We woke up Thursday morning (stomach in knots), ate breakfast and met our guide in the lobby at 7:00AM. We drove 4 hours to Samuel's orphanage, which is northeast of Nanjing. The city was beautiful, compared to many cities I have seen in China. It's on the east coast of China so most people there are fishermen or cater to tourists. The drive was uneventful and Samuel was an angel, as usual.
Lianyungang Social Welfare Institute has a new, beautiful building that was built about one year ago. We didn't get to see the old facility but suspect Samuel was never there anyway, since he's so young. The orphanage visit was short and not very thorough. Our experience here was very different from our visit to Baotou SWI, Emily's orphanage. We were greeted by several ladies who would walk us down the sterile hallways. They first showed us the room where Samuel had "play time" but there were no children in it at that moment. Then they asked us if we wanted to go visit his foster home, down the hallway. Foster home?
We knew that he was under the care of a "foster mom" but heard that he was still in the orphanage setting. We assumed it meant there was a particular Aiyi (nanny) who cared for him and a few others. We learned something amazing about the past 8 months of Samuel's life. In December, he was moved from the orphanage general population to a foster home that's attached to the orphanage. The house was probably about 800 square feet and he had a bedroom with his crib and another bed. It turns out he had a foster mother and father who loved him very much. He also lived in this house with 3 foster brothers and a baby sister.
When we entered the foster home, the brothers were there, along with the mother who was graciously cooking dumplings and other food for us to try. When she saw Samuel, she began to sob. He leapt for joy, kicking his legs and smiling at her. It was clear these 2 had a very special bond. I cried uncontrollably. The pain and the joy all in one was too much to hold in. The reunion was emotional and exhausting. There was the language barrier (we did have our translator with us, it was just very chaotic) and everyone was just overwhelmed. The foster mama was very concerned about Samuel's arm and wanted to make sure we would seek medical treatment. It was precious to see that she cared so deeply.
A few minutes in to the visit, the foster dad ("Baba") came home. His face lit up at the sight of his "Pei Pei". He cried and cried, embraced Samuel, and kissed him numerous times. Again, Samuel leapt for joy and was so excited to be with him. I was afraid Samuel wouldn't want to come back to me but for the most part, came back and forth pretty easily. I can only imagine how conflicted his little heart must have felt. Leaving this family was very tough. Samuel clung to the only Baba he'd known and screamed to stay with them. We all shed tears. I thanked them and gave them a gift. We entered the elevator and Samuel immediately stopped crying, head rested on my shoulder.
We were never shown any rooms at the orphanage. There are about 200 kids here but they were all out of sight. This was a little disappointing because Suzi and I would have enjoyed the opportunity to love on these kids and take some pictures for other waiting parents. It's not uncommon for orphanages to have most rooms closed to families. I can only imagine why. We did see a few children in strollers who were also being fostered. Sweet faces. Be still my heart.
We were then taken to a room with a grand lunch waiting for us. There was an assortment of food and we were certainly treated well. I believe the children eat the same food (since it was prepared by the orphanage staff) and I was happy to know the kids are likely consuming protein and vegetables. The lunch was nice and it was quickly time for departure. We were only there for a total of about an hour and a half, including lunch.
I am so grateful that Samuel formed meaningful relationships in this foster arrangement. He has been shown how to connect and trust. He is terrified of everyone around him, except for the people he loves (including me). Believe it or not, this is a good thing. He's learned he can trust specific people. Our first adoption looked very different. Emily was indiscriminant and trusted anyone. She has learned that she shouldn't trust everyone and that she can rely on her family. It's been interesting experiencing 2 very different adoptions, different in so many ways.
Samuel and I were both wiped out when we left the orphanage but there was one more stop I had to make. One very hard stop. His finding spot, the place where Samuel's birth mother decided to leave him on June 16th, in the middle of the night. I stood there and cried. I grieved so much. I felt the pain his birth mother must have felt. I bet she was scared, leaving him there wrapped in that flowery blanket. Maybe she was crying in that very same spot, wondering if anyone would ever give him the medical attention he needed. We'll never know. Here's what I do know. She chose life for Samuel. She probably saw his medical need during the ultrasound and could have easily aborted the pregnancy. But she didn't. And I'm grateful. He is one special little guy and I am so blessed to be his momma.
Y'all. This boy is the most snuggly thing ever. He loves to sleep right beside me and often just lays his head on my shoulder. The Boba carrier that was loaned to me is working great! Lots of exciting things happening, I wish I could share them all! I believe our guide in Nanjing is coming to know Christ. We were able to witness to her and answer several questions about Christianity. I plan to stay in touch with her and walk alongside as she has questions and prayer requests. Samuel says, "Momma!" He also learned the sign for "more" and the kid can eat like nobody's business. Suzi is doing well, feeling great and I believe having quite an experience, soaking all this in. Internet and VPN access has been sketchy, at best. Trying to post things has been quite frustrating. Praying this goes through! Here are a few pictures from Thursday.