March 5, 2013

Day 5 in Guangzhou: Free day + thoughts 1 week in

Seems like we go in spurts here in China: crazy, busy exhausting day (or two) followed by a slow, boring day with nothing to do. In some ways, that's OK. Meili needs some down days. She's experiencing SO much that I can't imagine a little time off from all the "new-ness" would be a bad thing. For Jon and I though, it just seems like a waste. We've been gone from our other three sweethearts 2 weeks now and it's enough. We want to be home with them. And we want to get that horrible 24 hour day of travel put behind us. On top of everything, we both seem to be getting colds, and Jon has had some tummy rumbles going on...

Please pray we are able to stay healthy!! We're almost done here and we've made it this far....we can't be sick now! Also, please pray for that plane ride home. We are really worried about it. And the worst part is that right now, we aren't seated together. Since Meili won't go to Jon, that means it's me and her...for 14 hours. She and I have 2 seats in a row of 3. We're thinking once that third person realizes he's sitting by a crazy toddler and a totally stressed-out mom, he might be willing to switch with Jon. No guarantees, but I'm praying for that!!

Since today was our slow day, we slept in and had a late breakfast. Then we took Meili outside to play. Our hotel has a nice courtyard on the fourth floor that has some play equipment, a pond and a little waterfall.


Meili's first glimpse of the waterfall:


We played in the room for a little while, then gave her some lunch and a bath. Afterward, we went for a walk. We had heard there was a park close to our hotel so we attempted to find it. Amazingly, we were actually able to do it without much effort.


It wasn't exactly the type of park I was picturing. There was no grassy areas to run or relax, but rather a giant sidewalk running through nicely landscaped grounds. There is a statue in this park of 5 Rams...apparently it's a significant statue, although I couldn't tell you why. To get to it required climbing LOTS of steps, which Meili loved. It's obviously she hasn't had a lot of experience with steps, because she's very clumsy on them, but she LOVES to practice. She would go up and down them all day if we let her, so at least her leg muscles got a workout today.





I had read in an online forum that not too far from our hotel was a more "authentic" area that had a grocery store. We had wanted to find one because we've discovered a couple kinds of snacks that Meili really likes and want to be able to take enough of those home with us to last a couple weeks during the "adjustment" period. The 7-11 near our hotel had one kind, but we were missing the other one. Thankfully, we found it at the grocery store. The jaunt there took us a little bit out of our comfort zone, but it was neat to experience an area of the city that seemed a little more like real China.





Today is one of the first times I have thought about Meili's birth mother. In the safety and security of our lives in the US, we tend to look at these people who abandon their children with disdain and disgust. How could anyone be so cruel and heartless as to abandon their child? What I've learned through this process, is that that view is almost never an accurate one. The women (and men) who do this do it because is the only option they have left. They cannot afford to care for a child with special needs. Knowing that their child may die without a surgery they can't pay for, the only option to safe the life of their child is to abandon them and hope that they will be adopted. And you can bet they make that choice with much grief and pain. I can imagine mothers walking by the social welfare institutions every day hoping to catch a glimpse of their child to know they are OK. One of the children adopted by the families in our group was abandoned at 3 weeks of age midday at a hospital. Almost certainly they had just been told she needed life-saving surgery and knowing they couldn't provide it for her, made the choice to leave her there. I just cannot imagine having to make that choice for my child.

So here we sit, with a child who we'll take home to be ours because someone made that choice for her. And I can't say it's been easy for us either. Knowing almost nothing about the last 33 months of her life makes so many things difficult. I find myself looking at everything she does and wondering why she does it that way. And she's so small. So delayed. Most of the time I do OK, but sometimes the fear just grips me. What if she never catches up? What if there's a major issue that we don't know about? What if she needs more surgery? There are things we expected and so many things we didn't.

We knew she would be delayed. Kids in orphanages just are. Unless they're in a really good orphanage, which she was NOT. We knew she'd had open heart surgery at 5 months old and had a tough time recovering. Wouldn't you, if you had no one to love you and care for you during a month long recovery process? So we can just pretty much rule out any normal development during the first 6-7 months of her life. That puts her at about a 27 month developmental level. Experts estimate kids in orphanages lose on month developmentally for every 3 months they're there, so that brings her down to an 18 month level, and I would say that's pretty accurate. More in some areas, less in others.

I had read all of this but somehow never added it up. It's been hard to get used to. In my mind, we were adopting an almost-three-year-old, not a baby. But in many ways, she is a baby. And babies are exhausting. We're back to diapers for the first time in almost four years. We have to feed her to make sure she gets enough. She gets into everything. But her smile can melt your heart. It's pretty common for adopted kids to attach to one parent first and reject the other. Often, they will attach to the dad because they are so used to women caretakers caring for them and then leaving. In our case, she has attached to me. Even this has been hard because I will be honest and say I didn't have an instant attachment to her. But Jon did. He loves her like crazy already and it's tearing him up that she doesn't want to be with him. And it's also exhausting me! It's a good thing she flashes that smile a lot because it does make it a little easier.

Thanks for keeping us in your prayers. Lord knows we need them! Really, all things considered, everything is going well. I've heard lots of stories of worse experiences. But I also don't want to sugarcoat anything and personally, I appreciate it when people are real. So we're trying to keep it real around here :)

Tomorrow morning is our consulate appointment. If all goes well, we'll be done by 10am, they will issue Meili's visa the following day and then WE'RE OUTTA HERE!!



  1. Ah the steps! Aiden was 27 months and it was evident he'd never seen or navigated them either. It. Was. EXHAUSTING! He, too, was a baby. In hindsight, it was kind of nice -- we got to experience a lot of his firsts and see him develop from "infancy" into toddlerhood, and now we're moving into the little boy phase. You're right, though, it is hard. Very hard. And OH SO REWARDING! I will be praying for you!

  2. Jon and Virginia,
    We obviously don't have any adopted children and can't offer any sort of advice. We can, however, let you know we are praying daily for you and are in complete awe of how devoted you both are to this lucky child. One day she will appreciate all your efforts and know a love that is boundless because you were gracious enough to welcome her into your family. We've been following your blog for awhile and use it as a source of navigation in our daily lives. What beautiful examples of loving Christians you are! Thank you for being a fountain of information and sharing your lives with all of us. We are better for it! Many positive thoughts for the trying days ahead and for your sweet family at home. Safe travels! Blessings to you all--sarah livermont

  3. Hang in there, you're one day closer to the end of this trying time. As exhausting as it is to be the one she's attaching to, I praise God she is attaching already, which has been a constant prayer of mine. She'll love Jon very soon, I'm sure. Call if you need anything when you get back, be it a diaper run or just a Starbucks to get you through the day.