At a regular check-up visit to the pediatrician, the intern (I think – it was Kim who took the girls to this visit) weighed and measured Elena’s height. Elena is quite short. You have only to look at me or Kim to figure out that that’s to be expected. The intern looked at Elena’s chart and said “she’s in the fifth percentile height-wise – I don’t understand it.”
She furrowed her brow and compared Elena’s chart to Maggie’s chart. The girls’ regular pediatrician stood next to her and prompted her to explain. The intern said “well she’s so short and yet her sister is in the ninety-fifth percentile for height.” Kim and Dr. Robinson exchanged glances. The internist was practicing medicine without noticing her patients. Dr. Robinson pointed to Maggie and the internist finally noticed that they were not biologically related and so this comparison of the charts was not relevant.
They were tied in so many ways.
Maggie is adopted from China. When we were going through the adoption process we had people ask us if we were ever going to tell Maggie that she was adopted. That always cracked us up.
We told Maggie all along. It’s part of who she is.
There were so many people who have told us how lucky Maggie is that we adopted her. Kim always answered that we were the lucky ones that Maggie made us a family.
Most people assumed that we adopted because we couldn’t have children. Adoption for us was a first choice. We didn’t know whether or not we could have children. We were not going to try until after the adoption because it is harder to adopt from China when you already have a child.
When we had Elena, people told us that this always happens. That people who were unable to conceive often had “their own” children after they adopted.
Again, adoption was a first choice for us. We were better able to conceive after we stopped using birth control.
Their own children.
Maggie is my own child. I had almost seven years of hard evidence that there is no difference in the love you feel for an adopted child or a birth child.
I am a dad because of Maggie.
When she was a year and a half I brought Maggie downstairs to help me prepare Kim’s first mother’s day breakfast. Kim wanted pear crepes. My sister Jill called as I was assembling ingredients because she knew it was our first mother’s day. You have to watch children closely and I had dropped my guard for a moment. When I turned back around, Maggie was proudly cracking the eggs one at a time on the glass storm door. As the yolks ran down the glass to the floor she beamed with pride on what she had done to help us make mom’s breakfast.
Maggie and Elena share a chinese character. Maggie’s chinese name is Qiu Xue (pronounced roughly as Chew Sheee-eh) which means autumn snow. Elena was born almost exactly two and a half years after Maggie on March 3. It snowed hard and we decided to give her the name Chun Xue (Choooon) which means spring snow.
Margaret Rose Qiu Xue Steinberg what a mix of a name – Irish sounding Maggie Rose even though the Rose is for my great grandmother. The Margaret is for Kim’s grandmother. Qiu Xue to honor what may have been her birth name.
There’s a lot we don’t know about Maggie’s first year. There’s a lot we can’t know. Her birthday even changed when we went to get her. Until we traveled to China all of her paperwork said that her birthday was October 2, 1996. When we got there the new paperwork said September 2. We were initially sad because we had missed her first birthday. Maggie was first placed in my arms on September 15, 1997.
In the scheme of things, what difference did it make. Having a birthday so early meant that she would have options of when to start school – and she was ready early. I know all parents think that their children are beautiful and bright, but ours are.
Maggie was always proud of being chinese. It is important to her. When we were looking to move to a new school district before she was ready for kindergarten, Kim took care to make sure there was an asian population – she didn’t want Maggie to be the only chinese person in her class. We found a wonderful school with a significant international population.
Elena used to try to tease Maggie that she had been “born from mom’s stomach and you weren’t.” It was unusual for Elena to be that off the mark. No one could get under Maggie’s skin like her little sister, but this wasn’t something that ever bothered her.
The name Maggie had when we got her also included a last name “Shen”. We didn’t keep that name as part of her legal name because all nine of the girls that were adopted in her group had that same last name and it was not their birth name. We’re not certain if Qiu Xue was her given name but we kept that. Each year we get together with some of the other girls in that adoption group – the “Shen Sisters”.
These were the girls that Maggie had her first big adventure with. This group of nine families seems to have nothing in common and yet it is the most magical weekend each year to spend time with people who shared that special trip with us eight and a half years ago.
Maggie announced to us a year back that she might change her last name back to Shen when she’s older. That’s fine with us.
Elena thought for a day or two and announced that she’s going to change her name to Shen too when she’s older. That was more than Maggie could stand. Did Elena have to copy everything she did (no – she didn’t, but of couse that wasn’t the point at that moment). Shen was her name – not Elena’s. Ahhh, Elena had found a button she could push. The “you’re adopted” thing hadn’t worked. For days Elena would ask innocently “dad, how old do you think I should be to change my name to Shen?”