Thursday, October 12, 2017

Post- Adoption: Month 2

We've had our Maggie for two whole months now. It seems like forever and yet, it seems like yesterday. We've had good days and bad days, but overall, things are going well.

Maggie seems to be adjusting to our busy life filled with soccer practice, games, school drop offs and pick ups.

Attachment: This is the hardest part for me. I just am not sure how it is going. I think she is attaching to us. She really loves Ryan and gets very excited when he comes home from work. She likes the kids and gets excited when the boys get off the bus. She has started to get annoyed when Macy or Colin try to walk with her and she is busy playing...just like siblings do. But, she doesn't seem to be scared of strangers. I think she trusts us as her caretakers, I am not sure if she understands that it is deeper and that we are her parents, not just a nanny that never goes away! Time will tell, and so far, we are making steps. Big steps or little steps, I can't tell. But, we are moving forward.

Growth: When we first got Maggie she weighed 17 lbs 14 oz at 15 months old. Our first doctors' appointment at 3 weeks led to no weight gain, which I was very disappointed with. I had hoped with the additional solid food we had fed her, she would have gained. However, we had a weight check yesterday and home girl put on TWO FULL POUNDS! She now breaks the 20 lbs mark! That is a lot of weight to gain for a little lady and her face, arms and legs are definitely plumping up.

Food: She was only being fed 3 formula bottles a day and was introduce to rice cereal in her bottle the week before we got her. We gave her food from a spoon the first time. She also did not know how to feed herself. If I had puffs in my hand, she could pick them up, but did not know how to bring them to her mouth. She would pick them up, show me, put them back in my hand and let me know she wanted some. She figured out how to feed herself within the first 2 weeks of being home.
She vetoed the spoon for a few weeks but now will eat cereal (which is important, since she needs the fortified iron badly) baby food and finger foods. She also cut two new teeth, totally 6. Our goals now are to get her to drink water from a cup, at least to learn how to operate one. She is still on 3 formula bottles a day.

Physical Development: She went from barely moving in China to army crawling lightning fast to going up on all fours crawling. She is cruising all around our furniture and loves to walk holding our hands. I would say her biggest change development wise is her movement. She moves non stop. I expect her to be walking by Thanksgiving. She has really taken off with her movement.

Verbal: While she "talks" all the time and will babble and even try to mimic, she is not clearly saying any words. She will say "mama" but I am not convinced that she means me.  She does know how to wave hello, give high fives, point to my nose and so forth, so I think her language understanding is improving, just no words. I have to remind myself that she has only heard English for 2 months and spent 15 months only hearing Chinese. It will come in time.

Goals: Words! We are hoping to get some words out of her soon. Drinking from a sippy cup and continuing with her weight gain and mobility.

We love our sweet and sassy Maggie Li Ya!

Monday, October 9, 2017

China~ Day 8 and 9

Friday morning we woke up to our last day in Nanning. We were able to sleep in, enjoy our last buffet breakfast at the Marriott (which was my favorite hotel and breakfast of the whole trip) and slowly packed up our room.

We did one last trip to Walmart. Looking back, I wish that I would have stocked up more. It was so easy and convenient to be able to walk down a few flights of stair and have everything that we would need. Our next stop, Guangzhou, was much harder to navigate and to get necessities.

We loaded up all our bags, said good bye to the room where we brought our daughter "home" and met with Sunshine. She was bringing us the last of our legal documents.

We were taking the bullet train to Guangzhou, instead of flying, and I don't think that Ryan could have been more excited! The train station was large, clean and very modern. We figured out our gate and paid a bell hop to take our bags to the train, so we did not have to navigate stairs. Turns out that for $3 we got to board first and didn't have to load our bags. It was great. Our guide Sunshine set that up for us.

It was sad to say goodbye to Sunshine. It was like the adult parent leaving us alone! Sunshine said her good byes and then 5 minutes later came running up to us. She told us that we had to get off at the  Guangzhou-Nan station. Nan means "south" in Mandarin and so we needed to get off at the south station. In only a way that Sunshine could, she made all of us repeat the word "nan" back to her. All of us. All adults. No questions asked, you repeated "nan" back to her...even if you are in your mid 30's. You repeat what she tells you to repeat!

The bullet train was just so fun. It was quiet and smooth and fast! It goes around 135 mph and you can barely tell that you are moving. It was my favorite form of traveling while we were in China. The only bad part was that we left at night, so 2 of our 4 hours were at night and we were in rural China, so there was no light or electricity around.

While we stayed in beautiful modern China for our trip, it was fascinating to see "real" China, as our guide called it. Rice fields upon rice fields that were being plowed by water buffalo with farmers in traditional conical hats.  Stunning rock formations that appear out of no where, small villages filled with animals and laundry hung out to dry. It was one of my favorite parts of the trip, to see how the rural, "real" China lives and survives.

Maggie came alive during the trip. It was the first time that we got a peak at her silly, wild little self. She was funny and started to tease Ryan and I, smiling and laughing most of the trip.

 Tickling Daddy

We arrived in Guangzhou late, managed to get 4 adults, 3 children and 6+ bags off the train and to the main entrance. It was medal worthy :)

We met our next guide, Molly and headed to our hotel. Guangzhou is just so massive. Even in the dark evening, you could see city stretching for miles.

After some room service, we finally got some sleep.

Saturday, day 9, we had our medical appointment for Maggie's US visa. We needed to get her Visa and US immigration picture taken, as well as a short medical exam.

The A/C was out in the building, and we were all dripping with sweat after the first 3 minutes.  Maggie was NOT having her picture taken. She would not let me put her down and screamed her head off when we tried to prop her up. Miraculously, we were able to get a head shot, though I have no idea how!

The medical exam is very basic and just confirms that her special needs are what is stated in her paperwork and that she does not have any contagious diseases before she boards a plane for the US. She would have her height and weight checked, her hearing and vision and a quick exam.

It was here that we saw our docile, limp little daughter turn into a raging, kicking bull. She came alive and fought every one of those doctors. She was strong and moving and kicking. When the doctor tried to get her to stand, she kicked at him and threw her head back and screamed. It was crazy. I do not know if she had bad memories of doctors from her time in the hospital, or if she was just hot and didn't want one more stranger to touch her...but she let the world know it.

 Afterwards, Maggie and I rested, while Ryan went over all the legal papers for our consulate appointment. The last part of our adoption would be completed on Monday.

Maggie and I hung out in the room while Ryan worked on paperwork with our guide.

Here is the thing. Adoption is messy. It is hard and is born out of deep loss and pain. That was one of the areas that I was not prepared for. I thought I was. I read the books, did the training. I knew that in order to be an orphan, you had to experience loss. The heaviness of this hit me hard in China. Maggie lost everything she had ever known...for the second time. BUT...the beauty of adoption is the redemption. God can make brokenness whole, bring families together and create a new beauty out of ashes. 9 days after we met this sad stoic girl, we hung out and had fun together. Real fun with real joy. Adoption is good for us. It stretches us and moves us. And it brings us great joy.

After a nap, we met up with our group at the outdoor pool. I loved it. It felt AMAZING after the constant heat of China. Maggie, however, was not impressed.

At all.

Guangzhou is in southern China and they mostly speak Cantonese. Cantonese food is prevalent and served family style. We decided to venture out as a group and have dinner outside of the hotel. Somehow, Ryan turned into the "adventurous" one and did most of the ordering. I found it hilarious, because it was definitely not something that he would normally do. The food in China is not like anything in the states. Most restaurants have their seafood tanks on the outside and you regularly see the chefs coming out and pulling from the tanks.

Dinner is usually a pork dish, a noodle dish, rice, a vegetable and many requests for forks. No water, because all water is served hot and is probably not filtered. Maggie started letting me put her in a high chair, so that I could actually try to eat.

Overall, our first full day in Guangzhou was successful.

China Posts:

Sunday, October 1, 2017

China~ Day 7 & 8

Wednesday and Thursday were our "off" days in Nanning. We were waiting for our adoption certificates and other items to be finalized, as well as  Maggie's US visa application, so we were able to see a few of the sights around Nanning.

Maggie still wakes up and cries when she sees us and notices she is not back at the orphanage. She is starting to prefer me, but we are having Ryan feed her her bottle, so that he can be apart and she will attach to both of us. It is very common for an adopted child to pick one parent and shun the other. We were aware of this before coming and were prepared for Maggie to want either one of us exclusively. So far, we have been very happy that she will tolerate both of us, even if she prefers me at this point in time.

We went to the Guangxi Provincial Museum Wednesday so that we could learn more about the heritage and history of the girls. China is divided into provinces, much like we are divided into states. Adoptions take place in the capital, even if the children are from a different city. Maggie actually lived 2 hours from Nanning. 
The museum highlighted 12 different Chinese ethnic groups that are in the Guangxi province, especially the Zhrung people. It was a fascinating place that I wish we would have explored more. We kept most of our outings to just the mornings so that the girls could nap on the same schedule as in the orphanage. Our guide, Sunshine, was very helpful in explaining things to us and showing us key points in the girls' history.  The Guangxi area is known for large brass drums, and we were able to see some that were more than 2,000 years old! China is so old and rich in history.

Where all the brass drums were found in Guangxi.

One area of the museum showed large pictures of a sheer cliff with drawings on them. It looks very similar to cave drawings you would see in Latin America or even American Indian drawings on walls. It was fascinating to see something that looked SO similar, but was done thousand of miles apart. Our guide very seriously told us that they believe that aliens drew those pictures, because how could anyone do it on such a vertical cliff. Dead serious face. Aliens had to do it, because how else?!?! I mean, really, how else? Ha.

Our afternoons are filled with rocking a sad baby and trying to get her to sleep. Lunch is now a protein bar in the bathroom and trying to get the Internet to work to update our kids and family back home. 

It is a slower pace than I would like, but very necessary for Maggie. I would have loved to explore the whole time, but touring China was not my goal. Loving, caring for and slowing everything down for Maggie was the goal.

No car seats in China. Kids just ride along on laps. Maggie had the public transit pose down.

Thursday morning we headed out to the Green Mountain, which is a huge stunningly beautiful park area. We took a tram up and around the "mountain" which was more like a big hill and enjoyed the landscape. It was so lush, tropical and green. Our guide told us that you could spend two days there and not see everything. We stopped to feed about a million koi fish in a pond and take some pictures. We also were able to see a great aerial shot of Nanning.

It was just SO hot. Nanning's weather is very tropical and similar to south Florida in August. The humidity is almost at 100% and I wore Maggie the whole time. We both were completely drenched in sweat. Even though we would have loved to spend more time on the mountain, I was getting sick from the heat and I was worried about Maggie. Both Jessica and I carried our girls, so we were SO hot the whole time. It was one of my very favorite areas in all of China, but we could only manage a few hours outside in the heat.

Our drive back to the hotel included  a stop at a local pharmacy and our guide turning into a rockstar. Sweet Maggie had not had a bowel movement since we got her and had stopped eating. We needed to do something to get things "moving". Sunshine made the decision and then proceeded to head to our room with us and administer that enema herself. Mere words on paper will not do this story justice. She administered, held my daughter over a toilet squatting and explained how they do this stuff in China...with sound effects. It is a story that must be told in person.

BUT, we are SO thankful that she was willing to help her out. She knew that it would traumatize an already traumatized and upset child and she knew that we needed to be the ones to comfort her and not administer it. We are SO thankful for Sunshine. She needed a raise after that afternoon...

Later both families ventured out of the hotel for dinner and managed to find a noodle shop that had an English menu. After a few mishaps asking for a fork, we were all able to mostly eat a good meal. Maggie stopped eating in a highchair and would only let me hold her. So, I ate a noodle soup dish with chopsticks with a 15 month old on my lap.  And sometimes that is just what you have to do and you do it.

There was a fun little pavilion next to the restaurant with robots that kids could ride and move. We wished our kids were with us, as they would have loved to play with those. There was also what appeared to be a fun coffee shop, but turned out to be filled with old creepy teddy bears in cages. I am not afraid of clowns, but after looking at the teddy bear place, I may not look at an old bear the same again. 

We ended our night with a live show in front of the mall. It appeared to be a health clinic with nurses and doctors at tables, but there was also a stage with acts going who really knows. We got dairy queen and Maggie had her first bite of ice cream, thanks to her daddy. She was more interested in the red spoon, but would take a few bites.

We are starting to get to know Maggie more and she is starting to smile a bit more with us. She is letting us know when she wants something, even though she is barely playing or moving around. She just wants to be held by one of us at all times. Overall, she is doing well. We are trying to absorb this one on one time with her while we can.

 Tomorrow we leave Nanning and head to our last stop in China, Guangzhou. I am sad to leave this city, the city where I met my daughter, but I am happy to move on to the next step and get her home and see our kids. Nanning will always hold a very special spot in my heart.

Our China Posts

Friday, September 22, 2017

China~Day 6: Adoption Day

We woke up on Tuesday, August 8th with a tiny little lady sleeping in our room. She was still in our pack n play and we tip toed around the room, getting ready for the day.  Today is Adoption Day, the day that we become the legal guardians to Maggie in the eyes of the Chinese government, the day we officially adopt her.

I kept looking over at her, waiting for her to stir. I went to check and she opened her eyes, saw me and burst into tears. Poor sweet girl. What a hard thing to wake up too. Not in your home, not with your normal caregivers and a strange white lady who spoke in a language you don't know and keeps talking to you.

We quickly got dressed and headed down to breakfast with Maggie. We brought her rice cereal to feed her, since the orphanage told us that she was starting to eat some rice cereal in her bottle and they left us a small amount to use for her. When I made the cereal and then tried to feed it to her from the baby spoon, she just looked at me and pushed the spoon around in her mouth. It was like feeding a 6 month old. She had never had a spoon in her mouth before! We were the first to spoon feed her.
She took a few more bites and played around with the spoon.

Soon after we loaded up into the van and went back to the same Civil Affairs building, this time with two little scared ladies with us. There are no car seats in China. You just hold the babies on your lap. There are also no seat belts, at least very few that are accessible. Part of the reason this works is that they have a very low speed limit. They rarely drive over 50 mph. If you saw the crazy, I go where I want, style traffic, it would make sense.

We arrived at the building and saw the nannies right away. Maggie's main caregiver made a beeline over to her and started talking to her, rubbing her head and feeling her new dress. She took her from me, which I was not suppose to let her do. It was such a hard thing though. How I could I tell this woman who obviously loved my daughter and took care of her for her whole life, "No" you can't hold her one last time?! I couldn't. I could tell it was hard for her, so I let her hold her and she was good about it. She told Maggie that I was her "mama" and pointed to me. She held her a bit longer than I took her back.

We went into a small room filled with flags and our guide pulled over the American flag and put it by the podium with the Chinese flag. We signed the official adoption document, took pictures between the flags and that was it. She was ours!!!

The nannies and the orphanage workers left quietly and quickly this time, no tears, just a swift good bye. Unfortunately, sweet little L, the other little girl that was adopted that day with us, saw them leave and broke out into heart wrenching tears. Her sad cries made everyone in the room tear up. We were ready to move forward and leave the past behind. We quickly shuttled the girls out of the room, blocking the view of the nannies leaving in their vehicle as well.
I will always be forever grateful to those women and the influence and life-saving role in my daughters life.

Our next step was to go to the Notary and have all our legal papers notarized, as well as the girls'  US visa applications. After smiles, and swearing to protect, not abandon or abuse and always love our girls, we notarized our adoption documents and were one step closer to bringing them home!

We spend the afternoon resting and napping, learning more about our new stoic girl.

Likes: Plastic cups.
Dislikes: Being sat on the ground. Or put down. Also: sink baths.

After Ryan spent most of the afternoon trying to find places that do take out...or speak english to ask if they do "take away," we decide to head down to the hotel restaurant for dinner and we met with the other family we were traveling with.

Ryan decided on the full buffet, and it was probably his favorite meal of the trip. Ryan is MUCH more adventurous eater than I am and he tried everything...including duck heads, quail, rabbit, various sashimi and much more. Fun fact; they don't really debone their meat, so it usually is full of gristle and bones, even in the soups. So you constantly have to spit out bones. I stuck to the local noodle dish, which was delicious...and mostly vegetarian!

Maggie slowly started to open up a bit to us. She still was very stoic, but we would get a few more smiles. We hold her until she sleeps because she cries instantly when we lay her down in the pack n play. I would hold her until she was asleep and then lay her down in the middle of the bed.

Day two with our sweet stoic little girl went well, especially with all at the meetings and the changes for her. Again.

China Posts:

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Fabulous Four!!

My sweet girl is FOUR today!

Our Macy is funny and kind and sweet, with a hearty side of sass.

She has had the biggest adjustment when it comes to her new sister and she has done amazing. While she does miss having most of Mom or Dad' attention, she always loves on her sister. She is a great helper, always getting a diaper or wipes for me, helping with the bottle and looking out for small toys on the floor.

Macy has a lot of patience with Maggie. Sometimes Maggie gets too excited and scratches at Macy. Macy calmly and patiently will grab her hand and show her how to touch gently. It is so sweet to watch. Macy is an amazing caretaker.

Macy loves her friends and her family and always looks out for them. She loves to wait for the bus with her brothers and the neighborhood girl, giving each one a hug (much to the dismay of her brothers) before they get on the bus. 

She is full of life, spunk and heart and we could not be more proud of her!

Happy 4th Birthday, Macy!

We love you so much!!

Friday, September 15, 2017

China Day 5~ Gotcha Day!

Waking up on the day that you are going to meet your child is strange. I never had a scheduled birth with my other children, so this was a very new feeling for me. We did not have to be to the Civil Affairs building until 2pm, so we had most of the morning to ourselves.

We had breakfast. We tried to take a walk, but the humidity in Nanning pretty much makes you sweat on contact, so that was short lived.

We walked down to the Wal-Mart and decided to buy a stroller for Maggie that we would use and than fly home with us. Everything was a blur, actually. We moved around, we cleaned up the room. We double and triple checked paperwork. We showered and got ready. We stared out windows and just looked at each other. 

18 months of active working and we were at the climax. We were hours and minutes away from meeting our daughter. It was an overwhelming feeling. I couldn't eat lunch and felt like throwing up most of the day. My heart rate was racing when we got into our little van and headed out. We went with another family who would adopt the little girl whose crib was right next to Maggie. Their little lady was a couple months older than Maggie and the girls were put together a lot. We all felt nervous and excited and completely overwhelmed. I honestly thought I may throw up.

The building was like a DMV. People were waiting to get into after the lunch break, just like the DMV in the U.S. We went and sat in an open room, with desks around us. People were waiting to be seen,  just like every day occurrences. We sat down and waited to meet our daughter. It seemed so odd. A massive life moment was going to happen in the equivalent of a Chinese DMV.

We waited and were told the orphanage director was running late. 10 minutes ticked by and we were told that one family would go into a small room to meet their daughter and than the other family would go in.

20 minutes after our scheduled meeting time, we were told that the girls were here and that, due to time constraints, we would both go in together and meet the girls at the same time. We were relieved to be able to do that together. We saw a lady carry a dark haired little girl and my heart stopped. Was it Maggie? Was it Lucy?

Sunshine, our adoption guide, led us into a small room and I heard Sunshine say, " Li Ya. This is Li Ya." and pointed to a lady that was sitting on a bench, holding a baby. I was not sure how I would respond. I vacillated between wanting to puke and then feeling overwhelmed, but when I walked into that room, trembling with anticipation and nerves, I saw her and I started to cry. There she was. I had been waiting for her for so long.

Her nanny stood up and handed her to me. We were prepared for her to cry the whole time, but she did not. She just stared at me, with a stoic serious face. She was dripping with sweat and her back was completely wet. Ryan and I talked to her, showed her a stuffed elephant that the kids picked out for her and tried to engage with her. She just looked at us. She did not cry, she did not smile. She held her hands out, a "don't touch" type stance and just looked. The room was filled with talking and tears as the other family talked and played with their daughter and we talked with ours. The orphanage director and two of the nannies were able to talk with us and tell us about Maggie and tell us about her story.

Here is the thing. My daughter's story is incredible. It is mind boggling and it leaves me deeply humbled that I was chosen to be her mother. Hearing about her beginnings and her fight and her beautiful resilience makes me so proud and honored and completely humbled to be apart of her story from here on out. We are so lucky to have her. Maggie's story is not my story though, so we will not be sharing it all here. It is her story to tell, when she is older and when she wants to. She does not need to read about it online. She will get to decide what is known or not known.

We will say this. She was born premature and spent time in the hospital. She was born with Duodenal Atresia, which means that part of her intestine was closed. Because of this closure, she would vomit and have diarrhea after every feeding. Even though she would get sick from eating, she would still fight to keep eating, to give her body the nutrients that it needed to survive. The nannies were so proud of her. They said that other children would have died. They would not have fought so hard to eat, regardless of how sick they would get. But our girl, our little fighter. she kept going. She was able to have surgery in China and the closure has been corrected.

L to R: Maggie's main nanny. The Orphanage director, us, second nanny.

And this strong, stoic little lady was ours.

We talked with the nannies, we cried, we took pictures and than all of a sudden, we were told it was time to leave. We walked into this plain, sterile building alone and we walked out with a daughter. They literally handed her to us and that was it.

We went back to our hotel and spent time signing and fingerprinting all sorts of legal Chinese papers.  We would legally adopt Maggie tomorrow. We had to have her for 24 hours before we can legally adopt her, so these papers were very important. While we signed and fingerprinted, Maggie fell asleep on me.

This sweet girl had one of the hardest days of her little life. She experienced a very large loss, the loss of her life as she knows it. She went on a van ride, possibly the longest of her life, to be handed to complete strangers who do not look like her, sounds like her, smell like her. She left her caretakers to be placed in the care of people she has never seen before. While we had been working, preparing and praying for her, she knew nothing of us.

She woke up in a strange room with strangers and she cried. She grieved and it was heartbreaking. Ryan held her and I talked to her and she fought emotions. I watched her grow very sad, lips trembling and then completely stop. She would literally stop herself from crying and shut down, only to repeat the whole process again. This went on for awhile and it was truly one of the most painful things to watch.

Food helped and we tried to play with her. She just was stoic and sad and confused. We stayed in the hotel, ordered room service and just loved on this sweet, sad baby.

When it was time for bed, we kissed her, prayed over her and laid her down in the pack n play, unsure of what to do. She could see me from the mesh siding. She let out two little cries, put her thumb in her mouth and went to sleep. It was one of the saddest things for me. This little girl was totally able to put herself to she did every single night of her life.

Adoption is born from loss. There is no way around it. Maggie lost her biological family, she lost her orphanage family. She did not have a choice in any of these decisions. But there is redemption. There is hope and there is a future for her. A future that many people who deeply loved her put into place. Her birth parents gave the ultimate sacrifice by giving her up, thus allowing the government run orphanage to get her life-saving surgery that she needed. Her orphanage nannies loved her so much, that they placed her on the international list, so that she would be able to get a better education, better medical care and have a better life. They could have placed her on a domestic list and possibly been able to see her more often, but they did what they thought was the best for her. And we get to raise this amazing, beautiful lady. The full circle of people that loved on our Maggie is so beautiful. She will always know how loved she is.

Our China Adoption Trip: