Episode 36 – An Unstoppable Journey with Wesley Hagood
In this episode we get to meet Wesley Hagood. Wes has been involved in various software engineering projects and has worked for several major government contractors. His life was great. He was married and had four children.
Nearly 20 years ago, however one day he asked his wife a question that caused his whole family’s world to change. You will get to hear about this life altering question as well as the results that lead to he and his family adopting two Chinese girls and growing his family from four to six children. Wes takes us through the adoption story. It didn’t stop there. As his new children grew older they wanted to learn about their birth parents. The story is not over, but one of his newest children, Mia, has now established a relationship that grows daily with her birth parents.
Wes’ journey is a fascinating one that shows commitment and, by any standard, an unstoppable mindset and attitude. I hope you enjoy hearing about this journey as much as I have.
Thanks for listening and I hope you will let me know your thoughts about our episode and the Unstoppable Mindset podcast by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Guest:
Wesley O. Hagood has been a member of Families with Children from China (FCC) Capital Area since 2004. He became a board member in May 2006 and has served as the President of FCC Capital Area since March 2012. He attended the University of Maryland in College Park and earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Mathematics Education. He also earned a Master of Arts degree in Administration and Supervision from Bowie State University. During his career, he worked as a mathematics teacher, computer programmer, management consultant, and program manager. Wes resides in Easton, Maryland with his wife, Denise, and their two daughters adopted from China.
About the Host:
Michael Hingson is a New York Times best-selling author, international lecturer, and Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe. Michael, blind since birth, survived the 9/11 attacks with the help of his guide dog Roselle. This story is the subject of his best-selling book, Thunder Dog.
Michael gives over 100 presentations around the world each year speaking to influential groups such as Exxon Mobile, AT&T, Federal Express, Scripps College, Rutgers University, Children’s Hospital, and the American Red Cross just to name a few. He is Ambassador for the National Braille Literacy Campaign for the National Federation of the Blind and also serves as Ambassador for the American Humane Association’s 2012 Hero Dog Awards.
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Michael Hingson 00:00
Access Cast and accessiBe Initiative presents Unstoppable Mindset. The podcast where inclusion, diversity and the unexpected meet. Hi, I’m Michael Hingson, Chief Vision Officer for accessiBe and the author of the number one New York Times bestselling book, Thunder dog, the story of a blind man, his guide dog and the triumph of trust. Thanks for joining me on my podcast as we explore our own blinding fears of inclusion unacceptance and our resistance to change. We will discover the idea that no matter the situation, or the people we encounter, our own fears, and prejudices often are our strongest barriers to moving forward. The unstoppable mindset podcast is sponsored by accessiBe, that’s a c c e s s i capital B e. Visit www.accessibe.com to learn how you can make your website accessible for persons with disabilities. And to help make the internet fully inclusive by the year 2025. Glad you dropped by we’re happy to meet you and to have you here with us.
Michael Hingson 01:20
Well, hi, and once again, glad you joined us on Unstoppable Mindset. We’re here today talking with Wesley Hagood, who has got some really interesting stories to tell and being prejudiced. I will tell you that he has a college degree in mathematics education. So mathematics that’s close to physics. They relate my master’s in physics west, so I’m prejudiced. But we’re we’re glad you’re here. And we’re glad everyone that you’re out there listening. So thank you and Wes, welcome to unstoppable mindset.
Wesley Hagood 01:52
Well, Michael, thank you for having me.
Michael Hingson 01:55
We’re, we’re really glad you’re here. I know, you’ve got some some great, interesting stories to tell us. And I think you’ve you’ve done some things. And you’ve been involved in some things that are as unstoppable as it gets. So we’ll get to that. But why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about you.
Wesley Hagood 02:13
Okay, well, thank you. Let’s start at the beginning. I was actually born and grew up in Annapolis, Maryland, which is the Capitol, I worked as a math teacher. Also, after that, a computer programmer, computer based training developer, a management consultant, and I’m finishing my career as a program manager for a large government training program. I married Denise Lee in Annapolis, we had four children there, Katie, Mark, Kelly, and Paul. And my wife stayed home to raise our four children. And then she returned to college and became a science teacher and a librarian. And I would say it was, we were planning to kind of retire early, you know, and travel the world. But we were in our late, sort of mid to late 40s. And I said to my wife, you know, we’re getting older, is there anything in your life that you really wanted to do that you’ve not yet been able to do? And she said, Well, now that you mentioned that. she says, I want to adopt a daughter from China. And I was like, kind of like, no way because I said, you know, we’ve discussed this before, several times. I said, we have four children, we don’t need any more children. And but, you know, after asking her that question, I really didn’t want to deprive her of something that was really important to her. But I also knew that, you know, this could not be her project, if you know what I mean. If we were going to adopt a child, I had to be fully on board, right? So you might say, Why did my wife say that? Well, when she was back in middle school, one of her social studies, teachers was pretty progressive. And he had the kids read an article, either from a newspaper or you know, magazine at the time. And it described a place in China called the weeping cliffs. And of course, the article was about infanticide. The fathers, the Chinese fathers would bring the unwanted girls, throw them off the cliff, and then the mothers would return to wheat for their lost daughters. And so when my wife heard this story, she was very moved. She was only in middle school, but she said, you know, if I ever had the opportunity, I’d like to adopt one of those girls. So after thinking over my wife’s requests for her while I said, you know, I don’t want to stand in your way and I’m willing to kind of help you realize your dream. But if you really want to do this, you’re going to have to manage this whole process because I said, I’m very busy, you know, With my career, and she knew that I said, I just don’t have time to do it. And my wife to be honest, it’s not a she, she’s a big picture person, right? She’s not detail oriented. So I kind of thought to myself, if she really wants to do this, she’s going to have to really focus to make this happen. And honestly, I wasn’t sure if if something that was really going to happen, because as I said, I thought she might just be overwhelmed and give up and not go forward. But I was wrong. She must have really wanted to do this. And she successfully managed this process, this adoption process, which the State Department in the US says is probably the most bureaucratic process that the US government has. So to fast forward after this discussion, a couple years went by, because it takes a while to gather all these documents, prepare the application submitted, and then wait for the Chinese government to match you with a child. But in I think it was October 2003. We went to China. And we thought that a little girl named Shane Hong Yi, and we renamed her meow. And after a few months went by my wife said to me, you remember that? That discussion about my dream? And I said, Yeah, and she goes, Well, actually, my dream was really to adopt two girls from China. And I said, No way. You know, you never told me that before you said a daughter. But to be honest, adopting Mia was such a good experience for our family that I was the one who became the advocate to go back and adopt a second daughter. How old was me? And when you adopted her, she was just 18 months old. Okay. So she didn’t have a lot of memories of, of China and her parents no memory whatsoever. Okay. Anyway, go ahead. So So in August and September 2006, about three years later, we returned to China, and we adopted a second daughter named you, Juan Shalane, and we renamed her May. Now today, Mia is a sophomore at Virginia Tech. And may who’s a year younger is a freshman at Delaware Tech. So that kind of brings you up to current, current state, you know, where we’re at, right? What caused Virginia Tech and Delaware Tech? Well, Virginia Tech, because at the time, me, I was applying for colleges, we lived in Virginia. And we basically said, Okay, your child number four, and may is child number, or your child number five, May as child number six, and you’re gonna you’re gonna go to a state school, pick one. And she actually ended up getting a full scholarship to go to Virginia Tech. And so that just made the decision even easier for her. And for us, what’s her major? Her major is engineering, and she’s focusing on computer science, so shouldn’t have too much of a problem finding work after she graduates, no one you guys will get along since it’s science related, and math related. math related, right? What’s mais major? Mei is majoring in information technology. So she wants to do something similar. But she’s a lot more focused on hardware. And Mia is a lot more focused on software, Mia loves to write code, may actually build her own computer, got all the component parts, plugged them together and made the whole thing work. I thought this is not going to work. But it actually did. And she’s using that computer today.
Michael Hingson 08:33
Wow. Yeah. So what? What about the for earlier kids? So you guys go off and adopt these two children from China? Yeah, that had to have a great effect on you, your wife and the other children.
Wesley Hagood 08:51
It was really funny. They all had different reactions. The two older girls kind of said something to the effect of what aren’t we? Aren’t we enough for you? Something like that. My older son, who was a second child said, You’re too old to adopt these kids are going to be run in the neighborhood, you know, and you won’t, you’ll be asleep you won’t even know what’s going on. And then the fourth child, my younger son said, Hey, it’s your life, whatever you want with it. So it’s kind of funny, they all had very different reactions to to adopting to us adopting children but they’re all very glad we did and you know me and may are important parts of our family.
Michael Hingson 09:32
So what happened when you brought each of them home then? And the other kids met them and all that how did all that go?
Wesley Hagood 09:41
Like they were pretty excited. By the time we were returning from China with me I went very well. Actually. And the same thing with May, actually one of our four children Kelly, who was the second second daughter, third child, she went with us to China on the on the trip so she was there for the whole day. adoption process for Mai the younger of the two that we adopted.
Michael Hingson 10:04
So did the sisters hit it off even in China?
Wesley Hagood 10:08
Well, we didn’t take me with us to China made me and me and Kelly Kelly. Oh, yeah, Kelly just fell in love with her on first sight. And they got along very, very well.
Michael Hingson 10:20
How old was Mei when you adopted her?
Wesley Hagood 10:22
May was about three and a half years old. So it was a very different experience, because she was like a little person, right? She was speaking multiple Chinese dialects. You know, her, she was quite formed as a human being and an individual having had lots of life experiences, even only three and a half years old, very different than an 18 month old, who was very much like a baby or a toddler, does she have made that is much in the way of memories of being done in China at this point. At this point in time, she doesn’t really have that many memories, because remember, she was only three and a half, right? But she told us things about China that we thought were not likely to be true, like just fiction and a little child’s mind. Like, for example, she came back, she told us that she had a little brother. And we thought, okay, that doesn’t make a lot of sense to us. But we later found out that she lived with a woman in foster care. And we asked the orphanage about it. And they said, well, the woman has a daughter, but she doesn’t have any she didn’t have any male children. When we found out that was wrong, the foster mother actually had a little boy. And May was actually taking care of him, to some degree when even though she was only three years old, when she was in China. And we know that this was probably true, because we made contact with a foster mother found out about her son. And she she confirmed a lot of what we knew, like for example, at three years old Navy knew how to wrap a baby in a blanket and hold it and feed it, which we thought was unusual for a three year old child. But I think she actually took care of her or helped take care of her foster mother’s younger child.
Michael Hingson 12:10
How do you stay in contact with like the foster mother or other people in China? How do you do that as an email? Or what do you do?
Wesley Hagood 12:18
Um, at first, we tried email. But that wasn’t a very good way to stay in touch in China. Everyone at that time used an application called QQ, which was developed by a company named Tencent, which you might have heard about, you know, on the US stock exchange, they’re very, very large company in China. And then Tencent actually created a new and better and easier to use application called WeChat. Which is what pretty much everybody in China has on their phones today. So it’s actually very easy to stay in touch with someone in China.
Michael Hingson 12:54
Do you do actual voice calls and so on? Or is it texting
Wesley Hagood 12:57
voice calls, you can send photographs, you can send videos, you can have individual and group video chats, it’s very easy to use very intuitive, and, you know, very effective in terms of staying in touch with people.
Michael Hingson 13:10
Sure. Well, at least that way, you really can stay in touch.
Wesley Hagood 13:15
Michael Hingson 13:16
So so now you have six children all together.
Wesley Hagood 13:20
Michael Hingson 13:21
So that’s a good number. No more No more adoption plans. I assume.
Wesley Hagood 13:26
We’re actually a little too old to adopt now. In our
Michael Hingson 13:31
Yeah, well. Yeah, there’s there’s only so many hours in the day and so many things to do. Right. But you
Wesley Hagood 13:41
in China won’t let you adopt after you get to be a certain age. So you’re pretty much done with them.
Michael Hingson 13:46
Why mandatory retirement? Huh?
Wesley Hagood 13:49
Yeah, that’s right.
Michael Hingson 13:50
How did the process go, though, in terms of given China, the US different countries and all that, and certainly, significantly different philosophies and so on? How are they in terms of being supportive and such for people from the US adopting Chinese children, as opposed to what obviously they used to do with the weeping cliffs and so on?
Wesley Hagood 14:15
Right. Well, I mean, if you if you think about today, the relationship between China and the US is a lot more tense than it was at that time, right back in the early, early years of new millennium. China was very supportive of foreigners, if you will, adopting children from China. The I’d say, I’ve heard estimates anywhere between 120 and 150,000. Children had been adopted from China since the 1990s. And I’d say probably 85 to 90% of those were girls. And then the Chinese government was very appreciative that the, you know, the Westerners or the foreigners would come and, and adopt those children. Big Because the understanding at the time was they just had, you know, an exploding population, they, they were concerned about bringing the population growth down. They felt like it was necessary for the success of the country to reduce that. And so when they ended up with large numbers of children in orphanages, they were very supportive of people from other countries coming to adopt this children.
Michael Hingson 15:27
I assume that’s probably changed some over the years and compare it to.
Wesley Hagood 15:32
It has it’s changed, but maybe for a different reason. In the mid 2,001st, decade of 2000 2005, there about there was a big scandal in the Hunan province about children and being essentially brought to orphanages to be placed into the international adoption program. There were actually you know, claims of children being bought and sold and so forth. And when that story leaked out, the number of children available for adoption entering the orphanages significantly declined. I think most of the people in China believed that if their child was placed in an orphanage, the child would be adopted in country, not internationally. And they were the people in the country were concerned about that. And so after the word got out that many, many children were being moved into orphanages and then being adopted internationally, the numbers entering dropped off significantly. And today, the number of children adopted from China is much smaller than it was, say around 2005 2006, which was the big peak when maybe about 12 12,000 or more children each year were being adopted from China.
Michael Hingson 16:49
What do you think it is today? Do you have a notion?
Wesley Hagood 16:51
Today, it’s probably closer to 3000. So it’s a much smaller number. And in almost every case, I won’t say every case, but in almost every case, there are children with some sort of disability, physical or other types of disability. And so the Chinese government continues to place those children for adoption, but there are just far smaller numbers that are entering the orphanages to be adopted.
Michael Hingson 17:23
And a lot more of them are children with disabilities and such. Yes, yeah. It’s interesting. I had the opportunity after my book thunder dog was published, which chronicle my life and wove into it, the story of the World Trade Center. I went to Japan in 2012, because it was published there. And there was a Japanese publisher. And one of the things that I learned was that for many years, and I don’t know when it actually stopped, but for many years, if a child was born with a disability, they were euthanized. It was the standard practice and no one. I didn’t get the impression that anybody was concerned about it, although they did evolve from that. So it is interesting, it’s the usual thing about dealing with disabilities where we’re not viewed as equal in the eyes of most people. And it’s a it’s an educational process, and I hope, one that we’ll see continue to grow and that there will be more people, both in this country and in the world who will truly and intellectually and emotionally accept the fact that disability doesn’t really mean lack of ability, we really need to change that view.
Wesley Hagood 18:41
That’s true. Absolutely true.
Michael Hingson 18:43
So it’s kind of one of those things that happened. Well, Mia, especially I gather has been a very significant challenge to you, because at some point along the line, she wanted to learn about her birth parents.
Wesley Hagood 18:57
She did. I’ve tried to think I’d say that. It was probably when she was about four years old. She started asking us lots of questions about her birth parents. She wanted to know things like what are their names? What do they look like?
Michael Hingson 19:16
How old and it was pretty clear that she obviously understood she was adopted?
Wesley Hagood 19:21
Oh, yes, she was a precocious child. And she she understood and she was very, very analytical. So she was always trying to figure things out. That’s the best way to describe me is analytical. And so you know, she’d say things like, well, how old are they? You know, those kinds of questions. And then, of course, probably the most significant was, well, why did they give me a way up to be adopted? Right? And we would just say to her meow, we don’t know. And this went on for this went on for months. And eventually, you know, I talked it over with her mother and I said, Look at This is clearly very important to me. So I think that we should begin a search to see if we could find her birth family. And we told me that we said, look, we don’t, you know, we don’t know the answers to your questions, we know that it’s important to you to understand, to learn and to get answers to your questions. So we will go ahead and do whatever we can to search and help find your birth family so that, you know, you can get the answers to these questions that, that you seem to need so desperately. And we didn’t even know I didn’t know if the time if it was even possible to find birth parents in China, because, you know, we were given so little information, obviously no information about them. All we were really told is that me it was found on this location on this date. And that’s all we had, it was a place in China called Hong Fu, which was Hong fu road and Chinese. And she was supposedly found there about, you know, maybe 10 days after she was born. And that’s all we knew. So, you know, I started thinking about how might we search and tried a number of different things. And then 14 or 15 years later, we actually discovered the identity of me as birth family members. And we had it verified through DNA testing.
Michael Hingson 21:23
How did you discover them?
Wesley Hagood 21:25
Well, that’s a very quick good question. We I tried, like I said, just about everything possible to identify or locate or birth parents. First, I went to China myself, I made a trip back to the orphanage, which we had not been allowed to visit. When we went to China, we met the children in the provincial Capitol on Joe. So I actually went to this small, rural, mountainous city and went to the orphanage and was looking for clues or answers and didn’t really find much of anything, primarily because they wouldn’t let me visit the orphanage because they said, you know, this is not your history. This is your daughter’s, if you would, you know, if you really want to visit the orphanage and ask questions, you need to bring your daughter for a heritage visit. So six months later, I was back in China with Mia. And we actually visited the orphanage, we got to see her orphanage file, we got to ask questions. And we found the name of the individual who allegedly found her on Hong fu road. And you couldn’t really tell from the Chinese characters the name whether it was a male or a female, there was no you know, identifying information other than the name. We track down anyone we could find in the city that had that name. And of course, no one knew any information about her and had no knowledge of me of being found. But that was the first thing. So we we took the documents that we were given and or visited the orphanage to find more information, and then didn’t really get very far. So then the next thing that I did was to try to, I guess I would call it kind of a media based search, we tried to put posters all over the area where she was allegedly found in the in the town on on the road. And even though I had done that multiple times, or had someone do it on my behalf, I did it myself when I visited, no one ever came forward. No one ever contacted us. In fact, even though supposedly five children were found on this very short little st this very short little road in the in the center of the city. No one ever remembered any child ever being found there. So that it sort of started me making me question about whether it was true or not, you know, was the information that she was found in that location, because I would think that someone would remember at least one child found there, if allegedly five had been found there over a period of four or five years. But it turned out the third technique that I used was the most successful, which I call genetic genealogy based search. So it involves testing a child’s DNA. And then when they matched to someone who had a common ancestor, you start building out a, like a family tree diagram, right thing, a traditional genealogical genealogical tech technique. And you build out these family tree diagrams for everyone she matched to that’s a relatively close relative hoping that the that the tree diagrams would intersect, you know, and point to her point to her, her birth family and what was happening is we’re making good progress and we were eliminating paths on the tree diagrams and narrowing in on the birth family. And then we uploaded me as DNA into a Chinese database and she matched to a first cousin. So that made it much easier To trace from the first cousin to her uncle, an aunt, who had relinquished a child for adoption, the same year Mia was born. And the first cousin put me in touch with her first cousins, cousin. And it turned out that she looked very much like me, she agreed to take a DNA test. And the results came back saying that they were full sisters, you know, they were sisters. And then, because I wanted to be sure I asked if the if the a sister biological sister would be willing to ask her parents to take a DNA test, just to make sure both agreed both took it, and the results came back. And it says they were her biological father and mother. So we’re certainly found the family
Michael Hingson 25:45
of every will, Has everyone been able then or now to visit? And
Wesley Hagood 25:54
well, we couldn’t really visit we actually located the birth family in October of 2020. And of course, you know, the pandemic was in
Michael Hingson 26:02
that COVID thing,
Wesley Hagood 26:03
full rage. And, but the good thing is using WeChat, as we talked about earlier, me has been able to have video conferences with her birth family members, including her mom and dad, and brothers and sisters like her, she has one brother and several sisters. And she’s able to stay in touch with her sisters using WeChat. So it’s it’s not quite being there. But it’s almost like being
Michael Hingson 26:26
there. Yeah, it’s as close as you can get right now.
Wesley Hagood 26:29
Yes, until the pandemic resolves itself. And we could actually maybe make a visit to China in the future.
Michael Hingson 26:36
Mia has learned to speak Chinese. Well, when
Wesley Hagood 26:39
she was growing up, she would go to Chinese classes, you know, during the week or on weekends, I would take her go with her because she was so young. At first, she needed support. And when she got to high school, she got so busy, she had to stop doing that just because it was very challenging. And I think she’s probably lost most of it. But like a lot of people when you when you learn a language, you can recover it very quickly, once you get back in that environment. Yeah.
Michael Hingson 27:06
How do they communicate them? Do the people in China speak English? Or how do I see what you’re saying?
Wesley Hagood 27:11
Yeah, her birth parents did not speak any English. But her three older sisters, all of whom, by the way, either went to or the younger, youngest of the three, just a little bit older than me, is still in college. And in China. Oftentimes, many of the classes are taught in English or some of them are. And so the, at a minimum, the Chinese students have to be able to read and write in English, even if they’re not very fluent in speaking, that’s a little harder to do unless you have a partner back to Swift. But they, they and then of course, WeChat has a Translation Translation function, right? So you can just you type a message in Chinese and send it and then we click translate. It goes into English, we type in English, send it back, they hit translate, although they’re they’re pretty pretty versed in reading English, so they don’t often have to translate it.
Michael Hingson 28:04
So me as biological sister in college, what is she majoring in?
Wesley Hagood 28:08
Well, they have three, the one that’s still in college is actually a biology major. Right.
Michael Hingson 28:14
There you go science again, science again. And then
Wesley Hagood 28:17
the older two majored in business, and they’re both working in Chinese companies.
Michael Hingson 28:22
Well, at least there’s a science connection. So that’s a good thing. They’re not as much math and biology necessarily, but still plenty.
Wesley Hagood 28:31
Yeah, yeah. In this thing, more and more math than there used to be perhaps in biology? Yeah.
Michael Hingson 28:37
Well, math is kind of the rudimentary thing of all of them. You know, physics is a great subject, but it is so math intensive. And what a lot of people never get to recognize is getting down to the philosophies of physics that, that the math has really helped create. And there’s so much philosophy and in physics, about the universe, and so on. And it’s sometimes it’s helpful to separate the two. But math is important.
Wesley Hagood 29:06
Very important. It’s almost like the international language.
Michael Hingson 29:10
So what’s another question? When you found me as birth parents, what did they think of the whole thing? What did they think of you searching and finding them and so on?
Wesley Hagood 29:24
Well, they were actually quite surprised. Maybe even we could use the word shocked, because they believe that Mia was still living in China. So they did not expect that when she contacted them to learn that she had been adopted internationally and living in the US all these years. So that’s, that was kind of their initial reaction.
Michael Hingson 29:48
How are they now?
Wesley Hagood 29:49
They’re fine. We had our first group video chat using WeChat video on Chinese New Year day in 2021. And it was, it was great to connect with them and, you know, meet all the members of the family and chat it was it was a little noisy because there were a lot of fireworks and things going on in the background because it was New Year’s Day in China. But then subsequent to that Nia had another, more quiet conversation just with her mom. And then some of the other members joined later. And I think as I said, prior to this, we we stay in touch with them using WeChat. And just this morning, I was chatting with one of me as older biological sisters about whether they celebrated the Ching Ming Festival, which is known as the Tomb Sweeping festival in China, which occurred on April 5, and it’s where you go and you clean up your ancestors graves and offer sacrifices and thanks. And the the the older sister Jeanne said no, we couldn’t go this year because of the the pandemic. Yeah, so that’s still playing havoc with family traditions in China.
Michael Hingson 31:12
Yes, it is everywhere. So how is it then that Mia ended up being in an orphanage? What, what happened?
Wesley Hagood 31:23
Well, the Mia had three older sisters. And when she was born, her family, primarily father decided to give her to a woman who wanted to adopt a girl. And actually me as they have played a big role in transferring her from her mom and dad on the Damia was born actually to this woman who lived in a remote mountainous village in Shin Yi city, which is where Mia was born. And as far as they knew me, I was still living with that woman and part of her family. All those years later, they’re not certain how or why the woman somehow must have transferred me to the orphanage about 10 days after she was born. They don’t really know and they’ve lost touch with this woman. So you could see why they’d be surprised when we contacted them and said she’d been living in the US all these years. It’s funny, we had actually produced a video as a way to try to reconnect with me as family in China and had it put on some websites there. When Mia was about eight or nine years old, and me his aunt told me Oh, yeah, I remember seeing that video, she said, but I’d never thought it could have been MIA because we knew Mia was still living in China. So she never even realized that the video was of her nice
Michael Hingson 32:52
circumstances and strange twists. Yes. Well, I assume that at some point, Mia wants to go back and visit and reconnect physically.
Wesley Hagood 33:03
Yes, when Mia first learned about the identity of her birth family, one of the first things she said is, do you want to go visit. But as I said, That was back in October, November of 2020. And as you remember, the pandemic was pretty much raging then and there wasn’t going to be really any likelihood of traveling to China. Of course, things got a lot better into China until recently with the arise of the Omicron v2 variant. And now as you’ve probably heard, it’s spreading quite a bit throughout China. Last count, I heard there was at least 24 provinces that had that variant. And, for example, they have shut down Shanghai a city of 26 million people trying to test everybody and continue their policy of zero COVID in China. So because that particular variant is so transmissible my guess is it’s going to be quite a while before they actually bring it under control or get the situation resolved. And it would be possible to travel to China again.
Michael Hingson 34:04
Well, it’ll be a joyous and certainly a good day when Mia can actually go back and see them. So I Exactly, yeah, I Oh, I hope to hear about that once it occurs.
Wesley Hagood 34:17
I know we’re looking forward to it. But as I said, it’s going to be a while I have a feeling
Michael Hingson 34:23
it’ll happen though.
Wesley Hagood 34:24
I think so I believe that.
Michael Hingson 34:27
You you in in going through the whole search and so on. You documented it as you went along, or how did you? Did you keep a record of at all?
Wesley Hagood 34:38
Well, what happened? I think I mentioned I sort of semi retired in about a year ago in June 2021. And for I’d say about two and a half years prior I had started writing a book. And the title of the book is searching for your Chinese birth family. And the purpose I wrote it to benefit the 120,000 Chinese adoptees and their adoptive parents who began adopting those girls, mostly girls, few boys, but in the early 1990s. And the idea was to really to share what we had learned during our family’s journey with others who might want to do the same. You know, really, there was no roadmap, Michael, when we started this right there was there was really very little online even that you could find about how to go and search. And so I had to think long and hard about how would we actually be able to do this, right. And I think my first thought was, well, I need to find an investigative reporter in China. That was my thought, who speaks English, right? Because I did not speak Chinese, who would be willing to undertake this project is sort of, you know, searching for my, my daughter’s biological family, if I would help fund it. And I couldn’t find anyone who would be willing to, you know, accept that challenge. Right. So my next stop was well, okay, I at least need to be able to speak this person. How about an English teacher, you know, someone who speaks fluent English, who might be willing to help, and actually found a couple of English teachers who were willing to go out ask questions, hand out flyers, that sort of thing, trying to get the word out that Mia was trying to reconnect with her birth family. And so So,
Michael Hingson 36:28
you know, these were teachers, these were teachers in China,
Wesley Hagood 36:31
teachers in China, where Mia was found, right, but the idea was to document all of everything that we tried that didn’t work, as well as what did work, and create a framework so that people who were either considering launching a search, or maybe they needed to reinvigorate their search, because they tried a couple of things and felt hopeless and had stopped, you know, given that big picture, that frame of reference of how can you do it? What are the different ways to search? What are the most effective ways? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each, each type of search, right? And, and I documented all that in a book that I, like I said, started writing about two and a half years before, before we even found me as birth parents. So it was really an act of faith, that we were going to that the process that I was following, which at that point in time, was the genetic genealogy based approach that, you know, the testing of DNA and matching to other individuals, and then trying to understand who their living relatives and ancestors were in creating family tree diagrams, and so forth was going to pay off. And it eventually did, and it was actually accelerated when we found that first cousin, because we knew exactly what to do in terms of what questions to ask. We had built been building relationships with people from China for quite some time and documenting, you know, the relationships, and we were able to go pretty quickly, once we found that first cousin,
Michael Hingson 37:59
you documented it all, you got all the information? How did you go about writing the book, then? Did you do it all yourself? Did you get someone to help you with that? How did all that work
Wesley Hagood 38:10
out? No, I pretty much wrote it all myself, you know, day by day, little by little sentence by sentence. Eventually, I reached out to a publisher, heritage books, who I thought might be interested in publishing a book like this, because they are known to publish books about genealogy and family history. And I was actually surprised when I sent a query letter out. And I think I sent a couple of chapters that I had written at that point in the book. And they came back to me and said, Yeah, we’d like to publish the book.
Michael Hingson 38:44
And what company was out again, it’s called
Wesley Hagood 38:46
a heritage books, heritage books. Okay, heritage books, and they’re well known for publishing, geologically, Jeanne, Jeanne genealogy and family history, types of books. So people that are interested in doing research about their ancestors, right, they’re there. They’re known for publishing books on that topic. And this book sort of seemed to fit right, because I was advocating using those types of processes to actually trace from living individuals to back to ancestors and then forward again to the birth family. And so they were interested and they basically just gave me their their guidelines in terms of, you know, the format and all of that and I met their requirements and sent the book in and they published it and it came out this past December. So it’s really only been out a little over what cember January March, little over three months going on for months now. Along is the book. It’s about 132 pages, okay. It, it talks about the document based search that I described earlier, the media base to the genetic genealogy base search, I then kind of advocate for that third type of searches, the one that if you really want to make that connection, that’s your best chance to do it. because the first two types, although they’ve been successful, it’s rare that you’ll be able to use the documents that China gives you, or even other ones that they retain that they don’t give you unless you go back to China and choir and ask for a copy. It’s very rare that you’re going to find first family that way.
Michael Hingson 40:20
First, the whole concept of the app, the whole concept of genetic genealogy, and so on is sort of the same thing that has been used effectively, and very famously, in terms of solving some criminal cold, cold cases and tracing back genealogies through genetic coding. That’s
Wesley Hagood 40:37
exactly right. And if you if you look prior to solving this code cases, people were using and they developed this concept called genetic genealogy to fill in gaps in a person’s family tree. And then someone in a police department read about it. And I wonder if he could use that same technique to find solve a cold case and find someone who had committed a crime?
Michael Hingson 41:00
Yeah, and the famous person who did it, I don’t recall her name, has been a very famous consultant and works with police departments all over. But she proved the whole point of what was doable. And it makes a lot of sense. And certainly, it makes a lot of sense to be able to go trace people like you’re, you were and are trying to do. And, obviously, you need a little bit of cooperation on all sides. But it certainly is an exciting way to do it.
Wesley Hagood 41:26
That’s right. That’s a cc more that you were Yes, right. CC more, right. She’s very, very famous. In fact, she was one of the individuals who I believe coined the term. I think she did. Okay.
Michael Hingson 41:37
Well, you know, you obviously put a lot of effort into this and as much as anything, the emotional effort to make it happen. So you, clearly we’re very committed, does it surprise you now thinking back on it, how committed you were given the fact that your wife just sprung this on you one day?
Wesley Hagood 42:00
Yeah. Well, I certainly knew that I was very committed, right, because in some sense, I had put off doing other things that I wanted to do in my life. Because I felt like it was really important for both of our daughters that were adopted from China, to be able to have that, you know, have that knowledge and to reconnect with their first family, their birth family. And so I was committed to doing it. And we’re still searching for Mays birth family using the genetic genealogy technique. You know, we’re trying to be patient continue to periodically check all the databases, her DNA is in a number of them. And at some point, I believe that she will match to a fairly close relative. And once that happens, if that individual will cooperate and share information with us about their living relatives and ancestors, we should be able to trace from those individuals, to Mays birth family. And to be honest, the likelihood of that occurring increases every day, because these databases continue to get larger and larger and larger. And CeCe Moore was one of the people and others Blaine bet injures another big name in this field, who, who realized that once just one to 3% of a population, has their DNA tested just one to 3%. If you have yours tested, you’re likely to match a close relative, which I think is bizarre. But that’s all you need. And then
Michael Hingson 43:27
are there databases in China? I’m assuming that somehow that’s the way it goes.
Wesley Hagood 43:33
There are databases in China. In fact, there are many more than there are in the US or in the West. But the Western databases, ones that you’d be familiar with ones like ancestry.com 23, and me, my heritage, those those Family Tree DNA, they’re much larger, much larger. And in China is still a relatively young industry, if you want to call it that they call it direct consumer testing. And so the largest DNA database that I know of, which is the one that we put me as DNA N and and she had the match is database called 23. Mo Fung, which means 23 Rubik’s Cube, it only has 600,000, only 600,000 users. And so in some sense, we were quite fortunate that we matched to to someone since we they’ve not yet gotten to the point where they’ve tested one even 1% of the Chinese population of 1 billion people, right? They’ve got a ways to go but but like I said, every day, the likelihood increases that that you’ll find a match. The challenge with China is getting your DNA into their databases. And as I said, they’re so small that the likelihood of a match or close match is not high. But at some point, just like in the West, those databases will someone will dominate the market, maybe two or three companies and they will become very, very large. And then if a Chinese adoptee 10 with one of those databases, they’re almost certain to find a close relative, and we’ll get a match and, and you know, hopefully, if that person will cooperate, we’ll be able to trace from that individual to their birth family.
Michael Hingson 45:12
Rubik’s Cube is an interesting way to help name a database like that. And it makes so much sense because it’s all about so many different permutations to get somewhere.
Wesley Hagood 45:24
Michael Hingson 45:26
Which, of course, tempts me to ask the question, did you ever have any success at solving Rubik’s Cubes, especially with any kind of speed earlier in life?
Wesley Hagood 45:36
Personally, I hate physical puzzles. Nia loves it, me, it was one of those kids that you could, you know, mess up the Rubik’s Cube and hand it to her. And within just a couple of minutes, she could put it back in shape, I was never quite like that. What I like is solving, you know, the, the type of puzzle that that we focused on with me, you know, like, you’ve got a problem, and you need to find a solution, which means you need to build a methodology and apply it to the problem to come up with a solution. That’s what I really enjoy. And I’d say, that’s what I’ve done for most of my career, which was spent in consulting, you know,
Michael Hingson 46:17
sure. Yeah. So me, me hasn’t taught you the intuition of how to solve a Rubik’s Cube, I gather,
Wesley Hagood 46:24
she hasn’t, I have no, I have no desire to learn it.
Michael Hingson 46:28
Well, I like some physical puzzles, because they’re a real puzzle. And I’m not thinking so much of jigsaw puzzles, but real puzzles, like that have a lot of intuition and some creativity behind them. But there’s nothing like being able to solve puzzles, like what you did. And I love those kinds of puzzles. I guess, from a reading standpoint, that’s also in part why I like a lot of mysteries, although I like really the well written ones, because there’s a real puzzle there. And the trick is to solve it before you get to the end of the book. And there’s some authors I can do that with. So their, their mysteries have become less interesting. But there are some that I thought were some of the greatest puzzle creators that I’ve ever encountered, because I’ve never been able to come anywhere close to solving them until we get to the end of the book. And then it really is obvious. And there were just things I didn’t pick up on. Sure. But puzzles, puzzles are great. And they do, they do tend to challenge the mind.
Wesley Hagood 47:35
Right, exactly. And that’s the type I like the best. Yeah,
Michael Hingson 47:39
well, I guess that comes from, for both of us from some science backgrounds, we do deal with a lot of puzzles. And the more we solve the more we develop our own mindsets and our own brains. And the more curious we become I know, I’ve been curious my whole life. And that’s a good thing to be curious. I agree. Absolutely. You clearly have demonstrated an ability to be curious and be patient about allowing your curiosity to take you wherever it goes. All your kids that same way. And your wife.
Wesley Hagood 48:15
You know, I don’t know if I’d say curious, I hadn’t thought about that. The thing that first thing that comes to mind when I think about all of our for older children is that they’re all extremely hard workers. That also applies to me. And May, they’re all very hard workers. And I’d like to think that that’s because we gave them an example of a model to follow.
Michael Hingson 48:34
Well, and that’s, of course, always a good thing to be able to be a good role model on. That’s something that I think kids need in general, and we need to be the role models to bring them to where we would like them to be, which is successful, anchored and so on.
Wesley Hagood 48:54
That’s right, and mature and moral people, which is very important.
Michael Hingson 48:58
Yeah. Yeah. So it’s a it’s an ongoing process. Needless to say, Well, tell me a little bit about if you were to talk to people about this whole concept of the unstoppable mindset and, and well, what does it mean to you? And how would you encourage people to go about developing a greater mindset and I deliberately use the term when creating the podcast unstoppable mindset because I believe that it is for me. It started in thinking about surviving the World Trade Center terrorist attacks on September 11. And what I never understood at that time, and even for many years afterwards was I knew that I was focused and calm during the escape. Clearly not seeing what was going on. But also recognizing it didn’t matter that I didn’t see what was going on. And that’s something that’s so hard for people to understand. But the airplane hit and are building 18 floors. Above us on the other side of the building. So the reality is in the environment where I found myself going down the stairs, no one knew we were all in the same boat. But for me, what I realized, in going through the process was, I stayed focused. And it took a while to recognize Well, I did all that because I had learned what to do in an emergency, I had consulted with the Port Authority, people I had consulted with fire people and others, and not only learn what the procedures were in case of any kind of an emergency, but also learned all the physical information that I could learn, and it eventually just kind of clicked into a mindset. To me, I knew what I could do. And I knew that I knew everything that I could, could know, even so I asked my question myself the question many times, anything else you think you ought to learn or anything else you want to inquire about? And sometimes I got new ideas and went nasty about them. But it created a mindset. So when September 11 attacks happened, I just started observing, and drawing conclusions, and reacting to those, rather than just being panicked by the fact that somebody said, I see fire and smoke and millions of pieces of burning paper above us, and we got to get out of here right now. Right? So what how would, how would you advise? Or what would you advise people about unstoppable mindset, that whole concept? Yeah,
Wesley Hagood 51:27
well, I would say this, for sort of the vast majority of my career, I was, I worked as a management consultant, right. And sort of the definition in my mind of a management consultant is a person who, in my case, advise government managers on how to think about and improve their processes, find a better way to work be more successful, right. And one of the things that we had to do was be comfortable with ambiguity. Because, as you said, after the events occurred on 911, there were a lot of things that you just didn’t know, you didn’t know what was happening, right. And so I think, you have to be comfortable with ambiguity. It’s not easy. We all like certainty, right? We don’t like ambiguity, but you have to become comfortable with it. And I’d say in the world in which we live, we have to, we have to be comfortable with things not being clear. But at the same time, as you said, not panicking. Thinking about what we know what we don’t know, what’s the best way to go forward? What what are our goals? How do we accomplish them. And I would say that, you know, if, if something’s really important to you, or to your family, you should never give up, you should just stick with it. That doesn’t mean you have to burn yourself out, right? You can take breaks, like when we were searching, there were times where it was so exhausting. You just needed to take a break and go off and do something else have a picnic. Whatever it was, you know, take a day trip, right? Take breaks, but don’t quit, don’t give up, stop periodically assess what you’re doing. Ask yourself, is this working? Is it leading me any closer to my goal or not? If it isn’t, then try a different approach. And the final chapter of the book is called our story. And the reason I put it at the end of the book, where there was two reasons why number one, I’ve read books about searching for birth parents, not Chinese birth parents, but just in general, you know, like in the US, for example, or something. And people sort of interleave their story in in with the process. And it makes it very confusing. And it’s almost like a tangent, right, that takes you away from well, what are the steps I should be following? I didn’t want to confuse the readers with that. So I put it at the very end of the book saying, look, here’s our story. If you read this, at the end, you’ll you’ll have a better understanding of the process we followed and why we you know why I came to the conclusion that this, this one approach was the best approach to search. But also, I put it there because I wanted them to understand all of the things we tried that did not work and that despite failure, if you will, we’d never gave up right? It’s really like you would say the unstoppable mind. Okay, that won’t work. Let’s try this. That won’t work. Let’s try that. There are a lot of revelations in the book, things that I tried or almost tried that, that, that that didn’t make a lot of sense, but I wanted the reader to understand we’ve tried just about everything possible, to give them the context and understand that what I’m advocating what we’re advocating as a family will work if you stick with it, right. We’ve tried all these things so you don’t have to think of it that way. We failed many times so that you can make a quicker If you can move more quickly to success. And so that’s that would be my advice right to someone in terms of developing an unstoppable mind. And I would like to add, I think you should also pray for God’s guidance, I’ll tell you, my wife spent years per she, she spent far more time praying that we would eventually find me and his birth families. And I did not to say I didn’t cry, because I certainly did. But I probably did more physical work, she did more praying. And I think it was the combination of those things that also helped us actually get there and sustain us, you know, through the, the arduous process, if you will.
Michael Hingson 55:44
I wonder how much praying she did, to get to the point of having the wisdom to approach you and get you to come on board and then praying for you to be a part of it. That’d be prayers there, too. But the power of prayer is really important. And I think that whether God says it or not, life is a puzzle. And you demonstrate so vividly the concept of solving a puzzle. And people will come along, as time goes by, from reading your book, and maybe listening to this podcast or just from their own experience. And we’ll add more to the puzzle solution, which is what makes this so exciting. One of the most important things that I have learned and you talked about ambiguity, and so on, one of the things that I find most important to say to people is, don’t worry about what you can’t control focus on what you can. And that was a message that I got, and is talked about in Thunder dog where I believe well, I know God spoke to me because it was a very physical speaking to me, which is something that I think is hard for a lot of people to understand. But there are things we don’t have control over. And if we fret about that, and spend our time worrying about that, then we shift away from dealing with what we can and making things better. And the reality is what we can’t control will get worked out one way or another. We just don’t have any control over it. So why should we spend a lot of our energy on it, it just gets frustrating.
Wesley Hagood 57:21
And that’s that’s a good message to remind others and remind ourself of often right that what does it say in the Bible, there’s a passage about not being able to like extend your height by a little bit or your life by a single day, something to that effect. So why worry about those things, right? Focus on what you can control what you can do,
Michael Hingson 57:42
the rest will take care of itself. So if people want to get a copy of your book, well, actually, before we do that, I want you to if you will talk a little bit about FCC.
Wesley Hagood 57:55
FCC. Yes, FCC stands for families with children from China. And I am the president of the FCC chapter in the capitol area. So Washington, DC, serving families in Virginia, Maryland, and DC. And we were a group of families that just sort of self organized. Like I said, back in the sort of like maybe mid 90s, as adoption from China started to happen on a more regular basis. And really, the purpose of it was to help other families who were seeking to do the same to help them understand the process, what it would be like and to create a community for those families who had done something that was really rather unique at that point in time. And it’s grown to the point where there are chapters there, each sort of individually, individually structured, all over the US and really all over the world. But then as as the number of adoptions has declined from China, and the children that were adopted as infants, often right, our young children have grown up and are now in their teens, or maybe in college, maybe even young adults outside of college, the chapters have started to decline and a number of them have are inactive, right. But most still have a Facebook group or something so that you can get in touch with them if you’d like to do so. Especially for families who are still continuing to adopt from China.
Michael Hingson 59:29
Is there a website?
Wesley Hagood 59:31
Best thing to do is just go to Facebook and type families with children from China and you’ll find them pop up all over the
Wesley Hagood 59:43
There, there was one like that. But that one’s even defunct now. It’s it wasn’t a How can I say this? It wasn’t a single organization. It was a collection of organizations who all had kind of a common purpose, right, and tended to use a common name, but each each individual one was individually charter, usually with the state in which they were located. So there
Michael Hingson 1:00:13
wasn’t a confederation or just as you said, an individual organization, they were just, yeah, groups that formed, obviously, with a very common and relevant purpose.
Wesley Hagood 1:00:25
Exactly. Yeah. Well, part part of what they also did was to help, you know, help the families and the children learn about Chinese culture, Chinese customs, etc. Because that’s something that we all promised when we adopted those children that we would raise them with knowledge of their country, their culture, their customs, that sort of thing.
Michael Hingson 1:00:47
Well, if people want to get your book, how can they do that? And if people want to reach out to you and maybe talk with you, or gain more wisdom from you, how can they do that?
Wesley Hagood 1:00:56
Okay, well, the easiest way to find the book is just to go to Amazon books and search for the title. And the title again, was searching for your Chinese birth family searching for your Chinese birth family. And then if they wanted to reach me, the easiest way would just be to send me an email to my Gmail email address, which is my name, Wesley middle initial, O, last name. Hagood@gmail.com.
Michael Hingson 1:01:22
And Hagood. Is H A G O O D?
Wesley Hagood 1:01:25
That’s right. H A G O O D? No. Y inHagood.
Michael Hingson 1:01:30
Well, that is is really so cool. And I’m really glad that you came on to tell your story. I think it’s an important story for people to hear. And you obviously enjoyed the adventure, challenges and all and you obviously demonstrated a very strong, unstoppable mindset going through all of that in any way that that implies.
Wesley Hagood 1:01:56
Yeah. Well, Michael, thank you so much for having me on your on your podcast show. It’s great, great to be with you.
Michael Hingson 1:02:03
Well, I enjoy it. And hopefully, if you find other people that you think would be good guests, no matter the subject, we’d love to hear from them. If you want to come back and talk about engineering, we can do that. You and I both have worked long enough with the government, however, that there are probably a lot of government contracts we can talk about otherwise we would no longer exists in the world. And
Wesley Hagood 1:02:26
that’s true. If you’re like me, you signed the statement that you’ll keep this information confidential for the rest of your lifetime. So
Michael Hingson 1:02:33
what information is that expense? So I was I used to sell products to SAIC and other government agencies and I’ve worked for a company that that made products and we had a lot of fun but some some really interesting very quiet contracts. And that’s okay. I’m all for for security when it’s relevant to do but it’s, it’s a lot of fun to have had you on and clearly you have demonstrated some some great things that I think will inspire people so I really appreciate you doing it. And for those you know, for those of you listening, love to hear your thoughts, you can email me Michael Hingson, you can email me at Michaelhi M I C H A E L H I at accessiBe A C C E S S I B E.com. You can go to www. Michaelhingson.com M I C H A E L H I N G S O N.com/podcast. To hear other episodes, or you can go to any place where you find podcasts. And if you found this elsewhere, go there and you’ll find the rest of the unstoppable mindset episodes. And please give us a five star rating. Please say positive things. We appreciate that. But I’d love to hear any thoughts that you have. And if anyone out there listening has ideas for guests, or you want to volunteer please do so I’d love to hear from you, Wesley again, thanks very much for being here and for giving us a lot of insights today. Thank you so much, Michael.
Michael Hingson 1:04:09
You have been listening to the Unstoppable Mindset podcast. Thanks for dropping by. I hope that you’ll join us again next week, and in future weeks for upcoming episodes. To subscribe to our podcast and to learn about upcoming episodes, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com slash podcast. Michael Hingson is spelled m i c h a e l h i n g s o n. While you’re on the site., please use the form there to recommend people who we ought to interview in upcoming editions of the show. And also, we ask you and urge you to invite your friends to join us in the future. If you know of any one or any organization needing a speaker for an event, please email me at speaker at Michael hingson.com. I appreciate it very much. To learn more about the concept of blinded by fear, please visit www dot Michael hingson.com forward slash blinded by fear and while you’re there, feel free to pick up a copy of my free eBook entitled blinded by fear. The unstoppable mindset podcast is provided by access cast an initiative of accessiBe and is sponsored by accessiBe. Please visit www.accessibe.com. accessiBe is spelled a c c e s s i b e. There you can learn all about how you can make your website inclusive for all persons with disabilities and how you can help make the internet fully inclusive by 2025. Thanks again for listening. Please come back and visit us again next week.