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China: Day 6 & 7 – “She's Intoxicating”

After two full days with our little love, shuffling around the city and hotel floor alike, only a beaming new Mom like Sarah could best summarize how we feel about spending every waking second with this child. “I mean, she’s intoxicating” she said just minutes after we had put Julia to bed and were already wishing it were morning so we could see her again.

A dear friend told us before we left for China that seeing her every time will feel like Christmas morning. We couldn’t agree more, as we find ourselves smitten even studying her tiny body for every little detail while she sleeps (she has nine adorable wrinkles on her upper lip, in case you were curious). I personally can’t get enough of her hot breath while she naps (and I use every chance I can get to inhale a good whiff), even though we’re pretty sure she has a cold and her poor teeth are pretty rotten. It’s worth the risk.

If the highs are the elation felt on Christmas morning (which we’ve had a LOT of), we’ve had our first couple of Halloween night lows too. Waking up from naps has been a trigger for fear, given the jolt of reality she faces when first opening eyes to still-new sights and sounds (although in her worst episode yet on Tuesday, we’re not sure she was even awake for the rough, tearless crying spell). We’re finding that we have to be careful and methodical when removing a bottle or toy, as any quick change in scenery triggers another fear-of-loss reaction. And her daytime rocking is quick to appear if we leave her without immediate attention for longer than a minute (so we’ve gotten pretty good at the whole “You got her?” tag team while we’re getting ready, and with a simple hand on her back, the rocking immediately subsides).

But the lows have been minimal; shockingly few, to tell you the truth. And the highs have continued to blow us away (both in quantity and quality of “wins”). We hope it’s not just a coping mechanism and that we don’t jinx ourselves, but in our early days with the lotus, she is unbelievably happy and content. Like, exceptionally happy and exceptionally content. She smiles non stop (often at herself, for no reason), and we’re getting plenty of laughs and full-on chuckles throughout each day. We’re beginning to think there’s something significant about her being found wearing a Buddha necklace, given her Zen-like disposition and playful nature. Except that her belly is nowhere NEAR the size we plan to make it, with all this good food ahead.

If you're keeping score, we’re racking up a list of all the reasons for celebration in our first three days. After the heartbreaking bedtime routine Monday night, we’ve successfully rocked her to sleep two nights in a row (thanks Rockabye Baby! Radiohead Rendetions). She’s sleeping through the night until at least 8am! And she absolutely loved her first-ever tub bath Tuesday night (pictured here). In tonight’s second bath, she loved it so much that she tried to make liars out of our “Buddha baby” description by attempting to throw a small fit, that lasted for about 2.2 seconds, until she returned to a full-on smile as we dried her off and massaged her tasty skin.

Her second bath also brought us one of those magical moments we’ll remember forever, and a wholesome reminder of how this child’s life is still so pure and uncharted. Upon showing her a stacking cup with a hole in the bottom, and how it created a stream of thin water when lifting it out of the tub… she was fascinated by her inability to “pinch” or catch the water with her fingers. She was enamored with that refreshing feeling of warm H2O hitting her skin from above, and she remained perpetually wide-eyed in excitement as her parents cried tears of joy, feeling honored to experience this “first” with her. In fact, we’ll be experiencing more “firsts” with her than we predicted. Even given what’s often common with her background, she’s well behind both physically and developmentally (she’s 22 months old, but 12 month clothing is baggy, and she came to us far from ready to walk). But we have nothing but confidence that all she needs is love, and selfishly, we’re thrilled to be the ones sharing in all these future milestones.

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And, it’s amazing to see the progress she has made in just three days. On Monday and Tuesday, she wouldn’t put any weight on her legs, instead choosing to barely crawl (which caused a bit of concern). But today, we were able to get her to stand in the window sill to bang on the glass and stare at the skyline below, and immediately after that big confidence booster, she showed her full-on knee crawling skills for the rest of the night. Our agency says that these children often revert before they progress, and until she trusts us fully, we might not see what she’s capable of. Needless to say, we’re here for you and ready when you are, Jujube!

In more specifics, our Tuesday and Wednesday consisted of a few planned – and couple of unplanned – activities along with lots and lots of hotel room play time. We had an appointment at the Civil Affairs office Tuesday morning, essentially returning to the “scene of the crime” to finalize some paperwork. We took "The Bee” on her first grocery store trip to stock up on mini-bar items for our home away from home, the illustrious Nanjing Holiday Inn. And when I talked about the lows, I didn’t include the fact that poor Sarah had to see a doctor Tuesday to receive fluids for severe dehydration from all the previous stomach issues (2.5 bags of IVs later, and she’s a new woman!). It resulted in the most unexpected place for Julia to take her first nap with us: on my knees as Sarah soaked up the nourishment in a western-style doctor's office.

Wednesday was a powerful day in its own right. We were granted a tour of Julia’s old (you hear that, old!?!) orphanage, and we jumped at the chance… given our desire to document her early days, so that we can more accurately piece together her story down the line. We worried about how she would react to being back there, just two short days after leaving for good. She did very well; “neutral” if you will… just her typical chill, observant self held tightly to Sarah’s chest in a wrap. It was her parents that needed the tissues. Upon walking up, kids hung out the windows waving to us in pure excitement at the thought of having guests (some of whom we were able to spend a few moments with). We got to watch her previous friends through the glass of the playroom seen in all the pictures we received along the way. And the most hard-hitting moment of all: the nannies pointing out Julia’s old crib, and us touching the sheets that once she called home. At the end of the tour, I snuck away to the front gate, where her paperwork said she was found some 19 months ago. In the middle of a bustling street corner, I said a prayer for both the life our family will share together, and the new life I hope all the other children still inside (and some 700,000 orphans in China alone) will have one day soon too.

So here we are, and I’ve once again turned what I thought would be a quick update into a bit of a narrative. We’re so madly in love with our gal that it’s easy to gush, and it’s a bit scary to think about the fact that this affection will only grow in time. But like last time, the pictures tell the true story (so no offense if you just skipped straight to the bottom of the page anyway… I don’t blame you).

In closing, thanks a million Chinese Yuan (that’s $160,803 in U.S. Dollars) for the outpouring of encouragement this week from halfway around the world. Your blog comments, Facebook posts, emails, and even a special set of flowers delivered to our hotel room… it has all warmed our hearts and wrapped us with comfort. You guys are incredible. We read every word, talk often about you and your love, and can’t wait for Julia to experience it for herself once we’re home. Just be careful not to drink and drive… “she’s intoxicating”.

Ok, ok… I’ll even make the sad trombone noise at myself for that poor joke. But it’s late… so it’s the best I’ve got. Goodnight!

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"I am a lotus flower – delicate, fragile, yet strong... floating, unfolding, and blossoming into the life where I belong.”