Kelly Haramis: Parent to parent
Plastic oranges, broken crayons and stained bibs occupy my living-room floor like fragments from an endlessly exploding child bomb. There's the exersaucer, the rocking cow, the two toy drums. I can barely recall the room's Spartan character befor...
Plastic oranges, broken crayons and stained bibs occupy my living-room floor like fragments from an endlessly exploding child bomb. There's the exersaucer, the rocking cow, the two toy drums. I can barely recall the room's Spartan character before its radical transformation into my daughters' play room. Only a year ago, my house was neat, ordered.
Well, not exactly neat -- yet where I once heard only the creak of wood floorboards, I now hear laughter, my toddler gibbering "Mama, Mama, Mama," my baby cooing.
Motherhood is even better than I had hoped.
Yes, even the endless diaper changes, the emergency pediatrician visits and the only-Athena-thinks-it's-funny-food-in-hair moments. Fantastic. All of it.
Fantastic from the start those 11 months ago, when my then 9-month-old baby girl, Athena Jean Ni-Ou, fell like a feather into my arms in Nanchang, China. I floated right along with her. From her peaceful look on Gotcha Day to her sweet little voice endlessly chirping "da, da, da, da, da," she was immediately my daughter, and I became her mother.
In May, I announced my pregnancy. I found out about the time we received our referral for Athena from Family Resource Center in late 2006 ("Athena's Home, and She's Going to Be a Sister," May 13). So, exactly six months after we adopted Athena, I gave birth to her little sister, Kallista Jane Neo. We chose Neo for Athena's Chinese name, Ni-Ou. The girls are about 16 months apart, and they already have bonded.
Holding Kallista in the hospital minutes after her birth, I remembered holding Athena for the first time on the other side of the world.
The next day, I stared at Kallista and pictured Athena at 1 day old: found outside a hospital and brought to the Fuzhou Social Welfare Institute in Jiangxi Province. That was then.
Athena is 21 months old and Kallista is 5 months old.
Athena loves being a big sister. She ran to the newborn Kallista at their first meeting and kissed her tenderly on the head, and she has loved her ever since. Kallista smiles and giggles as big sister Athena shakes maracas, sings "Row, Row, Row" (she hasn't mastered "your boat") and runs around the house like a rainbow.
With one child, there is rarely a dull moment. With two, there's never an intermission. Sitting on the floor, I hold Kallista in one arm, a children's book in another, while Athena sits on her potty. You see, I've become a great multitasker. I can smile at the same time. All the time.
Current wait times: Athena's adoption entailed a nearly two-year wait from application to Gotcha Day. We waited 15 months from the time we were logged in with the Chinese government until we received our referral. Unfortunately, the wait to adopt from China has increased in the past year. The China Center for Adoption Affairs has matched children with families with a log-in date of Dec. 14, 2005. Families are waiting two years to be matched, with the delay growing steadily each month.
"We can never predict the future, how long the wait will be," said Kerry Campbell, administration director for Great Wall China Adoption agency. She added that in the agency's 11 years, "the wait times have always gone up and down."
Campbell cited as reasons the number of babies born, the number of paper-ready babies and the large number of families waiting to adopt.
"With China's program being so stable and transparent, I think families were looking for that sort of stability and consistency. By 2004, parents saw that and caused such a surge in applications that [the wait increased]," Campbell said.
Will there be any relief?
"We'll see the wait getting longer before it gets shorter, but it will [eventually] get shorter," Campbell said. "Someone starting the process now may not wait [two years]."
Kelly Haramis writes for the Chicago Tribune. She can be reached at email@example.com .