Ely, Mike, and I were a bundle of nerves on Sunday night and slept very little. In Guangdong province, “Gotcha” time is not until 2:30 PM, so we had the whole first part of the day to get through before heading to the Civil Affairs office. After breakfast, we took a short walk around the pond and the waterfall, took some more photos. One of the other adoptive families was also there at the koi pond, and Ely asked the wife, Megan, if she would take a photo of all of us together. It is nice to have a photo of all of us together that’s not in a government building of some kind.
When we were heading back to our hotel room, I stopped dead in my tracks. I saw Ama (Pearl’s foster mother) and then Amei (Pearl’s foster sister) second. We knew they were traveling from Fuzhou to Guangzhou sometime on Monday, but we weren’t expecting to see them until they had arranged a meeting with us through our guide. Once I got over my initial few seconds of shock, I ran up to them and gave them each hugs. Mike went up to our room while they held Celine and loved on her. When Mike returned, we exchanged gifts and the few words of each other’s language we knew, then stood around awkwardly. Youhong typed into her phone that Helen was going to be there at 10:30. It was 10:15. Only 15 more minutes of awkward silence. I pulled out the camera, switched SD cards to the one from 2014 and began flipping through photos of Christmas, Halloween, the fall. They got a really big kick out of seeing photos of Pearl and of the other kids.
After Helen arrived, we sat in the coffee lounge and chatted with the help of Helen, who interpreted our comments and questions. It was a sweet and special time, but it was also very emotional. At the same time that I feel immense gratitude for these people who raised my daughter from the time she was a baby until the time we adopted her, I also grieve the time I missed with her during her babyhood. And, I constantly feel their sadness because they miss her and grieve the time that’s passed since they had her. They are still so very attached to her. They have a really hard time understanding that Pearl is no longer a baby and has grown and changed in so many ways. They remember her a certain way, and in their minds, I think that she will always be that way, but the reality is, she’s not what they remember her to be anymore.
I understand the importance of reminiscing and staying connected. Our whole family will always be so appreciative of how they cared for Pearl. It was a lot to think about and process on the morning of our Gotcha Day for our two new girls, but I’m still glad we were able to see them.
We really needed to get Celine down for a nap and get a snack before our big afternoon. Ama and Amei really wanted to meet our two new girls, so we parted ways and made plans to have lunch with them on Tuesday.
After a short nap for Celine and some time preparing what to take with us for Gotcha Day, we met Helen and headed to the Civil Affairs office. Our ride there was fairly short. We had been worried about having to wait a long time to meet our girls, but when we arrived on the 8th floor, most of the other families were already there and children were arriving! I am not a crier, but I teared up while I watched a few of the families we had just met receive their children. It was so very sweet. There’s all the emotion of a baby being born – the anxiety, the anticipation, the sheer joy.
We were not even there five minutes when a woman walked quickly by us holding the arm of a child whose hair I recognized even from behind. This was our Abby! I pointed her out to Ely and Mike, who didn’t realize it was her right away. Then, we had to sit there and wait until the orphanage director was finished in the office. After what seemed like hours but was really only a few minutes, the orphanage director brought Abby over to us. They told all of us it was “our turn.” We learned that Abby was called by her Cantonese name, “Hing-um” (phonetic spelling), so we called her that, and said Hi and introduced ourselves. Abby allowed us to kind of hug her while our guide took photos. Then, she sat next to her bags near me but as far away from me as she could get while still sitting on the seat. I could tell she was crying, and I reached out to her, but she shrugged me off and sat stiffly with her back to me. My heart broke for her.
The orphanage director answered the questions we had given to our guide to ask. Then our guide turned to us and translated, “She is blind and has been going to blind school. Were you aware of that?” We were completely dumbfounded and didn’t know what to say. We responded that, no, we did not know that…that we were under the impression that she had some slight issues with her sight, but that she was not blind. The orphanage director also gave us some other answers that we were not expecting. We didn’t know what to believe. I started to panic a bit, but I didn’t have too much time to think, because then in walked a Nanny with the last baby of the day…our Lulu!
It was chaos for awhile as we tried to keep track of Celine who was stumbling around and whining (she picked this week to cut her top teeth), Abby who was crying and trying to get as far away from us as possible, and give Lulu the attention she deserved! I pulled out some more snacks and tic tacs to keep Celine at bay while we took some pictures with Lulu. Our Gotcha with both girls was nothing less than a whirlwind ride!
After we received Lulu and asked her Nanny our questions, we got out of there quickly. Our guide told us ahead of time that the best thing to do with older children is to leave Civil Affairs as quickly as possible and go to the grocery store to get snacks, so that’s what we did. Abby did not want to go with us, but she followed Helen immediately. Helen is Chinese and speaks her language, so Abby stuck very closely with Helen.
When we first got the “Trust Mart,” a much more primitive Chinese-version of a Walmart, things were really tense and awkward, but by the end of our shopping trip, the cart was full of snacks, and Abby was much happier. Ely and her began to bond by picking out the same snack on several occasions. Abby also tried to help pick formula and rice cereal for Lulu, which was very sweet.
Helen communicated to Abby that she would be going back to the hotel with Mommy and Daddy. When we got back to the hotel, Helen needed Mike to do some paperwork, so they left me with all four kids in the hotel room. Let me just say that those 20-30 minutes were just awful. Abby was completely nervous and overstimulated. She flitted here there and everywhere, rummaging through everything. She could not control herself in the least, and she tried to leave our room several times. Lulu cried every time I put her down, and Celine was exhausted as well. I sent a desperate text to Mike, asking him to come ASAP. He finally came back, and I went to talk to Helen about setting some ground rules with Abby. I asked her to explain to Abby who she was, that she was here to help but not here to take her back to the orphanage or away from Mommy and Daddy, and that she cannot touch everything – only her things. Helen came back to the room with me and explained these things to Abby. It seemed to help some. We showed Abby some of her new clothes, and she told Helen they looked small. LOL. Yeah, some of them were probably a little bit small since we didn’t have the correct measurements until two days before we left. Helen assured her that if some of her clothes were a little small, that she had other clothes at home. Abby also informed us that her favorite color was red, and that she did not like the purple coat we had just bought her the previous day. Good to know she’s not opinionated or anything. Helen told Abby that Mommy and Daddy would take her to eat noodles for dinner and that she’d be back in the morning.
With two exhausted babies, one newly adopted and restless nine-year-old, and another hyped up nine-year-old, we ventured across the street to the noodle shop. Thankfully, dinner went better than expected. Abby picked what she wanted from the menu right away, Ely followed suit, and we ordered a bunch of dumplings and ribs to hold us over in the meantime. It’s a good thing we ordered those ribs and dumplings, because what Abby and Ely ordered ended up being noodles with beef stomach! Abby didn’t seem to mind, but Ely chewed on his meat for like ten minutes, and said he couldn’t chew it any more. Poor guy. We let him spit it out. He was a good sport about it, though, and ate as many noodles as he could anyway.
Bedtime routines the first night were a bit nerve-wracking. We had no idea if Abby would wear the pajamas we brought her or if she would even change at all. Around 9:00, after the babies were in bed, I showed her the pajamas and told her it was bedtime. She found her bag of underwear herself, picked one out, and next thing I knew, she was throwing me a towel (well, actually, it was the bath mat). She went into the bathroom and stripped down, and I helped her take a shower. I’m glad she knew her own routine and wanted to stick to it. After shower time, Abby went to her bag - the one we sent to her while she was at her SWI – and pulled out her brush. It was still in the package, but it had been used. She carefully removed the brush from the package, brushed her hair, and then put it back in the packaging. I showed her the new toothbrush we got for her (which she had played with before…she loved the rotating head). She actually turned to be and said, “Help me.” I brought the water pitcher into the bathroom. She looked at it, looked in it, and tried to keep pouring water into the top of it. Then, she tried to drink out of it. I had Ely get her a bottle of water instead, and she proceeded to use the entire thing to wash her toothbrush, brush her teeth, and then rinse her mouth.
I tucked her in bed just as I did Ely that night, gave her a kiss on the head, and told her I loved her in three different languages. She brought the baby’s remote control toy in the bed with her, and we heard it for about ten minutes, then silence.
Lulu was not too difficult for us the first night, although I could not put her down. I fed her at dinner like a baby bird, and Mike and I both snuggled her at night until she was almost asleep. She hated being put in her crib, but she did eventually go to sleep. More on Lulu later.