Chen Yu-Wen arrives in United States as ‘Anna’ |

Chen Yu-Wen arrives in United States as ‘Anna’

by Susie Vasquez

Seven-month-old Chen Yu-Wen of Taiwan recently became Anna, the newly-adopted daughter of Douglas County physician Dr. Ralph Herbig and his wife, Tami Force.

Anna arrived just a few weeks ago but seems to be taking the transition in stride – playing with her mom’s necklace and showing a dimple when she smiles.

Mom could barely take her eyes off the baby in her arms.

“This is my dream baby. She’s happy, easy and healthy,” she said as Anna played with a small toy on the floor. “She loves to get kisses and she’s very social.

“I wonder if her natural mother has any idea what she’s missing.”

The adoption agency, Commonwealth International, paired them with Anna when the baby was just a week old. They received videos of the baby from Taiwan. They sent the baby care packages. The baby was put in foster care at three months, prior to the couple’s trip to Taiwan in late October.

“She doesn’t cry unless something is really wrong,” Force said. “She cut her first teeth on the flight home and we didn’t even know it until the plane landed.”

The couple was told it might take time for the baby to catch up from a developmental standpoint, but this baby is right on schedule. Good foster care probably made the difference, Force said.

“She loves people and will go to anyone,” she said. “But it didn’t take her too many days to figure out who mom was. She learns quickly.”

The trip from Taiwan to their home in Gardnerville marked the end of an incredible journey, a “paper pregnancy” involving weeks and months of red tape, sleepless nights and heartache.

After investing money and much effort, their first adoption agency closed. A second attempt ended in failure when some of their paperwork was not accepted by a Chinese agency. A private adoption in India was never completed because the baby was not an orphan, Force said.

The baby was subsequently put in an orphanage. Force’s voice and eyes dropped as she talked about it.

“We had it all lined up,” she said.

The couple’s decision to adopt came after Force developed a rare and possibly fatal heart complication during her first pregnancy, peripartum cardiomyopathy. Their natural son, five-year-old Ryan, was in distress when doctors took him by C-section one month before his due date.

Ryan, who suffered a series of strokes resulting in the loss of some motor skills, was in intensive care for a month.

She acquired congestive heart failure, her lungs filling with fluid after the delivery. Doctors told Force had a 30 percent chance of dying from the disease, a 30 percent chance of getting worse, or she could recover.

With medication, Force recovered and the couple decided another pregnancy was not an option. Force wanted a little girl, this time a healthy baby, she said.

Infants up for adoption in the United States often have health issues related to their parents’ drug dependencies. In Nevada, parents can take the baby back for up to six months, so the couple opted for an overseas adoption.

Changes in China and Taiwan have meant an increase in pregnancies in unwed mothers and Anna was born to a young college student who had to drop out of school to have the baby.

“A real stigma surrounds unwed pregnancies and even if the couple had gotten married, they would have carried the shame with them,” Force said. “We were told it was such a taboo to adopt in Taiwan that in the few circumstances where it happens (usually a family member adopts) the parents would move away for a year then come home with a baby saying it was theirs and never tell anyone, including the baby, about the adoption.”

Force said she wanted to meet the mother, but she declined. The couple left pictures and a special locket for her, but they haven’t been picked up yet.

“I’m told she wanted to move forward, finish school and get on with her life,” Force said.

Susie Vasquez can be reached at or 782-5121, ext. 211.