By Robb Fraley
Chief Technology Officer
As we near Father’s Day, I often think of those really important topics of discussion you have when you and your significant other are getting serious — the topic of “kids.” My wife Laura and I had talked about adoption as a great way to eventually add to our future family. It was a strong possibility in the back of our minds as we moved forward with our wedding and new life together.
As newlyweds, we spent our first two years in San Francisco where I was doing my post-doc work and Laura worked downtown. Her office was right on the edge of Chinatown. We had a Chinese dentist located above a jade store and enjoyed Asian friends and their food and culture. It was great exposure to diversity for both of us who grew up in the Midwest.
Later, after moving to St Louis and having our two boys, Laura and I picked back up on the idea of adoption. We really wanted a girl, and adopting from China made sense considering their social policies and our positive experiences back in San Francisco. Monsanto and Laura’s company had strong cultures supporting adoption. Several people I knew well had just adopted children, including my Agriculture co-lead at the time and a close personal friend. Their sharing of their adoption experiences was important in our decision to move forward with our plans and dreams of adopting a child.
I remember a lot of bureaucracy surrounding the adoption process. There was a ton of paperwork and meetings with the adoption agency, and the process took a long time, about 14 months. The scariest moment was when the adoption social worker visited us at home and spoke to our sons (ages 11 and 7 at the time) about whether we were “fit” parents — a frightening moment for any parents of two young boys!
Eventually we received the first picture of our soon-to-be daughter. We were very excited and getting ready to leave to go to China to get her, when we got a dreaded phone call. Apparently the date on the notary stamp which was used on all of our documents was incorrect. Laura and I had to travel to the state capitol of Missouri to rush to get all our paperwork re-stamped before leaving for China in January 1998.
Of course, it was worth the effort! When our daughter was brought to us at our hotel room in Hefei, China, it didn’t matter whether or not we were there or at the hospital receiving our sons for the first time. That initial look into our new daughter’s face was all it took. It was one of the most pivotal and memorable moments in our lives.
We spent several days in Hefei completing the adoption process and walking around on shopping and touring trips with our daughter. It was winter and snowy and icy. In the Chinese culture, babies are bundled up with blankets and long sleeves in an attempt to keep them out of drafts. Being winter, she was wrapped in layers of scarves and mittens, which she kept pulling off. We just couldn’t keep those mittens on her! The older Chinese women would constantly come up to us and help put the baby’s mittens back on.
Our daughter is now 16 years old and driving, cheerleading, and enjoying high school. Last summer, Laura and I took her back to China to visit Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. She was amazed by the number of people and the size of the cities and appreciated the culture and the incredible history of the country.
While the focus of adoption is often on the child being adopted, for us, it is really our whole family whose lives were enriched because she came into our lives. Our family has been the real winner.