Monday, February 20, 2006

Logged-in ... in China

We have just received word that we have a "Log-in Date" for our adoption paperwork. This is the date that the China Center for Adoption Affairs (CCAA), the government agency that processes all adoptions in China, officially "logs in" one's adoption request. It is a significant date because a family can attempt to predict, based on past data and current trends, when they will move to the next big step in the adoption process, the referral. (The referral is the transmission to the adoptive family of the pictures and information about the child chosen for them by the CCAA.) Given this log-in date and the other factors, a fair estimate might be that we would receive our referral in September and travel to China in November.

Though I have brushed against Chinese culture at various points in my life — an East Asian History course in college, a Chinese roommate in graduate school, etc. — it would be a lie to say I don't perceive China as a very foreign and exotic place. So the notion of these papers we have "typed" and touched and signed (along with a complete Chinese translation) being sent to the other side of the world and being read by Chinese government officials (who may  have only "brushed against" American culture) is kind of bizarre and amazing to me. I would say it's a small world, but it's not. You can still get perilously lost in the backwoods of North America. There are still tribal peoples in this world who have never mailed a letter. And yet we just expressed our dossier to the People's Republic of China, and now some very foreign individuals, of whom our chance of meeting (adoption or not) are virtually nil, are reading all about our personal lives. When I really let it sink in, it's extraordinary. Moreover, these same folks will make a choice that will change our lives forever. (Of course, we are a part of the choice. Our dossier includes a request about what sort of child would be best for our family: in our [and most] cases, it addresses gender, age range, and health. In addition, when we receive the referral we accept or ... it makes me wince to even say ... reject it. Few adoptive parents do not  accept, unless there has been an extreme miscommunication and mismatch.) Yet the biggest choice, cosmically speaking — exactly which individual child will end up in our arms — is made by these hard-working, caring (I trust), complete strangers.

In the regard mentioned here, is birth that different? Well, of the humans involved in the delivery of the baby, parents at least have a relationship with the doctor. The choice of the baby and her traits? We believers say it is made by God. I think most adoptive parent believers say the same of adoption: God works through the adoption. From the ad' you saw or the friend to which you talked that got you thinking about it, to the bureaucrat on the other side of the world who selects your daughter, the Spirit whispers, the Hand guides. And that realization is very comforting. But not to look at the other side, the system, the strange web of human interactions and unconsummated relationships, is to miss feeling the awe of the strange, horrible, and wonderful thing our world has become.

Why, upon getting word of our log-in date, did I dwell on these abstract ruminations rather than our daughter-to-be and my feelings about her? Frankly, I feel a little guilty about that. But months ago I started to feel and consider the more personal emotional impacts of the adoption process. I will express them (I hope), but (in the interest of shorter, more readable posts) in a later entry.

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