Tuesday, March 26, 1996 - The evening plane to Guangzhou was absolutely packed, and there wasn't a single square inch of space to spare. But the flight only lasted a few minutes. We spent much more time waiting around in the Hong Kong airport. Somehow, we ended up being the last people off the plane, and spent a very long time standing in line to get through immigration. Only after we finally reached the main terminal did Mama realize she had dropped her video camera battery on the plane. Although our agency facilitator tried to get it back for her, Chinese air personnel turned out to be very unhelpful and wouldn't allow her to go back for it.
The White Swan has two lobbies. We entered through the lower lobby (for groups) and were met by some members of CCAI's group 22 with their babies. They had traveled to China only one week earlier to adopt their babies from Sichuan Province and were now finalizing their paperwork with the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou.
They were all so happy and excited and in love with their children. The contrast between them with their babies, and us still waiting for ours was marked. I know I felt the stress of the uncertainty ahead and I could see the same look in the faces of the other families in our group. But at the same time, seeing all these happy families lifted my spirits and made me feel a little more optimistic that in a week we'd be as pleased and fulfilled as these new parents clearly were.
Our room was on the 10th floor, facing the old colonial buildings of Shamian island. The first thing I saw upon entering was a beautiful wooden crib by the window. I was very touched that it was already set up in our room. Somehow, that was the moment when it began to seem very real that I'd have a baby daughter very soon.
Guangzhou is a lively city, and we had great fun looking at everything. Along the way,
we saw so many adorable children. I kept wondering if Lara would look like any of them. At one point, my mother started
taking some video of the beautiful little children. The response was immediate.
All of the mamas wanted us to take videos of
their child. Some of the children were outgoing and loved being filmed, but one little boy was very shy. He was as
determined to not be taped as his mother was to have him in our movie. But the greatest thrill was when my mother
rewound her video camera, opened up the little TV screen on its side and played back the video for the crowd. Such
pleasure! Such fun!
We wondered and worried while waiting for the phone call telling each of us to come downstairs for our interview. We talked about gifts and interview questions and generally kept our adrenalin pumping. And of course, we grilled each returning family for information about the interview. We were all very excited, worried about not being able to answer a question, looking forward to seeing the first baby arrive later on for the family adopting from Guangzhou City.
Finally, my turn came. My mother came along to videotape and for moral support. We took the elevator down to the fourth
floor where the Notary was waiting for us in our reps' room. I was happily surprised to discover that the Notary was a very
pleasant and unintimidating young man who spoke beautiful English. Somehow, I had been expecting somebody a lot older
My mother and I returned to our room in excellent spirits, and left our door open, so that we'd hear when the new baby arrived for the one family. We were very surprised to see that family pass our door a little while later, clearly upset and with no child. They definitely weren't in any sort of mood to chat, but we found out a short while later that they had only just been told that their baby's health had been found to be so poor, that she no longer qualified to be adopted.
We had known that this baby was a special needs baby, but none of us had any idea that her problems were so serious. We were told that the agency reps would try to find another baby for the family. Although the news devastated the one family, it upset all of us. We felt horrible for the family that was now mourning the loss of a child they had never met, but we were equally worried and scared for our own unmet babies. We wondered what decision the family would make, and we wondered if we might have to make a similar decision.
We went to bed not knowing what the next day would bring.