Nanjing, China is where we met Judah but he is actually from Lianyungang, China.
Visiting your child’s orphanage is sort of an elective with a China adoption. To truly understand where Judah came from and what kind of life he had up until he met us we knew we wanted to visit his orphanage.
Wednesday morning our guide and driver met us at the Nanjing Holiday Inn hotel for a four hour journey to Lianyunguang. As Americans I think we hear a lot about the vast population of China and we picture the major cities of Beijing and Shanghai. Nanjing and Lianyunguang both fit those descriptions well but the four drive between the two cities was mostly farm land.
The drive was beautiful. Field after field that grows wheat in the winter and harvests rice in the summer. Stand alone houses and small rivers and water channels used for transporting goods. Men and women working on the farms with the occasional tractor or plow.It amazed me that even in a country as populated as China there is still so much green land. It was beautiful!
We arrived at the Lianyungang Social Welfare Center a little before lunch. It wasn’t just a building it was a complex of buildings that served as an orphanage and a nursing home. Judah’s nanny and the orphanage director greeted us at the front entrance.
With international adoption there is so much unknown about how your child has been cared. The Lianyungang Social Welfare Center is housed in a new set of buildings that is only a couple of years old. The facility was clean and colorful designs were used throughout but even this can not hide the fact or feeling that where he had lived was an institution.
We were shown the playroom where Judah spent time each day with some of the other children and a small room where he slept when he was a baby before being moved upstairs to his foster family.
Judah’s foster family lived above the orphanage. There are several families living there in the complex. Each family is allowed to live there rent free in exchange for caring for some of the children at night. For instance Judah’s foster family cared for four children at night and during the day the kids joined the rest of the children downstairs. We took the elevator to his foster families living quarters.
We were welcomed by his foster mom and dad who had prepared a big lunch for us. She was excited to see Judah again and I was thankful to meet the woman who had cared for our little guy for us. We didn’t know he had been living with a foster family until we met him on Monday. Pictures of the kids were taped to the wall in the living room and there was a small table where the children normally sit.
Sitting on the table was all the food she had prepared for us. We sat down for a short meal. The foster mom joined us and fed Judah while everyone else crowded around and took pictures for us. Everything happened so fast that really it was hard to take it all in. The man brought us canned drinks and I eagerly took one because I was so thirsty. I popped the tab and pulled it back thinking it was going to taste like an R.C. Cola or something. Boy was I shocked when I realized it was some sort of Chinese beer! I felt bad that I had opened one of his three remaining cans only to drink a sip.
After our meal our guide took us down the hall to show us Judah’s room that he shared with the other three kids.
The sight of his metal sterile looking crib just about broke my heart. It was so tiny but at least furnished with colorful Paul Frank sheets and blankets to keep him warm. Here was where my little boy had slept every night. The entire living unit consisted of five rooms. This is what home had looked like for him up until now.
After visiting with his foster family we went back downstairs for a delicious meal that the orphanage had prepared for us.
it was prepared by the cooks there. Our guide shared with me that this was some of the same food Judah was used to eating. He didn’t eat much but the girls made up for his lack of appetite.
The table was set with beautiful china trimmed in gold but the fanciest thing to the girls was that they got to drink Coke out of long stemmed glasses. Judge me if you want but they had never had Coke before so this was an extremely fancy occasion for them!
I am incredibly thankful that Judah had the opportunity to live with his foster family but the truth is that even with that little luxury the effects of institutionalization have not escaped him.
Judah is two but developmentally around six months old. I’m not all that sure how much interaction with toys and people he has had and I don’t know if he has ever learned to love someone else because he showed zero emotion leaving his nanny and foster mom.
What I do know that is in six short days I have already seen this little boy grow in big ways. Monday he had no desire to reach out and touch things. I’m not sure it was nerves or what but he was basically lifeless. Now we board the elevator and he’s learned that when he reaches his hand out he can feel the scratchy upholstery on the wall. He’s beginning to show signs of wanting to be held and starting to hold onto me as I hold him. He still doesn’t understand peek-a-boo or get tickled easily but he is starting to grin at me when I lean over him and talk to him on the floor. He hasn’t learned to crawl yet because maybe he’s never had a motivation to but last night he rolled all over our room because he was so happy and wanted to see what was going on.
In one short week this little boy is finding joy in life and letting his curiosity for life propel him forward. Love is powerful. Love is free and life changing. So mom next time your just sitting there holding your crying baby or laying on the floor with your little one feeling like you are wasting precious time remember that you aren’t. You are helping your little one develop and become all that they can.
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