Yesterday, Saturday, took a bus to Yangjiang to visit the orphanage where Willow has spent the first 21 months of her life.
We were able to tour the orphanage and had lunch with the orphanage director.
While we were in Yangjiang, we were also able to see where Willow's "finding place" was.
To be perfectly honest, I was quite apprehensive about going there, since Willow is having such a difficult adjustment, I was worried that as soon as she saw the orphanage and the orphanage caretakers, that she would be happy and want to stay. I was afraid we were going to have to take her back out of there kicking and screaming! What a nightmare! But that was not at all the case. She seemed quite indifferent to the orphanage and the caregivers while we were there. Pretty much the same indifference she seems to have for Tom and I right now. The only thing that I really noticed while we were there was that as I was holding her, I was interacting with many of the other children who were still there in the orphanage, telling them hello, stroking their hair and faces. And the closer the other children got, the more distressed she got. Not distressed as in jealous over me giving others attention, because both Tom and I have given attention to the other girls in our travel group and gotten no reaction at all from her, it was more a distress like she was afraid of them. It leads me to wonder if she was picked on in the orphanage and these kids were mean to her. The reality is that we will never know and she will never remember, but it would be nice to know.
Despite my fears over Willow's reaction not remotely coming true, it was a very difficult trip. To see where and how your child lived without you for nearly the first 2 years of her life is hard enough just because it is not with you, but to add institutionalization to the issue is just heartbreaking. To stand on a dirty street and look at a spot that your child was left, wrapped only in a baby blanket, when she was only days old is almost incomprehensible.
The orphanage director told us that there are currently approximately 100 children at the orphanage. I do not know how many of those are special needs or older children. We saw probably about 40-50 kids while we were there in the 2 rooms we were allowed to visit. We saw the Toddler Room, where Willow was prior to her adoption, and the Baby Room. We saw about 10 or so special needs children outside prior to our tour. We stopped prior to going to the orphanage and bought candy for all the children and they were distributing it while we were there, so they all had visitors and candy...they were VERY excited! It was heartbreaking to leave them behind. They were all so very starved for attention and just a little stroke on the hair or across the cheek brought out some of the biggest grins and certainly some of the deepest "wanting" stares that I have ever seen.
The bus ride back was miserable. I think everyone was relieved to have the visit over with, but know everyone had this "pit" in their stomach. Between seeing a glimpse of what your child endured for the beginning, most formidable time, of their lives and seeing all the other children that are left, it is almost too much to take. It left my heart broken and sick to my stomach. I know we, and I'm sure others, held our daughter even tighter when we left. Told her that she NEVER would have to go back there (unless she wanted to visit, when she is older), nor would she ever have to live like that EVER again!
Beyond all the emotional impact, the traffic on the way back has horrible and while it took us 3 hours to get to the orphanage, it took us almost 5 hours to get back. Everyone was mentally, physically and emotionally spent and very quick to "hunker down" in each of our individual rooms and hold our families tight.