Children’s Book Author Helps Kids Understand Adoption
Bonnie Cuzzolino is not just a children’s book author who writes a story about adoption. She is the proud mother of little Jillian Mei, whom she adopted from Hubei, China, in November of 2001 when Jillian Mei was only twelve months old.
This is no ordinary adoption story. Letter of Love from China is a children’s book that reflects part of Bonnie’s own daughter’s story to find her place and know her actual birth date. It is written to reflect one scenario of how a letter might read from a birth mom based on her belief that her daughter was loved and is still in her birth families hearts.
“My book,” says Bonnie, “is for those families who also believe that their child’s birth mom’s acts showed that their child was loved. What makes this book extraordinary is that it helps children understand that even though their mother had to give them up for adoption, they still loved them.”
I interviewed Bonnie to find out more about this poignant and heart-rending story of how she came to adopt her beautiful daughter, Jillian Mei.
Q. Thank you for this interview, Bonnie. Can I ask if you and your husband were childless and that was the reason you chose adoption?
A. My husband and I were both previously married. I was childless and my husband had two birth daughters, now twenty-three and twenty-six years old. I had fertility problems that led to our decision to adopt.
Q. How did you come to choose Jillian Mei? Did you particularly choose a Chinese child to adopt?
A. We are older parents and China was one of the few countries that preferred adoptive couples be older—older means wiser in China. US adoption offered risks of having birth parents change their mind. I always adored Chinese children and from the time I was a child I felt I would have a black haired baby someday. I also admired Chinese culture. I soon had my husband hooked also as he looked at photo’s of Chinese children.
We did not choose Jillian Mei. China chose her for us. We let them know the age and sex of the child we wanted. That’s it! They make the match. Somehow the matches always fit the families. Divine intervention.
An ancient Chinese proverb says that there is an invisible red thread that connects those destined to be together. Regardless of time or circumstances the thread may bend or twist, but never break.
Q. Tell me what you know about Jillian Mei’s birth mother. Why did she choose to give up this beautiful little girl when she was only a year old?
A. We have no knowledge of Jillian’s birth mother—none at all. She was abandoned as all the children in China are in secret. Jillian was left in a bamboo basket, wrapped warmly in blankets with a note of her birth date and a few dollars on her at an orphanage gate at three weeks old. She spent the next year of her life with a terrific foster mom until we adopted her at twelve months old. We were given the note left with her and the name of the man that found her early in the morning dusk. The only connection to her birth mom we have is the note and possibly her finding person. Sometimes the finding person may be a family member.
In China there is a one child policy to control population growth. City families are allowed one child and country families two if their first is a girl. Chinese tradition calls for at least one male child per family to carry on the family name and to care for parents in old age as there is no social security. If a poor farming families first child is a girl she will be kept however if the second child is a girl she will be abandoned to try for a boy. In some cases a third child born may be abandoned even if the child is a boy. Exceeding the child limit can lead to a hefty fine the family can’t afford to pay.
The birth mom is forced by her extended family and village elders to produce a son. For the birth mom this is a tragedy. She has no choice. Abandonment gives her baby a chance to be adopted. A few brave birth families have come forward to be interviewed and their suffering over giving up their child will break your heart.
Q. Did you actually get to meet her? If so, did she have any words for you concerning the care of Jillian Mei?
A. We never met Jillian’s birth mom and probably never will. She is a mystery—an unknown woman hiding in the shadows. Most birth moms conceal their identity to avoid punishment and shame.
We need not meet Jillian’s birth mom to know she loved her. The act of the birth family leaving their child in a public place where they will be quickly found and cared for is their final act of love. Someday we will take Jillian Mei back to visit China when she is older. I will then seek out the man that found her and hope he can lead me to her birth family. I could ask for no greater gift then to fill that void in her life. I will walk that village path if I can. I will face the woman that gave birth to my daughter and give her a hug.
Q. Do you plan on adopting other children?
A. Yes, we are presently waiting a referral for our second and last child. We want Jillian to have a sibling in life closer to her age.
We have asked for a healthy three to four year old girl. We expect to travel again to China the end of this year or early 2009. Jillian is very excited!
Q. I love your story, Bonnie. What a wonderful way to show other children that even though they are put up for adoption, it is out of an act of love and not that their birth parents don’t want them. What can you tell other children to help understand this?
A. Children need to know that sometimes because families are too poor or because other countries control how many children are allowed in a family it is not always possible for birth families to keep their children. They will always love and miss them. They give the adoptive family or forever family the gift to parent their child. This is a blessing for the forever family, the child and the birth family.
Thank you for this interview, Bonnie, and I hope you and little Jillian Mei have years of good times together, as mother and daughter.
Bonnie B. Cuzzolino is the author of Letter of Love from China. You can visit her beautiful website at www.plumblossombooks.com.