‘Every day is Mother’s Day’

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 11, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

The calendar may declare today Mother’s Day. But Lynne Copeland, 43, has been celebrating this special day since early April, the first time she held her new daughter, Maggie.

Copeland, a sixth-grade teacher at John Yeates Middle School, and her husband, Tim Copeland, executive director of the Suffolk Education Foundation, spent two weeks in China picking up their bubbling, 13-month-old daughter.

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&uot;Today is great, …awesome,&uot; said Lynne, as Maggie, black hair spiking in all directions, wiggles around her lap. &uot;Every day is Mother’s Day around here.&uot;

Maggie – formally named Margaret Anne Copeland – came into the world just over a year ago. A police officer in Wuz Wuzhoo, a tropical city in a southern Chinese province, discovered her when she was 2-days-old, abandoned beside a busy highway. Maggie later was taken to an orphanage.

At the same time, half a world away, the Copelands were still waiting to hear whether the stack of notarized paperwork submitted in November 2001 had satisfied all requirements of the U.S. and Chinese governments and adoption agencies. Then it became a matter of waiting.

Nine months later, on Jan. 23, 2003, they learned Maggie – who was named Wu Min Rui by the orphanage – would become their daughter.

The moment they learned the news will remain etched into their memories, the couple agreed.

&uot;It was snowing outside and Lynne was out of school,&uot; Tim said. &uot;I checked the messages as we were driving down West Constance Road …and found our family coordinator (with the adoption agency) had called.&uot;

The couple pulled over at Suffolk Plaza West so Lynne could return the call. She expected to hear the usual news that came with a phone call, that more papers were needed or that some other obstacle had cropped up.

&uot;They told me, &uot;Congratulations, you’re a mom!&uot; she said.

&uot;We just sat there and started crying,&uot; said Tim. &uot;This was something we had spent 22 months working on. Until then, it had always been paper, paper and more paper.&uot;

On March 27, the couple left Norfolk for China, one of 67 couples that would be returning to the country about two weeks later with a baby.

After two years of tedious paperwork and interviews, the Copelands said that little, including severed acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), would have stopped them from leaving to pick up their baby.

In the weeks leading up to the Copelands’ trip to China, the deadly SARS virus killed hundreds of people in China and other Asian countries.

&uot;Sure, we thought about SARS,&uot; Tim said. &uot;When we left on the (March) 27, it was in the backs of our minds. But there wasn’t the hysteria that there is here now.&uot;

Although the World Heath Organization had advised adoptive parents heading to China to wait a couple of weeks before going into the country, the couple said they didn’t even consider postponing the trip.

&uot;You don’t come this far to put it on hold,&uot; Tim said. &uot;You just put your trust and faith in God and do what you have to do.&uot;

Ironically, it wasn’t the family and friends waiting at Norfolk International Airport that were the first to see Maggie.

During a layover in Chicago, the Copeland family ran into the couple’s employer, School Superintendent Dr. Milton Liverman, and several members of the Suffolk Board. They, along with a couple of spouses, were on their way home from an educational conference.

&uot;That was funny,&uot; Lynne said. &uot;We all ended up flying into Norfolk on the same flight.&uot;