This is Part 3 of a 3-part series, An Adoption Story. To start the story from the beginning, click here.
On their first morning as a family, there was yet another new experience: Eileen and I realized this was very likely their son’s first time inside a restaurant. He was completely unfazed. He had slept quite well the night before, and in the morning he ate well too . . . and so did his sisters, who were big fans of the huge variety of donuts, waffles, and pastries the hotel restaurant offered!
Then it was off to the orphanage where he had lived all but the first few days of his life.
At the orphanage, the Blumes got to meet their son’s nanny — the woman who had loved and cared for him for two and a half years. We were floored by what we saw at this orphanage. Sunlight streamed into every room; the children were kept occupied by caretakers in the play area, and no children were left unattended or ignored. At the orphanage, each nanny is responsible for three children, and only those three children, which means the children get lots of individual, loving attention.
This was the room he shared with the other children his age. His crib is one of the first on the left . . . although we were told he made a habit of climbing into the neighboring crib to visit with his friend!
He loved watching Phillip pretend to give his new sister a bath . . .
. . . but he was a lot more interested in his candy than in his own baby picture on the play area wall.
Then came the hard part: leaving. Saying goodbye to his nanny and his first home was heart wrenching. But what he couldn’t yet understand was that he was leaving with his family, and they already loved him so very much.At lunch it was clear he was already bonding with his new sisters. The fact that he loved his nanny and was sad to leave her was actually hugely encouraging — because it meant it was very likely he would love his new family, too. (Spoiler alert: he does.)
It was a whirlwind of a day — the orphanage visit, a quick lunch with friends from the U.S. who also happened to be in Chongqing for the day, and then the 45-minute drive back to the adoption center where they’d met him just the day before.
With one ceremony inside a Chinese government building, he would officially be their son.
But first — what else? More paperwork.And a little more playtime. And lollipops. (No, nonstop lollipops aren’t an everyday occurrence. They were recommended by other adoptive families as a way to ensure the kids were happy during prolonged meetings — and they worked!)
One of the sweetest photographs I’ve ever seen pop up on my camera’s screen happened while we waited. This. His eyes, his squiggly eyebrows, his little lips — it wasn’t only his family’s hearts that he stole.
Then came the ceremony. Under the podium, I saw the flags of just about a dozen nations. They were all the places where families come from to adopt children from China, and I stood there imagining the very different lives each of these children lead — in the U.K., Canada, Australia, Norway, Singapore, France, Iceland, Spain. And I imagined the life he will have with his family in Georgia, and I got goosebumps.
God put him in their family, just as surely as he put their biological daughters in their family. In the next two or three minutes, it became real.
Just like that — after all the waiting and praying and fundraising and paperwork and traveling and worrying and wondering and dreaming, they were a family.
To Phillip and Eileen, and to the three kids, thank you so much for bringing me along on such an amazing adventure and such a monumental experience for your family. Getting to photograph you all becoming a family was the highlight of my entire photography career. I was so honored to be there with you — and I cannot wait to see your family again! Much love.