Sunday, October 11, 2009

More scanning faces. . .

I posted Friday about my conversation with Zoe about her scanning Chinese faces, looking for her birth parents even here in America. Here's some more food for thought:

From an adoptee's perspective, a link to a previous post -- another story by Tai Dong Huai, the adult Chinese adoptee who writes fiction related to adoption (I posted her story, Backwards , last month). In Chinaman's Chance, her 13-year-old self thinks a Chinese woman her mother brought home might be her birth mother:
This is her , I think to myself. A billion-to-one shot, a near impossibility, yet here she stands. In our kitchen. As if hell just froze over.

"This is Mrs. Lim," my adoptive mom says. "Mrs. Lim, my daughter Leah."

Mrs. Lim's is as razor thin as I am. Her hair, like mine, is very dark brown, black by most light. My 13-year-old nose, uncustomarily long for an Asian girl, seems to be reflected in her middle-aged face.

* * *

I hear my mom on the front porch and I know my time with Mrs. Lim is almost through. My adoptive dad, were he here to give me advice in this situation, would probably say, "Go for it," or "Swing for the fences." So I do.

"Are you my mother?" I ask.

Mrs. Lim stares at me for a few long seconds, and I'm afraid at first that she doesn't understand. I'm sorry, I'm about to say. Stupid question. But she interrupts my thoughts as the front door opens.

"Your mother," she says, "just came in."
And thanks to Lori's link in the comments, scanning faces from a Chinese birth mother's perspective at Mortimer's Mom's blog:

This afternoon, I was at Reno-Depot (Canadian home depot, except green) with Dumpling, picking out paint for her attic playroom.

There was an Asian couple also trying to select paint, and I could tell the lady wanted to talk to me but was too shy.

* * *

They did turn out to be Chinese, . . .Then he told me his wife was having a hard time because she didn't speak either languages, but also because in Montreal there are really a lot of white families with chinese girls, and it's very hard on her.

At first I thought he meant she was opposed to international adoptions or something, but the rest of their story brought me to my knees, right there in the paint department. They have a six year old daughter. But they also have a 3 year old daughter. They lived in Shanghai at the time of their 2nd daughter's birth and were unable to keep her. They had to give her to an orphanage. 6 months afterwards, their papers came to allow them to travel to Canada. After he told me this, he told his wife what he had told me and she began to weep openly, while caressing my daughter's face.

* * *

The part that was the most thought provoking to me is this: I read Lost Daughters of China, I've thought about my daughter's birth family often, but this had never occured to me before: some of these parents will emigrate. Some of them will come to Canada and the US. They are confronted with happy families caring for Chinese children and must wonder if their own daughters are here in North America, if they made it, if they have families now....

How is it that in this entire process, I have never once given the thought to these parents ever leaving China? Why did I assume they ALL stayed there? I realise that the numbers who do emigrate are low, and the chances of any reunification for ANY of the daughters of China are astronomically small, but that woman today, she is looking for her daughter in the faces of every tiny Chinese girl with white parents....

Wow! Even knowing how little chance there is that my children's birth parents will/have emigrate/d (which, by the way, I told Zoe), that encounter still gives me chills. And thanks to Lorraine's comment, we know that there is little to separate American birth mothers and Chinese birth mothers on this front (and I'm looking forward to your blog post on the topic, Lorraine!).


Anonymous said...

Strangely enough, it helps to know that Zoe is doing this. My daughter will turn to me, all anxiety and excitement, whenever we encounter a Chinese woman who is petite, and whisper "Mom! Do you think that is my mother?!?!" I don't know why she thinks her mother will be very petite, but it is only those women that she asks about.

A funnyy thing is that we are taking a parent-child Chinese class and this morning she asked if I thought the teacher knew that she was Chinese. I told her she did and she asked why. Well, she can tell by looking at you. Yeah, I thought that might be it, she replied. But she has done this before, acted like she wasn't aware that Chinese people don't look like Westerners. Yet she can certainly spot Chinese women that she thinks are her mother.

Lisa said...

This post kind of feels like "you are wrong when you say they may not immigrate." I would think that would be possible, but exceedingly rare, given that the majority of our birth parents are unable to parent their child due to financial circumstances.

Malinda, I am not missing the point that Zoe's feelings are real and true. Scanning faces is what so many people who have a loss do, adoptees, birth parents, parents whose child died.

I recall reading that first story. The angst is so eloquently described that it is heart wrenching.

I also agree it's great to talk to Zoe about her feelings, but I think at her age she needs to be assured in a gentle way what is reality versus feelings (so as to avoid confusion). Too much limbo at this age can be very anxiety provoking.

malinda said...

Well, if you had said they NEVER emigrate, you would have been wrong! But you didn't say that, so you weren't wrong!

Really, this is just food for thought, as I said.

But I admit that I don't think Zoe needs "reassurance" on the point -- that sounds like it would be a bad thing if she saw her birth parents.

Reality? Yes. And we talked about why people can't emigrate -- and that included poverty as well as the need to get permission from the U.S. (we didn't really talk about illegal immigration) and how hard that is to do when you're poor.

I'm not a big "fate" person, so I know she's not going to run into her birth parents on the streets of Fort Worth, and she knows that too -- or at least she knows it in her head. Her heart? Different story.

Wendy said...

I agree it could be a small possibility, but it is a possibility. For the problem with people saying it is a next to nothing chance is that it is stereotyping birth families even more--oh...they must be poor, they must be rural, they must be uneducated, etc. Not all families are poor and for more and more Chinese those that were are not now or at the least are gaining a better financial future.

Unless you know her parents, you cannot say they will not someday come to the states. It seems I have heard these same "don't get their hopes up" statements before. I still hear parents claim they will "never know" who the first family is. More and more of us are searching and have searched and LOCATED families. It is not impossible.

Thoughts and ideas may seem far-fetched or reaching, but here is a fact. My daughter since the age of 3 (now 5 1/2) has told us the ages of her first family and of her insistence she had a younger sibling. Guess what--she was DEAD on with both of their ages and about her little sister. Maybe connections run deeper than we think. I don't believe in hocus-pocus, but I do believe the brain functions on a much deeper level than we can reach.

Anne said...

I was previously aware from reading adult adoptee blogs that wondering if person X could be your mother is something adoptees do. What I take from Malinda’s post is that it’s about the yearning, the wanting and needing to know about their biological family. And that what we need to be doing in that situation is informing, reassuring and affirming that these thoughts and feelings are natural (in our heartfelt, but completely limited adoptive parent way!). I agree with what Malinda said that it’s really more about heart than head. I don’t think what the actual chances are that our children will meet their biological parents in the U.S. is the most important thing to focus on, or even what are children are really thinking about (and I’m not saying that Wendy or Lisa think that either just because they commented about it).

Lisa said...

Malinda, I meant reassurance that her birth parents are PROBABLY not around here in Fort Worth, Texas. The whole "face scanning," as I have read, can be very anxiety provoking. I view our job, as parents, to listen to the "heart" and help sort out what is real and what is not. Do you think she would know it in her head if you didn't tell her? I think not. That was my point.

I did not mean "reassurance" she won't find her birth parents, we can't say that either way but we can offer an opinion.

Wendy, it's a LONG SHOT, not stereotyping. In this situation, I would never stereotype.

Wendy said...


I agree that it is more than likely our kids parents are still in China (and I was not directly addressing your comment so I am sorry if it sounded that way).
What I am encountering is most AP's are still in the stereotyping mode because they read one or two books about birth families or heard from someone else that China birth families are XYZ. They are stereotyping. Many are also not open to first families, and knowingly or not, push that upon their kids by saying they will "never" know their first families. The impossibility of it all.
I am shocked by the reactions we have gotten from other AP's-- rude, ignorant, and insensitive. Of course there are is small community of like-minded and open AP's, but in general that has not been the case. I expected it from the masses, but not from other parents--stupid of me to expect any different.


Wow not ONE person here says anything about the mother who missed out on keeping her daughter by six months. That's what stuck in my mind reading this story, if only she'd been able to hold on for six more months.