Taiwan (Part Four)

This is just getting sad...we've been home for over three months and I'm still trying to finish this story!  In the words of Willie Wonka, "On we go..."

Amber Joy and sleep are not the best of friends.  Funny, because neither is sleep and her mommy.  The first night, she slept some, was awake some, then slept some again.  When she woke up at about 6:30 am, we fed her, then she went back to sleep next to Justin on the bed.  It was precious.

The next day, New Year's Day, was a Sunday.  I went down to check out the free breakfast that came with the hotel.  Let's just say that our Taipei breakfast was much more recognizable to us, so I came back to the room with a few pieces of bread and what I believed to be jelly of some sort.  We got ready for church, Justin and I having to switch baby duty while the other was in the shower.  We learned very quickly that trying to get ourselves ready was one thing: trying to get an 11-month-old with a mind of her own ready is quite another.  We had to bundle her up, even though the temperatures were in the 60's and 70's while we were there.  Apparently in Taiwan, 60's and 70's are cold and for babies especially, it is culturally proper to keep babies extra warm.  We had heard tales of women coming up to you on the street and telling you in Chinese that your baby needs to be in more clothes! 

Luke came to pick us up and we headed to the church.  I was so excited.  I had heard Jeff and Abbey talk about what a neat experience it was to sit in the service (which is all in Chinese) and be the minority, the only English speakers, and need an interpreter.  They told us how Luke would preach several sentences and laughed when his wife, our missionary friend, would interpret, "He says 'God loves you.'"  It was something I will never forget.  My favorite part of the service was when we sang hymns in English while the congregation sang in Chinese.  Amber Joy did ok during the service until she got hungry.  I had forgotten hot water and the babies want their bottles HOT or not at all.  Our missionary friend had to go upstairs and heat water in their kettle for me.  It was my first (but certainly not my last) time feeling completely ill-prepared as a mom! 

After church, we got our first taste of the real Asian cuisine in Taitung.  Many of the nicer restaurants are family style.  You sit at a huge circular table and the food is brought out and put in the center.  My absolute favorite thing was the guava juice!  I wish I had had some way to transport some home.  I think we tried everything: tempura shrimp that had a sweet glaze and sprinkles on top, green vegetable that looked a lot like spinach, chicken, and all kinds of other dishes I did not recognize, but tried anyway.  It was delicious.  Lunch was with the staff of the crisis pregnancy center and home.  After lunch, we were walking back to the van when I spotted it: A STARBUCKS!!!!  I couldn't believe it, right there in the middle of Taitung!  I turned to Bethany (the tutor for the missionary's kids) and said, "I want Starbucks.  How about you?"  We ran in and got a couple of cake pops and drinks. 

That afternoon, we just hung out in the room, skyping with friends and family and taking photos of Amber Joy.  She napped and I am fairly certain both of us did too.  We had begun our (hopefully to-be-continued) family tradition of napping on Sunday afternoon.  That night, we ventured out and found Gary Bee restaurant, a place with Asian-ized American food ;-)  We had cheese sticks and a big hamburger and fries.  It was yummy.  I don't know how, but I managed to lose 7 lbs. in Taiwan!  Maybe it was from carrying around a little 14-lb. baby all week!  That night, Justin figured out how to use an ATM in Chinese and we enjoyed just walking around the streets of Taitung as a family of three.  I had won an Ergo baby carrier in a fundraiser and it was wonderful!  I wore Amber Joy everywhere we went since we didn't have a stroller.  She seemed to love it most of the time.  She was already very independent and good at getting the attention she needs!  She has a very loud scream that comes out anytime she doesn't feel like the center of attention.  Now that we're home, she hasn't done that nearly as much because I suppose she knows that here, she doesn't have to share the attention of the adults with other babies.  (below is a photo captured when she was in a 'screamy' mood not long after her first birthday)



On Monday, January 2, we had lots to do.  We needed to go to the travel agency to book our flights back to Taipei, go to the household registry change office, meet Amber Joy's birthmother, and go to the hospital where Amber Joy was born and see the NICU nurses who cared for her. 

If I tried, I could never put into words the emotions that we experienced as we met Amber Joy's birthmother, grandmother, great aunt, and grandmother's husband.  We were so honored to be able to meet her birthmom and it was so amazing to see how they interacted with her.  When we walked in, her birth family was already in the room (the same room where we met Amber Joy for the first time just two days earlier).  We had dressed her up in a sweet brown curduroy dress, tights, and dress shoes.  We also had her bundled in a sweater, hat, and a blanket...if she had been in Tennessee, she would have worn a onesie and jeans ;)

When we first walked into the room, I asked the missionary to ask Amber Joy's birthmom if I could give her a hug.  She nodded sheepishly and I hugged her.  Almost instantly, we both began to sob.  Her birthmom works at a factory near Taipei and cannot afford to keep her eight-year-old son with her (he lives with his grandmother).  I also know that birthmom had had at least two prior abortions.  We don't really know the entire situation, but it is possible that she did not know she was pregnant with Amber Joy and if she had, may have chosen abortion again.  Since Amber Joy was born at only 26 weeks, it is possible that she did not know.  But on this day, we did not know any of that part of the story.  We only knew that we were so thankful to this woman we knew nothing about because she had been instrumental in making us a family.  To me, this is the mystery of adoption.  I hate the term "put up for adoption," as if the birthmom has no feeling.  There are stories of some birthmoms who seem completely apathetic about their child being adopted, but I would venture to guess that most wrestle with the decision for the rest of their lives.  Amber Joy's birthmom was financially unable to care for her, especially with the special needs that would have to be addressed.  And in Taiwan, it is socially frowned upon for a woman to be unwed with children.  There are not daycares on every corner and it is difficult for an unwed woman to work and provide childcare. 

During our meeting, my heart was pounding.  Would she approve of us?  What did she think of us?  Would she ask us a lot of questions?  What about her family who was with her?  How were they dealing with this?  As far as we know, birthmom hadn't seen Amber Joy since August at the court hearing.  As I handed my daughter to her great aunt, part of my brain thought, "will I get her back?"  The family passed her around, oohed and ahhed over how beautiful she was and how well she looked.  They played with her and talked to her and her birthmom even commented that she thought Amber Joy looked like me.  We explained to the missionary and she translated that I would be staying home with Amber Joy and that Justin would be working full-time.  We told them that there are wonderful doctors where we live in Tennessee who would be looking after her physical needs.  At the end of the meeting, they all said they were satisfied and were very happy she would be going with us.  We were even able to get a photo of all of us together.  These pictures will be priceless for Amber Joy when she gets old enough to appreciate the fact that we were able to meet them. 

When birthmom and her mother began to leave the room, Justin and I bowed respectfully and said the only thing we knew in Chinese, "thank you."  I hugged her again and she began to cry.  She turned quickly to her own mother who seemed to be telling her that it would be ok and to be strong.  I was struck how ironic the whole scene was: Amber Joy nuzzling against me and her tender birthmom turning to her own mother for comfort.  After they left the room, Justin and I both broke down.  It was overwhelming exhaustion, love, gratefulness, and utter disbelief at what God had done. 

Stay tuned for part five! ;)

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