China adoption diary: A document goes missing; stanch the panic!

Part 10 China adoption diary: After waking up with a dog pile of kids in her bed, Mom sets out to finalize paperwork and ... discovers something missing.

Courtesy of the Belsie family
Laurent Belsie took daughters Grace and Madeleine Bao Yi to a nearby park to ride paddle boats while Gretchen stayed behind to check the final adoption paperwork.
Rich Clabaugh/Staff
Rich Clabaugh/Staff

Part 10 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.

I woke up early this morning and saw that Grace was hanging off the edge of the double bed next to me. Madeleine Bao Yi had carved out a cushy 75 percent for herself and had slowly pushed her sister out of the way. Laurent was already up and about in the next room so I whispered an invitation to Grace to come on over. She did and we both fell back to sleep.

Around 6 a.m. I woke up and felt unusually cramped and unable to move, but thought it was just my imagination. Moments later, Grace woke up and whispered “Bao Yi’s in here too, and she’s crushing my legs.”

It was a tight squeeze, but it was the best dog pile I’ve been a part of in quite some time.

As prospective adoptive parents, you read a lot about bonding. For this second adoption – at the start of our near five-year wait period – we were required to view video seminars on attachment and bonding issues. We even had to take an online exam to prove that we had complied with the requirement and learned something. Still, nothing can prepare you for the variables that you are presented in the adoption mix.

Laurent is the most closely bonded to Bao Yi, and Grace, as big sister, has also come a long way. As for me, I still have a tentative relationship with our new daughter. I’ve tried not to crowd her but rather, give her a chance to know me in increments. It can be hard to watch from the sidelines while the other three Belsies yuk it up with balloon games, smart phone videos or giving Daddy a “Betty Lou” (making tiny ponytails all over Laurent’s head) but I know my time will come.

Our plan was to take a group tour of the city this morning with a visit to a famous statue in Guangzhou and a stop at a park where citizens meet to enjoy tai chi exercises on a grand scale. The weather did not cooperate, so we scuttled that cultural mission and moved on to the shopping portion of the schedule.

Simon took us by van to the commercial district of the city, specifically to a six-story, 400-store mall devoted almost exclusively to the sale of pearls and jade.

We visited a recommended pearl store and sat as spectators while the other families power shopped. It was amazing to see so many strings of pearls lying around in bags. The young clerks were very happy to show us various grades of pearls for comparison’s sake and when a selection was finally made, they sprung into action, re-stringing and knot-tying with extreme speed and dexterity.

The next stop was a jade store where Laurent sprang for matching disk necklaces for his three girls. We were all thrilled with the shopping experience, Bao Yi even more so as the shopkeeper gave her a package of complimentary cookies when the yuan were forked over.      

This afternoon, Laurent took Grace and Bao Yi to a nearby garden park for a ride on a pedal boat while I stayed behind with one member of each of the other families to sign off on the final adoption paperwork prior to our appointment at the US Consulate. When Simon called for the second document on the final checklist, I looked and looked in our accordion file and could find no trace of it.

My heart was in my throat for the next 45 minutes while he helped the others complete their files and I predicted uncertain doom for the Belsie family.

Here it was, the 11th hour and approximately 45 minutes and we didn’t have a particular notarized affidavit with us – and after the compulsive double-checking of paperwork in the days leading up to our departure. What was supposed to be a simple tying up of loose ends suddenly felt like an emotional audit. My mind raced with scenarios of our departure being delayed for days, or one of us having to stay in the country with Bao Yi for weeks while it all got sorted out. Or worse, having to pay exorbitant fees to “make it right.”

As it turns out, the consulate has an in-house branch of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, so we do have a solution.      

I’ll be able to sleep tonight after all.

We are making progress as a family: Grace has introduced “appropriate coughing manners,” Laurent soldiers on with the knife and fork tutorials, and I quietly supply a variety of luncheon meats.

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