I think that our trip to Luoyang yesterday was perhaps the most striking event of our time in China. Yes, meeting CaiQun and bringing her into our family was huge. Yes, it was epic. But it was also, in a sense, just us; our family, our day, our moment. The trip to Luoyang was different, though.
The two and a half hour drive out of Zhengzhou to Luoyang was a movement through time, seemingly epochs of time. The entire landscape was transformed, from a never ending cityscape (reminiscent of Blade Runner in sights and sounds) to an otherworldly countryside supporting the bare bones of life, and then back again to the expanse of the city.
These Chinese cities are beyond anything I’ve ever seen. There is nothing I can write to explain it. There are no pictures that can capture it. Their scale is simply dumbfounding. Their energy and the rush of people and light and spreading haze of building upon building upon building are all just amazing. Eras slide over eras; Ancient China mixes with 60’s, 80’s and 21st century China from block to block. The density of the pollution is staggering, sometimes all but masking layer after layer of city infrastructure. Sometimes even INSIDE buildings one can see the haze and smell the bitterness of booming industry and internal combustion engines. It feels like a variation on the Wild West, almost, in the chaotic traffic, the forcefulness of all levels of transaction, and the way people flex themselves through the arteries and muscles of these dragon cities of China.
China is a force, and you feel it. This is post-WW2 America. This is the rising power of the Spanish exploration era. This is a “sun never sets on the British Empire” kind of energy. Rambunctious, basically untamed, powered by the weight of nearly 50 centuries of culture. No American city can mean what these cities mean. I thought the streets of Rome humbled me; Beijing, Zhengzhou, and Luoyang were even more humbling, though in a very different way that is hard to describe.
But back to Luoyang.
We were there to finalize some exit documents for CaiQun (this could only be done in her hometown) and to visit her orphanage (to take pictures of children for soon-to-be adoptive parents and to deliver donations). On the drive there, and especially while we were in the city itself, I was struck by the fact that there was a very good chance that we were within just a few miles (perhaps even closer) of CaiQun’s Birth Mother. She was there, in that city, somewhere. This truth moved me very deeply, and as I’ve thought about this woman over the last few months my heart and mind are so soft toward her. I am incredibly thankful to her.
I feel as if I’ve seen her face in the thousands of women I’ve seen in China. There are so many different types and styles, so many different eyes. There are so many different looks to them, so many different personalities. I’ve wondered – is this her Birth Mother’s face? Is this her Birth Mother’s hair? Is this her Birth Mother’s voice?
Those voices are so rich and strange to me; I love hearing them though I cannot understand. Their mouths and teeth split the cold air and their dark hair frames their outgoing words, which are only resonant sounds to me. But these sounds are the sounds of a woman who chose to give birth to CaiQun. She didn’t have to do it. But she did. And when I hear the women of China speaking, when I see their faces and glimpse their striking eyes, I am so thankful that she gave us CaiQun.
She is a woman of ancient, majestic lineage. Luoyang is a city of emperors, one of the oldest capitals in all of China (and therefore in the entire world). For thousands of years, as the river wound through it, people have lived out their lives, built a culture and a mindset, and crafted a history that is awe-inspiring. It all led, in some small way, to the fact that this woman became pregnant with CaiQun and, for reasons we will never know, had to give her up.
I do not fault her for this relinquishment of her daughter. I do not judge her or look down upon her. Who, after all, held my little one in the deepest, most intimate parts of her own body for 9 months? Who, with perfect divinely-appointed ability, provided nourishment and safety for those months? Whose body drew CaiQun into embodiment, coaxing her from infinitesimal tininess to personhood? Who gave our daughter blood oxygenated by breathing the Chinese air? Whose lungs did that work? Whose muscles and hormones? She is blessed to me.
I think about the months her body spent weaving and sewing CaiQun together. I think about the contact her womb had with the face and hands of the little girl I hold right now. How could I not be reverential toward this woman who gave her most inner physical being as a shrine for my daughter’s growing form, for her bones and brain and fingernails? How could I not be thankful toward her? How could I not honor her?
And so yesterday I felt the gargantuan weight of time, of generations of people who lived on that land and built it up. And I felt – in the midst of all of those large abstractions – the incredible value of one woman, one life, one choice, one birth, one newborn’s cry.
We are eternally grateful for CaiQun’s Birth Mother. We are thankful that we got to see her home city to learn just a tiny bit of what life was like for her first couple years. Though she waved goodbye to her orphanage, she won’t wave goodbye to her heritage. We’ll store up all of these things in our hearts to share with her as she grows and, perhaps, she will walk the streets of Luoyang again soon.
Maybe she’ll pass within a few miles of her Birth Mother and somehow that woman will know that CaiQun is safe and well.