xin china adoption story family on boat

My Two Lives: A China Adoption Story

Xin, an adoptee from China, shares what he remembers of his life before and after he was adopted.

I am 18 years old, and I have lived two lives.  Recently, I celebrated an anniversary. I have now spent more of my life as an American with a family than I did in China as an orphan.

When I was in China, I lived with a foster family, but I spent most of my time in the orphanage. I enjoyed playing with my friends. Over time, all of my friends found families. I was really happy for them, and I was also very sad and lonely. I felt like I had no one to love me and help me. I was concerned that no one would come for me. I was very worried that when I became an adult I would be homeless. I also was physically hurting. I never had a toothbrush and my teeth hurt. I was very thin because many days I went hungry because I didn’t have food to eat. I also was deaf. I was born without ear canals and ears.   

I met often with a young woman who would take my picture and try to find a family for me. One day, she explained that I was going to be adopted. She was really happy, but I had a difficult time understanding what she was telling me because I couldn’t hear. 

At another meeting, she gave me a photo album with pictures of a mom, a dad, a brother, two dogs, and a home.  My parents had put pictures of me from China in the album.  For my pictures, I had posed like I was saluting, and another one like I was doing karate. My parents and brother did the same poses as me.  I thought it was really funny that they were copying me. I looked at the photo album so many times that I wore out the cover.  

I began to understand that I was going to have a family. I was really happy and really nervous. I was also surprised because I thought I was going to be adopted by a Chinese family. I had never met anyone who was Caucasian.  I was worried about traveling to another country. 

They wanted me! I had never felt like anyone wanted me before.

The day I met my family was wonderful! I was very nervous and excited. I was surprised how happy they were to see me. Everyone gave me a big hug and they were smiling. They wanted me! I had never felt like anyone wanted me before. I had waited for a family for a very long time.  

Everything seemed different in America. In China, I had lived in a building that was like apartments. I had never lived in a house. I was also nervous that my family had big dogs, but the dogs loved me and became my best friends. The food was very different, but also unlimited!  I got to go to school. I didn’t go to school in China because I couldn’t hear. In America, I also had lots of family members who loved me. I had grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. 

I went to a lot of doctors when I came home. My Mom was always with me and even though I couldn’t understand what was being said, I knew that I was being helped. The most major change of my life was that my family got me hearing aids. I could hear birds singing and water running and my favorite thing was hearing music.  

The most major change of my life

was that my family got me hearing

aids. I could hear birds singing

and water running and my favorite

thing was hearing music.  

The biggest challenge I faced was language. I could now hear, but I couldn’t understand what they were saying. My family and I played a lot of charades and drew pictures.  Slowly, I learned English. I had a lot of wonderful teachers in school. I have had one teacher who has taught me every year since I was nine years old. She is very special to me. Language is still difficult for me, but I learn more of it every day.  I work hard, never give up, and take one day at a time.

The last nine years of my life have been very different from the first nine years. The people I see, the food, music, going to school, and having a family are all different from China. My family has helped me adjust by being patient and loving me. They found lots of camps and activities for me to do. I worked hard in Boy Scouts and became an Eagle Scout. I discovered that I love to play soccer. I have played on my high school team all four years.  I also wakeboard and snowboard. We do a lot as a family. Together, we go to games, watch movies, eat out and travel. 

I am thankful for both of “my lives.” My life in China was very difficult, but the challenges I faced made me very strong. I am very thankful for what some people take for granted. I am so happy that I can now hear and go to school.  I am happy that I am healthy. I am happy that I have a lot of friends. Most of all, I am happy that I have a family who loves me very much. 

I often think about the children in China who are waiting for families. Just like me, they want to be loved, and they are afraid of being alone. Please consider becoming their family.  My Mom always tells me, “with great effort comes great reward.”

Xin Mathias | Adoptee

See Xin’s original featured child post from 2011.

Read the story of Xin’s adoption, from his mother’s perspective.

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