Web of Connection

Recently, I was delighted to receive some surprising words of encouragement from another adoptive mom persuading me to stay on course with my book. This came in the form of a friend request that truly made my day. You see this newfound friend also happens to be writing a book regarding birth mothers in China and wisely proposed that it might be helpful for us to connect and support each other throughout our writing process. I was grateful for the validation and joy that I derived from her message, but at the same time I was somewhat intrigued by how this came to be. When I asked her how she found me, she shared how unexpectedly it resulted from her use of the keywords, “other woman,” of all things, as she conducted an online search. We both got quite a chuckle from that one! And, by way of introduction, this blog is all about this most auspicious turn of events…  

I received permission to use my newfound friend’s name (which is Sherrie) because she is the source of inspiration behind this blog post and because I wanted to share her remarkable story. As a point of information, Sherrie told me that her book was similar to mine, but distinct in that she is writing fiction from the birthmothers’ perspective. Although she mentioned how that presents its own separate set of challenges for her, it is clear that our connection lies in the similarities associated with our interest in birth moms in China, and the task of staying on course with the writing and publication of our books.

In my excitement to hear more about her and her story, I replied to Sherrie’s message and friend request instantly, and then proceeded to (yes, you guessed it) Google my way through a search to find out more about her (and her book). As I read through the stories and articles via various links, I was completely stunned when I found out that Sherrie’s eldest daughter adopted from China, Katie, had passed away in 2011 at the age of 16. Her “home-going,” as Sherrie puts it, followed a four and a half year battle with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), an aggressive blood cancer. I had no idea, and did not expect that… So I simply sat there in front of my computer screen, immobile and stunned as I scrolled through several links that made up the parts of her touching story. And all I kept wondering was how that could happen? How was that possible? What that must have felt like – for Sherrie, her husband, and the rest of their family, not to mention, Katie, herself?

The realization that Sherrie’s daughter was no longer with her stopped me completely in my tracks, and I thought about this for days – reminiscent of the familiar saying, “there but for the grace of God go I.” The fact that any of us could have this happen hit so close because we are all as vulnerable as the next parent, whether we’ve adopted or not. However, thinking of all the hoops we had to jump to adopt from China, I could not imagine the loss of a child after working so hard to make it happen. Sherrie takes us there, and shares openly what that was like for her and her family. Therefore, the excerpts I’ve decided to share with you today do not come from the letters I collected for my book. Instead, they come from Sherrie’s blog about the book she is writing. In some ways her rationale for writing her book is comparable to the reasons parents wrote letters to the birth mothers for my book – to share their experience of the child that binds them, as adoptive mother  & birth mother, for life.  

Sherrie writes, “Believing the trial our family went through was allowed by God, in 2012 I began writing the story of our journey of international adoption, the world of pediatric leukemia and relapse, a world-wide bone marrow search, transplant, and the home-going of our then sixteen year old daughter, Katie.  In addition to our personal story, I am writing a fictional story from the birth-mother’s point of view, unfolding in tandem with our story.  Though this part of the story is fiction, I am trying to be as accurate as possible to the cultural and societal forces present during the time period.  As I write our stories, I am convinced that the lives of Katie’s two families – biological and adoptive – run parallel at times and, in one dramatic moment, intersect.

I hope others interested in the topics addressed within this website will find valuable resources here. I also hope to connect with others who have been touched by international adoption. Please feel free to contact me via the website, through Facebook, or through email.”

Katie Cramer

In memory of Katie Janae Cramer 02/25/1994 – 01/06/2011

For those of you who may be interested, you can download Sherrie’s blog by going to: http://www.heavenscentblog.net


ORIGIN: What was I thinking?

As the idiom goes, it feels good to be in the saddle again! I am referring to the ebb and flow of my relationship with this book project – LETTERS TO BIRTH MOTHERS IN CHINA. I’ve stepped in and out of it over the past few years now, probably the longest I’ve ever held on to a project, most likely because it is SO CLOSE TO HOME and HEART. I’m beginning to think I could write an article about the process itself, but for now, let me not deviate from the task at hand. Writing this blog allows me to immerse myself once again in the files and notes, the partially written sections of the book, and of course, the letters themselves, the best part of all. As you will see, the beauty in the sentiments expressed in these letters will touch you deeply.

Looking through my material once again, I stumbled upon a letter I wrote to the Chinese adoption community as I recruited letter writers for my book. I think it might be useful to share some of that information in order to shed some light on how this all began. Here is the beginning of my story and my relationship with the “Letters to Birth Mothers in China” Project.

As I mentioned in my introductory blog, Emilie was brought home from China in May of 2004. It was shortly thereafter that the impetus for the “Letters to Birth Mothers in China” Project was born. During the summer of 2004 I began requesting letters from adoptive parents through several Chinese adoption listserves. Later that fall my request was approved and posted on the national Families with Children from China (FCC) website. Below is an example of my request for letters posted on several adoption listserves that offers a glimpse of my motivation and inspiration behind the creation of this book project.

Home coming wish from dear friends as we arrived with Emilie

Home coming wish from dear friends as we arrived with Emilie

Hello to all,

I am the mother of a little Fu named Emilie. Emilie was adopted at 14 months of age last Mother’s Day in Nanchang, Jiangxi Province, China. She is a beautiful and bright little girl that my husband and I feel very blessed to have in our lives. For reasons I will explain later, I have been thinking of putting together a collection of letters from adoptive mothers to their daughter’s birth mother in China. As things stand, I realize these letters would not be deliverable and would be written only as an expressive exercise concerning the little girl we (as mothers) have in common.

This is based on my own frequent thoughts about Emilie’s birth mom and what she must be feeling and wondering about when she thinks of her. At times you may have also wondered how hard it must have been to give up such a precious little girl.  One can only imagine what this must have taken. In thinking about Emilie’s birth mother, I often think about what I’d like for her to know about Emilie and how she is doing. I’ve thought of a letter that would explain and bring together that void that now exists between her origin and past life in China and her present and future life with us.

Although these letters may never reach each of the respective birth mothers we would be writing to, I think they will serve as an important connection in our triad (adoptee, birthparents, and adoptive parents) of adoption (even if only as an expressive exercise at this time). I believe this could have more significant consequences as the girls get older and may want to reconnect with their Chinese roots. At least they would have our thoughts and feelings written out to the mom who gave them birth. And who knows, maybe one day this collection of letters could reach birth moms in China and offer them some hope and peace of mind. I also realize this may be as important for adoptive fathers to take part in also, for now I would like to focus on adoptive mothers and birth mothers.

So, I am writing to members of different lists to see if they are interested in contributing to this collection of letters. I would then put these letters together into a publication (more than likely, a book) so that they could be shared. I am planning to go even further into categorizing them and analyzing them for themes and comparisons. Without knowing what kind of response I will get, it is hard to determine exactly what the end product would look like. For those of you who decide to contribute, I would like for you to consider the following questions: (1) If you were to write a letter to your daughter’s birth mother, what would you like to say to her or let her know about your daughter? (2) What do you imagine your daughter’s birth mother story to be? (3) How do you talk to your daughter about her birth mom?

I would like to respect concerns re: identifying information. Your names can be disguised if you’d like for publication purposes, but I will need to have at least first names and an accurate email address to contact you (for questions, editing, authorization, etc.). It would be nice to also have your current city and state in the signature of your letter. Therefore, if you decide to participate in this project, I will be most appreciative if you include your full name, daughter’s name and age, and current city and state where you reside in your letter. If for some reason you do not want any of this information included in the publication, please specify how you want this information to be disguised.

To be honest, I am not sure how this project idea mightl be received by list members. I guess it will depend on how much sense this makes to others, or if they also wonder about the birth mom’s experience as much as I do. I plan to accept letters for the next 6 months (until April/May, 2005) and then see where we stand with submissions. During this time I will be analyzing the submitted letters for themes and highlights and I will contact possible publishers when a more substantive sample and clearer outline of the book can be presented.

For further questions and submissions please contact me at <silmail@cox.net>.  You can also submit your electronic copies of the letter at that email address (as an attached WORD file or include it in the body of your email). If you decide to mail a hard copy or handwritten copy please mail it to the address below.

Thank you,
Silvia E. Doan

I ended up accepting letters through the summer of 2005, and throughout that time searched and read as much of the literature available regarding the women, birth mothers, and families of China. Several of the classic, most popular and respected included “ The Lost Daughters of China” by Karen Evans, “Wanting a Daughter, Needing a Son” by Kay Ann Johnson, and “The Good Women of China” by Xinran. All of these books, as well as other sources, confirmed how important it was to convey our message of understanding and compassion for all that they faced as part of their decision to surrender their children within, and beyond, the borders of China.

China Adoption Books

It was clear that although the book was conceived with several ideas in mind, a primary purpose for “The Birth Mother Letter Project” was to reach out to Chinese birth moms by conveying our message – that we hold them in our hearts and to reassure them of how important and pivotal they are in our children’s lives, never to be forgotten. They hold the key to a past we can only imagine and speculate about as we try to fill in the gaps of knowledge for our daughters about self, origin, and the proverbial answer to the question, “why”?

As you will note throughout your reading of my blog and book, the letters are compassionate and written with a deep understanding for the birth mothers’ plight and loss. Gratitude for the gift of their child is made abundantly clear, with a sense of wonder about the personal characteristics that the daughters might share with their birth mother. Reassurance that the children will be cared for and loved forever is steadfast and resolute.

I would like to leave you with another excerpt from one of the letters. The letters were organized into themes that emerged from the thoughts and feelings shared by their respective letter writer. This one most clearly conveys sentiments of compassion and gratitude.

Compassion & Gratitude

“I am sorry for whatever conditions resulted in your having to leave her that day. It must have been very difficult. While I have read about some of the circumstances that compelled you to have to give her up, I do not know the exact details of your particular situation. I can never know what really happened, what you went through and only in the darkest of times can I image the pain you must have endured.   Please allow me to thank you. Thank you for being so selfless. Thank you for the wonderful treasure that she is. Thank you for letting me be a part of her life, for the privilege of holding her, of loving her, of guiding her and of watching her grow up into the exceptional woman I know that she will one day be. Thank you for sharing her with me. I can never repay the true debt both she and I owe to you. So I humbly offer to you, this letter…about our daughter.”

                                                                                                                                                   K.M., USA

I will continue to share letters in each of my blogs. So far I have shared parts of a couple of letters, but my thoughts are to also share entire letters, a blog at a time. Please let me know what you think, about sharing partial or entire letters, and of course, I’d love to hear about your reactions to each of my blogs.

All my best,



“I can never repay the true debt both she and I owe you. So I humbly offer you this letter… about our daughter.”

Excerpt from a letter written by adoptive mother, K. M., in the U.S. to her daughter’s unknown birth mother in China

Happy Birth Mothers Day to all Birth Moms in the world, and especially to those in China!

What a better way to launch my Letters to Birth Mothers in China Blog than on Birth Mothers Day! As many of you may know, this very special day takes place the day before Mothers Day as a way of acknowledging and honoring the moms who gave birth to our adopted daughters and sons. This day commemorating all Birth Mothers in the world originated in Seattle in 1990, and was created by a group of birth mothers to educate others about the birth mother’s experience, to support each other, and honor their place in the adoption process.

Letters to Birth Mothers in China has been a project I began about 10 years ago, shortly after adopting my daughter from China on Mothers Day, May 9th, 2004. My daughter’s birth mom, whom we may also refer to as her first mom, biological, or natural mom, was always (and still is) at the forefront of my deepest thoughts and feelings as an adoptive mom. This project, and eventually the book that will be written about these letters is dedicated to all of the birth moms in China, for their courage and true love for the children they have given us.

Sixty-five letters were collected from adoptive parents (mostly moms and one dad) and a few were received from adopted daughters as well. The letters are written specifically to their respective child’s birth mother in China as though they could speak to them. The idea behind this project has always been to write a book about these very heart-warming letters, and it is still my intention to see that through. However, in the meantime, I believe it is time to start sharing them with the world, especially with the Chinese birth mothers they were intended for. At this point, you may rightly ask what has taken so long, and the best response to that would simply be LIFE itself, and all that it brings from year to year.

Although the book is taking shape, the time is now to finally share these letters with the world, and what better way to do this than to blog! As international adoption in China reaches an all time low, we are faced with diminishing opportunities to convey the heartfelt messages expressed in these letters to our counterparts in China. This blog will serve as a medium by which our innermost thoughts, feelings, and reflections as adoptive parents can be conveyed. Hopefully they will reach the mothers they were intended for in the first place.

My purpose will be to blog my way through the writing of this book with reflections and thoughts about excerpts that will be shared from one or more letters at a time. I hope you will appreciate and take in the kindness and humanity expressed in each of these letters, and will consider letting me know what you think. It has been my honor to shepherd this along the way, and I know that hearing from you will move me to another whole level of experience that will enrich and drive much of the writing the book.

Thank you,



Picture taken exactly 10 years ago today (May 10th, 2004) on the day we officially adopted Emilie in China.