Monday, May 30, 2011

Tonggu Visit

I'd always hoped I'd get the opportunity to visit Mia's orphanage but never expected it. I also never really thought we'd be allowed to meet the foster parents. But today both of those dreams came true.

Last night was rough. Very rough. My happy sunshine girl has her two upper teeth poking through and two more trying to come out on the bottom. She was miserable. Nothing consoled her. Some tears were shed by both of us. 

Tonggu is 4 hours away from Nanchang by car. I was dreading the trip after our night. I wasn't sure how Mia would handle the ride...but my sunshine girl returned. She was a trooper. She slept through at least half of it on the way up and on the way back. Even with our kamikaze driver who cut almost an hour off our travel both coming and going. That's how fast he was driving. It was a little insane. 

We ended up in a minivan with only one other family who also wanted to make the trip. I was worried with all the bumps in that thing Mia would be car sick and I'd end up with her formula all over me. But no. She did great. I'll never forget trying to hold Mia on my lap, hold her burp cloth under her chin in case of spit up, Carla leaning over from the next seat holding the bottle while traveling about 70 mph through the curvy, bumpy roads in rural China. Somehow we got the job done.

We arrived at Tonggu SWI right about lunch time and immediately got to meet our daughter's foster mothers. It was overwhelming. There really are no words to express my gratitude to this woman for the job she did caring for Mia for the first 7 mths of her life. It was very emotional for me.  
I cried. I thanked her. I told her how much I loved this little girl. I promised to take good care of her.
It took Mia a little while to go to her. When I first handed her the baby, Mia started fussing. The foster mother called me "mama" and handed her right back. It was just so overwhelming. I don't know how else to describe it.
She very obviously loved Mia. This girl is so healthy, strong, smart and happy. That doesn't happen by accident. So I was really surprised by Mia's reaction. After all, I've only cared for her for a few days. Her foster mother did for months.
Our guide said that I should remember the foster mother cared for 2 other babies and ran the household. She could definitely love Mia and take good care of her...but not devote total and complete attention to her like I have. And even though her time with Mia is much longer, that attention makes a big difference. I don't know. Maybe that's it. It just seems so strange to me still.
Eventually Mia settled down and allowed herself to be loved on by her foster mom. I was so glad to be able to give them both that gift of saying good-bye. I think it was also good for Mia to see us together and to have foster mom reassure her and tell her I was "mama".
When I first got my referral pics, my mom gave me a pendant she'd had made with Mia's photo on both sides. I've worn it since then. But I asked my mom if she'd mind me giving it to foster mom. So I did. She was very grateful. I think the gift was made even more special when my guide explained that it was also a gift to me from my mother. It was just an amazing moment I'll treasure always.

Mia also visited with the orphanage director. He held her during the 4 hour bus ride on Gotcha Day and was the person who handed her to me that day. He gave her a kiss on the cheek when we said good-bye today. You can see how much they care about these babies.
The orphanage is very clean. We were allowed inside an administrative building but not the others. Mostly because they felt there was really no need since our daughter's didn't live there but instead lived in the foster family's house. In the office building were two collages of children's pictures with their adoptive families. One was all the American children who'd sent updates and one was all the European. It was very sweet.

When I sent my care package to Mia, I'd also sent along a journal book I'd gotten years ago from an online auction through Love Without Boundaries. It's written in Chinese with each opposite page saying the same thing in English so it can be translated. It asks every question I ever had about Mia from basic care questions like what her schedule is, what comforts her, what does she eat, to when she babbled her first word and other milestones, to info about the foster family, to info about her finding spot, who found her, etc. I sent it with a heartfelt note asking her foster family to fill as much of it out as they can and return it to me. But I had absolutely no expectation that I'd ever see it again.

I got it back on Gotcha Day...with every single question answered in the whole entire book. I brought the book with me today and cried when I told foster mom how much I appreciated it and how I'll treasure it.
The orphanage director took us and the foster mothers out to lunch. He toasted the new families and welcomed us as also part of their family now since we share these beautiful Chinese daughters. It was touching...and quite fun. The director is a party type of guy. We all really enjoyed telling stories and getting to know each other over some rice wine and Chinese beer.
In this photo is also our wonderful guide and translator, Sissi. She loves these babies almost as much as we do and takes fabulous care of her families.
 This was our last moment before saying goodbye. We didn't need a translator to convey what we were feeling. Foster mom and I shared a few hugs and some tears. I promised to stay in touch and send updates. And I'll keep that promise. It's the least I could do to repay her for the amazing gift she's given me.
I feel so incredibly blessed. Not just for this beautiful little girl but for the opportunity to visit what is most likely her hometown. It's a very small place in a very rural part of China. Sissi told me Mia probably is a farmer's daughter with many siblings. She said in the countryside the farmers need big families to work the fields so they basically ignore the one child policy and the violations aren't enforced. But the farmers need more boys than girls.
We took almost 200 photos of the area and were able to visit a couple of landmarks including the main square with this drum monument. It's what the city was named for. Tonggu means copper drum.

We were also lucky enough to visit our daughter's finding spots and get the original newspaper that carried their finding ads. I also had the disposable camera returned to me that was sent in her care package. Every picture has been taken. I haven't had the film developed yet but I'm happy to have these photos. It's all so much more than I ever imagined I'd have. I'm so happy for Mia.

I'm so grateful I had the opportunity to experience this place where my daughter came from so I can explain it to her some day. And I feel so incredibly blessed that although there will be many questions I won't be able to answer ....I now have so many that I can. I may not have the history of her first 3 days... but I can tell her and show her about every day after that.
Words can never really express what this day meant to me. I'm so very happy.

Yes ...she was

Without A Doubt 
Worth The Wait

Sunday, May 29, 2011

What Day Is It?

None of us can remember which day it is or how long we've been here. The trip to China is absolutely fabulous...don't get me wrong. But it's a long trip. I'm ready to get my girl home and start our life together. 

Today started with some porcelain shopping. Jiangxi is known for it's porcelain. Some of the best in the world.
I set aside some money to buy a few nice pieces to pass down to Mia some day.
I found a gorgeous tea set with pink cherry blossoms. Which is exactly what I wanted since "Ying" means "cherry blossom". I also found a 100 girls vase. The vase depicts the 4 things every girl needs to do to grow up to be beautiful... learn how to play an instrument, learn to play chess....and I can't remember the rest. LOL! The vase is packed away otherwise I'd look. The pieces are beautiful, all hand painted and translucent if held up to the light. Definitely an investment but so worth it.
Then we got on the bus and headed to a temple. 
(I'm really bad with remembering the names of these places. I'll have to find out and add it later.)
But first we passed through the streets of Nanchang.

Mia napped while we checked the place out.

With Grace. Mia has decided it's okay to go to someone else for brief periods of time as long as she can keep me in sight.

The teeth are really bothering her. She's been chewing on stuff all day... including her hand.

We had another fabulous lunch at a restaurant that overlooked the Teng Wang Pavilion.
We didn't get to tour because it's all torn up around the place as they build the subway next to it.
The morning was a really nice time. Mia was really good. But when we got back to the room after lunch it was a whole other story.
I don't know exactly what it was. Generally, I can pick up on her cues. Not today. She went into full on meltdown. I know her schedule was off a little because she'd slept through the night after being given Tylenol for her teeth. Usually she wakes at 3am for a diaper change and bottle. But since she'd slept straight through, she woke a little earlier at 6am instead of her normal 7:30-8am. So everything was off all day. Bottles earlier. Naps earlier. This girl is all about her schedule thanks to the discipline of her foster mother. And when it's off.... apparently so is she.
She was completely inconsolable....and it lasted for several hours. Nothing I did worked. I think it was a combination of being overly tired, teething hard and maybe even a little grieving. I was ready to cry, too. It was a very difficult afternoon. The socks on her hands were to keep her from scratching herself. When she gets stressed or tired and is trying to keep herself awake, she scratches.
This was right before the BIG meltdown happened. The pic wasn't staged. The penguin stays in her crib. I handed it to her and this is how she fell asleep. She's just too cute for words.... even during the hard stuff.
Tomorrow I expect us to be offline. We're visiting the orphanage. We're also told we'll be able to meet the foster family. It's a 4 hour bus ride one way. I'm worried about how Mia will handle it after the day we've had. But I have to go. This is for her and it'll be a priceless treasure to have this info for her as she gets older. So say some prayers the bus ride goes smoothly, that Mia is back to her happy sunshiney disposition, and that seeing her foster family isn't a setback for us. I'm a bundle of nerves just thinking about it. Wish us luck.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

This is where we went today. Another gorgeous place in Nanchang, China.
My easy, happy girl is teething so she's been showing me glimpses of her spicy temper. She has two uppers and two lowers all coming in at the same time. She likes to chew on the Ergo.

I still can't complain. She's a good baby. Even when she's grumpy.

This is Mimi. She's the 8 yr old daughter of one of my travel mates. One of my other travel mates has a 2 yr old named Jackson. He's been very ill the last 2 days with a bad stomach bug and ended up making a trip to the hospital. Say some prayers and send some positive get well wishes for the little guy. He's pretty miserable.

This is the restaurant we ate at today. I have to say... the food in Nanchang is much much better than what we had in Beijing.
Our group meals are all served family style and you just choose whatever you like.

There was a wedding reception at the restaurant during our lunch so they were setting off massive amounts of firecrackers for good luck.
Our guides, Sissi and Grace, are absolutely wonderful. They take such good care of us. The baby in yellow is Maya and the other is Mei-Lin, Mimi's baby sister.. All these "M" names. LOL! Their other China sister, Eliza, was back at the hotel with sick big brother, Jackson.
We're staying in the Galactic Peace Hotel. I wonder how they came up with that name. Maybe the owner was a science fiction fan?
This is our room before. I'm not sure we'll show you the after. It's hard to live out of a suitcase for 6 days in a little room with a baby. This place is a mess.

This crazy looking fish tank was at the restaurant we had lunch at yesterday.
Yesterday's lunch. An interesting mix of things. But very good.
They very rarely have utensils other than chopsticks. But I've actually gotten pretty good at eating with them. Then add in the active baby on my lap. You see that blur of arms. That's pretty normal. My girl likes to party. I'm pretty impressed with myself for mastering this feat.
Don't let this innocent face fool you.
Mia was checking out her photo book. I'm hoping she recognizes some of the faces of her family when we get home.
She likes looking at her dog. I'm not sure how much they'll like each other. I hope they'll become friends eventually.
Knocked out at the end of a hard day.