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By Cathy Ladman

I remember how it felt when I discovered outlet malls. I don't mean regular shopping malls. I'm talking about OUTLET malls.

When I first discovered them I thought, "Wait a minute, wait a minute. You're telling me there's a place where all of these stores are within close proximity to one another and everything is on sale ALL THE TIME? And the SALE things are even on sale?"

Well, my life was changed forever.

I tell you this to give you some insight into who I am. It seems that almost anything can be a life-changing epiphany to me. My initial response to adopting my daughter was not much different from discovering that J. Crew had an outlet store adjacent to Coach. Until I realized that the maintenance on my daughter would be more extensive than an annual conditioning with leather moisturizer. Or, as my husband Tom says about having a child, "One day you're single, the next day you're in charge of an impulsive quadriplegic." All of this, and more, I experienced in China on July 12th, 2004 when we first met our daughter, Milan.

Tom and I had been through the lengthy and bureaucratic process of adopting a baby from China, which we had decided to do after a series of discussions, and attempts at having a biological child. We felt that we really wanted a little girl from China, and we were very excited.

It had taken us not the normal twelve to eighteen months to complete the process but, rather, over four years, due to some complications along the way, both emotional and financial. I was depressed, our marriage was…strained, and we had very little income. We were not the perfect candidates for adopting...anything. Even a highway. But, eventually, we managed through these "speed bumps," as Tom called them -- because he's Swedish and doesn't understand emotion -- and got to the point where we were ready to leave for China.

In some odd display of feeling, Tom said to me several times in the months leading up to our departure, "You won't believe how married we are once we have a baby."

Okay. Was this a tease? A warning? A threat? I had no idea. All I knew was that Tom had already had two children, who are now fairly grown, at 16 and 20. So, whatever he was talking about was based on solid experience. Therefore, I chose to ignore it, and continued to do some last minute shopping at

We left Los Angeles after midnight on July 9th and, after a very long flight, but not the longest I'd ever flown -- but the only flight that was delivering me to a baby -- we arrived in Guangzhou, China on Sunday morning, July 11th. The next morning we, along with the other couples in our small group, flew to Nanjing where we were going to get our babies at approximately 2 PM. We then got on our overly air-conditioned bus and drove to a street that looked like any other street, and walked into an underly air-conditioned government building that was barely distinguishable from any other building.

I was numb. I attributed it to the extreme change in air temperature. I didn't want to consider why I was really numb. That was way too big.

When we walked into the building Tom noticed, across the room, two caregivers playing with a couple of babies on a sofa. Tom grabbed my forearm and said, "That's Milan. I think that's Milan."

I couldn't see very clearly without my glasses. "Really?"

"Yeah, I think that's Milan." It was so weird to hear the name we had chosen for a baby we had only seen in a picture being said out loud and in reference to an actual human being sitting in the room.

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