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Lucy LeiIt is said that when men die on the battlefield, their yearning to slake a dying need for solace turns—not to sweethearts, wives or even offspring—but to their mothers.

A mother’s love stands alone in the terrain of our memories; its definition unique and singular. The so called ‘milk’ of human kindness originated with our mothers. Without it, we would have died or experienced an emotional existence whereby we were crippled beyond repair.

The first time I lost a mother (my biological one) when I was four and half—now my daughter Lizzie’s age—the devastation warped the infrastructure of my emotional world like a Haitian earthquake.

Forty-five years later, I sometimes reach out and tenderly brush the golden crown of my Lizzie’s hair in memory of an old love, still embroidered with the bitter piquantness of a child’s grief.

Then, at sixteen, I lost a “mother” again—a social worker who had role modeled for me, mentored me, and helped me put the pieces back together again, shard by fragmented shard.

Again at thirty-six—a third time the charm, I suppose—a foster mother, dearest friend, trusted guardian of my journey for more than twenty years, who faded away suddenly as she had arrived, as if fearing that to look back may have transformed  her from a paragon into a pillar of salt.

These were all lessons to me—now bound by the sacred trust of my own motherhood—that if ‘abandonment’ is the instrument of a child’s spiritual disfigurement and infinite suffering, then a welcoming embrace must be the restoration and saving of it.

Ergo, adoption, driven by the selfless desire to care for a child (regardless of their biological origins), must be one of the purest incarnations of a mother’s love alive.

For many women over 40, adoption is an ideal path to motherhood.

Sylvia Butler, a fifty-year-old Special Education Teacher from Greeneville, TN, met her husband Michael (now a 56 year old Nurse) on a well known internet matching service and they married five years ago.

Butler, whose children from her first marriage are now grown up, had never planned on having children again when her last pregnancy with twins involved complications resulting in the death of one premature twin at four months of age.

Devastated and determined never to experience similar grief, she had her “tubes tied” at the age of thirty. Her marriage, which had been “shaky at best,” ended afterwards.

Little did she dream that—fifteen years later—she would meet the man who would  re-ignite her yearning for motherhood.

“We quickly knew that we wanted a child together” says Butler. “I was 45 at the time, so the first thing we did was check into having a child the old fashioned way, the doctor felt that we had  a very small chance of success.”

The Butlers, who were already raising Sylvia’s adopted (then) 3-year-old granddaughter, and caring for Michael’s 86-year-old aunt—sandwich-generation style—were determined to adopt.

However, after initial inquiries, they were quickly discouraged with attempts to divert them to foster parenting instead.

According to Sylvia, “Although I appreciate all of those people who take children into their homes for a few months and give them back, we did not feel we could do that.”

The Butlers then began to discuss international adoption, but “were scared off by the high costs and strict guidelines” and gave up for a few years.

And then it looked as though serendipity, in the form of a fellow teacher, played a hand.

“Last September, we were talking again about how much we wanted to adopt” recalls Sylvia, “and she came running into my room, wanting to show me pictures of little girls available for adoption in China.”

She laid her hands on a photograph of little Lucy Lei and, in that moment, a mother found her child.

Lucy Lei needed heart surgery to correct a congenital defect and had only two fingers on her right hand. The Butlers had no money saved up to begin adoption proceedings.

It didn’t matter.

“When we saw her, we just knew she was meant to be our child” says Sylvia Butlter. “There are two teachers at our school who have adopted from China and thousands of people on the internet who either have or are travelling that road.”

After launching their blog, Bringing Home Lei (http://www NULL.bringinghomelei NULL.blogspot NULL.com/), to fundraise for the long, arduous journey of complicated international paperwork, home study, criminal background checks, and much more, the Butlers are set to bring their baby home in Spring 2010.

Sylvia Butler is not the first over-40 mom to consider adoption as the right path.

Cynthia Wilson James, pregnancy educator for women over 35 and founder of InSeason Mom (http://www NULL.inseasonmom NULL.org/) in South Carolina is a strong advocate of adoption.

“By the time that I got married at age 40” she says, “I had many examples of single and married friends over 35 adopting babies. When a baby grows in your heart, it doesn’t matter whether the baby came from your body or not.”

Cynthia, who naturally conceived both of her daughters in her 40s, feels nonetheless “that sometimes the prayers of women who want to become mommies or have another child are already answered in adoption.”

Sylvia Butler is clear on the benefits to adoptive children from older parents: “I believe we are more prepared and have a different appreciation for parenting and a different outlook on life.”

“We are not dreaming of retirement.  We are dreaming of taking Western vacations with a camp stove in the back of our minivan– a minivan filled with our children– camping out and teaching them how to make smores and roast marshmallows.”

And for her daughter, Sylvia Butler will go all the way to China and back, if that’s what it takes.

Note to readers:

Update: Three-year old Lucy Lei is in desperate need for open heart surgery; US doctors have given the prognosis that without surgery, Lucy’s life is going to be very short. Due to the degeneration of her health, her adoption has been sped up to March 2010. However, the Butlers are still in urgent need of $14,160 USD to meet costs. Since posting 14 hours ago, there has been a strong, sympathetic response to their story! To contact over-40 mom Sylvia Butler and to donate, please go to her blog: http://www.bringinghomelei.blogspot.com/ (http://www NULL.bringinghomelei NULL.blogspot NULL.com/)

For more info on InSeason Mom:  http://www.inseasonmom.org/ (http://www NULL.inseasonmom NULL.org/)

For other useful links:

http://adopting.adoption.com/child/older-parent-adoption.html (http://adopting NULL.adoption NULL.com/child/older-parent-adoption NULL.html)

http://www.faithfuladoption.org/adoption/ (http://www NULL.faithfuladoption NULL.org/adoption/)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adoption (http://en NULL.wikipedia NULL.org/wiki/Adoption)

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2 Responses to All The Way To China And Back

  1. s. wiltern says:

    Interesting blog. Each actual historical generation (WWII Gen, Boomers, etc.) passes through the “Sandwich Generation” phase of the life cycle. “Sandwich Generation” is not an actual generation, but rather a term which has been used for over 30 years to describe the life stage which various actual generations pass through.

    Actually, most of those who are currently part of the “sandwich generation life phase” are not Boomers, but rather are part of Generation Jones (born 1954-1965, between Boomers and Gen X). It is important to distinguish between the post-WWII demographic boom in births vs. the cultural generations born during that era. Generations are a function of the common formative experiences of its members, not the fertility rates of its parents. Many experts now believe it breaks down more or less this way:

    DEMOGRAPHIC boom in babies: 1946-1964
    Baby Boom GENERATION: 1942-1953
    Generation Jones: 1954-1965
    Generation X: 1966-1978

    Particularly relevant today in light of the State of the Union speech tonight is Generation Jones, which has received a great deal of media attention recently. As numerous top national commentators have pointed out, GenJones voters might well decide the 2010 midterms, so it’s not a surprise to see the Obama administration targeting GenJonesers with these new proposals.

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