China adoption diary: The gotcha day "zap." Love at first sight.

Part 4 – China adoption diary: Pig-tailed and rhinestoned Madeleine Bao Yi meets the Belsie family – her family – on gotcha day. It's love at first sight.

Courtesy of the Belsie family
It was love at first sight for the Belsie family and its newest member, Madeleine Bao Yi.
Rich Clabaugh/Staff
Rich Clabaugh/Staff

Part 4 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.

Sleep didn’t come easily for me last night. I could not find a good sense of calm either because of anticipation or fatigue. But I watched the dark cityscape for quite a while. Thank goodness for the camaraderie of e-mail at 2 a.m. I felt connected to friends far and wide in the wee hours of the Guangzhou night.

Grace was up early (5:30 a.m.) in anticipation of Madeleine’s arrival. She re-arranged things in the sitting area where she sleeps, and told me, “I’m going to clean up the nursery a little bit.”

We met Simon in the hotel lobby for the van ride to the agency. We carried presents for the “auntie” who accompanied Bao Yi from Shenzhen City and another present for one of the functionaries handling the paperwork. As we waited anxiously, spontaneous friendships blossomed with Americans working with other agencies. The camaraderie between strangers carrying gift bags is instant.

The large waiting room at the Civil Adoption Bureau of Guangdong Province was lined around the edges with bright red couches and graphic black and white throw pillows. We could hear some squawking behind a colorful curtain near the hallway and knew right away that some of the children had already arrived. That’s when my “nerve antennae” really went up. Aunties were arriving with groups of children, some already sobbing uncontrollably.

Laurent saw a smallish girl and thought that it was Bao Yi, but she had a different face than the one in the pictures we had been carrying around with us everywhere for two months. 

And then, I caught a glimpse of Madeleine. It was definitely her – I could feel it sort of pulse through me like a zap. There she was, happy and smiling. I knew her from her eyes.

She wore white sandals with rhinestone clasps and a dress that was black and white striped on the top and polka dotted on the bottom. She wore her hair in short antenna-style pigtails. The auntie told us that Madeleine was nervous, but she showed absolutely no sign of it: She greeted us saying, “Ni hao, ba ba, ni hao, ma ma,” settled in next to Laurent, and proceeded to unpack a small gift bag of snacks for herself and her new family.

She and Grace hit it off instantly, thanks to Grace’s long hair. Madeleine started right in on styling it, plucking tiny scrunchies from her bag of possessions.

The auntie brought a stack of papers with Chinese notations about Bao Yi’s work at school and aspects of her daily schedule. We were so grateful that photos of her at younger ages were attached so we could get a peek at her earlier childhood. We were also told that she is a happy child, quite outgoing, and she loves meat.

We are quite relieved that Bao Yi speaks Mandarin, so we will be able to communicate with her after a fashion. She bonded immediately with Laurent, and has understood the things I have said to her in Chinese and answered accordingly.

What has been so heart-warming is how Grace has taken it all in stride. We talked about the impending change last night while eating take-out in the hotel room. She said she was a little scared. To see them holding hands while walking down the street is amazing and so natural. Grace came to me this afternoon and whispered happily, “This is so great, Mama!”

When we got back to the room, we let Madeleine blow up some balloons. She was captivated by them. Next thing I knew, she had found one of the swimsuits we brought for her and tried it on. It was a one piece and she did not like it, so off it came. Then we brought out the two-piece with shiny polka dots. She was transfixed. 

We had a deuce of a time getting her to take the suit off so we could go out to dinner and celebrate. In the end, we let her wear the top part under her dress. She has clear fashion choices, to be sure.

We had dinner at a local Cantonese family restaurant, which was buzzing with families eating from communal plates piled high with specialties. Madeleine ate with gusto, holding the little bowl right up to her mouth and going at it with the chopsticks. We assume this is orphanage-style eating, so we’ll slowly work to correct her table manners.

When the meal was over, she began to stack the dirty dishes and get everything ready for clearing – another orphanage behavior, we assumed.         

When I looked through the two bags she had brought with her, one was partially filled with snacks. The other had one pair of underwear, a T-shirt and a pair of pants. The only personal effects she had were the photo album and toy rabbit we sent her – nothing else of her own.

As I write this, she and Grace are fast asleep in the same bed. Starting the first night, Madeleine Bao Yi already has what she most needs: a big sister who will love her and look out for her for the rest of her life.

Tomorrow the adoption will be official, but we’re on the right road.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to