This is the story of a Chinese girl who was abandoned by her parents at birth and adopted by an American family reunited with them more than two decades later. Kati Pohler grew up in the quiet town of Hudsonville, Michigan, with her adoptive parents and their two sons. She knew there were things about her past that her adoptive parents weren’t telling her given her Asian heritage, but the truth about her adoption was far more shocking than she ever anticipated. Scroll through to read her story.
A Secret Pregnancy
Almost 22 years ago, Kati’s mother Qian Fenxiang was pregnant with her second daughter, something she knew was illegal in China due to the one-child policy. Qian was well into her pregnancy and way past the point of abortion. Fearing the authorities would find and take away her child, she hid for nearly six weeks until she went into labor.
Not Without Its Problems
Qian, with the help of her husband Xu Lida, gave birth to her daughter on a boat. They sterilized scissors with boiling water and cut the umbilical cord. However, complications still arose, forcing them to seek the help of a physician who agreed not to give them up to the authorities.
To Save Her Life
Aware that the baby’s life was in danger for as long as the couple held onto her, Xu woke up early in the morning and dropped his daughter off in a vegetable market with a letter asking for someone to take care of their daughter as well as a request to meet up on the famous Broken Bridge in Hangzhou in 10 or 20 years. Her adoptive parents had other plans. Read on to find out more.
The Note In Full
“Our daughter, Jingzhi, was born at 10 am on the 24th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar, 1995. We have been forced by poverty and affairs of the world to abandon her. Oh, pity the hearts of fathers and mothers far and near! Thank you for saving our little daughter and taking her into your care. If the heavens have feelings, if we are brought together by fate, then let us meet again on the Broken Bridge in Hangzhou on the morning of the Qixi Festival in 10 or 20 years from now.”
One Child Policy
The one-child policy was implemented by the Mao government in 1979 to manage the population and reduce poverty. The program lasted more than 35 years and is said to have prevented an estimated 400 million births, a figure that has been refuted since the one-child policy came to an end in 2015.
Not long after Jingzhi was dropped off at the children’s welfare institute in Suzhou with the note, Ken and Ruth Pohler, along with nine other families, traveled with Bethany Christian Services to the orphanage in China where they adopted their new daughter. You can read about Qian and Xu’s life a few items later.
But What About The Note
After boarding the bus with Jingzhi and Catherine Su Pohler, Ken and Ruth had a translator read the letter to them in English. Feeling the truth about her birth parents would only complicate young Kati’s life, Ken and Ruth agreed not to say anything about the letter until she was old enough — emotionally mature enough — to handle it.
She’s American Through and Through
Kati was raised by the Pohlers in the small town of about 7,000 people where she enjoyed the classic American lifestyle. She attended church with her deeply religious parents, competed in sports, played the violin, the piano and traveled the country. After high school, Kati attended Calvin College, a liberal arts university, where she studied public health and music.
Meanwhile, In China
Kati’s birth parents run a shop where they sell second-hand televisions, washing machines, refrigerators and other stuff. The pair work all day, seven days a week, to support their lifestyle. After years of living in poverty, Qian and Xu finally saved up enough to purchase a two-bedroom apartment where they live. While Qian and Xu worked hard to provide for their only daughter, they never forgot about the promise they made to Kati. Read about that further on down the list.
The First Attempt
Praying the note had fallen into the hands of the family that adopted their abandoned daughter, Qian and Xu arrived at the Broken Bridge on the day of Qixi Festival, 10 years after the day of their daughters birth bright and early, searching for any sign of young Jingzhi.
The Broken Bridge That Isn’t Actually Broken
As confusing as it may seem to some of you, the Broken Bridge is very much intact. It’s located in Jingzhi’s birth city Hangzhou, where her parents still live. The Qixi Festival is the Chinese equivalent to Valentine’s Day and it falls on the 7th day of the 7th month of every year.
The Poehler’s Tried To Reach Out
Ken and Ruth planned to honor their promise not to complicate Kati’s life with her own past, however, they remembered that her birth parents requested to meet up during the Qixi festival 10 years following her birth. The Poehler’s didn’t want to start a relationship, but they at least wanted to assure Kati’s relatives that she was alive and well. When Kati became old enough to learn about her past, Ken and Rith were still hesitant to tell her. Scroll through for more on that.
It Was Too Late
The Pohlers reached out to a friend based in China named Annie Wu who went looking for Kati’s birth parents on the day of the festival. Sadly, Qian and Xu had been waiting patiently for most of the day and gave up minutes before Annie arrived at the bridge. Annie did, however, spot a news camera crew that had been filming that day and asked them if she could review the tape, which is how she spotted Xu holding a poster with his daughter’s name on it.
All Thanks To The News Story
The news crew that caught Xu holding his sign on camera ran the tragic story of a young Chinese girl separated from her parents at birth. Qian and Xu saw the report which gave them news of their daughter and agreed to meet Annie at the TV station where they were given a letter from the Poehlers.
And That Was It
Qian and Xu expected to hear more news of their daughter, but the Pohlers, who were still trying to protect their daughter, thought it best to leave it at that. For more than 10 years, they didn’t receive any more news about the daughter they were forced to give up. Qian and Xu were excited to participate. But how did the Pohlers react? You can read about that a few examples further down the list.
From News Story To Documentary
Chinese Documentarian Chang Changfu caught wind of the story and had to tell it. He started by meeting with Qian and Xu and then he tracked down Ken and Ruth. With little evidence at his disposal, Chang scoured the internet for any mention of an American family from Michigan that adopted a young Chinese girl in Suzhou.
It Took Some Convincing
When Chang finally got a hold of the Pohlers they were very reluctant to participate. It wasn’t until Kati turned 21 that Ken and Ruth told her about her past. “I thought people there would have questions about me being Chinese and American. So I asked my mother to tell me about my past again,” Kati told the South China Post Magazine.
She Knew It Right Away
Almost as soon as her adoptive parents got done telling her about her birth parents Kati knew she wanted to meet them. She got in touch with Chang and agreed to participate in the documentary. He brought her to the vegetable garden in Suzhou where her parents first left her with the note. Kati was filled with emotion and overwhelmed by all of it. How she reacted when she finally laid eyes on her birth parents was the most amazing part. Scroll through for more on that.
On The Bridge At Last
For dramatic effect, Chang organized for the meeting between Kati and her birth parents to occur on the Broken Bridge where they had initially intended it to happen. Qian, who laid eyes on her daughter for the first time in 22 years, broke down into tears. Kati didn’t speak any Mandarin and the family spoke little to no English, but they did their best to communicate.
Starting From Scratch
Kati stayed in her sister’s room at her parent’s flat for a couple days. Qian and Xu also brought her to meet her grandmother, who had suffered a severe stroke years back.
Kati is still coming to grips with her past, but admits she wants to build a relationship with her family. In the meantime, her birth parents plan to be patient and take whatever their daughter is willing to offer.