An Adoptee from China Finds Peace in His Mother's Singing

A mother finds her son half a world away and he is comforted by a familiar lullaby.

Posted in , Dec 27, 2016

Becky and Todd with little Samuel smiling

Our two-year-old son was waiting. I stared at the pile of paperwork in front of me—the paperwork that would finalize the adoption. My husband, Todd, and I had traveled to Beijing, China, to adopt this baby.

Did he know his new mom was finally here to meet him? Was he just as scared as I was?

Why China? friends asked. It was hard to explain. I took piano lessons as a girl, and my teacher’s husband was Chinese. I was fascinated by the delicate Chinese trinkets he had displayed around the house.

While I waited to be picked up from my lesson, I studied each one. The man treated me, a child, with kindness and respect. I never forgot him.


After three miscarriages we were drawn to adopt from China. Our prayers were answered in the boy we called Samuel, his very name meaning, “God has heard.”

But now that we were here in Beijing, about to become official parents, I was scared. “Samuel’s going to love you,” Todd said, pointing at where I needed to sign. “You’ll be a great mom.” But Samuel and I were so different. Was I really the right mother for him?

Todd and I made our way through the stack of paperwork. Our translator handed me the last one when the orphanage director appeared, carrying a little boy dressed in winter clothing about three sizes too big for him. Samuel?

I’d carried his picture around with me for months. And now here he was.  Our child. If the moment was over-whelming for me, it was too much for him. He let out a loud cry and burst into tears.

I grabbed the backpack I’d stuffed with toys and snacks. Todd pulled out a mini football and offered it to our son. He turned his head away, still crying.

“Maybe he’s hungry,” I said. I opened a box of dry cereal. Samuel wouldn’t even look at me. When the orphanage director tried, putting a little “o” in his mouth, he spit the food out. She placed Samuel into my arms, which made him howl. I’m completely blowing this, I thought.


There wasn’t time to give Samuel a chance to calm down. We had to get him a passport photo and meet with the Civil Affairs Office.

The photo shop was within walking distance from the Civil Affairs Office, so we took to the snow-covered sidewalks with our translator. Samuel would not stop crying even for the photo.

“Can we really blame him for reacting this way?” I said. “We look different, sound different, and even smell different than anything he has ever known before.”

Todd had no better luck than I did when he tried to hold and comfort him. That made sense. Samuel had been cared for by women all his life. Somehow it seemed worse when I was making him cry. “You will all adjust,” the translator said.

The Civil Affairs Office couldn’t accept the first photo. When we stepped into the photo shop the second time, and headed behind the tiny curtain where Samuel’s picture would be retaken, I didn’t know what would happen if this one wasn’t good enough.

I had waited so long to be a mother, and this seemed like proof that I wasn’t good enough.

I jiggled Samuel gently on my hip. Wasn’t there anything that could comfort my son? A mother should intuit such things. Music had always brought me comfort. It was the only thing I hadn’t tried. So I sang the first song I could think of, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”


Samuel jerked his head off of my shoulder. His tiny face was red and wet with tears, but he stared at me transfixed. His cries immediately stopped. Slowly he caught his breath again.

He was entranced by my singing when the photographer snapped the second attempt at a passport photo. An angel must have turned Samuel’s sweet face directly to the camera. The shot was perfect.

I sang as we made our journey back to the Civil Affairs Office, and I sang as Todd answered various in-depth questions about our decision to adopt. Why had we come to China?

How would we share Samuel’s culture with him as he grew older? Might we visit the country with him one day? I sang softly through it all. Samuel’s big, curious eyes didn’t stray from mine.

Suddenly the interview was over. Papers were stamped. It just didn’t feel real. Maybe it wasn’t.

“Why didn’t they interview me?” I asked the translator. “Will I have to come back?”

“No, of course not! This step is over. Samuel is your son.”

“But they asked Todd so many questions. They barely asked me anything. Isn’t that a bad sign?”

“They watched you sing, and how he responded, and they knew you were the right mother for him.”

And God knew too.

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