An adoption success story

Tuesday, June 28, 2011
An adoption success story
Linda Doherty and her adopted daughter Hai Yan

One mother recalls the overwhelming joy of successfully adopting a baby girl.

It was the call I'd been waiting years to receive. "You have a daughter, she's 11 months old and her name is Hai Yan," the adoption caseworker said.

I recorded the few available details — weight, height, number of teeth (four) — and then I screamed with joy.

In pictures: Celebs who adopt

At long last I would be a mother, and a baby on the other side of the world would have a family.

The next morning, tears rolled down my cheeks when I saw the first photo of my bright-eyed "swallow by the sea", which is what her pretty Chinese name means.

Two months later, with a bag of bottles, food, toys and nappies, my sister and I headed to an orphanage in Beijing to meet Hai Yan.

I decided to adopt as a single woman in my late thirties, the day after I saw a documentary on inter-country adoption.

I waited for five years, but all that time dissolved when I held my daughter for the first time. She was clutching the fluffy chicken toy I had sent her and was wearing new clothes two sizes too big.

I rocked her as she cried. Then she settled and looked me straight in the eyes. On the way back to the motel she played with the charms on my bracelet and that night she giggled and giggled as she devoured three bowls of congee.

She was now in the care of a foreigner speaking a strange language, and away from everyone she knew. Yet she allowed me to comfort her. From our first day together, I was enchanted by her personality and amazed at her resilience.

The most wrenching moment was leaving China when the enormity of the adoption sunk in; that I was taking Hai Yan out of her country of birth. I sobbed to the guide and asked her to translate. "Can you tell Hai Yan we are leaving China to live in Australia, but we will come back to visit many, many times."

Two years later, Hai Yan is a lively, affectionate three-year-old I call Cheeky Chops for her impish sense of humour. She goes to preschool, has lots of cousins and friends and melts my heart when she says "I love you mama".

Her favourite past-time is dress-ups. A walk to the shop to buy milk often involves a fairy dress, a wand and a dolly in a pram.

She is an Aussie toddler, complete with ocker accent, but she is also very aware and proud of the fact she is Chinese. Hai Yan often displays the birthmark on her tummy, saying, "I got this when I was born in China".

This year we will start learning Mandarin. I hope one day we can live in China so Hai Yan can learn more about her birth culture and perhaps understand the complex reasons behind her adoption.

Related: Fed-up couples giving up adoption dreams

Strangers often remark that Hai Yan is "a very lucky girl" to be living in an affluent Western country. Yet children who aren't able to stay with their birth families are not "lucky".

I'm the lucky one. Hai Yan has brought me so much love and happiness; she's the gift that keeps on giving.

*China no longer accepts adoption applications from single women.

For more information or to join the campaign to change adoption laws, visit National Adoption Awareness Week or email womensweekly@acpmagazines.com.au.

Your say: Do you think it should be easier for single women to adopt children?

Video: Deborra-Lee Furness discusses her adoption battle

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