Sorry for the delay in the episodic recounting of our adoption adventure in China, but a blizzard and a dastardly China-born virus (that’s my story anyway) kinda kept me out of commission for the week. But now, I’m back, so our story continues. Now, where was I? Oh, yes…
Monday, Jan. 17, 2011. About 1300 hrs. Changsha time.
Richard calls to tell us the Huffman baby is here. So we gather Maire up, placing her in what appears to be her favorite place for the time being—daddy’s arms. Ang grabs the camera, and the tables are switched. This time we can relax. Well… we do have a child that is essentially a stranger with us, who tends to get upset at any sort of change. And, I believe the Huffman’s lives are about to change in ways they cannot possibly conceive.
So, we get our selves settled in Richard’s room. Chloe is the name given by the Huffman’s to their baby. I’ll be perfectly honest right here, I don’t know her Chinese name. Her surname was Chen. That I know because that’s Maire’s given Chinese name. I got that much, but I’ve got no idea what Chloe’s given Chinese name was. Zhang or Xian or Jintao. I don’t know. I have a hard enough time focusing on the things in my own life. Heck, I just got handed a three-year-old to have that I’d never met before. Sorry, Jim and Cora. I could’ve asked Ang, but I thought I’d be honest here.
So anyway, Chloe is adorable. Now, she’s a proper baby, 16 months, although she operates a little closer to the 9-12 month range. She was on the special needs list as well for a cauliflower ear. Her right ear didn’t fully develop, but you can barely tell because her hair hangs over it. She has huge eyes and looks very different than Maire, different bone structure, different facial shape, darker skin tone. They look like they must be from completely different areas of the country. You can see more Mongolian influence in Chloe. But they’re both spicy Hunan girls. And they’ll both show it. Maire will take a little longer than Chloe. Chloe wears her spiciness on her sleeve from day one.
To watch new parents delivered to their first child is something few people ever experience. To see that look of wonder and awe and joy and fear expressed on their faces all at once, is to see the scope of human emotion in one moment. I can’t imagine it’s anything like the expressions on birth parents’ faces. That involves exhaustion, which takes away from the fear and the joy. Jim and Cora’s eyes are wide; disbelieving that the daughter/child they’ve waited so long for is finally here. Their joy is palpable. Their fear runs a current under everything, like a static electricity storm that brews but never ignites.
They walk slowly into the room, cautious, as if they might scare her away, and she’ll retreat forever back into the jungle. They approach Chloe, obviously filled with love in their hearts, but also like they’re zoologists approaching a species they know nothing about. Like any discovery, they don’t know the half of it.
Chloe lets out a squeal and slaps her hands down in that way that babies do, when there’s really no full control over their body but a huge gesture of movement is all they know they can control. Cora scoops her up. Like my own meeting with Maire just hours before, I have little awareness of the other people in the room. As Cora makes Chloe her own, the fear disappears from her body. She is a mother with her child now.
Jim is a photographer. He took over 500 pictures of our meeting of Maire earlier that morning. Almost as soon as he’s in the room he’s taking pictures, but Angie pushes toward him and asks him to hand over the camera so he can enjoy this moment that marks the biggest change his life will ever take. She takes the camera and hands it to me. She is documenting with our camera. For a moment, I think about how Maire is going to handle both her parents putting all this attention toward the new parents, but she seems as caught up in the awe of the moment as everyone else is. Angie also replaces me at her side and gives me an unspoken go ahead to take command of the documentation with Jim’s camera.
I used to be a photographer a very long time ago, another lifetime, when I was a kid, when I was a different person. I’ve lost my touch. I try to do Jim’s camera justice by getting off as many shots as he does. I don’t think I even get to 100, although I feel like I’m constantly shooting. Close up of mom’s face. Medium of mom and Chloe. Close up of the proud father’s expression. Wide of all three. Close up as dad takes the reigns, a little more timidly than mom. The fear melts away within seconds, taken over by joy. I don’t have the presence of mind that Jim had to get small details like a close up of Chloe’s feet, shots of the orphanage directors, Richard and Cindy. Like I said, I’ve lost my touch, but I do my best.
The entire capture event is rather brief, only 15 or 20 minutes. Remember, all the paperwork will be taken care of tomorrow, this is just the gotcha day. Jim and Cora depart for their hotel room with the joy of finally achieving their dream of becoming parents. This will soon turn into questioning of just what being parents really means. Ang, Maire and I head back to our room.
We get her into our room, and… Frankly, we’re not quite sure what to do with her. We decide to feed her some ramen noodles. The hotel rooms have these great water boiling kettles in their rooms. You turn them on and they shut themselves off automatically once the water has boiled. Ang throws some noodles in a cup, lids it, and snaps a few shots of Maire and me. I look happier in them than Maire does. She’s getting cranky.
We dig out some toys we brought. We were instructed to only bring one toy. We pull out our stash, which includes stacking cups, plastic chain links letters, balls, dolls, lovies, books. Maire pretty much just throws everything, except the books. We’re surprised by her fine motor skills as she fingers through the pages. While seeming to have little control about holding the book, she is quite capable of turning the pages in chunks at a time. This only occupies her for a short period of time, and her very timid whining never really stops.
The noodles are ready and we’re wondering how well the eating will go since she hasn’t really closed her mouth since we got her. Her face seems to always be occupied by that slightly dissatisfied grimace. Feeding her is difficult, as it quickly becomes apparent that she doesn’t know how to eat from a spoon. Again, she won’t close her mouth. We have to kind of drop the noodles in there. She seems to like them and slowly she decides it’s ok to close her mouth to swallow the noodles. We can tell when she swallows because her lips move in and out as if she’s chewing.
She has stopped whining, and we decide to try and get her meds in her. I crush up the pills into small pieces. The ones that we’re not quite sure what they are, the “herbal” medicine, look kind of like M&Ms. The inside looks like a hard chocolate covered in a hard yellow shell. We we’re told she doesn’t like them. We will learn that she most certainly does not, but not at this feeding. All her meds go down fairly effortlessly the first time. She doesn’t seem to notice them in her noodles. Perhaps that’s because she doesn’t chew. We we’re told her jaw was not very strong and she couldn’t chew anything. Everything will have to be mashed up.
After our first meal, she’s rubbing her eyes and from experience we know this will be a good time for a nap anyway. We put her in the hotel crib and she’s not happy. Of course, that’s been the norm so far. Ang and I are both quite tired too so we lay down as well. I lay next to Maire’s crib and assure her that we are still there by touching her hand through the slats. She falls asleep fairly quickly with one arm crossed over her face, suckling her wrist.
I get back up and eat my own ramen noodles before lying back down with Ang and taking a rather lengthy afternoon nap. I wake before Ang and Maire and try to jump on line. The hotel’s service only allows us to visit a few sites. We can’t get onto our blog. That’s an area of stress because we really wanted to keep everyone up to date that way. I’m also stressed because I know we have to try and sleep tonight as well. Maire’s sleeping so long that I fear we’re in for a battle throughout the night.
After we’re all awake, we still seem to be in the same daze as before the nap. This is just about the strangest day of all of our lives. We decide to pay Jim and Cora a visit and see how well they’re faring. They’re room is darkened more than ours. It seems calmer in there, but we can sense a façade. We can tell they’re about as curious what to do with themselves as we are. Chloe won’t have anything to do with Jim. She just wants Cora. I’m sure Jim feels a little shafted, but he doesn’t show it. He continues with his signature quips and digs at Ang.
We wander back to our room. I’m carrying Maire. My hip seems to be her favorite spot. She doesn’t whine while she’s being held, unless she wants to be held by someone else. Dad is always safe so far. I don’t mind. I like having her as a new appendage. I wonder if Ang feels shafted too, although Maire likes Angie too. Chloe is quite anti-Jim at this point. I’m sure that will change. I’m not so sure Jim and Cora are sure that will change.
So, we’re back in our room again wondering just what we should do again. Eat? What the hell! We cook up another batch of noodles for Maire. I’m wondering if she’ll eat. She was asleep for so long, she probably will. There’s no way she’s going back to sleep though, and I’m already exhausted again. So’s Ang, not that she says so. We’re not sure what we’re doing about food this time though. Maybe room service. We’ll decide after we figure out what we’re doing with Maire.
Maire eats again, easily. She takes her pills again without any protest. This is really much easier than we keep worrying it will be, although both of us wonder if she’ll ever be happy. She hasn’t had anything to drink. We tried a sippy cup earlier and nothing was happening with that. She wouldn’t latch on. We borrowed a bottle from Jim and Cora. They’re having their own problems getting Chloe to eat. That doesn’t concern us as much as them. Chloe’s young, she’ll eat once she got used to them and once they figure out how to feed her.
Maire is another thing, though. She’s so dehydrated and doesn’t seem to have the slightest notion how to eat and drink. At three, she must’ve done these things before, yet it isn’t like she’s refusing to. She wants the food and wants the water from us. We can see that. We just can’t figure out how she takes it. She doesn’t seem to care what we feed her; she just doesn’t seem to know how to eat other than us just shoving it down her gullet. As for the drink, we are reduced to trapping water in a straw and releasing it into her mouth, which she just doesn’t close. No wonder she’s so dehydrated.
While I finish hand feeding Maire, Ang decides to run some bath water so we can wash away some of the layers of dirt on her. Maire let us know earlier that she isn’t fond of changing her clothes. Any change seems to be extremely stressful for her. So getting her naked for a bath is not a popular idea with her. Her protests of de-robing, however, are nothing compared to her dissatisfaction with being wet.
She screams as loud as she can the entire time she’s in the bath water. The good news is that she goes stiff when she’s upset, so there isn’t a whole lot of thrashing about. She does hit herself when she’s upset, though; and Ang must stop washing to hold her hands back from hitting herself on the head or in the chin.
I recall that one of the reports we got about Maire’s daily routine had mentioned bathing and suggested that it was one of the many delightful parts of her day. Not this girl. To her, the water is like acid. Getting out isn’t much better. Mom wraps her in a towel and hands her to me. I’m holding a shivering and very upset child. What am I supposed to do with this?
Ang has some PJs laid out for her and I lay Maire down to get a new diaper on her. “Eeeeeaaaaaaygggh!” Maire says adamantly. I work as quickly as I can to get the thing on her. Then we still have to get the PJs on. “EEEEEEEeeeeeaaaaaayrrrgh!” she says and starts hitting herself on the chin. I grab her arm to stop her. “Eeeeeeeeeaaaaaaarygh!” She’s not saying nice things to me. So much for being the favorite. At least I’m not the one who got her wet to begin with.
We wrestle her PJs on together. Maire wipes and presses her eyes frequently during the ordeal. That’s a pretty good sign she’s tired, so we decide to put her in her crib. It’s early, but we’re all tired, so it seems like the best course of action. She protests some more, but the bath has taken it out of her and after I lie down next to her, she starts suckling her wrist again and is out again in no time.
Ang and I order some food through room service. We’re not burned out on the Chinese just yet. I get dumplings. She gets fried rice. We don’t last much longer. I expect to hear from Maire in a couple hours, but it never happens. So far, so good.
Next we’ll learn more about Maire’s eating habits, return to the adoption authority to finalize the adoption on the Chinese side, have more Chinese food adventures, and add to our worry.
Stay tuned for Part V.