I feel a bit like laughing as I launch into this post, knowing how many dear, devoted readers have been hanging by a thread waiting for it! Well, rest assured, friends: we have a baby! :) And she is every bit as darling--more so--than we imagined. Well, don't take my word for it--check out those pics! :)
Let's see, what can I tell you about her before I commence the narrative of the day. She is even heavier than I expected; I can barely lift her! She has a series of bruises on her forehead from a recent IV of antibiotics for a flu. She has a bunch of hair and some Elvis sideburns. She has the biggest thighs I've ever seen on a baby. She is, to quote her nanny, "not picky" and happily stuffed some of everything I offered her today--red peppers, french fries, cookies, pizza, cucumbers--into her lovely little mouth. She loves her bath and figured out her new stacking cups during her soak. She has a runny nose. She is happy to sit in her crib and stare at us going about our business. She likes to chew on Link-a-Doos (thanks, Lynette!) She screams lustily when you transition into any new environment or activity and stops completely just as suddenly, her face drenched in tears and snot, looking at us like "Well, hmmm. This doesn't seem to be that bad after all. Sorry about that outburst." She has not smiled or made a sound in our presence yet (except for crying.) She spent over an hour at the registry office surrounded by screaming children, hysterical adults, and officials who inked her fingers and snapped her photo and was completely content. She is too big for every single item of clothing I brought except the sleepers, though she is not tall, just wide (Moms! Please help me! Who makes clothing for short, wide babies?) She loves when David wears her in the hip carrier. She likes to look out the window. She is not walking or standing much, despite reports, and curiously, she can stand but can't crawl. She prefers the green goldfish to the other colors, and one of the most adorable things I have ever seen is how she daintly bites the head off each one first.
Okay, this list is probably boring. But it's so fascinating to me that I've just met this little person and I need to figure her out. It's like the most intense baby-sitting I've ever done. David and I have both commented that she seems to get cuter every time we look at her, which makes us both laugh a lot. Also, it's freaky to me that I've had the most incredibly exhausting, emotionally draining day, and I don't get to recover with dinner and martinis and a long, uninterrupted sleep. Ever. Very, very strange.
So...the story! We had a wake-up call at 6:30, followed by breakfast where I could barely eat anything. Then, an hour ride to the orphanage, which started in the city with a lot of views of gray high-rises and ended off a highway in a more suburban area, at the Chongqing Social Welfare Institute. On the way, Marie told us about our schedule, and also about the kind of baby we were likely to receive. She said there were three main types: the sad baby, who generally doesn't scream for more than three days. The happy baby, who doesn't differentiate between people who give her snacks and make nice with her. And the serious baby, who wants to figure out who these new people are through critical analysis before committing to anything. Even as Marie was saying this, I knew we were going to have the third kind. I could just tell from her photos somehow. Sure enough, Ruo-Ruo hasn't been quick to cry, or to smile, either. It's so helpful to reflect on Josh's wise advice to "do my job" and the rest will follow. And it also helps that so far our baby seems to treat us both pretty equally.
Some of you have heard me express my wonderment at the notion I would instantly feel "like a mother" upon meeting Ruo-Ruo. As it happens, there has been nothing instant. Just as Jarrah is bonding with us, we are bonding with her. I can't imagine what I would have to be like to be handed a beautiful, one-year-old Chinese baby in an orphanage 17 hours from my home and think "We were meant to be together." I don't think that's me--I overthink everything too much. But don't get me wrong--I am feeling great about our new family. I'm full of enthusiasm for each milestone and challenge. And I'm so looking forward to falling in love with my child.
Back to the orphanage. The first thing we noticed was how cold it was. I mean, it was colder inside than outside, and you can see what we were wearing. It shocked me to think of babies sleeping in that kind of cold. Next was the sight of tiny, wrinkled, faded garments slung over every bannister--drying after the wash. We were told that we'd be brought to meet our babies one family at a time, but I misunderstand. Believe me, I was addled to begin with. I was shaking and barely holding back sobs from the time the bus first pulled onto the grounds. I kept babbling uncontrollably to Mary about my feelings. She was reassuring as always. Now I realize that probably everyone there was feeling similarly out of control. So, what I misunderstood was that all the babies and nannies WOULD be assembled as soon as we came through the door. Immediately, it was pandemonium.
There were lines of nannies holding babies, but there were so many babies in walkers on the floor that initially I imagined we were supposed to just pick ours out of the line-up. Suddenly, we learned that Mary and Paul would receive their baby first, and us second, which seemed jarringly sudden since I was still trying to assimilate my surroundings. Then I realized that one of the standing nannies was holding Joy, and I lost it. I kept turning around and gulping back sobs because I didn't want Jarrah to see me crying. Fat chance. She saw me. Within minutes, the room was awash in wailing as babies were transferred from warm, familiar nannies to their strange, new parents and reacted accordingly. Not Jarrah, though.
Her nanny handed her over and I accepted her with a slight "ooph!" as her weight settled on my hip. The nanny stuffed a wrapped candy into her mouth, and Jarrah gripped it with cool nonchalance, sucking it through the wrapper. For at least fifteen minutes, she calmly sucked her candy and regarded us with mild indifference. It was really sort of comical in comparison to what was happening all around us. The room was seething and were were all trying to angle for the best photo and video ops. As if that wasn't surreal enough, random babies in walkers kept threading their way around our shins, and some of them were screaming, too. At least twice, I tripped over one of the walkers, as hideous as that sounds. I remember one baby in particular was crying like his or her heart would break with no one listening. Though the room looks sunny and happy in the photos, and the nannies clearly love the children (one wouldn't stop crying as she was saying goodbye) it was a very, very hard place to be.
Some of that visit is a blur. There was some walking around and a group picture on the steps. At a set time, we returned to the bus, only now we had eight more riders. Surprisingly (maybe they were all exhausted) no one cried on the way back. Jarrah amused us the whole way with her enthusiasm for goldfish crackers, and the time passed in a flash. When we got back to the hotel, we had three hours for private bonding time before getting back on the bus. We threw the room into disarray trying to figure out what would please her and did manage to feed her some of our thoroughly unappetizing room service lunch, change her soaked diaper, remove many layers of split pants and exchange them for one fleece sleeper and a cute hat, massage some lotion into her chapped cheeks, and throw her into mini-fits at least 10 times. Drained, we placed Jarrah rather optimistically in her crib and David and I passed out on the bed for a little while. No one was more shocked than I when she ended up falling asleep for over 30 minutes. I was feeling pretty pleased with our skills after that and we were just headed down to the lobby when David said he smelled something. Uh-oh, the moment of truth. We peeled off the sleeper again (more mini-fits) and though I was nervous David broke the tension by yelling, with genuine excitement, "Score!" when we discovered her poopy diaper. Somehow we managed to clean her up, calm her down and get us and all our stuff to the lobby only a minute or two late. "How do people with babies get anywhere on time?" I wondered to David.
Our next stop was the registry office, where we did some official adoption paperwork. Of course Marie took care of every little detail and all we did was follow instructions. Love her. Jarrah was cool and collected the whole time, even when a group of people from Spain came in to actually have their Gotcha Day in the office itself, and the place was thrown into mayhem, deja-vous from our morning (was that only this morning?) We had a family photo taken, some fingerprints, got a certificate, and gave some more gifts. Mostly we had fun hanging out with the other families and their babies, and snapping lots of photos. I hadn't expected it to be such a pleasant visit but Jarrah, bless her heart, made it easy for us.
When we got back, I was beyond starving, and I'm ashamed to admit I asked to go to McDonald's across from the hotel. On the way, we were stared at enough to feel like undercover celebrities, and one group even stopped us to ask questions and then a woman kissed Jarrah's face so aggressively that she left lipstick prints all over her face and hat. Wacky. We were the center of attention at McDonald's, too. One woman asked where Jarrah was from, and when I said "Chongqing!" she grimaced and said "She's so fat!" The cheek! :)
That was this afternoon and for the last few hours we've been hangin' in the hotel room. David gave Jarrah her first formula bottle (she yummed it up) and she got her first bath in the blow-up tub. For that experience, she couldn't even bring herself to have a mini-fit, but settled quite contentedly into the squishy, wet warmth and slapped her rubber ducky around (Thanks, Lisa!) We soaped her up, washed her hair and rubbed her down with a hooded towel, and nary a complaint. Then she sat quietly in her crib for a long time, chewing on Link-a-Doos and watching us like a hawk. Suddenly, she passed out in a sort of yoga pose, both legs out in a "V" and her head down in the middle. I moved her a little and tucked in a blankie, and she's down for the count. We got some pizza with M and P and ate in the hallway between our two rooms, with the doors open. Ah, parenthood. Now I must sleep, perchance to dream.