Breakfast was coffee. Too anxious to stomach anything more than that. I met my guide in the hotel lobby, and we were off. We hopped into the waiting cab outside of the hotel. As we drove out of the city's center toward Lucy's district, the buildings got smaller, and the gaps between them greater. I breathed a little easier, knowing in just minutes, my girl would be in my arms, an orphan no more.
Words do not come easy as I recall the events that unfolded after the smiling guard ushered us through the gates of the orphanage. This multistory building made of concrete and glass, had been home to Lucy for as long as she could remember, though nothing about it resembled my idea of "home." Sterile, and quiet. I was greeted warmly by the staff, led to an elevator, and then into a conference room. I finished paperwork, and suddenly, without warning, a tiny frame of a girl in sparkling silver shoes and tiara, a floral qipao walked up to me, and put her hands in mine. "Hello, mama." The nannies had to explain why her new mama was crying. Unspeakable joy, mixed with sadness for my girl, standing in front of me so bravely. Her voice was barely above a whisper, she was stiff, and seemed far away. The "shy, timid, girl" her file described. I know now, that this isn't the real Lucy. This is Lucy when she is overcome with fear. These photos break my heart, because the fear is still so palpable here. It's not the happy ending photo opp we hope to see. No. adoption is not a fairy tale, and more often than not, "gotcha" days, are terrifying, awkward at best. Still, my heart let out a sigh of relief that this moment had finally come, and Lucy Li's near eight year wait for a mama's arms was over. The days and weeks that followed were full of joy and sadness, trust earned through comforting arms, forgiveness, and unending empathy, and the unconditional love of her very own FAMILY.