A Closer Look at Natalie, This Week’s Waiting Child

by Robin Munro, Senior Writer

Date of Birth: September 24, 2004

I overlooked Natalie*.

Last summer, while visiting orphanages in China, I met so many children.  Children I’ve been writing about and gushing over for months – like this boy, who made me laugh, and this boy, who performed handstands, and this boy, who went rummaging for a Minnie Mouse key chain.  Children so adorable and funny and memorable that I’ve made it my mission to find them homes. Many of them were older boys with special needs – three traits that make them especially hard to place with adoptive families.  Traits that label them and limit them – limit educational and employment opportunities in China, and limit the number of families interested in adopting them – but barely even begin to define them.

It’s an easy thing to do.

When so many children need love and attention, it’s easy to focus on those who immediately grab your interest – or, as a prospective parent, to zoom in on children who meet a certain profile – and overlook the rest.

In China, I was so preoccupied with the more outgoing children that I missed out on meeting some wonderful little ones – children with shyer natures, quieter demeanors, and eyes that sparkle with intelligence and wonder.

Children like Natalie.

Natalie lives at one of the orphanages I visited – the same orphanage where I met Sam.  So recently, when Holt’s waiting child program manager suggested I write about her, I had to ask, did I meet her?

“She was in one of the first groups we saw,” she said.  “I think you were distracted by the little guy with the deformed feet.”

Jessica’s notes say Natalie was crying and had a sad face.  In the pictures we took of Natalie that day, she looked more frustrated than sad – her forehead scrunched in consternation, her little rosebud mouth turned down in a tight frown.  She probably wondered why we made her stand before the camera, holding up a piece of paper with her name on it.  Reports from caregivers say Natalie is “quiet, timid and fairly introverted.” Naturally, posing for pictures would not be high on her list of favorite activities.

But in other pictures, on different days, Natalie is smiling, and surrounded by friends.  Most likely, she knows the person taking her picture.  In the one where she looks happiest, she is engaged in another activity – not standing still before a camera.

I look at Natalie’s wise, thoughtful eyes, observing her surroundings, and I see a storyteller.  Her reports say she likes to read books and draw pictures.  Maybe one day she will grow up and tell her own story.  Maybe she will write a book, a memoir of her childhood – like adult adoptee Thomas Park Clement, profiled in the upcoming Holt Magazine.  Maybe now, as she hangs back from the group, watching and absorbing, the scenes are imprinting on her memory.

What potential this little girl possesses.  So easy to see now that I look closer.

Natalie has spina bifida.  As a consequence, she is incontinent.  But don’t stop there.  Look closer, and see the girl that I now see – described as rational and self-disciplined, a capable learner.  A little girl shy with new people, but fun and playful with her friends – like all of us, different with different people, and in different settings.

Natalie has reminded me to look beyond the surface.  As a little girl, I was just like Natalie – shy and timid, always absorbed in a book.  But unlike Natalie, I had a family who saw all my potential.  Lets hope a family takes a closer look at this beautiful 6-year-old girl with big, thoughtful eyes, and sees all the potential waiting there.

Natalie would thrive most in a family comfortable with her diagnosis and able to provide any therapies or medical treatment she may need.  Experience parenting past her age is preferred.

For more information, contact Erin Mower at erinm@holtinternational.org.

* name changed





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