Sunday, August 19, 2007

A moment of peace, part II

The caretakers from the orphanages began to arrive. Even when babies are in foster care -- as all of the babies in this group were -- they are first brought to the local orphanage, and then from there to Wuhan. It's a long trip from all three orphanages -- these poor little girls were on the road for 3 hours today. There were four babies - including Elaina -- from an orphanage in Huang Mei, and three from two other orphanages in the province.

Most of us had brought gifts for the foster families and the orphanage directors, in red bags for good fortune. In addition to some California souveniers, Katrina made a beautiful little album with pictures of Elaina and of our family and home, and Echo, the local Holt representative, translated the captions. Yesterday, at Echo's suggestion, we also bought a few replacement outfits to send to the foster family for the next child they care for -- these are not rich people, and they pay for the babies' travelling outfits out of their own pockets.

We were thrilled when the orphanage directors distributed small albums. Ours has many additional pictures of Elaina, including one for every monthly checkup. It's wonderful to have a record of her early development.

Finally, the babies were brought in. Everyone peered anxiously -- it's not easy to recognize a face you've only seen in photos. We saw some babies placed in the arms of new friends, who reacted with the expected admixture of joy and shock. Finally, Elaina was brought in and placed in Katrina's arms:

As with most of the babies, she cried lustily, upset by the crowd, the noise, the unfamiliar Western faces (and odors), and the grasp of unfamiliar people -- and, no doubt, by longing for her foster mother. I took her next, and calmed her down a little by singing to her:

She's a little more comfortable with me right now -- that's typical, apparently, as the women remind the girls of their foster moms but so obviously are not, while the men are more novel. Katrina took it well, though I felt for her. She's such a spectacularly good mother and so good with kids, I know she'll break through soon.

Before we had time to get our bearings, our guides hustled us back onto the bus, which rang with loud cries for a few minutes. Eventually, though, fatigue got the better of the little girls, and they began to drop off. In Elaina's case, she fell asleep in my arms after a hit from her bottle:

She slept most of the ride back to the hotel, making those heavy baby sighs and smacking noises that I had too soon forgotten. She woke when I carried her from the bus, and looked wide-eyed but quiet at the opulent lobby of the hotel. She cried a bit at the sight of herself in the mirror in the elevator -- or, more likely, at the sight of me in the mirror.

We spent about an hour playing with her on the floor. Katrina introduced her to the joy of Cheerios, which she appreciated -- she was soon picking them up out of Katrina's hand and eating them. She enjoyed stacking cups, and particularly knocking over stacks, just as Evan used to. Now and then she would suddenly look up at us and begin to cry, crying out for her foster mother. It's heartrending. Then she would cheer up again for a while:

She had a bit more bottle, and then we tried to get her to sleep. We tried her on the bed and lying on each of us, but every minute or so she returned to weeping. Singing and back-rubbing soothed her. At this point I'm singing all my communications to her. It's a good thing I've listened to all that opera and picked up a knack for recitative; I'm running out of tunes.

Finally, she exhausted herself and fell asleep in the crib with us hovering above, like new parents again, listening for each coo and snort and sigh:

The experience has been profound, like both prior times. I don't have the words for it right now; I'm drained. More later. Katrina will go to today's paperwork meeting, and I'll watch Elaina when she wakes. She's having a good nap.


Anonymous said...

Kenneth singing? That would make anyone cry, regardless of age. Call child protective services immediately! There is a reason for nature to have given the lullaby to women and the mating call to men. On the other hand, meeting one's new child for the first time releases primeval feelings, thoughts and sounds meant to protect the child and ward off evil spirits. So perhaps Elaina will just have to suffer through these primative outbursts without retaliating in kind. Except for these Wagnerian interludes, it looks like a very succesful meeting of East and West took place in
Wuhan, which bodes well for peace and solidarity in the future. Norm

Salome's Mom said...

God bless her, she looks like an angel. Congratulations to your family. We can't wait until it is our turn again.