Life is all about kids…

Like many career women, Gail Willson put off any notion of having children until it was almost too late. Then, reaching age 48 and single, she realized bearing a child was out of the question. But a friend, a social worker involved in adoption, spoke to her about adopting a child from overseas and Christmas two years ago Willson realized, “life is all about kids.”

Today, at 50, she finds her life transformed by the arrival of Quinn, a three-year-old girl who was a bundle of bones when Willson received her from an orphanage in China.

That she should have adopted a child from China is no coincidence. While other countries favour younger parents, China won’t allow parents under 35 to adopt, evening the odds for older parents.

“It’s the Chinese traditional respect for age,” suggests Michael Zessner, who, with his wife, Deborah Maw, helps run a Canadian support group for adoptive parents of Chinese children.

Willson admits she had her doubts. “My friends thought I was crazy, that I should be thinking about retiring,” she says, sitting in the living room of her east end Toronto house, children’s books stacked on the bookshelf. “I didn’t feel I could afford to bring up child, either, and there was a reluctance to give up my lifestyle — you know, two or three movies a week and playing squash.” In addition, adopting a child from China costs about $15,000.

But within less than a year of making the decision, and after submitting to a home study and other formalities, Willson was on her way to China with a group of eager adoptive parents.

Quinn was 19 months old, weighed only 18 pounds, couldn’t walk yet and was kicking and screaming when Willson first saw her. But she felt instantly that “this was meant to be.” Quinn ate and ate the first day, then held her arms out to her new mom.

Back in Canada and home with Quinn for five weeks, she found herself cooped up because it was winter, and so tired at the end of every day she’d go to bed the same time as her daughter. “Even now there are times I do that,” she says. “You have to be on your toes every single minute the child is awake.”

Willson has other concerns. Strokes run in her family, and she worries she’s not doing enough to lose weight and keep fit. She’s increased her life insurance and made a will in Quinn’s favour.

“I don’t look ahead because I can’t really control it,” she says. Retirement is now out of the question. Any regrets? She shakes her head. “She’s worth everything. She’s my life. Sometimes I go in and I see her sleep and tears come to my eyes.”