China adoption diary: A cackling ride on the stork

Part 3 – China adoption diary: Emotion dawns as the reality of a second daughter takes shape on the way to Guangzhou. The adoption agency guide arrives, Grace is delighted with the trove of hotel sample soaps and shampoos, Mom and Dad get ready for first meeting with Madeleine Bao Yi.

Courtesy of the Belsie family
The Belsie family arrived in Guangzhou, greeted by fountains outside the snazzy Garden Hotel. Here, they will meet and bond with their new daughter Madeleine Bao Yi.
Rich Clabaugh/Staff
Rich Clabaugh/Staff

Part 3 of Gretchen Belsie’s account of her trip with husband Laurent and their first adopted Chinese daughter – 10-year-old Grace – as they head to meet and bring home 7-year-old Madeleine Bao Yi.

A strange thing happened to me on the plane. About halfway through the three-hour flight here, it hit me head-on that we would have our second daughter in a day.

It’s not like I had forgotten that or that it had become old hat to think about. It’s just that the reality set in so sharply that I began to laugh hysterically and uncontrollably. Laurent and Grace were sitting across the aisle from me, and looked on with some surprise – though Laurent knows me well enough by now to sense what this could have been. Luckily, I was sitting alone in a big row, so my cackling bothered no one.

When I was finally able to speak, I gasped out something to the effect that our 777 plane was really like a big stork. Laurent smiled and shook his head. Grace stared, and then went back to her Twistables colored pencils and drawing pad.   

Simon, our Children’s Hope guide and facilitator, met us at the airport. His English is extremely good, and he evoked a casual and crumpled Ralph Lauren image in his pink and navy plaid madras Bermuda shorts and Tommy Hilfiger shirt. The two-tone crocs, not so much.

Simon has worked for Children’s Hope and other US adoption agencies for nearly fifteen years, though he does not look old enough to be able to say that.

Guangzhou is the real commercial and business center of China while Beijing, as capital, handles the politics. The city tried to reinvent itself about five years ago when it won the bid to be the host for the Asian Olympics. The efforts included planting thousands of trees to green up the place, plus building numerous light commercial sites outside the metro area so that factories could be relocated.

“We are much more practical here than in Beijing,” Simon told us.

For years, the White Swan Hotel had been the designated stopover place for adopting families in China. Since everyone comes here to finalize papers with the American consulate, the White Swan has a very steady flow of patrons. We stayed there in 2003 when we came for Grace and thought that it was the ritziest thing we had ever seen. At 35, the hotel was beginning to show its age and has been closed for major renovations.

But, there’s no boo-hooing to be had in our new digs, the Garden Hotel. The opulence is astounding. The lobby is huge and filled with gigantic floral arrangements. There are bellboys with maroon jackets and gold braid. There is a mural behind the front check-in desk that is an enormous rendering of Chinese cultural images in black and gold. Our room has a sitting suite with couch, businessman’s Lucite desk, and high tech halogen lamp. The black wardrobe has Chinese lotus blossoms painted on the doors.

Grace, ever the collector of sample shampoos and lotions, was agog with the choices in the elegant bathroom. Somehow the prized shower cap from the Radisson now seems banal.

After settling in, we met with Simon for a review of the next few days. Tomorrow we will go to the Civil Adoption Center to meet Madeleine Isabel Bao Yi Belsie.

It will take about an hour to complete all the paperwork, and then … well, we hope for the best in terms of a smooth transition.

I asked Simon if he knew whether Madeleine would come with anything, as in a small suitcase of personal items or a beloved toy. Does she have anything that belongs only to her? He was not sure, but said that he could imagine her having a small plastic bag of clothing.

Laurent and Grace went out to get some supper. They came back with take-out, and a report that there was a man on the street selling puppies from a homemade cart. It’s a good thing I stayed behind, given my current emotional state.

I got a good nap this afternoon in case I cannot sleep tonight.

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