Seven years ago my wife and I faced the dilemma that many people our age face. We were past our childbearing years and the only way we would be able to have more children was through adoption. Our infertility doctor told us that the chances of having another biological child was near zero and that we should look at alternatives if we wanted more children.
It took less than 30 seconds of deliberation to choose to adopt.
Road to adoption
The process was long and arduous. We filled out dozens of documents about our lives dating back to childhood, and we conducted several interviews and home visits with social workers.
We also submitted to background investigations by the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and local law enforcement. All of this was to ensure that we would be fit parents.
TWO new additions to the family
During the early part of the adoption process we assumed that we would be assigned a girl as very few boys were available. That plan changed as early on we were given the chance to adopt twin girls.
It took us seven months from the time we decided to take the twins until we were allowed to pick them up from an orphanage in Tainan.
We flew to Tainan to pick up the girls in late September 2006 and for the first time in nearly nine months there was nothing left for us to do. For much of the flight from San Francisco to Taiwan I couldn’t help but think that somewhere there were two little girls whose lives would soon change. They would have new parents, a new sister, and once they stepped foot on American soil, they would instantly become U.S. citizens. What a difference a few days can make!
Search for the birth mother
As part of the twins’ dossier, we were given the address of the birth mother. I wanted to see where the twins’ birth mother lived so I hired a taxi to find her home and take some pictures. The cabbie and I drove around the hot, smoggy streets of Tainan for hours but had no luck finding mom’s home.
Right before the cabbie was about to give up he found an alley that was miles away from the main roads. He was dubious about driving through the neighborhood, which was filled with old men playing dominos, young men who had too much time on their hands, wild chickens and enough domesticated animals to fill a small zoo.
A coincidental encounter
I decided to get out of the cab and walk through the alley to take pictures. I saw homes that were made from sheets of tin that were built and stacked like a house of cards.
The locals gave me unwelcoming looks. I was one of them – Chinese – but I wasn’t one of them.
As I walked through the neighborhood, I noticed an old woman standing on a balcony. She looked at me and I thought she made for a good picture so I took one and gave her an enthusiastic wave. She wasn’t as enthusiastic with her response, but I felt as if she somehow knew me and had drawn a conclusion about who I was.
The next day we picked up the girls at the orphanage and shared lunch with the staff. I had the chance to speak extensively with the social worker in charge of our case.
I showed her some of the pictures I took during my cab ride. I wanted to know if I was in the general area of where the birth mother lived. With each succeeding picture the social worker confirmed that I was, indeed, in the right area.
As she looked through the pictures she stopped at the one of old lady.
“Do you know who this is?” the social worker asked.
“I have no idea.”
“It’s grandma. You found the maternal grandmother.”
A picture my twins would cherish
I wondered if grandma knew who I was. Given that she was scheduled to pick up an envelope at the orphanage later that week, surely she must have connected the dots.
When I first saw her I thought she was about the age of my own grandmother, in her late 80’s. I came to learn that she was in her late forties, just a little older than I was. That’s what a hard life will do to you.
I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. I snapped the picture that I hope my kids will come to cherish.
Did she know?
I want my daughters to know who their biological family is and where to find them.
I also wonder about grandma. I wonder if she knew that I’d be the one adopting her grandchildren the next day. In typical Asian fashion I wonder if she approved of me, how I looked, and whether or not I would raise her grandchildren well.
I hope she would be proud of the young ladies that her granddaughters have become, and that one-day we’ll have a chance to exchange more than a wave from a balcony.
For more information on how to adopt a child in Malaysia, please refer to Jabatan Pendaftaran Negara Q&A page on Adopting Children.
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