the orphanages.

I hold back tears. I ponder leaving. I want to scoop my son up and run away from the talk of buying and selling Chinese children and how upset they are at how hard it is to "get one" one these days. (As if someone OWES them a child. The sense of entitlement is hurting my stomach.)

The infant on Ava’s mothers hip begins to shriek.

Emma’s mother asks "How old is that one?"

Clearly she cannot tell if the child is a boy or a girl. That too irritates me.

"She is 18 months. We only just got her. We were lucky we did." Ava’s mother responds

"Are you going to get more?" asks Emma’s mother

"Oh, I don’t know. This one has been pretty tough. She spent almost her entire first year with the birth mother. The agency told me that was bad for her. That is why she is so difficult for me. It was wrong for her to spend that much time with her birth mother." Ava’s adoptive mom says

The three precious days I was permitted with my own daughter flash before me. It becomes too much for me. It is time to go. I really have to leave. I cannot hold back the tears.

"Stef, sweetie, we have to go. I have to visit your brothers teacher and also drop paperwork off at the office" I say.

"Okay, Mom, lets go." my darling boy responds.

I pause before leaving the table. I look at Peth-Sara, Ava, Lola and Emma. I say a silent prayer for all of them. I silently tell them that their Mama’s in China miss them and will always want to know them. I secretly give them virtual hugs and kisses and love on behalf of women a half a world away that were not helped to keep their children, women too desperate, to poor to care for their children. Women born into a society that places no value on the mother-child bond but a great deal of value on how many children can be exported and sold to American buyers.

Emma catches my eye as we leave and she smiles a big smile. I hope she sensed the love I was sending her from her mother in China.

To the mom in China, your daughter, now called Emma, is a cutie pie. You would be very proud of her.

27 Thoughts.

  1. Seriously?
    Are you making this stuff up?
    Honestly, I have been at huge gatherings, with tons of parents who adopted internationally, and I have never once heard anyone go on in such an idiotic manner about how they welcomed their child home.
    How did you manage to find not one but TWO in the same open house?
    Lucky you.

  2. Deb – Wish I was making it up. Then Emma wouldnt have had to actually sit through it.
    I dont know how I found it. Likely it found me, it always does. It can be really disturbing at times.

  3. I dont know whether it is the adopted child in me grieving for my mum’s but I am sitting here howling.
    QUOTE””How much did you pay for her?” asks Emma’s mother”UNQUOTE
    HOW COULD SHE HOW COULD SHE
    I dont think I could have been so refrained Suz
    I think I would have had to have said
    EXCUSE ME – WHATTTTTTTTTTTTTTTT DID YOU SAY
    I can not believe that people converse like this, LET ALONE in front of their Adopted Child.
    And to say about the child being with the mother *tooooo long* thats awful, awful that the child was given up/removed/relinquished or however she came to leave her mother – after that age and awful that you had to hear that
    Do you mind if I blog about your post Suz? Link to it and discuss it?
    I am so pissed about it. Its emotional abuse
    Im sorry you had to hear all that

  4. Ughh. I have had to walk away from an adoptive parent on two occasions for comments like this. It’s not something I ever want my kid to hear from other AP’s, and she’s my first concern so I shut it down and move on quickly. It actually makes me feel short of breath, and I can hear rushing in my ears. Sorry it was such a trigger-full(?)time for you.

  5. Possessions…
    Bought and sold like cars or houses, Spoken about as if trading pedigrees…
    Makes me ill…

  6. I’m amazed that mother has no concept that her daughter can and does comprehend some if not all of what she’s saying. How can she talk about her daughter like she’s a commodity?! My parents never talked about buying us or how hard it was to get us or anything like that. I feel for the girl because surely at some point that mother might ask for “re-payment”.
    Sorry to hear that you have spend a whole school year interacting with those parents. It’s just awful when there’s a parent of a classmate that you don’t like but have to interact with for school events.
    Prayers and love to all involved.

  7. I don’t know if I should puke, or if I should pick up this chair and throw it through my window.
    What.the.fuck.is.wrong.with.these.people?

  8. Sadly, I think there are a lot of these folks out there. They now seem to include adopted chidren in with the new car, fancy house and furniture.

  9. I was doing some research for a fiction piece and was amazed to see how adoptions from China to the US have increased in a short time span.
    That says to me that that is a need is being created by a demand.
    I hope Emma’s “mom” realizes some time soon that this is an intelligent thinking person she has on her hands with feelings and emotions. And may Emma someday get to meet her mother.

  10. Gersh – What is wrong with these people is that they, like so many, view the child as an feeling-less object to be bought and sold to make themselves happy and complete.
    Dan is correct in that statement. Many adoptive parents believe the child is a blank slate, object, dolly that they can buy to make themselves happy and return it to the agency when it doesnt perform as planned.
    What bugs me SOOOO much is that these adoptive parents fail to see they are creating the MARKET. Their DEMAND dictates the SUPPLY and agencies go out and do awful things to get babies to sell. Like you, it makes me ill. Why should any country, any state, anyone clean up ethics in adoption and provide support to mothers in need when you have hungry prospective adoptive parents all too willing to pay any price to buy the object of their desires?
    Can we ever stop someone from wanting a child? I am going to guess not. For this reason, I believe we need to work on family preservation and cutting off the supply. Educate the young girls on birth control, abortion, abstinence, adoption trauma and if they become pregnant, support them to keep their child with them and if not, in the family.
    Grrr. (Can you tell I am still ticked off about it?)

  11. I think I will join Gersh is throwing something, after I finish yarking anyway. I am truly physically ill right now. How can people be so godsdamned insensitive? Why do women think this shit is ok? I will never, ever understand this. NEVER!!!!

  12. Righteously ticked off, Suz. Me too and sick to my stomach at these women’s behavior. Among the many things wrong with adoption is a-parents with this kind of attitude. Of course Emma heard and even if she didn’t understand what she heard right then, someday she will.
    I’ve read (more than once) that Chinese couples are only allowed to have one child, and if they have more they are heavily fined or worse. Since boys are valued, the girls are more likely to be given up. Hence the higher number of Chinese girls available for adoption. Reminiscent of the “they shoot them out of t-shirt guns at sporting events” in Juno.

  13. Emma’s adoptive mother gushing about being single highlights the hierarcy in the world of single motherhoood. Our culture holds very classist and racist views on single mothers, and where you lay in the spectrum determines whether you will be reviled or hailed as a single mother.
    Level 1: Poor/working class whites, minorities and immigrants/all ages: lowest level in the hierarchy. Society believes these women are drug addicts, have babies to collect more welfare, or to create “anchor” babies. Adoption not generally promoted among this group. Single motherhood somewhat accepted as something that “happens.”
    Level 2: White middle class young women/teens: pregnancy is a stain on the family’s reputation and shame is a huge issue, even today. Pressure to have all educational and career goals met before having a baby is added to the shaming. These women are heavily recruited for surrender and are often coereced. Single motherhood not acceptable.
    Level 3: College educated, older, middle to upper-middle class white women: single motherhood via adoption, surrogacy, IVR is acceptable and even promoted in some communities. Ability to adopt internationally proves the woman has “made it” financially since she was able to fund the adoption. Little to no stigma on single motherhood, these women would never be targeted for surrender. Instead, they are marketed to as potential adoptive mothers.

  14. My experience has been similar to Deb’s. We go to countless gatherings of TRA children and their adoptive parents. I have never heard such insanity. It’s weird. I may know some of the folks you were talking about. We used to live in the city you mention living in. We adopted our first child from China while living there. We connected with countless folks with similar situations. I’ve been asked how much my child cost but NEVER by a fellow adoptive parent.
    I talk all the time about what towns my children were born in and what orphanages they are from. This has been vital to us being able to make connections for our children. We are in contact with a family of a little boy who slept in the same room as my son for so many nights. We are still hoping to find his two best friends from his orphanage. We know several families whose daughters were placed in the same orphanage within days/weeks of my daughter. We are in constant contact with them. We are all family. Right now we are trying to work out how we can all move closer to each other.

  15. Margaret – Did you belong to that Church? From what I have heard, there is a church in my area that people join who want to adopt from China. This church sponsors some adoptive program. It has jokingly been called (by adoptive parents themselves) The Church of the Infertile. I once worked for an au pair agency and one of my clients was a single doctor with a daughter from China. She told me all about this church and the many adoptees from China obtained through it. It explained to me the very large numbers of Chinese adoptees.
    As for those moms, I thik only one was a bit daft. The other was clearly trying to speaking quietly and whisper agencies fees, etc. while the other was loudly bantering odd. Lucky me I get to spend at least a year with her and her child. I may have to eventually say something if she keeps up.

  16. Deb – Wish I was making it up. Then Emma wouldnt have had to actually sit through it.
    I dont know how I found it. Likely it found me, it always does. It can be really disturbing at times.
    I was thinking the same thing until I read this response. It does seem to follow you, Suz. You are the chosen one. And when the time is right throughout this school year you will have your say. This I know! Is this child really blessed to have a home in America? Will she bring her to “show and tell” in her glory. Ugh.

  17. Suz – I think my heart just skipped a beat. I’m not a church-goer. Like yourself, I’m a recovering Catholic. I did stop by a UU church that was around the corner from us, that was about it. I haven’t heard of the church you are referring to.
    I believe you. There are a-holes out there. It’s so freaking hard to say something. I still don’t know what to say when people, straight up, ask me how much did my kid “cost”? I’m still not dealing well with crap like that. Luckily for me I guess I know a batch of more sensitive aparents.

  18. Margaret – Ah, the UU. Yes, there are two nearby. One by my sons school near the University Campus (we call it the batcave due to its architecture) and another very near to my home.
    Like yourself, I’m a recovering Catholic.
    Good luck in your continued recovery. I have been doing quite well with mine (much to my Irish Catholic mothers chagrin)
    : )

  19. Shallow women with means see celeb’s such as Brad and Angelina and they want to be TRENDY too. I think they view these kids like designer purses or expensive puppies. What will happen to sweet little Emma when she goes out of style?
    My heart breaks for the Chinese mother’s, I thought my reunion was challenging . . .

  20. Suz, its done
    http://adoptedjane.blogspot.com/2008/08/how-much-did-you-pay-for-her.html
    And right whilst Im in the midst of writing that blog post, I get TWO anon comments on my Deborra Lee Furness blog post that I did, accusing me OUTRIGHT of being UINGRATEFUL..Just more for me to write about which rather than post up the comment Im going to post ABOUT The comment..People just have no idea how to behave in society these days.its all ass about..How about the adoptive mothers being the ones that are grateful and shutting the hell up!

  21. I could barely read your post because I am a first mother to a daughter named Emma. Seeing her name or hearing it anywhere still makes my head turn. People have such a long way to go in understanding what adoption really entails.

  22. Speaking from experience, the trend in Asian American adoption has a milieu of hidden repercussions. It’s not healthy to grow up Asian (or any non-white race) raised by whites. It’s sad and disgusting to grow up being fetishized, primarily by ones own adopted relatives. More often than not, those white relatives can’t help themselves, it’s just part of the reality of life. I think I speak for all interracial adoptees when I say we feel ripped away from our racial identity from childhood, forced to look upon the culture that is our birthright as an exotic and utterly unobtainable object. We can’t be white, but we can’t be the race we actually come from either. Plus, we’re damned to be classified/identified/stereotyped by a race we have been amputated from. All this said, Suz, I wouldn’t change my particular fate to live with my original mother, but mine is a special case as you know.

  23. Hello,
    I couldn’t believe what I was reading…incredibly sad. I am an adoptive mother of three, and I find your blog to be very honest, although I will admit, at times, hard to read.
    I have had several people ask me how much my children cost. My usual response is (through gritted teeth) “What do YOURS cost you”? I would like to think, perhaps naively, that MOST people are referring to agency fees, etc. and do not mean to be so insensitive and rude. However, I have NEVER heard of an adoptive parent saying such a thing. In front of their child no less–I have no words for that. Sick.
    Anyway–I wanted to let you know that I stumbled on your blog by accident, but am glad I did. While I am sorry for what you have gone through, I appreciate your honesty and candor.
    Take care,
    ~Kim

  24. Never read this one before. Wow. Just wow. Cannot come up with anything else coherent..

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