Sunday, December 10, 2006

How it went down

Today Lance and I were looking at some of the video we shot on the day we got Rachel. I've posted most of the still photos, but I didn't go into a lot of detail of what that day was like. I thought I'd share some of that now.

First of all, I was full of nervous energy last Sunday night. I prepared our gifts for the day and packed supplies -- I wanted Lance to get video of me putting diapers and wipes in the backpack, but he was busy taking night shots of Changsha from our window and completely missed my very first attempt at a diaper bag (that's still a work in progress -- I learn something new every day). It was hard for both of us to sleep, but Lance had a much harder time than I did -- he heard my digital watch beeping at 12:30 a.m. and thought it was the alarm, so he followed his usual routine of taking his morning medication. The drug is a stimulant, so he usually takes it and goes back to sleep until it takes effect in 30-40 minutes. Well, by 1:30 a.m. he was wide awake for the day. That means he had maybe two hours sleep the night before he met our daughter.

I was nervous as could be when we met the other families in the lobby at 8:30 a.m. Within a few minutes, we were walking out to the bus, gift bags and video cameras in hand. The tourist part of the trip was over, and we were about to become parents (several of us for the first time). I started tearing up right then -- two years of paperwork, preparation and agonizing waiting was ending in less than an hour, and I was overwhelmed. It was a rather subdued bus ride that morning. I suspect most everyone was equally emotional.

It didn't take long for us to get to the Civil Affairs Office. We went upstairs to a large waiting room with benches lining the walls and made nervous conversation. Bob McNeil, head of international adoptions for Sunny Ridge, had made this journey with 35 other groups, but he said placement is his favorite part. He and the agency's in-China staff member, Li Jian Zhoung ("Bill"), answered questions and tried to calm us down a little.

The 10 Sunny Ridge families in the room were all receiving babies under the care of the Yueyang County Social Welfare Institute. All the babies had been in individual foster homes, and Bob told us that he had learned that the babies had been removed from their foster homes only the day before. That was both good and bad news -- bad because our babies had undergone a great deal of trauma right before being placed in our arms, but good because they weren't put into the orphanage a few weeks in advance, which would have given them time to get comfortable with yet another group of caregivers only to be taken away from them.

The clock ticked past 9:30, which was supposed to have been our placement time.

All of a sudden two little Chinese girls walked into the room with their nannies. They were being placed with families waiting in the adjoining room. Some of us watched parts of the process at a distance through an open door. These girls were 2 or 3 years old, so they were really confused when their nannies left them, and both of them cried and cried. Well, if our stomachs weren't already in knots, that did it.

Then someone shouted "the babies are here!" You should have seen us all race to the windows and knock each other out of the way to see a few women walking into the building with big orange and yellow bundles. An agonizingly large number of minutes later, these women started filing through our room into the adjoining conference room. We were all huddled at one end of our large room peering through the door at the bundles, trying to recognize the daughters that we knew only from months-old photos. I spotted one who I thought was Ba Shu Ting, and I asked Lance if he thought I was right. He shot some video of her (and when we looked at the video today, we realized I was right). She was sitting calmly in the nanny's arms.

Then a woman introduced the director of the Yueyang County SWI. He came into the room, said a few words that Bill translated, then they began calling us up individually to receive our babies. Truthfully, the next few minutes were a blur. I was trying to take photos for all the other families and looking at the babies (at last) and shedding tears of joy for our friends. Then through the chaos, Bob said to me, quite calmly, "Susan, get ready." Oh my gosh, we were next! I tried to get Lance -- he came up with his video camera and I told him to ditch it. Another new dad took it from him and videotaped our first few minutes.

I went up and showed our passports to the official who checked them and then checked Ting Ting's ID badge. She nodded to the nanny, and she handed the bundle to me.

I looked into my daughter's eyes and she let out a wail that cut deep into my heart. Tears poured out of her eyes, and I remember noticing her two little bottom teeth as she let out a scream. I just pulled that little orange and yellow poufy bundle toward me and began patting her back and telling her, "it's OK, it's OK." I was crying, too, of course, because I was so sad for her losing the foster family who had loved her and cared for her for 10 months. I could just feel her grief and her intense sadness and confusion. She was so fully padded that I couldn't tell how big she was, but she felt like nothing. But she was sobbing so hard her entire body was shaking.

A lot of the babies were crying, and that was making it worse for everyone. When we watched the video today we were surprised at how loud all the wailing was; we didn't really remember that. I ended up walking out into the hallway with Ting Ting and just walking up and down it, patting her on the back and talking softly to her. Lance was trailing us with the video camera. He tried to distract her with a toy (and his still camera), and it worked for a few seconds, but just as she seemed to calm down she would turn around and look up at me and her face would crumple in grief and confusion and she would start wailing again. My heart was aching for her --I just wanted her to know that she was safe, that we would love her with all our hearts, but I knew she couldn't know that. So I just patted her and talked softly to her until her wails faded into little whimpers.

As soon as I sat down on the bus, she fell dead asleep in my arms. Lance asked to hold her, so I passed her back and got some video. It was about a 15-minute ride back, then he carried her up to our room. We could both feel that she was wet, but we didn't want to traumatize her by trying to change her diaper right then. He put her in her crib and tried to get that big poufy jacket off of her, and it woke her up. She just looked at us curiously. So Lance picked her up and we sat down on the bed with her. He asked me for the Cheerios, and he showed her how to eat them, smacking his lips loudly. It wasn't long before her little hand was reaching out to pick them up. She has great dexterity and had no trouble feeding herself. We both took turns holding them out to her, and she ate and ate. Then I got the great idea to fix her a bottle, and she wolfed it down. She seemed to be getting sleepy, so we decided we should try that diaper change. She screamed through that, and I was all thumbs, of course (hey -- why didn't somebody tell me they've replaced the tape with velcro-like fasteners?). Lance tried to nap with her but she fought sleep. In fact, she didn't nap at all that day.

I've described how the two of them hung out together that day. He could make her laugh, and she seemed to find him less threatening than me, so I let him take the lead. I was so in awe of how he was able to relate to her; it just melted my heart to see her climbing over him and eating Cheerios from his hand and playing with all the toys he handed her. He just instinctively knew what to do with her, while I fumbled around and tried to figure out how to relate.

At 2 p.m., Bob and Bill were back with the SWI director for a short private meeting. We were able to ask a few questions, but he didn't know a lot of details about her care, since she hadn't lived in the orphanage. I did give him a gift I had prepared for Ting Ting's foster family, though. Among other things, it contained an album of photos of Rachel's new family, with Chinese labels, and a locket with her photo in it. I also enclosed a letter of thanks to them and some stamped envelopes addressed to us in case they wanted to make contact.

At 4, we had planned an outing to the local Wal-Mart. Lance stayed at the hotel with Ting Ting and I went to the store to buy more diapers (a size smaller than the few I had brought from home), wipes, baby food and other supplies. Most of the other families were represented, many of them with their babies in tow.

A couple of hours after the Wal-Mart excursion, we had a paperwork meeting in a conference room at the hotel. One parent had to go fill out some adoption forms, so that was me. When I finally got back to our room, completely exhausted both emotionally and physically, Lance had put Ting Ting in her crib. She didn't stay long, though -- she finally fell asleep on Lance's chest, both of them snoring away.

The first day or two, Rachel would let me hold her to feed her a bottle, but the second she was through she would wail until Lance picked her up (then she would stop immediately). I know she needed time to grieve, so I didn't push her. It made me sad that I couldn't comfort her, but I felt so grateful that she had bonded so well with Lance. I kept feeding her so she spent time bonding with me, too, and each day she lets me do more with her or for her. The last two nights, I've been the one who comforted her until she fell asleep, then put her in her crib. I'm very proud of that. I've also learned to change a diaper and change her clothes without the blood-curdling screams I heard the first few days.

Now she even feeds Cheerios to me.

Tuesday morning, we were back to the Civil Affairs office to complete the adoption, then we spent the afternoon getting to know her (and, as it turned out, finding out she had an ear infection). She's over the worst of that now, though, and each day she comes out of her shell just a little bit more.

I'm going to post some more photos of that cute grin now.


Kay said...

Okay, now my makeup is smeared from crying. I now it has been a tough time during her transition but she seems to be adapting well. I can't wait to see the new pictures. This is what I do all day long, check for new postings. It's not as good as being there but at least it helps. It's also neat to check the other blogs because they sometimes contain different information.

: D - Kay

Anonymous said...

What a wonderful story of how you first met Rachel. It was so neat to hear all of the details. After waiting for two years, I can't imagine the emotions in that room. Lynette is my sister in law - we've been following your blogs since you've been gone, and have been so enjoying all the updates.

Anonymous said...

Lance and Susan,

My makeup is smeared as well from crying. What a wonderful journey you have had to get to this point where you now have in your arms a beautiful daughter. It was obviously well worth the wait. I look forward to meeting her and seeing you. Congratulations!

Anonymous said...

I was also adopted from Yueyang like Rachel. I am eleven years old, and around Valinetines day was when my parents came back from China.I really liked the story about Rachel.