This is an article I wrote last winter for a journalism class at King’s College in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I came across it tonight as I was digging through my computer looking for samples to use for internship applications. So, I thought I’d share with the rest of the world as well:
A Second Adoption
“All of my neighbours have siblings,” says Tighe, lying on her bed, stomach-down and elbows propping her up, talking with me on Skype before her basketball game. “So, when I was home alone during the summers and they were doing other things – that’s when I’d feel lonely.”
The idea of adopting a second child first came up for the family when Tighe asked her parents for a sister because she “was bored.” The neighbourhood where the Lochs live has proven more than just a place to call their home. Many of the residents have children that Tighe has grown up spending summer after summer playing with in pools, playing basketball, and riding their bikes and scooters around the cul-de-sac. Tory and Erica, two young sisters in the Lochs neighbourhood, have shown Tighe the ins-and-outs of sisterhood – only adding to her desire for a younger sibling.
Tighe, 15, and an only child has spent the majority of her childhood in her current home in Dover, NH – a city of about 29,000 residents with only 3.8 per cent of Asian decent.
She can’t relate being adopted to anything else – since she’s never known anything other than that. Tighe said she can’t recall a time where she has ever felt different – only alone.
Taryn had always wanted a second child. She had wanted to give Tighe a sister so she could experience the same joys Taryn has had with all six of her siblings. Although growing up with all blood-related siblings, Taryn had always wanted to adopt an Asian child.
“I just really thought I’d like to adopt from Vietnam or some Asian country,” says Taryn McCarthy, lounging on her floral couch. “And China was the only country that allowed single women to adopt. So it really kind of steered me right to China.”
When Taryn finally decided on adopting a child, she was 38 years old and single; that was 15 years ago. Since then a lot has changed: her family has grown to include her husband Robert “Bob” Loch, Tighe Ling McCarthy Loch, and their dog, Maxx.
The government of China has also revised its policies on foreign adoption regulations.
The First Adoption
“They had somebody sitting behind the desk who didn’t speak English and they had somebody interpreting it,” said Taryn. “I can remember him saying to me, ‘Are you happy? Are you happy with your child?’”
Less than a week earlier, Taryn had first stepped onto Chinese soil – excited to meet her new daughter.
The plane ride was 25 hours. Boston to Chicago; Chicago to Japan; Japan to Beijing. The Wide Horizons group finally arrived in China in January 1996 – the much anticipated trip to take their children home, wherever home may be. The start of their two-week tour of China began during their four-day stay in Beijing; the group explored the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City and a traditional Chinese farm. Then the group moved to the smaller city of Nanchang in south-east China.
The anticipation was immense. The orphanage, where their future children lived, is located in the city of Ji’an – just south-west of Nanchang.
“They came in waves,” explained Taryn about the process of the children arriving to meet them.
“60 Minutes did a documentary about Chinese orphanages right before I was going over there. And they were not happy with American journalists. Because they really portrayed the Chinese orphanages – well the name of the movie was ‘The Dying Rooms.’ And the thing is that there were some orphanages that weren’t good and there were kids that were really sick . . . so they really portrayed them badly and as very abusive. So the Chinese government was very angry, so they wouldn’t let Americans go to Chinese orphanages . . . so, they brought the children to the hotel.”
The first set of children had been delivered to their new parents the day before Taryn was supposed to receive her baby, Ji Ling (which Taryn would later change to Tighe Ling – a family name from Taryn’s great-grandmother in Ireland, Elizabeth Tighe).
The arrival time was 9pm. But rain and wind had washed out the dirt roads. The orphanage directors had to turn back and attempt the trip the next day. Disappointment loomed among the members who had hoped to meet their children that evening. The night passed – the anticipation and worry grew. When would they be able to see their children? Were they okay?
The next night, January 24, 1996, the children and orphanage directors were to arrive at 9pm. Traditional Chinese music blared through loud speakers in the hotel while parents who had already received their children, the single mothers, the couples and the program directors crowded the narrow hallways of the hotel. Taryn stood anxiously in the hallway. She wore a light blue sweater that hung loosely from her frame; she had placed a sticker on her sweater, over her heart, displaying her daughter’s name: Ji Ling. The anticipation grew, then they entered. A small grey-haired man donning a black beret-like hat and wide gummy smile – no taller than 5’5” – walked into the hallway holding the tiniest six-month-old Taryn had ever seen.
She was bundled up in layers upon layers of thinly made clothing, packaged neatly in a striped pink and white blanket and adorned with a soft knit orange cap. The small grey-haired man, smiling from ear to ear, handed Ji Ling to Taryn. She wept, overwhelmed by pure happiness. She stood in the hallway; smiling, crying, thinking, “I’ve been waiting all my life for you.” Taryn walked through the mahogany framed doors into her bedroom, adjusted her new daughter in her arms to face the mirror, and stared into the mirror at their reflections; together, as mother and daughter.
“What was nice is that we weren’t all getting our children at once, so the group who had already gotten their children, one of the husbands was taking pictures of me and Tighe,” said Taryn. “And he just captured that, just, raw emotion of happiness. I can remember just looking at her and holding her and kissing her and just saying, ‘I’ve waited all my life for you.’ There was a sense of utter joy, some fear, ‘oh my gosh – now what do I do?!’
After the introductions and photo-ops, Taryn shut the door to her hotel room and prepared for her first night as a mother with the newest addition to her family.
Although the trip was filled with joyful new experiences and a new daughter, fear and loneliness took its toll on Taryn.
“For the two weeks she was over there she was calling me almost every day bawling her eyes out, tell me how awful it was or how hard it was,” says Bob remembering Taryn’s trip to China. “Then when she got Tighe it became joyful, but I don’t know if it was a fear or just wanting to make sure she was okay and just wanting to get home with her . . . if I didn’t have those phone calls to remember, it would have made it seem like it was an easier trip than what it was.”
Though Taryn was traveling with the Wide Horizons group, she had gone on her own as a single mother. She had no one to lean on and look to for advice being over 7,000 miles from family and loved ones.
“All I wanted was my mommy,” said Taryn.
The last stretch of the trip included the first official adoption, which took place in Nanchang. Military officials had taken over a hotel room where the Wide Horizons group had been staying; two officials in total, one desk and a group of new and anxious parents.
The process was simple, but formal. The Chinese military officials asked the parents a few questions, smiled and said congratulations. There was an exchange of money – $5,000 US dollars cash: crisp, brand-new $100 bills.
“You did know that it was a donation to the orphanage,” said Taryn. “But you have to wonder how much of that $5,000 actually went to the orphanage.”
Then there were two more adoptions for Taryn and Tighe McCarthy. Upon arriving in the United States Taryn had to adopt Tighe for a second time (as well as officially change her name from Ji Ling to Tighe Ling McCarthy) before she was considered an official American citizen. More than a year later, Tighe would be adopted for a third time by Taryn and her new husband Bob Loch.
Bob, his mother, Shelia, Taryn’s parents, Jane and Allen McCarthy, stood looking out the large glass window at the runway searching the skies for the plane that carried Taryn and the newest addition to the family.
The ground was covered in snow and the sky blended into the horizon. But, there it was. The plane had landed.
“They’re here. They’re down. They’re safe,” said Bob, remembering that day.
The arrival waiting area was packed with families from young children to grandparents and everything in between. Every time a plane was flying into Boston with a new group of adopted children from China the news crews were there ready to capture the family reunions and introductions.
Bob said he was worried the whole time. “I’m always worried when people are travelling, especially on planes.”
Bob, Shelia, Jane, Allen, and the other hundreds of people waiting to meet the new additions to their families watched the plane pull up to the terminal. The Wide Horizons group had made a transfer in Chicago before heading to Boston. An unaware group of travelers stepped onto the plane to see the 22 babies and their families that they would be sharing the two and a half hour flight.
The passengers were let off the plane first before the Wide Horizons group. Some looked irritated, and others had smiles across their faces as they asked, “you’re waiting for them, aren’t you?” at the group of waiting families and friends who were jockeying to be the first to see their loved ones step off the plane.
Jane remembers one man saying he had never heard so many babies crying all at once.
Taryn realized how lucky she was to have Tighe. “She was almost perfect and slept all of the time,” she said. Tighe was hanging, asleep in Taryn’s arms when she stepped off the plane in Boston.
“I think the first time she came through I took your picture and I didn’t even see you,” said Bob to Taryn, reminiscing about the emotional arrival in Boston Logan airport. “I swear I didn’t even see her. I think she walked right by me.”
Bob and Taryn hugged for a long, long time. Taryn was bawling, or according to Bob, “she was bawling, she was bawling, she was uncontrollably bawling . . . but she was unbelievable happy.”
Jane and Allen both adored Tighe the minute they saw her in Taryn’s arms.
“It was just so exciting!” said Jane. “[Tighe] was just six-months old, but she was small, very small and she looked much younger. But she was just adorable.”
Jane said Allen was “just beside himself when he saw the baby – he was so excited.”
Due to having suffered from three strokes, his last one 21 years ago, Allen wasn’t able to say for himself what he remembered about those first moments when Taryn and Tighe arrived from China. But upon mentioning her chat with me about Taryn and Tighe’s arrival from China, Allen started to cry.
Jane said that before they arrived she saw pictures, so you know its coming. But, it’s nothing compared to the first time you see her.
“The minute I saw her getting off the plane and I saw Tighe I fell in love with her,” said Jane. “I couldn’t stop looking at her. I just adored her the minute I put my eyes on her!”
In the midst of the excitement, the news crews interviewing new parents and extended families ogling at the 22 adopted babies, Shelia, Jane and Allen stood back observing the happy couple they knew and their new baby.
“It was nice to watch the new mother and father be excited about [Tighe],” said Shelia. “Just looking at her, looking at her, looking at her.”
After the excitement of the homecoming started to fade away and the exhaustion started to set in, Bob, Taryn and Tighe headed home as a family.
“It was really quite the affair,” said Shelia, summing up the days events.
Taryn and Bob had been dating, but weren’t involved at the time when Taryn decided to adopt a child on her own. Taryn looked into adoption from Asian countries and was lead to China because of her status as a single woman. She went to an information session and then began the adoption process. In the meantime, Taryn and Bob started dating again.
“We got back together and he decided that he wanted to be apart of my life and wanted to adopt Tighe, too,” said Taryn. “But I was already in the process of adopting, so I didn’t really want to bring him in because . . . I would have had to go through a whole different process with him being investigated. So I decided to continue the adoption as a single woman.”
Before Taryn went over to China in January of 1996, Bob proposed to Taryn in December of 1995 on a ski trip at Wildcat with friends.
“I almost got killed on the ski lift,” said Bob, jokingly.
“I don’t think you almost got killed. I think you almost lost the ring,” said Taryn, laughing.
It was a windy day on the mountain, but while on the lift Bob told Taryn how much he loved her and asked her to marry him. Taryn and Bob joked about how he had the ring in his pocket, but he wasn’t going to pull it out on the lift. Once at the top of the mountain, Bob got down on one knee and proposed.
They married 10 months later on October 4, 1996.
“Tighe no doubt has changed my life,” said Bob, who will be 60 this year. “And if the same thing happened again I’d go with the flow. I kind of got myself to the point where I’m at the age where, you know, I’ve been fortunate to give to Tighe what I can give to Tighe. If I go much further, I don’t know what I’ll have . . . I always want to be able to give them all that stuff. It’s a little bit disheartening that I decided so late. I didn’t know it was going to put it off the table at the time, but when it slowed down as dramatically as it slowed down it really did start to take it off the table rather quickly.”
Taryn and Bob tossed around the idea of a second child for a couple years before deciding to begin the process with the adoption agency, Wide Horizons – when Tighe was 10 years old. But, Taryn’s extraordinary experience during her first adoption had kept the Lochs hopeful the second adoption may take place.
Unfortunately, the process hasn’t played out the way the Lochs had hoped.
“My feeling is, all my dreams have come true,” said Taryn. “I think the thing that I wanted to give Tighe was a sister. You know, because I have my sisters. But you know what? That most likely will not happen.”
However, the close relationships formed between the girl cousins in the McCarthy family have remained strong. Sisters don’t need to be blood-related to create bonds so strong to last a lifetime says Taryn. The decision to stop the second adoption process has been tough on the Loch family, but something they have expected for awhile now.
“I kind of gave up on it awhile ago and I’m fine with it,” said Tighe. “I’m getting used to being an only child.”
On the other hand, the wish for a second child is hard to let go.
“I mean I have to make a decision. And probably the decision will be to just close our . . . but there’s that part of me, that heart-felt part of me that is like . . .” added Taryn, trailing off as we spoke about their second adoption.
China Changes Its Policy
In May 2007, the Chinese government set in place a new set of policies regarding foreign adoptions. Unlike the first adoption process Taryn took part in, adopters must be a married couple in order to adopt a Chinese child. Among other regulations set in place by the Chinese government, the new wait time for adoption jumped from an average of six months to five or more years.
According to the December 26, 2006 newsletter from the Wide Horizons China Program Team it is not at all unusual for adoption requirements in other countries to become more restrictive over time. The newsletter also says:
“Since 1991, more than 50,000 Chinese children have been adopted by U.S. parents and several thousand more by citizens in other countries. The Chinese government has been very fairly flexible regarding adoption requirements by foreigners. While the one-child government policy still exists in China, in recent years it has been significantly relaxed in rural areas.”
The one-child government policy was first announced in 1979 and has remained in place over the past two decades. The policy, which China refers to as family planning, officially restricts the number of children married urban couples can have. However, there are exemptions for cases including: rural couples, ethnic minorities, and parents without siblings themselves.
The policy was set in place because the countries growth rate was increasing at a rapid speed. According to the British Medical Journal (BMJ) by the time of the 1982 census there were already more than 1 billion people in China, and if current trends persisted, there could be 1.4 billion by the end of the century.
BMJ also says “the people were to be encouraged to have only one child through a package of financial and other incentives, such as preferential access to housing, schools, and health services. Discouragement of larger families included financial levies on each additional child and sanctions which ranged from social pressure to curtailed career prospects for those in government jobs.”
The Wide Horizons newsletter continues:
“In addition, Chinese citizens have been adopting children in increasing numbers. During 2006, more than 30,000 Chinese babies were adopted within China which is approximately three times more than the number of Chinese children who were adopted by citizens of the U.S. and other countries.”
In 1995 more than 2,000 children were adopted into the United States from China; in 2005, that number had reached 7,903; by 2009, the number had dropped to only 3,001 adoptions.
There has been a significant decrease in the number of families needed for international adoptions, therefore, giving the Chinese government the chance to let only the families they deem best of the best to adopt children from their country.
The Photo Album
Although the hopes for adopting a second child seem to have faded, the memories of Tighe’s adoption still bring laughter and tears.
Taryn got off the couch, still talking, and pulled out the photo album containing photographs of her trip to China. She started flipping through the pages, stopping at some photos and sharing memories each one evoked.
She pointed to a photo of the man who handed Tighe to her in China, “Uncle Lou, Bobs calls him.”
“Oh yeah,” Bob interjected. “Uncle Lou.” We all laughed.
Taryn drew out what looked like to be a piece of paper, folded and stuck randomly into the photo album. It was a sticker for memory-books. And on it was a poem. Taryn looked it over before saying she wanted to read it out-loud.
If we had to do it over again
Adoption is what we’d choose
Taryn took a breath as tears came to her eyes; she continued reading:
We got more than we had hoped for
The day we adopted you
For you have given us more in life
Than we could ever want or need
She paused; then began to read again:
You made our house into a home
And made our family complete
We love you more than life itself
For all the things you say and do
And if we had it to do over again
You’d be the one we’d choose
“And it’s the truth.”