I woke up yesterday morning with my stomach all butterflies . . . was she really here? I went in to check on the kiddos and found Naomi and Quinn awake and QiaoQiao still sound asleep, perfectly peaceful, teddy wrapped into her arms and lovey snuggled around her. We got some good time together, the four of us, processing and cuddling before needing to wake QiaoQiao up for breakfast.
And I have discovered that my third LOVES her morning sleep. Trying to wake her took a lot of light and some persistent noise. I wanted to wake her gently because I knew she might be surprised upon waking to find where she is and that we’re here – you know that feeling of waking in a strange place? Probably experienced x1000 for a newly adopted child! I stroked her arm and said her name, softly first and then a little louder and was rewarded with a deep closed-eye scowl, my first time to see her mad! And she’s adorable! 🙂
Finally, she was up, quiet, a little nervous again, trying to remember us, trying to make sense of her new world, feeling a little vulnerable. We got out the teddy and got the teddy dressed before pulling out QiaoQiao’s clothes and getting her dressed too. She’s a bit small for everything I brought, I planned on her being small for her age but not quite this small! However, the Hello Kitty and sparkles were a lot of fun to put on.
Down to breakfast, this is a five star hotel (I know, we had no choice!!) and the breakfast buffet has everything you can imagine, from chicken feet to salad to glutinous rice cakes (yes, the glutinous is actually the selling point) bacon and egg and donuts (NOT really like what you thought they’d be.) I left QiaoQiao and Naomi at the table and picked out a plate of food for her. This buffet overwhelms me so I thought picking for her would be best. I put a random variety of food on the plate, egg and bacon, steamed buns, fried yam balls, dragon fruit, watermelon, and a bowl of fried rice as a back up, with some glutinous rice balls. She ate all of it, except the rice, with a glass of juice.
QiaoQiao eats her food with chopsticks, and you haven’t seen cute till you’ve seen her eating a slice of watermelon or a fried egg with chopsticks. Like most chinese we have seen, she eats beautifully, with a lot of lip action, posing the food in front of her where her lips and teeth do most of the work. Naomi and I wish we could make eating look that cool. And we too try to manage our full plates of food with chopsticks, somewhat successfully.
Now off for the first of several meetings. We sit in the civil affairs office, in Nanning and visit with another adoptive family with a twenty month old with cleft lip and palate. Inside the office we answer a few questions about the length of our marriage, our other children, and our desire to adopt. We give a token gift of nuts from California and head back to the bus for the next meeting. This time we are back at the Family Affairs office where we met QiaoQiao just yesterday (though it feels years ago). And all the foster moms and kids and other families are there once again. Many of the babies look like they have adjusted already to their new reality, others scream all over again upon seeing their foster mothers. QiaoQiao seems nervous and holds us tight, sitting close and holding my hand, or Naomi’s.
Now it is our turn at the desk and we talk to the lady whose name I do not know, but who seems to me to be an “Alice.” A short chinese woman with long wavy hair, left down, and an air of both confidence and kindness. She seems like such a nurturing ruler, an authority who is a mother to the children of her city, and I tell her so, making her smile and blush. Of all the people I have met so far in China, she seems the most strategic, the most important, and I am thankful to have met her and have had the chance to affirm her.
With QiaoQiao in my lap David and I sit side by side as Alice leads us through a series of questions, more than most parents get. Our guide thinks she is surprised by our adopting an older child. It’s a super emotional interview and I try very hard not to fall apart. I feel QiaoQiao fidgeting on my lap and as the questions come with some she gets so still, listening with all of her might. The questions come in Mandarin, and translated to English for us, then our responses in English, and translated back into Mandarin.
“Are you satisfied with this child?”
We are told to answer as briefly as possible and I think of all the things I want to say in response to this question. I think of how I have loved her for a thousand years, I think of our home 8,000 miles away, of all the plans we have put on hold to bring this child home, of the thousands praying us through.
And David and I simply say “yes” with every ounce of our beings. And I feel QiaoQiao in my arms. And she begins to breath again.
The questions go on, feeling as much like a wedding as anything else, as we promise to love her as we love our biological children, to never abuse or abandon her, to care for her education and any medical needs she may develop.
And to it all we say “yes, yes, yes,yes, yes.”
I won’t tell you I wasn’t a little terrified, though. Because even though this has been amazingly simple, amazingly smooth, amazingly beautiful. It’s really a completely radical, crazy thing to do all at the same time. The thought that we are adding a complete stranger to our family and bringing her home for forever, no matter what. Well, it’s sobering. I think it should be.
She changes everything. And because we believe in Love and we have faith, we trust that she will change it for the better.
So we leap.
And the pictures are taken, in front of the flags, with Alice, as a family of five. Looking quite a bit more tired than we did yesterday.
And we head back to the hotel. We are exhausted. We order pizza, so much better than the Beijing version, fortunately. Or maybe we just have lower expectations now? We watch a Jackie Chan movie on TV, perfect because it has plenty of Mandarin mixed in. We cuddle up in bed, all five of us. And we take a break from thinking, from feeling, from culture crossing, from the hard work of becoming family.
We breath next to each other. And it’s so good.
It’s almost bedtime now but we pull our QiaoQiao’s little bathing suit with rash guard and shorts, and dress her in it, and head to the pool, where she giggles her heart out and has no idea how to swim and trusts us courageously and plays with a beach ball and watches David dive deep.
All three kids are in bed and asleep and it’s like my head knows that she is ours but my heart isn’t sure. Or maybe my heart knows but my head isn’t sure. But this is really real. We are parents of three. This little nine year old is walking into a totally new future by our side. She trust us, we trust Him, and tomorrow we head to Ghuanzhou on the plane, the first of so many transitions ahead of her.
In bed I pinch myself again and again but I appear to be very much awake,