Monday, June 29, 2009

The Note

This note has always been a bit pesky for me. Zoe's orphanage director said it was found with her. Getting such a note is amazing, consequential, meaningful -- if you believe what the orphanage director said.

But these notes are rare. And all three families getting children from Guiping SWI got notes, and no one else in our travel group with children from other orphanages in the same province got notes. And all of the notes were on red paper. And all of them were said to have no more than the date of birth. We looked at each other's notes, and the handwriting seemed different to us on each note, but what do we know about reading Chinese?!

I don't have any specific reason to disbelieve, beyond what I've already told you. And I don't think there were evil motives on the part of the director -- I sort of think they discovered that such notes made adoptive families happy, so they decided to make even more adoptive families happy by making more notes.

But I don't know, so I've always told Zoe exactly the truth -- "Mr. Gan gave me this note and said it was found with you. I don't know who wrote the note. Mr. Gan says he thinks it was someone from your birth family."

I learned something new about these notes from Jane Liedtke at the OCDF Great Wolf Lodge weekend -- she said that oftentimes adoptive parents were not given the original of notes left with a child, but were instead given a hand-transcribed copy. The SWI workers don't think these notes are as significant as we do, it seems, and don't get why adoptive families would be interested in the original! They figure we just want the information, not this small paper connection to birth family!

That information made me wonder if there might have been an actual note, and maybe the reason all of ours were similar is that a worker transcribed them all. So maybe it isn't all made up . . . .

Maybe because of my doubts I haven't concentrated very much on the note. I accepted that it said nothing more than Zoe's date of birth -- 2000-11-6. But when Zoe was looking at it last week she noticed something I didn't see, and asked, "What's the 3 for?" 3? What 3? That's the number 3 and not some Chinese character? "What's the 3 for?" Good question!

I took it to Chinese Camp today and asked a teacher to translate it for me, and the 3 is the TIME of birth -- 3 a.m. NO ONE told me that in China.

Somehow, this information makes me more inclined to believe the note is genuine. It always struck me as odd that there was no time of birth, since the reason this information is usually left is so that these children can have an accurate horoscope done for purposes of marriage, etc. You can't get an accurate horoscope without the TIME of birth.

So now I'm thinking this note is from Zoe's birth family, and that we now have an additional piece of the puzzle that is her life before we met -- that she was born in the wee hours before dawn.

But who knows for sure . . . .


Mei-Ling said...


I'm sitting here with shivers going up and down my spine.

Joanne said...

Wow! I have to go get Mia's "note" and compare (you know she's also from Guiping SWI!!) - they only gave us a copy of the note and it was translate as "My little daughter was born Feb 2, 2006", but I will have to look further for an extra number...this is very interesting!!

Jamie and Angela said...

We adopted our daughter from Guiping in 2006. Out of a large group we were the only ones who received a note. It was just the birthdate, and actually just a photocopy of the orginal, which looked like it may have been on corrugated cardboard. So I have no reason to think that ours isn't genuine.

Carolyn said...

We adopted Tessa in 8/2001 (she was born 10/2000) and all five families from Guiping received a note. If my memory serves me (it feels so very long ago), they were all on red paper. I will have to look on mine, but I believe it also has Tessa's time of birth. I've had the same thoughts and concerns.

Anonymous said...

Awesome!! This is so cool!! Cindy

Sheri said...

My oldest daughter is from Guiping. She was the only child in our group of three families to be given a note on red paper. I do have to take into account that I was the only parent out of our three families who sent a Care Package and specifically asked about a birth note in advance. Her note has been translated as reading something like, "This baby had a fortuitious birth" which I'm told meant the birth was easy. I'll have it translated again this weekend. I was further told that the handwriting on the front and back of the note was done by two different people. On the back (white side of paper) it has her orphanage name, so that handwriting obviously is from someone on the SWI staff.

Perhaps we should all scan our Guiping notes and upload them to a password protected on-line location... and then have a couple of Chinese handwriting experts look at them and comment?? If we parents don't do this... someday our kids probably will!!

osolomama said...

You have more info than I do. . .every scrap of it, like you say, is important. I can totally understand the PRC wondering what the dickens people need the old notes for, though.

Did Jane say anything about the potential role for the CCAA playing a role in searching down the road or a child's right to the file info and BC at age 18? Just rumours but I wondered if it was commented on.

malinda said...

Thanks for the info, everyone from Guiping!

Sheri, I love the idea of a database. Wouldn't it be great if the ambiguity could be solved one way or the other?

osolo, Yes, Jane said that CCAA is saying that the children are entitled to their CCAA file at age 18. She doesn't know anyone who has asked yet, and doesn't know what's in the file, but is dying to know. She didn't say anything about CCAA facilitating searching -- wouldn't that be great?!

Mei-Ling, despite the ambiguity, I'm pretty shivery about the new info myself!

Adam said...

My daugher is also a Guiping girl. There were 2 girls from Guiping in our group and only one received a note--not my daughter, the other girl. Their note was long and very detailed. Our guide said she'd never seen anything quite like it. This was a birth family that had kept their daughter for a couple of months before abandonment and in the note they said that she was their third daughter and that they were too poor to keep her. They mentioned her name (she was re-named by the orphanage) and said they hoped she would be adopted by a loving family. Interestingly, the name they'd given her translated to "third daughter", not really the warm fuzzy meaning our friends were hoping for!

I was so jealous of that note. In some ways though, it might make things a little more complicated. My daughter, who will be 4 in September, asks lots of questions about China. She gets emotional about it--something I didn't expect at such a young age. When she saw the picture of where she was left outside the orphanage gate, her eyes filled with tears and she said, "No, because I would cry." The next day she was still troubled by it and asked, "Why didn't China Mommy take me INside?" She was very upset that she was left outside. In our friends situation, I couldn't even imagine trying to explain that she had 2 sisters in China.

But I'd treasure that note your daughter has. I wish Maya had something to hold and touch that connected her to her birthmother. What a blessing!


Adam said...

Oops, my son apparently was signed on already. I'm not Adam! Here is our family blog in case you're interested:



malinda said...

Eileen (not Adam!), thanks for commenting!

A few points -- the name "third daughter" in the note isn't an indication of lack of feeling in China like it might be here. It is common not to name a child until they child is 1 year old. Until that point, the child goes by a "milk name" or nick name. Calling siblings by birth order is also incredibly common, and considered sort of an honorific. So someone with another name might still be called "third sister" by everyone in the family.

About siblings -- while your friends know for sure about siblings, it's pretty likely that all of our girls are at least second daughters. Kay Johnson's book, Wanting a Daughter, Needing a Son, based on lots of research in China, says that second daughters are the ones most likely to be abandoned.

Last, I'm so sorry your daughter is experiencing pain; I know how hard it is to explain at her level the consequences to the birth family of leaving her inside. I know another mom whose daughter asks her the same question. She explains that that is where babies are left, that someone checks frequently, so her daughter liely wasn't alone for long. But it's still a hard truth, isn't it?