Wow, wow, wow, wow, wow. Wow. Did I say wow? We have been blessed for the second time with a perfectly beautiful, awe-inspiring little girl and what a day it has been. After breakfast today, several families took taxis to a downtown CQ shopping district. We found a "Goodbaby" store and an OshKosh store where we found some outfits (all pink) and then we found a great children's book/clothing/toy/etc. store not far away where we scoped out a few ideas for big sister presents and I got some barettes. Some of the other families found a traditional market and bought beautiful dolls, shoes and clothing for their babies. We were all so excited for this afternoon but knew that we needed to do something to stay busy or we would go nuts. After a midday rest, we met in the lobby of our hotel and boarded a bus with our facilitator Richard. There are nine families in our group, all such nice people, and many of them have brought friends, children, or grandparents to share this amazing experience.
On the way to our first stop (shopping for essentials) Richard gave us a briefing of sorts. He reminded us that we are not here as tourists and to make sure we always take care of our own and our baby's health first rather than try to do too much sightseeing or be too adventurous. He also reminded us that from our baby's perspective, today might be a little scary. New faces, new smells and sounds, and the loss of everything they have known up to this point...for the parents, it's so happy and such a dream come true - he just wanted to prepare people for a tougher adjustment if that's how things turned out. He then taught us a saying that I'd like to share with you. Chinese people say "When you go to Beijing, you know you are not powerful. When you go to Guangzhou, you know you are not rich. When you go to Chongqing, you know you got married too early." Richard says girls from this region are known as the most beautiful in all of China (we hardly disagree!).
We did our shopping at a Carrefour store, which is a French chain of department stores. It looked kind of like Wal-Mart on speed. Busy, colorful, crowded, full of people checking out the latest whatever. We bought matching big sister-little sister outfits, and then our facilitator Richard helped us find the right diapers, wipes, formula, baby food, etc. so we had some supplies to get started with. We went back on the bus and drove a short distance to the Civil Affairs Bureau, which says "Bureau of Sino-American Marriage and Adoption" on the front. Several of us who've done this before recognized the building and the excitement was building as the bus stopped in the parking space.
I felt so calm though - kept waiting to feel what I felt last time but I felt so much less overwhelmed by the whole experience. TodayI found myself interested in not only what we were doing but what all the families were going through, to really get a feel for the whole event and not just our small part of it. We took a picture ofourselves as we waited for the elevator to come and take us to the 4th floor. Last time we were at this point we were practically vibrating with anxiety, and last time we got off the elevator and immediately saw our daughter JieJie in the Civil Affairs office. How would it be this time?
When we got off the elevator, we walked into the big room with traditional red decorations, a long counter for paperwork processing and several notary officials. Families who had just completed the paperwork for adoptions from Fuling (JieJie's hometown) were filing out with their new babies, and then who should come out but DirectorYang from Fuling! I had heard she would be there and brought photos of JieJie to give to her. We talked through our facilitator for a moment to say how glad we were to see her and promised that when JieJie was older we'd certainly visit Fuling again. We got her on video saying "Ni Hao, Fu De Quan!" (Hello, JieJie!)
We were told that the babies from Liangping (that's MeiMei's orphanage) were still en route. Some of the first-time moms were already crying from the overwhelming feelings swirling around in the room...excitement, fear, the unknown...you name it. Then just a few minutes later in came nine babies, carried by seven caregivers. The babies were all dressed in identical bright pink outfits of quilted fleece, festooned with ribbon roses and little doll-like things on the jacket pockets. John picked MeiMei out immediately. I didn't think it was her - I honestly was looking from baby to baby trying to figure out which one was ours because I didn't see any that looked the way I was picturing MeiMei. Soon Richard called our name, and there we were, just shy of two years after we went through this the first time, in the same room, receiving a beautiful baby. A man placed her in my arms as John filmed with the videocamera. (For the rest of my life, she will have that to hang over my head, that I didn't know her when she was brought in!!) [actually, later viewings of the video show that we were both wrong].
John soon put down the camera so we could check out this little one. She is so healthy, no congestion, no rash, a full head of soft black hair, very alert and calm. She didn't cry when we held her, only when the flashbulb went off on a family photo. Within minutes, she leaned her cheek against mine and really seemed to hug me, grabbing my upper arm with one hand and putting her other arm around my neck. She goes to John easily too. Other families in the room were going through a variety of reactions, as every baby deals with things differently. Some tears, some almost nonreactions...we know from last time that all of these babies will seem like different people a week from today. Until then, though, there are some challenging days ahead for all of us.
Maybe that's why I didn't cry or get emotional today...I am waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak. We had a chance to ask some questions of the orphanage officials (if we forget anything, we have another chance to talk with them tomorrow and also Saturday when we go to Liangping). We asked her nickname, what the nannies called her, and it is indeed "You-You"! We then asked about potty logistics and were told that she's used to diapers. Finally I asked whether anything special would have been done on MeiMei's first birthday, which was last June 29th. They said they don't have a party or anything (not that I thought they would) but they would give her extra attention that day, tell her it was her special day, maybe give her special food or extra food. Before we knew it it was time to go back on the bus and get back to the hotel. We ordered room service dinner (steak, fries, veggies) and fed MeiMei some strained peas which she liked, though she had to consider it for a moment first. She didn't want the bottle we made -will have to try again tomorrow to make the right mix of rice cereal, formula and right temperature of water to please her. Then we spent about an hour just playing. She took a set of plastic keys and just sort of banged it on different things, listening to the sounds. She crawled. She got herself standing up and then plopped down on her butt on the floor again. She pulled herself up on the cabinets and pulled herself along them. She's not walking independently yet but we're thinking it's going to be any day now because everything's in place, she just needs to get the hang of it. She played peekaboo with me and John, smiled so many times, cracked herself up and laughed the cutest little laugh. She is (so far) really mellow and agreeable. This will work well with JieJie's take-charge nature!! Better that than two alpha females in the same house...this is looking very workable. Time will tell.
We tried to put her down to sleep in her crib but she cried pretty hard (mouth open wide, eyes closed, no sound came out) so we scooped her up and laid down with her on the bed. She had her head on my tummy. Heavy sigh, a rub of the eyes, and her eyes fluttered closed. It's indescribable how perfectly beautiful she was, lying there, rosy-cheeked and sleeping peacefully. I had been waiting for screams and fighting, but this unexpected peace surprised me and I heard a little "tap" as a big fat tear hit the down comforter on our bed. John picked her up, she woke up briefly, but he laid her down in the crib and she fell asleep again.
And then BOOM! A blast of dynamite from the construction site next to the hotel. Don't worry, she didn't wake up. Good thing, because all around the hotel, all around the city, people are building, building, building, 24 hours aday, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, pounding, blasting, welding, pouring concrete...I can't think of anywhere in North America you could go to see such a building boom. Guess you'll just have to see China for yourself. Well, it's 10:20pm Monday night in Chongqing (9:20am where you are unless you're my friend Helen in Australia or our friends in The Netherlands) so I'd better stop now and go to sleep. We are just so thankful.