All in the family

Sharing an "Our World" piece that printed Saturday,


The smell of fresh basil was seeping past the apartment doors and into the elevator shaft. It was 6 p.m. on a Thursday, and the Bergen family was cooking dinner.
Audrey, 6, the youngest of the Bergens, set the table with her oldest sister, Ally, and broke apart herbs for the tomato sauce. By 6:30 p.m., she was basking in the newly assigned title of chef.
Fewer than two years have passed since Audrey came to the United States, and one would never guess that she was not always part of the family. Audrey, like her two older sisters, was adopted from an orphanage in China.
“I could not have babies the normal way,” their mother, Amy, said. “Fifteen years ago, fertility treatment was not that effective, and competition for a healthy, white baby was high. We didn’t mind having a kid who didn’t look like us.”
After adopting her first baby, Ally, now 15, from China, Amy wanted to adopt the other two from China as well. That way, all of her children could bond over their birth country. Although Amy felt very confident about her decision, she was nervous each time she traveled to China to adopt because she was given so little information about each child.
Amy is now the mother of three girls. She said she feels no regrets about her decision: “It’s a leap of faith, but one worth taking.”
Ally stood nearby her younger sisters as they took control of the pasta sauce. She flipped through her iPhone for a video about her mom in the early stages of the adoption that aired on television. Annie leaned over her sister to watch the findings.
Ally said she is interested in going back to China. She wants to see where she came from and visit the orphanage where she spent the first 12 months of her life. But to her, Amy is her mom.
“These are my daughters,” Amy said. “There is no difference between biological and adopted.”
As a child, Amy used a stepstool to help her Italian grandmother prepare meals. Amy loves that her children naturally carry on the tradition.
“Annie stands on a stool just like me,” she said.
By 7 p.m., Amy and her three kids were around a table eating the dinner they made. It was a night like many others for the Bergens. These are the nights that make them family.