Waiting for our third adoption was greatly influenced by the SARS outbreak in China. For a couple of weeks it was uncertain if this adoption could be finished in time, for Erik was near his 46th birthday, the absolute endpoint to adopt under Dutch law.

In June it became clear that the epidemic was at its end. Waiting became almost unbearable now... Finally, on July 16, 2003 we received the referral of Zhu Shouping, a nearly three year old girl we named Dido. On the first schoolday her sisters Ajiet (7) and Lotus (5) wore a T-shirt with her photo to show her to the world. Only one week later the four of us were on our way to China.

We had a very good flight and arrived in Beijing in good shape. The bad news was that we had to hang around all day in a hotel lobby before flying to Hefei in the evening. The weather was very hot, so we returned quickly from a walk outside. After a long wait we finally went back to the airport. We arrived in Hefei in a thunderstorm when it was already dark. We met with mister Ding, the same guide who helped us adopt Lotus three years ago. Our travel group was quite small, three families in total. One family travelled with a grandmother and their first daughter, from the third family only the mother travelled to Hefei.

Mister Ding told us we would meet our daughters the next day at three o'clock. So we were permitted a long night sleep, which was very welcome. The next morning we had some time to kill. The children were even more impatient than we were. We walked the familiar streets, for we adopted Lotus from the same province.
The rain of last night had driven away the hot weather. At least for one day, it was nice and relatively cool outside. We were looking for an Internet café, and after a lot of asking around found one in an unexpected place near an open market. We sent some messages home and I made some photos at the market. Then back tot the hotel, we dressed up and waited….

At three o'clock our three families were in front of the Peony room in our hotel. We carried camera's, video camera's, toys, water, cookies, paperwork. We even tried to discuss camera tactics to catch 'the moment' for all families.

However, the door opened, we got in and we all got the children the moment we entered. So far for camera tactics.

When I entered I saw a nanny with a girl in a blue dress, that didn't look at all like Dido so I walked on. The nanny pointed enthusiastically towards the T-shirts of Ajiet and Lotus that showed Dido's referral photo.

At that moment I knew the girl in the blue dress was my daughter.

Was it romantic? No, it was hectic, getting inside, putting stuff down, hurrying towards the nanny who already had wanted to give Dido to Erik. Erik had his hands full of things and also felt the child should be given to her mother. Dido started to cry when I took her, but she did not fight. She was just so scared. She cried and cried. Her sisters could not believe it finally had happened and kept asking: Is this Dido? Yes, here she was! It was so good to finally hold her, after all these months of waiting.

We did not recognize her, for they had cut her hair very short because of the heat. She was so small and light as a feather. She was not happy. Mister Ding gave us more than half an hour just to sit with our new daughters, before starting paperwork. We talked to the nanny and were told that Dido had been very excited when she had heard that her papa and mama came to get her. At this moment she sure was not happy, but I felt that her age (nearly 3) and the fact that she knew she would be adopted helped her greatly in the transition.

Paperwork went very smoothly, and it was our third time. So no surprises here. We made our fingerprints and Dido had her little feet put in red ink and onto the paperwork. Dido had stopped crying and was posing with her sisters. She started to get interested in her new family.

In the end we returned to our room. At that point I realized that everything had changed. You had left that room a few hours ago with two children and now you were back in that very same room, clothes lay in the same place you left them, but…your family had changed forever. Ajiet and Lotus showed Dido the toys we took with us and they played, all three of them, on the bed. Dido had stopped crying during the paperwork and was happy ever after. One hour in the room she was laughing and jumping on the bed and chasing balloons through the room.

Erik and I sat and watched and tried to take it all in. Some moments I felt too much happened in one afternoon. We felt so happy to see our family complete. We just looked at Dido to take her in, to watch her play. She was not familiar yet, we knew nearly nothing of her. But finally we were together.

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