‘My parents abandoned me in China. Now I’ve made it to the US and I want to find them’
After a tough start in life, a Chinese preschool teacher working in the US is ready to return to her roots
A Chinese preschool teacher who made her way to the United States after being abandoned in a orphanage as a young girl has started a search to find her birth parents.
Dang Miaomiao overcame her tough start in life – she was probably abandoned as an infant due to the fact that she was born with scoliosis, a medical condition that affects the curve of the spine – to win a place at an American college, where she was able to continue her studies thanks in part to sponsorship from an American couple.
Having studied and worked in the United States for 12 years, Dang, who was raised in an orphanage in Luoyang, in the central province of Henan, said it was time to start the search for her biological parents.
“Over the past few years, I focused on settling in the US. As time passed by, I began to think about my past and wonder how I came to this world,” Dang said speaking from her home in Seattle.
“I am worrying if I didn’t try to look for my birth family right now, people who have any clues will start dying because I was abandoned more than 30 years ago,” she said.
According to her official documentation she was born on July 1, 1983 – a date determined by the staff at the orphanage.
But she said that when she asked exactly when she had been taken in by the orphanage and how old she was at the time, different staff members had given her conflicting accounts.
Without any information about her birth family, the orphanage gave her the name Dang Miaomiao. Dang means the Communist Party in Mandarin and every child at the orphanage was given that surname since the orphanage, a government-run institution, wanted to highlight that the youngsters were under the patronage of the party. Miao is Chinese for sapling.
Dang said her congenital disability affected her health, with a doctor once saying that if she had not received medical treatment, she would not have lived long.
“It was really hard to hear that,” she said.
“My dreams were shattered when I fully learned about my disability.”
Because of her scoliosis, she is short compared to most adults – her height is less than 1.4 metres (4 feet 6 inches). It also affects her lung capacity which means she gets tired easily and has trouble climbing stairs.
While attending state primary and middle schools, she was allowed to skip physical education classes due to her disability.
“I wanted to be taller and I wanted to do things like everyone else,” she said.
What made her feel particularly low spirited was that she saw many children at the orphanage were getting adopted, an opportunity she saw as a “life changing” moment.
“I felt extremely sad and asked myself: where is my opportunity?” said Dang. “As I grew up, the chance of being adopted became smaller and smaller.”
She said at the orphanage, she lacked a sense of security because of her height and she felt lonely. She didn’t have many friends since the children there were of various ages and many of them were boys.
Dang did not have surgery to redress her spinal curvature, which was too costly for the orphanage to afford, until 2001 when an American tourist travelled to her welfare centre and saw her, offering to fund her surgery.
Dang went to Gulou Hospital, a leading medical centre in the eastern city of Nanjing, for surgery and rehabilitation treatment.
Later, Dang studied computing at Pingyuan College in Xinxiang, and after graduating was given the opportunity in 2005 to study in the US under the sponsorship of an American couple.
Dang said she hesitated for a while as her English was poor at the time, but finally convinced herself to “take the risk” to go to the US.
She did not wish to give too much information about the “kind-hearted” couple who funded her studies, saying only that they had no connection to the tourist who funded her surgery and had been moved to help her after witnessing her plight during a visit to the orphanage.
She went to three schools and colleges in Seattle, including an English-language school and a local university where she was awarded a bachelor’s degree. She worked at several institutions, all of which are in the early education industry.
Dang said she was inspired by her experience of life in the orphanage to help children at her kindergarten.
She said she believed orphanages and kindergartens were similar in may ways.
“I grew up in the orphanage and clearly understand that every child needs care from their teachers. So I try to be nice to every child and give everyone enough attention.”
Dang said she still undergoes check-ups with respiratory doctors every year but did not want to go into more details about her health.
She said she had started the effort to search for her parents after reading a story circulating among an adoptee support group that a girl who returned to China with the American family that adopted her had tracked down her birth parents within 48 hours.
“Their story made me think searching for birth parents is not that impossible,” said Dang, adding that doing this was not easy as it “brings up a roller-coaster of emotions”.
As well as asking staff at the orphanage for clues she has contacted local media outlets to appeal for more information that could help her in her quest.
Dang said she was waiting for solid leads before making any plans to visit China, but hoped she would be able to get in touch with anyone who could provide information that may help her.
She said she guessed her birth parents felt helpless about her physical condition and had to give her up, hoping other people could give her better life.
“I don’t blame them and I understand they did this [abandoning me] out of love,” she said.