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The Big Picture
Rebecca "Becky" Coates Nee, a veteran TV news anchor/reporter, is a professional life/career coach. Check out her website at to take the coachability test, subscribe to her free "Beyond the Box" newsletter and to find out if you're an adrenaline junkie.

A Mom Is Born
By Rebecca Coates Nee

My long, unpredictable road to motherhood at the age of 41 ended with a scene that fittingly matched the 18 months of drama, anxiety and emotion it took to get there.

After two days on crowded, dark planes, my husband and I arrived in Guangzhou, China, a large city where we would spend the next two weeks with a 1 year old we were about to meet.

We checked into the White Swan Hotel, a swanky complex located so close to the U.S. Consulate that it's overrun by American couples wheeling, coddling and awaiting visas for their newly adopted Asian infants. The popularity of Asian adoptions by Americans speaks volumes about the turbulent, risky state of adoptions in the United States - but that's another column.

A few hours after our arrival, we gathered with eight other couples for a briefing from our adoption agency. We were told that our future babies, who all hailed from the same orphanage, were traveling seven hours by bus and train with their nannies and foster mothers to join us for dinner that evening.

The mystery that surrounded the past year and a half heightened as we later walked to the restaurant two blocks away. When, exactly, would these children become ours? During dinner? After tea? We took our seats at three tables, nervously looking for signs of the small packages we had traveled so far and waited so long to receive.

Seeing none, we skipped the unidentifiable appetizers and began to discuss adult things like world affairs and terrorism. Little did we know that by breakfast the next morning, we'd be comparing the quantity and quality of our baby's poop.

Finally, half an hour later, a parade of babies identically dressed in pink suits entered the restaurant in the arms of nine Chinese women. We parents-in-waiting dropped our forks and chopsticks and grabbed an array of still and video cameras. The nannies and babies made their way to a table across from us. My husband and I had no trouble recognizing our child from the pictures that had been sent. While the other babies had dark toupees covering their heads, little Pan Xiao Shi sported light brown peach fuzz, protruding round cheeks and Gerber lips. She also wore an intense stare, rivaled only by her new dad.

For the next hour, we remained segregated from our future offspring, observing and photographing their every move at a respectful distance. The infants ate rice and congee from their nannies' ladles, totally unaware that the crazy Caucasians waving and crying nearby were about to become their new role models.

The woman holding our child was clearly her foster mother because she kept wiping tears away from her own eyes. Her emotions made me feel sad and terribly guilty. Were we doing the right thing?


Finally, after what seemed like a painfully endless string of Chinese courses, we marched behind the babies and nannies to a playroom donated by Mattel in the White Swan Hotel. One by one, the caretakers handed over the girls to their new parents, with only a few mistaken identities.

Our baby's foster mom put on a brave smile as she gave Nikki to me, saying "Mama, Mama." Nikki, unconvinced, glared at me until she discovered my jangling earrings.

And so our instant mother-daughter relationship began. During our long stay in the hotel room, Nikki did show some signs of grief, but she also displayed enough laughter and happiness to ease our concerns. She continues to thrive well in her new American surroundings.

As I rocked and sang her to sleep our first night together, I knew I finally had the answer to all those questions about why we adopted a baby from China: That's where my daughter happened to be.