I am trying to find the words for today.
I woke up and immediately asked for prayer for this day. Today we traveled all day to go to Luoyang, Henan, and then to Luoning, Henan. Luoyang is the city center of the Henan province, and where we had to go to apply for Mia’s passport. It is also where Maria’s Big House of Hope is located. We requested to travel even further to Luoning to see Mia’s orphanage. My prayer was for peace, calm, and for our bonding to be be proven through this experience of going back to her home where she was loved by her nannies and others in the orphanage.
We had a solid breakfast in the hotel and left at 8am. We traveled with the Norris family because their daughter had been at Maria’s, too, for 17 months. At the passport office, we had to get Mia’s picture taken and she was not thrilled about it, so that should be a pretty funny photo. One of her orphanage officers who was at Gotcha Day met us here for paperwork. Mia definitely knew her, but didn’t show emotion one way or another. We got through that part and gave another officer one of our red bag gifts (so things can be expedited), and loaded back up in the van to go on to Maria’s.
Before leaving, we needed to use the restroom, so our guide, Vivian, took us to another area and showed us where to go. Well…let’s just say these were not the cleanest, and I soon realized there would be no “western potty” option. Yes, boys and girls, I had my first squatty potty experience. I had been so proud to go to China twice now without using one, but I guess it was bound to happen! Vivian stayed with Mia, but soon Mia had to go, too. Next thing I know, I am coming out of the stall to see pee on the floor by the drain. What in the world? Vivian just smiled at me and said Mia had to go! I asked if she got it on her clothes and she said no, she squatted just fine and peed on the floor! I realized this was better than in the streets, like we saw kids doing just yesterday in the middle of the city of Zhengzhou. Wow. Glad I at least had Germ-X in my bag! It’s amazing how things go around here.
We stopped for lunch at Pizza Hut and our family ate with Vivian and had the chance to ask her questions and learn more about Chinese life. She lives in Zhengzhou, a city of 8-9 million people, so like everyone there, she has an apartment. Her apartment mortgage is the same as our house. The craziest part is that she said her whole apartment is the size of two of our hotel rooms here at the Hilton! She could not believe our house is 2800 square feet and we have an acre of land. She said that a big family would live in a house like that: grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, everyone would live together! It’s so amazing to keep learning more. While we chatted, Mia decided to be super cute and enjoy her chicken fried rice.
Back in the van we went to travel on to Maria’s Big House of Hope. This is the same special needs care center where I stayed for a week with the 2012 Show Hope Sponsor Team trip. I was so excited to get the chance to go back and show John this amazing place. The building has been under renovation, so there were many volunteers there painting and there was dust and drop cloths all around. The kids were on the second floor and above. Since Miriam Norris was there for 17 months, EVERYONE knew her! It was so fun to watch their family go into the room where she lived and find out more of her story. The nannies were so excited to see her again! She was definitely the star of the show!
Mia was also at Maria’s, but it was for about 6 months before her heart surgery in 2014. Her nannies no longer work at that care center, but there were a few nannies in her room who remembered her. She was in the Little Mermaid room on the second floor. Her nurse, Jonah, definitely knew her and I was so glad we had a chance to talk with her a little more. Jonah gave us some insight to Mia’s story that helped us to piece things together. She was honestly getting emotional about the details she was allowed to share with us. She was very touched and grateful that Mia has a forever family now! She said they wanted to bring her back to Maria’s after her surgery in Shanghai, but the orphanage wanted her back there, so they had to send her when she was healthy enough to go. I am forever grateful for the information we will be receiving from MBHOH once we return to the States. They will send us pictures of her and her complete medical records. These will be the first pictures we will probably ever have of our daughter.
As we were taking a picture by the famous “SEE” flower in the front foyer of the building, I told our contact, Nate, the significance of us being there at Maria’s. When I traveled with the team in 2012, I remember facetiming John from our 6th floor room to tell him that we needed to consider adopting a child with special needs. He just said, “Ok.” It was there, at Maria’s, that my heart longed to bring one of those babies home. Here we are, 3.5 years later, with our new daughter, who is doing amazingly well because of the care she received there as a baby. It was a very emotional time as I stooped down on the front steps to take a picture with our daughter. I can never thank Show Hope enough for what they have done for our family. They have given HOPE to a little girl and provided healing and care so that she could be forever ours!
From one overwhelming experience to the next: we hopped back in the van to travel another 1 hour 20 minutes to Luoning County. The Norris family stayed at Maria’s to play with the kids there and we came back later to pick them up. On the way to Luoning, Mia fell asleep. This kid sleeps HARD. The driving was crazy and super duper bumpy, and she never woke up! Oh, and by the way, no car seats for kiddos in China. She was wild and free in that van all day. It just blows my mind how unsafe that is, considering the kind of driving that goes on around here. I’m wondering how she will feel being strapped into a 5-point harness at home, because that is happening, like it or not!
We finally arrived in Luoning, and Vivian pointed out her finding place. It is basically a gate for a medical center, but it is only about a block in front of her orphanage. Her parents must have wanted her to be found and cared for since they left her in this place. My heart was so very heavy just looking at this gate. How can you abandon your child? Her records say that she was found on August 31, and her birthday is August 9. 22 days old. Wow. I look at her and I just can’t imagine leaving her. I will forever be thankful to her parents for leaving her so close to the facility where she was truly loved.
When we arrived at the orphanage, we got out of the van and not even a second later a lady came running out shouting her name: “LUO SHU!!!! LUO SHU!!!!” She scooped her up and kissed her and whisked her into the building. I was kind of like, “Uh, she just took my baby….” We hurried inside with Vivian to find out where they were taking her. More people came around and they all wanted to hold her and kiss her and walk around with her and away from us. We just kind of followed them around while they were all very excitedly speaking in their Chinese language. In China, there are different dialects, so while Vivian did a great job translating for us, she couldn’t understand every single word they said, but most of it. They said that she was a “pop star” there. Everyone loved her. Earlier that day, the officer who met us to do the passport said she was the prettiest one in the whole orphanage.
So, we kept following people around and they took us to see her nannies. She had two women who were mainly responsible for her care and it was VERY clear that they loved her so very much. She loved them, too, and gave them kisses. She never cried or anything, but her eyes were very wide and she did not smile very much. Part of this might have had to do with her just waking up from a nap, or maybe she was confused. She always looked around for us and we made sure to smile at her and let the people surround her with love. Then, more workers came in with about 10 other children Mia’s age. These were her friends! It was so so touching to see her with them. She had a can of strawberry puff snacks with her and she shared with all of her friends by giving each of them some puffs. It was so precious. Then, the music teacher (Esther) came in and they lined up the kids to show us a dance. John caught some of it on video.
It took Mia a while to get into it, but by the second song, she was jumping around and smiling. I saw they had a tv in this play room (the same room where they took the only video we had of her when we got matched). I asked if they watched much tv because she is not very interested in movies at all. Esther said they do watch some tv, but not much at all. They spend most of their time playing. I was glad to hear that. This playroom was the main place they would be in uncomfortable weather. Otherwise, they would take the kids outside to play. They gathered all the kids around to take a group picture. Esther showed us a picture of her daughter and Mia together. She said she could send me some pictures through email or WeChat if we wanted. Of course we said, “YES!” John got her WeChat information and we hope that we really do hear from her soon! They have asked if we would keep in touch and send them pictures of her every now and then. We agreed.
Next, we saw their classroom. I was very impressed with the little desks and how they showed the kids their ABC’s in Chinese on the board. We asked to see her room, and they allowed us to see it. The fanfare continued downstairs to where she slept in a room with her nanny. Her bed was not a crib, but like a raised toddler bed. She is clearly too big for it now, but it was good to see that she is used to something like what we have at home for her. We took a minute to find the picture of her bedroom and show it to the nannies. They were all very impressed and very happy for her to have a beautiful room.
Before we left, we definitely wanted to make sure to get some pictures with everyone there who clearly loved her. She went back to us without any problems whatsoever! As we were leaving, the nannies were just surrounding the van and giving Mia candy, bread, and all kinds of treats, and of course, more kisses. I still had my two gifts in the red bags to give, and Vivian showed me who to give them to. I thanked the lady orphanage director and started crying. I could not express how thankful I am for the love and care they have given our daughter for over a year of her life. She did not speak much English, just “thank you” and “you’re welcome,” but she understood my heart. I hugged each of the ladies gathered by the van and thanked them, too. Almost all of them were crying as they said goodbye to Luo Shu. Mia just waved stoically from van window. No tears. No smiles. I was a hot mess.
John said it will take him a while to process this day. I was (and still am) emotionally drained. We picked up the Norris family from Maria’s and headed back to Zhengzhou. We did not make it to the hotel until about 8pm. We had been gone 12 hours. The last part of the trip, Mia was all over the place in the van and showing her stubborn side and energetic silly side. Let’s just say, we were not at all surprised that she was ready to go to bed when we got in the room! We were ready, too!
So how do you even know what to say after a day like today? I clearly felt that God was answering the prayers of many friends and family who were covering us this morning. He showed His grace and mercy, healing, and goodness through the people who cared for our child. Mia was loved at both Maria’s and Luoning Children’s Welfare Institute. She had many friends and loves to sing and dance. While we will never know her parents or the situation that brought them to that gate, we know she was always LOVED. She was loved enough to be taken to a place where she would be found. She was loved enough to be sent for special medical care that could not be given by her orphanage. She was loved enough to have surgery when she needed it. And, she was loved tremendously by her orphanage for the entire time she was there.
My heart is full. I received answers to my questions and I am SO SO GRATEFUL for this incredible day. I am honored to have met these people and to have learned more about her life. I pray that she will want to know her story and that she will see that it is one of LOVE and nothing else. She is precious and CHOSEN and loved by many. I can’t believe that WE are the ones blessed enough to be called “mama” and “baba” by this perfect princess!