From Only Child To Older Sister To Adoptee, Under China's One-Child Policy Ricki Mudd was born in China and her family, wanting a son, hid her away while they tried to have a boy. After her brother was born she was taken by authorities. But she feels lucky, not rejected.
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From Only Child To Older Sister To Adoptee, Under China's One-Child Policy

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From Only Child To Older Sister To Adoptee, Under China's One-Child Policy

From Only Child To Older Sister To Adoptee, Under China's One-Child Policy

From Only Child To Older Sister To Adoptee, Under China's One-Child Policy

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/453503562/453509949" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

In 2005, when she was 12 years old, Ricki Mudd (center) traveled to China to meet her birth father Wu Jin Cai, birth brother Wu Chao and birth mother Xu Xian Zhen. Mudd had been given up for adoption after Wu Chao was born; her family wanted a son, and her parents were limited to one child. Courtesy of Ricky Mudd hide caption

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Courtesy of Ricky Mudd

In 2005, when she was 12 years old, Ricki Mudd (center) traveled to China to meet her birth father Wu Jin Cai, birth brother Wu Chao and birth mother Xu Xian Zhen. Mudd had been given up for adoption after Wu Chao was born; her family wanted a son, and her parents were limited to one child.

Courtesy of Ricky Mudd

This week, the Chinese government announced a major change: all Chinese families will now be permitted to have two children.

For 35 years, the nation's one-child policy shaped the lives of millions of people around the world — including Ricki Mudd.

Mudd is one of more than 100,000 children, mostly girls, who have been adopted from China since the early 1990s. But unlike many adoptees, Mudd knows her backstory.

She was born to a rural family, in a region where there was intense pressure to have a boy. So her family hid her away, hoping they'd have a son.

When they did, and their older daughter's existence was discovered, she was taken by authorities, turned over to an orphanage and, eventually, adopted by a Seattle family.

Mudd wrote in the Washington Post about how she discovered her personal history — and why, instead of feeling rejected by her birth family's choices, she feels fortunate. She's also the subject of a documentary, Ricki's Promise, about a long trip she recently took to China to stay with her birth family.

She tells NPR's Michel Martin that growing up in America, and reuniting with her birth family in China, has let her embrace elements of both cultures.

"People ask me whether I believe I'm Chinese or American, and it really comes down to, well, I'm both," she says.


Interview Highlights

On how she felt when her birth parents contacted her when she was 9

It was very emotionally overwhelming a bit. I think for me at 9 years old, it was hard for me to really sort out what my feelings were. There was happiness, there was anxiety, there was curiosity.

China's one-child policy kept siblings Ricki Mudd and Wu Chao from growing up together. "Sometimes it's odd to think that between us, Wu Chao is supposedly the privileged child," Mudd writes. Courtesy of Ricki Mudd hide caption

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Courtesy of Ricki Mudd

China's one-child policy kept siblings Ricki Mudd and Wu Chao from growing up together. "Sometimes it's odd to think that between us, Wu Chao is supposedly the privileged child," Mudd writes.

Courtesy of Ricki Mudd

On her feeling that, while the one-child policy caused her parents and others immense pain, it opened up opportunities for her

[Visiting China] really did open my eyes. Had I been in China and not adopted, I would've lived this life. I guess I come into it with the American lens — since I've been in a sense spoiled by my experiences here — and so coming there, you know ... there were quite a lot of things on a quality of life basis that I would've found more difficult to do. I've always been somebody who didn't take things for granted but I just had an even more profound appreciation for the opportunities that have opened up for me here on just about every dimension.

On the question she raises about who got the better deal, her or her brother

Based off my extended stay in China, I think I have more privileges here. My parents here are a lot more open-minded — unsurprisingly — than my birth parents in China so I was allowed to do more things, versus [my brother] Chao was more restricted in almost every sense.

Click on the audio link above to hear more from their conversation.