Adoption: from China to Vietnam, in search of my daughter

Adoption journey from China into Vietnam Photo: Adele Jensen

WASHINGTON, August 21, 2012 — Since I was a child, I believed my baby was in China.  I had seen a TV show in the 1970s about the “lost girls of China,” the girls who were flooding orphanages after the Chinese government had established its One Child policy, limiting families to a single offspring.  I had spent most of my life “knowing” I would become a mother through adoption.  Adoption in China.  

There was never a doubt in my mind that I would apply to China to adopt, which, together with my husband, is exactly what I did.  When the wait time for China stretched from 6 months to 24 and then to 36 months, I exhumed old residency, college and medical records and filed and re-filed the tsunami of documents that makes up an adoption dossier.

One afternoon, more than three years into the wait, an email from my adoption agency came in.  “Although I know you are committed to adopting from China, Vietnam has just re-opened its adoptions and there is a little girl ready to be adopted right now,” it read.

Within minutes I shot back an email saying, “OK…send some information.” Instead of information, what the agency sent right back was a photo.  And into my house came a glimpse of this little soul who would change me forever.

It was an ordinary photo sent as a JPEG on my home computer.  When this photo came through the sky didn’t part, trumpets didn’t sound, and yet the world had absolutely changed.  On my screen was an infant girl wearing a rumpled sweatshirt that read “Leader of the Pack.”  Her face was small, but her eyes were enormous, and they looked straight into the camera.

I quickly forwarded the photo to my husband, who was at work.  He called within seconds.  “That’s her.  That’s our daughter.”  He was choking up, not something my stoic Midwestern-raised husband does much of.  But this day he did. 

Six weeks later we flew to Hanoi to begin the journey of creating a family 8,000 miles from home.  I knew my daughter was out there somewhere.  I was just wrong about exactly where. 

There she was in a place called Thai Nguyen, an industrial-looking college town, about an hour north of Hanoi, a place that just happened to be 30 miles from the Chinese border.


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Andrea Poe

Andrea Poe is a veteran journalist, whose work has appeared in thousands of publications, including Town & Country, Marie Claire and Entrepreneur.  She is the author of several books and her work has appeared in many others, including anthologies and college textbooks. 

Andrea serves as editor of the Travel & Food section at The Washington Times Communities.  Her love of travel has led her to cover everything from remote villages in the Andes to her hometown of New York, from Paris to Pittsburgh, from Beijing to the Bahamas.  No matter where she travels, she likes to uncover the unusual and share with readers those often-overlooked aspects of a place and its people.  She dubs her column Raven’s Eye as a nod to her illustrious (and, yes, infamous) relative, Edgar Allan Poe, a writer who knew more than a little something about the quirky and unique.  

Andrea is also mother to Maxine, who was adopted from Vietnam in 2006, and is the inspiration for The Red Thread column on adoption at The Washington Times Communities.   Andrea is currently at work on a book on international adoption.

In addition to her work as mother, writer and traveler, she is the founder and president of Media Branding International, a consulting firm that helps individuals and organizations craft and promote their image in media outlets around the globe.

Find Andrea at andpoe@Twitter, on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Contact Andrea Poe


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