Thursday, February 09, 2006

All Tourists Must Be Satisfied With All

I just had the most bizaare little encounter. It was about 6:00 p.m. and I was passed out in the hotel bed in the dark, thanks to the generosity of my husband and Mary and Paul, who took the girls grocery shopping and allowed me to have a cup of a coffee, a whisper of solitude, and a bit of a lie-down before dinner. I felt a little guilty accepting something none of them have had, but then recalled that each of them has had a smile or hug from their daughter to compensate for their own exhaustion (suddenly a Jewish mother joke comes to mind: Jewish Son: "Ma, how are you doing?" Jewish Mother: "Terrible. I haven't eaten in 38 days." Jewish Son: "Ma! How come you haven't eaten in 38 days?" Jewish Mother: "Because I didn't want my mouth should be full if you had had called.") Anyway, I was suddenly awakened by a petite young woman in a uniform standing above the bed saying "Excuse me, we knocked but there was no answer." "Wha...?" I replied, not even sure who I was, let alone who she was. She scampered from the room and I heard her whispering to someone right outside. I stumbled out of bed, pulling on some clothes, and threw open the door. She was standing there, with another woman, next to a cart. "Yes?" I whispered. "We are here to clean your room." Clean my room? Was it tomorrow already? What had become of David, and of our squalling baby? It was strangely quiet, except in my skull, where Lollapalooza China was happening. "Our room is clean?" I asked more than stated. "We must do it again, for the evening." "Why?" I was almost crying. Why must they torment me? I kept craning back into the room, looking for clues to explain this mystery. Readers, I believe I stood outside the door for a full five minutes, with my bed head and eyes like puffy slits, repeating, "Now?" and "Why?" to the ladies' increasing consternation. I'm not sure I ever sorted out the situation, but eventually I thanked them and shut the door, and they went off saying "We can come back later."

Now David and the gang are back and I'm awake but not really here. Everything is far away and foggy; I can hear sounds but don't really comprehend them. David says that they had to beat a hasty retreat because Jarrah had a meltdown in the market. Well, that sounds in keeping with my version of reality, anyway. I attempted to pick her up just now as she sobbed in the stroller and she fought me quite impressively, with both fists. Ah, motherhood and its heartwarming moments. We're a regular Madonna and Child.

It's later now and we just had a long play session out in the hall with some of the other babies and a few parents and I actually got to see Jarrah's front teeth for the first time, she was laughing so hard about this partially deflated beach ball someone brought. She also fell in love with her squishy bath-time soft book (Thanks, Kandra!) and happily turned and/or chewed the pages for quite some time. I am pleased to be getting another avid reader in the family.

Today was even worse for what is known in adoption circles as "Velcro bonding" between Jarrah and David. We had a nice interlude this morning while David showered and I watched her alternately chew her biter biscuit on a plastic sheet on the bed (damn, those things make a mess!) and smash her stacking cups against each other. But that was the last time I was able to get near her today. She insisted on David feeding her at meals, sitting on his lap on the bus (and if so much as one of her toes landed on my leg she made her trademark "em, em, em" sound) and being carried by him at regular intervals. I got the grunt work like diaper assists, making bottles (this evening she wouldn't even let me give her one--that was a first), cleaning up messes and lugging her stuff. I want to say this is not very rewarding but even in my outcast status there are moments when she is so adorable it's worth it. Notice I said moments, though. ;) At one point this morning she picked up a Veggie puff with each hand and smashed them together like tiny cymbals. And once David was absent-mindedly holding some yuan to pay our bus driver and she leaned over to lick the bills. She has also begun shaking her head or nodding in response to questions about food--pretty sharp for a 1-year-old who until three days ago only heard Mandarin.

Today was another crazy-tiring day. Tomorrow we have a much lighter schedule--no 9:30 call time, so we can sleep in or at least not rush to breakfast. Tomorrow evening we have a group lobby picture, and then packing, and Saturday we have another 6:30 wake-up call for the airport. I am consistently amazed at the thoroughness of our CCAI staff. Not only will Marie et al. handle all our luggage, passports and tickets so we don't even have to check in, but she has some kind of insider connections to get the airline to look the other way about our overweight baggage. Today she and Anita presented us with framed Chinese brush paintings of all the baby's names in the Chongqing lettering style, and tonight she and Anita are translating all of our documents from the orphanage so we can have those records. Marie was so gentle with us today on our chartered van trip to the "founding sites;" we went to two places since another family's baby was found not far from Jarrah. Neither location had been recorded accurately so we only had a general idea of where the babies were found. The first stop was a sort of recreation park; we only saw the entrance and a street of shops where we loitered while the other family went to have some private time. But then our location was ridiculous; it seemed to be a busy traffic roundabout with buses hurtling by at breakneck speeds; the roadside had no sidewalk and was covered in ankle-deep mud and circled by stray dogs.
There were a couple shops and vegetable stands and some falling-down buildings and a general air of extreme poverty. Marie pointed out a few restaurants (Jarrah was supposedly found near a restaurant) but we had no idea which one so it wasn't very profound. I thought the visit would feel meaningful or maybe even very sad but instead it felt absurd. There was David carrying our cute baby while people stared open-mouthed and me snapping photos of rotting vegetables and traffic signs while Marie followed us and showed where we could buy a souvenir in a grocery kiosk. "You could get a torch, or an umbrella..." she pointed out, and I added, "...or a pack of sanitary napkins." I felt a little like an idiot. We ended up getting a little umbrella and a pink ballpoint pen, but the items have very little meaning for Jarrah except that they were purchased somewhere within a few blocks of where she was discovered.

Tonight, though, in my naked tiredness, I burst into gulping sobs when Marie gave us our official paperwork for Guangzhou and included a copy of the "finding ad," organized by the orphanage to advertise the discovery of abandoned babies. The page she gave us showed a series of mug shots, looking a little bit like my sixth grade year book, but of Martian-headed babies (bad photocopying) all in rows. It reminded me of nothing so much as the full-page ads for the Humane Society featuring the dogs and cats of the week, with their photo, name and a little blurb like "Max would love to throw a ball with you." Marie had translated the blurb under Ruo-Ruo's picture as follows: "She was found with a red coat, a peck (sic) of formula, and a bottle." I couldn't get over this little sentence. It felt so personal. I cried to David and Mary and Paul, "And what did they think she was going to do with the formula?" But David gently explained that the formula was to help whoever found her. Oh.

So the founding trip took all afternoon and this morning the whole group took the bus to Chongqing Old Town, which was kind of like a village of shops, some of which sold silk items similar to what we'd seen in Hong Kong, and some that sold wacky foods like bricks of tofu as big as those fake cheese wheels in Italian restaurants and very long sticks of meat. The entire area was suffused in a collage of smells that made me want to hurl. And the cobblestones, slick with mud, made pushing the stroller almost impossible. Again, if I hesitated even for a second, Jarrah was surrounded by people who reached out to touch and squeeze her. I enjoyed our stroll for part of the time but was more than ready to get back on the bus when the time came. I fell asleep on the way back and jumped out of my skin when David put a hand on my shoulder when we reached the hotel.

All of your comments have been so thoughtful and really have helped me put this experience into perspective. In fact, they are my main source of sanity right now (David, Mary and Paul are right up there, too) because this trip is exhausting because of the parenting stuff, surreal because of the China stuff, and devastating because of the rejection stuff, and I think I'm actually not able to process all of those issues at once and am sort of in an emotional shut-down mode. I feel kind of numb. I know that other people's China blogs are very cheery and sweet and believe me, we've had some moments of a lifetime. But I really do think that being persona non grata is even weirder than it is sad. I just feel kind of superfluous. I understand intellectually that I'm very important (after all, I'm the U.S. citizen and hence the only one who can sign the American paperwork for her!) but right now she has very immediate and very primal needs and she is getting them met by someone who is doing an excellent job and she knows it. Mary and Paul have encouraged me to really persist; for instance, force David to go on a walk and just keep playing with, feeding and smiling at Jarrah until she gives in. But I keep having this feeling like I don't want to bother her; it's just easier to help David so he can do it. I'm not sure if it's worrisome that I'm just too tired to see the situation as a struggle or a battle of wills. It's like I've waved my little white flag. Or, if this were "Survivor," I've climbed down from my post and taken a seat on the bench, along with the others who couldn't outwit, outlast or outplay.

Next Entry


Anonymous said...

Just follow your motherly instincts. There will be plenty of time to work on bonding/attachment when you get home. Each time you make a change (Chongqing to Guangzhou and then home) it will throw Jarrah off a bit. She will probably start seeking you out during this time. If not, she will once you are home.
I'm so sorry you're going through this. It's something we all try to prepare for, but hope not to experience firsthand. You're doing everything right...follow your instincts. I always encourage new mom's to do this because new mom's are always doubting their decisions. Trust yourself. You'll know when the timing is right.

PS. Did I remember to tell you to follow your instincts??? :-)

Anonymous said...

Dearest Sam and David,

The level of exhaustion with a baby is so high, it's hard for me to imagine doing it to begin thousands of miles away from home. You'll get a chance to get some sleep soon, and you'll be home, and you'll all be able to get settled in and comfortable.

Sam, Lynette is so right. Trust your gut. It's coming. You know, Jacob did this kind of gig--he was so focused that he'd freak out if anyone else touched him or even looked at him too long. My mom--the sweetest, gentlest person on earth--had to wait. But this beautiful thing happened, almost imperceptibly.

Jacob was like a Hollywood producer who was eyeing my mom from across the diner, all the while knowing she would be a star. Coy child. Through all the rugged rejection, he was falling in love with her. It was almost like she was special and important--a big deal, so he was checking to make sure she'd love him no matter what. And he no-matter-whated her to a very intense degree. Now, he gives her some of his sweetest, best, most precious love. Grandma is the headliner.

Your special place in her heart is being outfitted right now. David's is too. And I'll say it again: what's not to love? You're amazing.


Anonymous said...


I have no experience with human babies - just lots of orphaned, scared, lost native animal babies - and based on that limited experience I third what Lynette and M have said. Go slow, do what feels right to you and watch with patience and as much love as you can muster the gradual change. Your beautiful Jarrah will come to adore and trust you and turn to you in times of trouble. Give her the space to come to that and be gentle to yourself in the meanwhile.

I notice with my animal orphans that when I deliberately still the stressed-out emotions, and become quiet within myself they start to seek me out - its what they need at a time when their world is beyond what they can even start to comprehend. I'm guessing it works the same for human babies. The feeling of being a person non grata must be so difficult after dreaming and planning of meeting your daughter for 14 long months, but it won't last - hang on to that.



Anonymous said...

Hi Sam,
Gail here.
I went online & found an article titled "When One Parent Is Rejected" (2002) by Mary Hopkins-Best in the magazine Adoptive Families. I will type out the main parts for you, but let me give you the end first: "Rejection is difficult to deal with, especially if you are singled out as the recipient of your child's rage. However, there is every reason to believe that strong attachment will happen. Remember, falling in love is a process, not an event. Tolerance usually preceded acceptance. In the time since my son came home, I have gone from persona non grata to the object of his rage finally to being his beloved mama."
The article states it is not unusual for an adoptive child between the ages of one and three to reject one parent, and that it's usually the mother:
"When a child rejects one parent, it is Mom who is usually the one to be shunned. Whether the child is male or female doesn't seem to matter. When toddlers have enjoyed warm attachments with former female caregivers, they may reject Mom in order to protect their former relationship. They dare not get close for fear of being abandoned again."
The article goes on, but I will just quote a few more excerpts:
"What Can Be Done?
1.) Get support from your spouse
2.) Earn your child's trust: the rejected parent must maintain a constant and consistent presence, meeting her child's needs upon demand.
3.) Feeding is key: because food is so important to attachment, I strongly recommend toddlers be fed by a parent even if they prefer to feeds themselves, Bottle feeding and rocking incorporate the important elements of food, touch, smiles, eye contact, and stimulation.
4.) Maintain calm: while a toddler may not understand a parent's words of empathy, he can tell the difference between speech that is calm, accepting, and supportive, and a voice harsh with anger.
5.) Try holding (She recommends a therapeutic process described by Dr. Martha Welch in Holding Time (Simon and Schuster)).
6.) Be patient: empathy and retraint have an impact in the long run.
I hope this helps, Sam. You must be going through hell right now. But you will triumph in the end. Some day that little girl is going to smile, pat your cheek & hug you.

By the way, kid's ears often act up in a plane during take-off & landing. Sucking (on a bottle or pacifier) can help relieve that.

Amy said...

I am thinking of you constantly. You are doing such a great job! Clearly you are under an enormous amount of varying pressures and you are rising to the occasion as well or better than most able bodied and minded humans! I think it is true what some of the others have commented...babies mirror their parents...I have seen this in action with all my nephews. So you might try approaching Jarrah from a very Zen-like place regardless of the outcome. I know that with my most difficult seventh graders my adapted version of this was to "kill them with calm, relaxed kindness"...they couldn't help but come around every time. So with a baby that cannot communicate, the exchange of energies between parent and child becomes just that much more significant. Again, let me reiterate the fact that I have not been in these exact shoes you find yourself in but if you are up for experimentation you might view your interactions with Jarrah for the remainder of the trip as an exercise in meditative calm...easier said than done I know. But I can speak from the experience that when I was first home alone with two needy infants, my greatest fear was that they would both start screaming at once and I would wig out. But once I accepted that the screams would come from time to time and that my best recourse was to stay calm and JUST BREATHE these inevitable episodes seemed so much less traumatizing - and the duration seemed to diminish over time as well. I am always trying to remember that mirror analogy it helps me regain my center when things start to get hairy. As others have stated you will be at a much greater advantage once you are back in the comfort of your own home, bed, food, and new routine. Hold on to are almost there. Big cyber hugs going out to all three of you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Sam!

We are sending good thoughts your way, and hoping things calm down soon! I can feel your exhaustion through your writing, and the rejection is just the cherry on the "cake." I am reading the posts above mine, and can't add anything (except that you ladies ROCK!). I also couldn't agree more with what they have to say. Like Paul and Mary said, keep trying. You are too fabulous a person for her not to like you. Also remember that children want and need parents. She wants to love you, she is just scared right now, and this is how it is manifesting itself.

A last-ditch suggesting: My Father-in-Law became "The Tickle Monster." He tickles Anton (and he is the only one who does), and Anton loves him for this. Maybe you can become "The Tickle Lady. :-))

Sending All Our Love: Lisa, James & Anton

Anonymous said...

Hello again, Sam and David--

First, I have to say that one of the most amazing things about reading the responses to your blogs is that I am absolutely bowled over by the sheer number of absolutely devoted, wise and loving friends you have. This is such a comfort to me when I see you hurting and know that you are halfway around the world and I can't give you a hug! I am so happy that you have this community of cheerleaders, virtual as it may be.

David and I have recently been consulting with our pediatrician about sleep issues for Sage. Her advice has been incredibly helpful, and it occurs to me that it might apply to your situation, too, in a way.

Some of the most important things, she recommends, in helping a child through changes in their world, are:

1. Consistency. If you want them to go along with a new bedtime routine, for ex., then you have to do the routine the same way each time for them to build the association. This was making me think about someone's earlier advice that you, Sam, be the one to provide some thing that Jarrah likes; the more you do it, the more she will associate you with that good thing. . . . perhaps? Of course, right now consistency of any type is practically impossible, but once you return home you will be able to control your environment more and work with this idea.

2. Outlasting them. In our case, this involved me lying in the bed next to Sage when she woke up soon after being put to bed; in her view, she'd just had a power nap, but in our view, she had gone to bed and we needed her to stay there! The first night, I lay next to her for nearly 2 hours as she recited War and Peace from memory (in baby language), hooting and hollering and gesturing like crazy. But I just lay there, occasionally telling her softly that it was time to sleep and I knew it was hard to do this when she didn't feel tired, but just to relax and sleep would find her. By the third night, we were down to 15 minutes and now she doesn't wake up like that at all. You can outlast Jarrah's storms and protests--you CAN do it! Find that stubbornness within you and turn it to this purpose. :-) You're bigger than she is, and, damn it, you are her MOTHER! You can take anything she throws at you and you will prevail.

3. Work on the inside. In other words, when I lay there and thought "go to sleep, go to sleep, why don't you just GO TO SLEEP! PLEASE SLEEP, *$%#@!," she picked up on that energy and it was harder for her to calm down. But if I had instead taken a deep breath, relaxed, and thought, "I'm nice and sleepy and I'm just relaxing here in the bed and will soon drift off to sleep," that relaxed, peaceful attitude (including the way it affected my body--and, by the way, babies can always tell whether you're tense or not!) would have rubbed off. It really works, too! Now this will be the hardest part, because you are hurting so much. But you can provide a "safe container" for Jarrah by being a relaxed, steady, kind presence that she will eventually warm to once she has had the opportunity to vent her grief and anger and fear.

This is a lot like what others have said, but I thought I'd put it in my own terms. I look forward to the day when you can tell her about how she first responded to you and she will think it is either the funniest or the weirdest thing in the world--how could I possibly reject my dear mommy, who I love so much?

That day will come.

Love to all three of you and xoxo,
Miss J

Anonymous said...

Sam and David,

I don't have much experience with babies. I can only imagine how challenging it can be, hearing your stories let us be better prepared for the similar situation in case it happens to us. You are trying your best, and you care so much about her, she will know soon, and love both of you. By the way, she is really adorable in all of those pictures!


Kim said...


I had the exact same thought as was written in the article Gail quoted. Perhaps you, being female, remind her of her nannies and maybe being around adult females reminds Jarrah of how much she misses her nannies. Maybe she doesn't want to attach to another female only to risk being taken away from you too. And maybe, in her one year old mind, she feels she'll betray the nannies she adores if she attaches to you right away. My guess is there were no male nannies at the orphanage, so that makes David safe. Remember that thing the orphanage wrote up about how Ruo-Ruo didn't like it when the nannies fed he other babies? The key thing to remember here is that Jarrah was well-loved and, more importantly, FELT well loved and taken care of. She attached strongly to the nannies and that is probably why she is withholding from you. Though it must hurt like hell (boy was I pissed off when Ava's first smile went to Stacey and not me!), it is wonderful that she is able to attach so strongly. She has so much love and you'll probably end up being the number one recipient of it once she is able to reconcile the losses she has just experienced. When she puts it together that you are the new, forever female nanny, you'll see her get mad if, God forbid, you feed another baby!

Hang in there--transitions are so tough for kids, especially since they can't express their fear and sadness. And maybe she's testing you--it's going to be such a gift when she realizes that, throughout all this testing, you love her unconditionally. And how wonderful for you when she returns that love. It'll happen.

Thinking of you,

Anonymous said...

Hi to the new Mom and Dad!

I am a bit late in logging into your blog (finally noticed the link on Mary's & Paul's blog).

What a treat to read about this incredible journey and see those photos -that girl is a cutie! CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!!!

It is only right that you are exhaused with all the excitement & traveling - not to mention the demands of a baby. One day at a time - I am sure it will be much easier to get into a routine once you are home.

You are wonderful woman and I know you are a terrific mom -Jarrah will come to know this and fall in love with you for it!

Travel safely - we all miss you.

Kim said...

Sam, I know I already commented, but I needed to say one more thing... Thank you for your incredible honesty. As crazy as it sounds, reading your blog has somehow allowed me to feel like it is okay to admit that this parenting stuff is not easy. That I struggle at times (frequently, sometimes it seems). That it is not all sweet smelling roses and yummy pastries. For some reason I have this insane need to hide behind a facade of perfect happiness when, truthfully, I (like you) am suffering from sheer exhaustion, cranky kids and a desperate longing for some time away. I admire your ability to be honest, not only with yourself, but with your friends and family. You are an incredible woman.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sam and David,

I needed to carve out a small chunk of uninterrupted time to take in your travels and I have found it.

I ditto Lynette (again!) on the maternal instinct suggestion. There are times when I listen to that chick voice inside and voila, it works. TRUST yourself and know you will succeed! :)

Did I mention before you NEED to write a book! You are damn talented, girl.

Mozel tov again. We are tickled pink for your family. Vincent can't wait to kiss his newest friend.

Anonymous said...


having been in your exact situation, i do not recommend forcing jarrah to let you hold her or do anything with you until she's ready. and she will be eventually. i remember being afraid that nina would never love me. now she says it ten times a day, with no prompting even ;-)

i promise that jarrah is going to love you, and soon! you are her mother, and all children love their mothers, even the ones with awful mothers, which you definitely are not!

one thing that i had to work on while i was being rejected was to not let myself develop negative feelings toward nina. that may sound strange to some of you, but rejection can be powerful, even when it's coming from a scared baby. i had to try to focus on how adorable nina was and remind myself how difficult this experience was for her - so that i could feel sorry for her instead of angry at her.

having her in bed with us also allowed me to enjoy her while she was sleeping. i could stare at her beautiful face. i could put my nose up to her and breathe deeply; i could stroke her very soft skin and hair without her screaming bloody murder. i could even kiss those yummy little toes. i think that those sensory experiences helped me develop some attachment to nina during that time and alleviated some of my pain.

i'm sorry you're hurting right now, sam. one day this will be something to laugh about, but for now, just try to get through the days.

much love,

Anonymous said...

Hi Sam and David!

Lisa again: clearly I need my own blog as I have so much to say ;-). I am having my own sleepless night here in San Diego: I am up with a hacking cough---yeah! Still nothing in comparison to what you guys are going through.

When we were adopting from Russia we would hear rumors about children who were orphanage "favorites"---kind of like a teacher's pet. We all secretly hoped our child was a "favorite." It meant more attention, more nuturing, and possibly even more food. It was hard to accept that some children may have been treated better than others, but if you think about it, it is just human nature.

It seems like your nannys really looked after all of the children very well from the pictures we have seen. I have to wonder if Jarrah was a favorite, though. :-) Her remarkable ability to thrive in an orphanage environment is impressive. I wonder if she was particularly attached to one nanny who favored her, and if she is missing her now.

In the Russian adoption circles we were always hoping for a child who was "attached" to their caregivers. If a child is loosely attached, they are willing to have their needs met by just about anyone. They may appear to be the "happy baby," now, but this may actually be more of a problem in the long run when you want the child to form a strong attachment to the parents. I believe it is a wonderful sign that Jarrah attaches strongly, and is suspicious and discerning of new people and with whom she shares her affections. It says that she attached strongly once, and she can do it again: this time with you guys. It may be hard to believe, but it is probably a best-case scenario for attachment and bonding. Her attachment cycle is more natural, and more similar to a child who has been with her family since birth.

Anyways, that is what I remember from our own adoption, with a little bit of graduate-level social work thrown in. Hope it helps.

Sending you (and especially Jarrah) sleepy vibes.....

Lisa G.

Anonymous said...

I don't have any words of wisdom for taking care of Jarrah, since I'm not yet a mom. But, I just want to say that I know that this tough phase will pass like the others have said and Jarrah will be stuck to both of you like glue.

I'm sorry this was such a tough time for you. You'll be home before you know it and maybe just being in familiar surroundings will help you cope.

You will find your way through this wild journey called parenthood and at the end, find it to be the most rewarding job of your life!

The Wades said...

I wish I had days and days to read your back posts. I happened upon this one--I'm so glad everything turned out great for you. From the posts I read now, Jarrah loves you to pieces! :)

Great job, Mommy!