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The Wide World of Online Support for China Adopters

During the long wait, I found a surprising source of comfort right at my fingertips.by Toddie Downs



There's no two ways about itówaiting is hard. My husband and I recently finished gathering all our paperwork to adopt our daughter from China, so now we wait, praying that the slow wheels of governmental bureaucracy start turning just a little faster. I feel like I'm a 5-year-old again, riding in the backseat of my parents' car, repeating "Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?"

A surprising source of comfort to me during this limbo, and, as I've found, to other waiting families, has been the Internet. Yes, my husband and I used online resources during the adoption process. Now that the real wait has begun, though, I tailor my Web-surfing to my particular mood for any given day. If I feel like I'm the only one suffering through the wait, I can find fellowship in any number of newsgroups; if I'm anxious about attachment and identity issues, I can obtain sound advice from experts around the globe. If I want to daydream about my eventual trip, I can find scads of sites to fill me in about culture, travel tips, weather and food, or browse through online catalogs carrying items I'm already itching to buy. And if I want to pretend I'm already there, I can read the words and see the pictures of those who have gone before me.

Fellowship
Because there's no swelling belly for strangers to exclaim over, I've occasionally felt like I'm missing out on the collective excitement that a community shares over the prospect of a new baby. Fortunately, the Internet carries a host of virtual communities and newsgroups that perform this very service. For all adoption-expectant families, there is the adoption forum "Expecting Through Adoption" (www.inciid.org/forums/adoption_waiting), in which members address not only tangible issues like finances and what questions to ask when you get a referral, but also more intangible concerns like "feeling expectant."

For families specifically adopting from China, one of the grand matriarch newsgroups is Adoptive-Parents-China through Yahoo (groups.yahoo.com/group/a-parents-china). This newsgroup, over thirteen thousand members strong, offers a wealth of information and support to newbies like myself from experienced adoptive parents. With its heady mix of practical tips for preparation and travel and spirited debate over issues like transracial identity, I find this newsgroup can be disturbing, thought-provoking, and comforting all at the same time.

Melissa House, an adoptive parent in Ohio, favors Yahoo's "Waiting Children China" group (groups.yahoo.com/group/WaitingChildrenChina), as well as Yahoo's "Loving China's Children" forum (groups.yahoo.com/group/LovingChinasChildren). She likes this group for its faith-based stories and "shared prayer and support with each other pre- and post-adoption." Several members of the Adoptive-Parent-China newsgroup also recommend that expectant parents join the DTC (Dossier-to-China) group for the month their dossier was mailed; not only will they find additional fellowship there, but they may end up traveling to China with many of these people, so it's a good way to get to know them beforehand. A full listing of DTC groups can be found at groups.yahoo.com/group/RaisingChinaChildren/links/DTC_Yahoo__Group s_an_000990884254.

Culture and Travel
I've always wanted to visit China, but I have to admit I knew very little about it other than what I've learned from our local Chinese restaurant and from watching Ang Lee's films. Fortunately, the Internet can educate me on a wide variety of cultural topics. In the About Guide on Chinese culture (chineseculture.about.com), I can bone up on Chinese food and drink, as well as everything I'll want to know about Chinese festivals and holidays. I can educate myself about the Chinese language, and find out what my future child's name means by looking at one of the several dictionaries contained at the Web site for The China Connection (www.chinaconnectiononline.com). I can read up on eleven thousand years of Chinese history in a fraction of the time and learn the difference between Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism by browsing through the terrific Web site created by teachers Lin and Don Dunn, called "Daily Life in Ancient China" (members.aol.com/Donnclass/Chinalife.html).

Some organizations, individuals and families have kindly shared the benefits of their own research during the adoption process by publishing Web sites consisting of a wide variety of China-related links, from agencies to Chinese growth charts to recommended book lists to airport information. Some of my favorites include Families with Children from China (www.fwcc.org); My Adoption Links (www.myadoptionlinks.com/China.html); and a site set up by the Donovan family (web.tampabay.rr.com/donovans/China_Adoption_Links.htm).

Of course, for me half the fun of traveling to a new land is preparing for it beforehand. Yahoo hosts an adoption newsgroup focusing solely on travel to China (groups.yahoo.com/group/ChinaTravel), where I can get details about hotels, airlines, sightseeing, pricing, and more. The Adoption Travel section of Adoption.com's Web site provides checklists and safety tips for the trip, as well as an excellent article called "Know Before You Go" by Mary M. Strickert, full of advice for the waiting parent (www.adoptiontravel.com). Jack Hilton, an adoptive parent, has created an interactive map of Shamian Island in Guangzhou (members.fortunecity.com/shamian), a great resource containing adoptive parents' comments and tips about the trip, with pictures of the places I'm likely to visit and links to some of the Web sites of establishments on the island. Hilton has also provided links for maps of eight other towns and cities in China, including Changsha and Beijing. Finally, some of the shops in Guangzhou that I'm certain I will be visiting on my trip have Web sites of their own, so I can windowshop before I go. Sherry's Place (www.sherrymama.com) and Jennifer's Place (jennifersplaceusa.homestead.com) are two examples.

Inspiration
As fun and informative a time I have surfing the Internet, the sites that make my heart sing, that are the virtual equivalent of chocolate to me, are the stories of families' travel to China to meet their new child. I generally read these stories with a big smile and occasional tears. Reading about the struggles these individuals have gone through to become a family, and looking at their radiant faces as they come together with their children, reminds me that I am part of a community, of a global family, and that my time will be here soon. Many of these families have also been exceedingly kind to those coming after them, posting indispensable travel tips, packing lists, and guidelines for staying healthy. Best of all, many of the stories have been gathered into a couple sources: www.tussah.com/lara/chinasto.htm and www.chinaadoptionstories.com.

Conclusion
I still ask "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" on a daily basis. The anticipation I feel at the prospect of meeting my daughter in the not-too-distant future grows exponentially with each passing week. Waiting is a burden. But through the shared stories and friendship of a global adoptive family that I can access through my computer, that burden is shared and the wait made bearable.

Toddie Downs is a freelance writer in Cleveland, Ohio. She adopted her daughter from Fuling, China in the summer of 2005.

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