The Unnatural Beauty of Adoption: Part 1 of Our Daughter’s Roots Tour

We met our daughter eight years and 26 days ago but not in the natural way.To be fair I should mention that I’ve never actually met a baby in the natural way but I have seen it on TV.  From what I can tell the natural way involves a lot more screaming, divorce threats and moderately clueless fathers with video cameras who lose consciousness at the sight of all of the  . . . um . . . nature.

We skipped that part.

We met our daughter on the fifth floor of the Sunshine Plaza Hotel in a city called Lanzhou China (try pronouncing it Lawn Joe and you’ll get close).  She had traveled from about 4 hours north (by train or on the road – we’re not sure) with 9 of her best friends who had also come to meet their parents for the first time.  The moment we stepped through the door of Magnalia Hall (which I assume is supposed to be “Magnolia” but sometimes English is spelled differently in Chinese) is a moment that will be tattooed on my brain forever.  We thought we were coming to wait for our daughters to arrive.  As we stepped through the door we realized they were waiting for us.

“Ooooohhhh wow.  They’re in here.”  

I remember saying that because at the very moment that I did my hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (I looked this up on Wikipedia) shot eight gallons of some unknown endorphin through my system which had two immediate effects.  One, my brain was tattooed forever and two, I nearly lost consciousness almost dropping my video camera.

18 months we had waited (I think the natural waiting period is something like 9 right?) and there she was.  In fact there were ten of them and we were afraid to look because we didn’t want to guess wrong and get too attached while we were waiting.  All we had were two photos that were six months old and babies change a lot in 6 months (I looked that up on Wikipedia too).  We sat around a huge table for an absolutely excruciating amount of time (in retrospect it may have been 20-30 minutes) signing papers that we didn’t understand.  Seriously, we would have signed anything at that point . . . just give us our baby!

“And by signing right here you’re acknowledging that you will wrap yourself in bacon and skydive into a convention of remedial pit bulls in Northern Laos . . . daily.”

“Yeah fine . . . give me my baby.”

One by one they called us to the front of the table and asked us, “is this your baby?”  That’s when Momma got to hold Rachel for the very first time.

There was nothing natural about it but man it was beautiful.

The front of the table in “Magnalia” Hall at the Sunshine Plaza in Lawn Joe, China is now one of my favorite spots on the planet.  The most beautiful places on earth don’t compare.  Grand Canyon, Mt. Everest, Niagara Falls, Great Barrier Reef . . . pfffft.  Nothing compared to that spot.

Sometimes natural doesn’t beat unnatural.

Last week we got to go back and stand in that spot again.

My heart thumped when we walked through the door and even though there may not have been eight full gallons of Wikipedia driven endorphins coursing through my veins . . . I don’t think I’ll ever forget the second time I visited the most unnaturally beautiful spot in the world.


  1. I love that question-“Is this your baby?” Really poignant!

  2. Your post brought tears to my eyes! I,too, met my beautiful daughter in Lawn Joe, hehehe. But it was in December; freezing outside and suffocatingly hot inside. We were at the Lanzhou Legend Hotel. Wish I could post a pic of her. She had traveled several hours from the north with one other baby. We waited three years and nine months (it was a very long pregnancy) for this precious child. She is now four! We are hoping to visit Lanzhou, etc. when she is 10.

  3. Love it Mary. For us it was a wonderful trip. My wife has told our daughter the “Precious Baby Girl” story her entire life so it was really cool to watch her when she got to see the places. Lot of internal processing too but totally worth it. Hope your trip is equally awesome.

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  5. We too adopted a child in LanZhou (he was 5 yo and from TianShui about 5 hours west) in 2008 – it was remarkable and I think the conference room is the same one.. but it all was so confusing and chaotic… (this was our 2nd adoption from China) one of the top 3 moments of our lives.. (yes, we have 3 from China) Your story is beautifully written.. and I am sure your little girl will appreciate your holding back on some of the details.. 🙂

  6. We got our WuWei girl in the same room in June of 2007. She is 6 now and really wants to “see China” and meet her foster parents. LOVE your writing style!


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