We are so grateful to share this story with you all. Mia is an adoptee from China, and has written about her experience searching for her birth family. We hope it will encourage other families and adoptees as they consider if and when to search.
As an adoptee, one question people always ask me is, ‘do you know who your real parents are?’ What they mean, is, do I know who my biological parents are. For me, and other adoptees I’ve spoken to, our ‘real’ parents are simply our adoptive parents, and the parents who are blood related are our ‘biological parents / birth parents’.
Growing up, I had always thought about my birth parents, but the idea of ever finding them never entered my mind. Why not? Because of the situation in my birth country, China. I knew there was a strict One Child Policy in place, which was most likely why I was given up, and I also knew that China was, and still is, the most populated country on earth. Therefore, the possibility of finding birth parents seemed impossible.
However, when I was 18, I decided not to focus on the impossible and began the process of searching. I wanted to see if I had any birth family out there, whether it be parents, siblings, cousins – just anyone biologically related to me. For me personally, I realized that I didn’t want to look back in years to come and regret not having done anything to search for my birth family. Even though the chances of me finding anything was very low, I wanted to know that I had at least tried. So that is what I did. Firstly, I told my parents, who were very supportive and understood why I wanted to search. (I also have an older sister adopted from China, and my decision to search also encouraged her to do the same) As a family, we ordered DNA kits from Ancestry and 23AndMe. Unfortunately, there were no close matches, but I expected this. I also looked on Facebook to see if there were any groups for Chinese adoptees, and to my surprise, I found a group dedicated to birth parent searching in my province, as well as a group for adopted children from my orphanage and many more groups! It was through these groups I realized there was a large community of adoptees and adoptive parents who were also searching for birth family. I soon came across a well recommended searcher in China, who had successfully found birth parents. We hired her to conduct a search for me, and gave her the little information I had about my birth, (where I was abandoned, who found me, my foster parents). The searcher then went to my area, hung up searching posters, and found my foster parents and the man who found me. I received a package from the searcher containing many photos, souvenirs, and letters from the people they found.
Around a year later, my family and I made the trip across the world to China where we continued our search. I was very nervous about going back as I wasn’t sure what to expect. Once we arrived in the area I was from, we met with the searcher and within the hour, he had arranged for me to meet my foster parents. We went for dinner with them, and they were very friendly. There was a language barrier, as I don’t speak Chinese, nor do they speak English, but luckily our searcher also acted as a translator. Originally, I believed that I was fostered outside of the orphanage, like my sister had been, however after speaking with the foster parents, I found out that I was ‘fostered’ within the orphanage, and they looked after many babies there.
Over the next few days, we met my sister’s foster mother and hung up many searching posters in both of our areas. We covered much ground and hung up posters in public places such as the bus station, inside the busses, noticeboards, lampposts and more. Many people crowded around our posters, and spoke to us, wondering if we were the daughters they had left. There was one instance where we hung up my poster in a food market when an old woman came up to my mother and I, in tears. She told us that she had left a baby long ago, and then gave us a hug. She thanked my mother for looking after me. It was a sweet, yet sad moment and another reminder of all the pain that many birth parents had suffered.
A big part of the trip was meeting the man who found me. We met him and his family, who were kind to us and we ended up seeing them five different times whilst we were there. One night, we were invited to their home for dinner. After we ate, they took us to the town square, where there was to be dancing. However, no dancing happened and instead, my sister and I were surrounded by well over 100 people who were curious about us. We handed out our searching posters, and I had all these strangers taking photos of me, grabbing my wrist to look for birth marks and asking me questions. This lasted for over an hour, and even the police came out to see what the commotion was about. It was fantastic exposure for me; however, it was also a sad reminder that so many people in China had been separated from their babies and had no idea where they were.
My sister and I also were interviewed by the local news station. They filmed us and our parents in the park, as well as doing a sit-down interview, asking questions such as, ‘Why are you back in China?’ ‘Why do you want to search?’, ‘What would you like your birth parents to know’. The interview was then broadcast onto WeChat, where tens of thousands of people in the area saw it. Interestingly, there were comments under the news piece. Some people wished us luck, whereas others were angry that we were trying to search. They thought we should be grateful for being adopted, and not try to search. It was hard to read comments like this, however I had to remind myself that the people who thought like that, were most likely people who had the privilege of knowing their biological family and their background. As well as being on the news, we also went to the police station where we gave our blood to be processed into their database, and if a DNA match was found, they would contact us.
Whilst out there, we had many people get in touch via WeChat to see whether we were related. We even met up with 2 different families. One of the families went to the police station to give their DNA, which was very brave, however they turned out not to be my birth family. A hurdle we faced was that many of the birth parents were unsure of when they left their children. They didn’t know the exact month, or even year in many cases. However, we were sure to keep in touch with them and left China with many contacts. My mother was even able to find the biological daughter of one of the birth parents we met out there.
It has now been over a year since we were in China. Unfortunately, I haven’t found my birth parents yet, but I am still in contact with my foster parents and finder, via WeChat. I am eager to go back and continue searching.
Maybe one day when I go back, I’ll find them. Maybe I’ll open an email from 23AndMe saying that a close relative match has been found. Or maybe none of that will ever happen, but I haven’t given up hope. If anything, the search gave me more hope as I realized just how many birth families were looking for their birth children. Everyone we had spoken to had either left a child or knew someone who had. I am very thankful that I was able to go there and search. Being in China, and walking through the area where I was born allowed me to connect to my past in a way I had never been able too. Even though I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for, I feel like I found a part of myself.
Thank you again to Mia for sharing your story with us! For families interested in learning more about searching for birth family in China, read the previous post by Erin Valentino of Nanchang Project where she gives advice on how to get started.