Twenty-four of us sat nervously on unforgiving wooden benches, the cacophonous sounds of the marketplace rising up from below on the pungent Guangzhou summer air. Time stood still as we waited, our final wait. A platter dressed with fresh lychees appeared oddly out of place as the "grandmas" looked anxiously at us from the railing of the adjacent old-age home. It was a day of mixed emotions.
We all knew that behind our own personal happiness was a deeply disturbing practice here in China, a quiet genocide that yearly claims the lives of thousands of female babies and children. This was the day my husband, Jim, and I were to adopt our daughter, Nikki Kate Winston.
Up to this moment, I would never have considered myself a courageous person, forging new paths, pushing discovery to new limits, challenging tradition, defying odds. That wasn't me. I was a television producer who first made her mark as the youngest female executive producer of a major network news show. Six years of being in a studio at three o'clock in the morning was more exhausting than brave. My proudest work, the coverage of the 1984 Olympics and the 1996 Oscars for ABC weren't particularly daring. Actor Christopher Reeve was courageous in making his appearance at the Academy Awards -- Susan Winston, his producer, was simply a facilitator. It's what I do for a job and I'm proud to do it well, but it hardly makes me a brave woman.
Television comes and goes -- it's a video surf, a zap of a remote control. It's where I try to have an impact. And yet, when I think of the thousands of hours of programming I've produced, only one episode stands out beyond anything else. Following an on-air medical report on new warning signs for a very specific form of cancer, I received a letter from a viewer telling me that, had she not seen the program that morning and gone directly to her doctor, she most likely would have died. I initiated something that saved someone's life. That made me feel wonderful but still not daring.
Adoption: A Journey of the Heart
With this trip to China, I had dared to follow my heart to a place it had never been before. To a little baby girl halfway around the world. It would prove to be my life's most rewarding journey.
China, for some, is the final answer to their desire to be parents. Children are available, and couples, singles, single-sex couples, all are welcome to apply, provided they are at least thirty-five years old. For many, China is the last stop after the frustration of infertility drugs or failed in vitro fertilization. With the difficulty and uncertainty of domestic adoptions, China has become an alternative unfettered by obstacles. Single women chasing their biological clocks have found China's adoption policies to be a haven; single men have, too, though in lesser numbers.
So where do I fit in? I'm married and have been for twenty-two years. I have two fabulous biological children: a boy, nine, and a girl, six. If I chose to have more biological children, I could. I work full time and have a definite limit to my financial resources. Like many working parents, I struggle to fit everything into the day. My life is very full. So what am I doing, sitting here on this bench in the clamor of Guangzhou? I am feeding my soul.
Chasing a Biological Clock?
I got to this moment on an acrid summer day not by chasing a biological clock but by chasing a story, something I do constantly as a television producer. The story had taken me to Mimi Williams -- the Reverend Mimi Williams -- whose road to becoming an Episcopal priest was the stuff of which movies-of-the-week are made. When I met Mimi, she was waiting for China to reopen its doors so she could enter and adopt a child. What a great tag for a movie: Controversial woman dumps husband, changes religion, becomes a priest, gets a kid -- a little Chinese kid at that!
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I was hooked. I dug through Mimi's history and found a great movie. What fascinated me even more, however, was her quest for a child. Why China? I got a blistering education in the answer to that question as I did extensive research, pouring through books, attending "get togethers" of a group sponsored by several adopting agencies, meeting with more agencies that specialize in adoptions from China, and speaking with those who had actually adopted from China. What I learned affected me deeply and began to stir awake in me the audacity to do something I could have never guessed I would do.
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