Nola Wunderle has written an extraordinary story about the adoption of her daughter Kartya from Taiwan. It’s a heartbreaking tale that begins as she waits for Kartya at the airport arrival gates, only to be presented with a child who looks nothing like the baby she was expecting. In this extract from her book Lost Daughter, Nola recounts what happened next.
We were all full of expectation as we waited impatiently at Melbourne’s international airport. I hadn’t slept properly for weeks. All of us had been waiting for this moment for months. Our fourth child was soon to arrive. Kiersten, particularly, was eagerly awaiting her little sister. She loved her two brothers, but a sister adopted just like she was would be very special.
What a mixed bunch we were. Me, the Aussie girl from Geelong. Othmar, the dad, born and bred in Germany. Kiersten from Vietnam, a Eurasian war orphan. Alex and Josh, half German and half Australian. Kiersten was six. Alex was five and Joshua two.
And our newest addition was about to come through the airport gates: Kartya Elizabeth from Taiwan.
It had been almost five months since we had first set eyes on the photo of the little baby girl and fallen in love with her. It was the little fat face with the cupid’s bow lips that I fell for. I felt like I had met her before and that she belonged with us.
I kept glancing at the photo, as if to remind myself what she would look like. How could I possibly forget? I’d been carrying the photo in my purse for months. What a robust, healthy baby she appeared to be.
I had butterflies in my stomach. My feelings were a mixture of excitement and fear. I hoped that she would like us. I hoped she would bond with us. And then I told myself that was a stupid thing to think. She was just a baby; of course she would love us. Othmar was squeezing my hand tightly assuring me that everything would be fine. I knew he was eager to hold his second daughter.
Michael and Susan, a couple we had met through an adoptive parents group, were bringing Kartya home to us. We had every confidence that they would take care of our baby during the flight.
Our constant phone calls to and from Taiwan with Julie Chu, the lawyer, assured us that Kartya was well cared for. Kiersten, Alex and Josh had each brought a soft fluffy animal for their little sister. My sister Nerida was there, poised with her camera, ready to record the special event. I couldn’t help but think that it was more stressful than giving birth. Giving birth was easy for me. I loved being pregnant and the boys just popped out. No dramas. No waiting around, heart thumping, hand sweating in anticipation.
Oh, God, I suddenly saw Michael and Susan in the distance coming through the doors. Susan had a tiny bundle in her arms; it couldn’t be Kartya, it must be her baby. The bundle was too small to be Kartya. My eyes scanned the crowd for Michael; he must have our baby. Our baby would be sitting up, looking around. I said to Othmar anxiously, ‘That’s not her, is it?’ He shrugged his shoulders. Susan fought her way through the crowd of people, walked right up to me and handed me the tiny bundle. ‘Congratulations, Mum. Here is your daughter.’
My mind was telling me that they had sent the wrong baby from Taiwan. She looked nothing like her photograph. What had happened to our baby? This couldn’t be her. This baby only looked about three months old. Where was our big fat healthy baby? I held her in my arms and spoke out loud as the realisation began to dawn. ‘Oh my God, you poor little thing, who did this to you?