"Here, you do it,
I can't stand making her cry" my daughter Leslie says to
me tears streaming down her own cheeks. "I, on the other
hand, am so jetlagged from our journeys -- Toronto to Beijing
and then on to Xi'an -- that I feel as if my brain is completely
wrapped in wool. Things appear to be happening in very slow
motion around me, however I do know my daughter is relying on
me and I'm struggling to make things right for her. The last
time I had to give antibiotics to a screaming child was forty
years ago when Leslie, herself, was a baby.
new adopted baby...
there is this new baby -- not a newborn child but new
to us since we arrived in Xi'an yesterday afternoon. Baby
Lotus is Leslie's long-awaited adopted Chinese daughter
-- thirteen months old with a tiny bow-shaped mouth that
has now opened into an huge, ominous cavern as she thrashes
her arms and legs and screams at us in indignation. The
baby is sick with a very bad bronchial infection; we learned
this as an aside during the adoption ceremony. A young
nanny from the orphanage handed us this precious new member
of our family along with packets of antiquated antibiotics
and said through her interpreter, "the baby is sick."
we're in our Chinese hotel room, sleep deprived after
an emotional first night of walking the floor because
Lotus refuses to close her eyes for even one minute. "Who
are these big-nosed, round-eyed strangers who've kidnapped
me,?" she must be thinking as she fights to stay
awake. Not only is she terribly frightened, she's refusing
all food, her fever is going up and we can't keep her
mouth open long enough to sneak the medication in. To
tell you the truth, I want desperately to begin howling
as well but I can't. I'm the grandmother, I'm supposed
to be the wise woman. I hope that what I'm going to do
next will not remain forever imprinted in my new granddaughter's
memory. It's for her own good, I reason with myself.
wrap her in a blanket...
and I wrap Lotus in a blanket, her arms pinned to her
sides (now I'm crying, too). I pinch her cheeks and force
her mouth open long enough to pour the medication down
her throat. Of course she instinctively begins spitting
it out but Grandma is there with her teaspoon and as fast
as baby spits, I scoop and send it back into her mouth.
We unwrap our unwilling accomplice who now has miraculously
stopped crying. Leslie and I look at each other. The crisis
has been averted for another three hours when the next
dosage must be administered. Now we take turns resting
so that there is always at least one coherent Caucasian
caregiver for this Chinese child that refuses to let us
out of her sight. Perhaps tonight she will sleep.
We follow like little
are not alone in this adoption adventure. We've travelled
to China with twelve other Canadian couples who will
be receiving their new daughters at the same time. Once
in Beijing, our group has been assigned a comfortable
touring bus and two very patient guides. With yellow
flags aloft they lead us through the intricacies of
Chinese adoptions and on sightseeing excursions. We
follow like little obedient ducklings, pushing baby
through government buildings, to the Great Wall and
into the Silk Market. The babies are fingerprinted,
the parents sign documents swearing they will never
abandon their new daughters and we go out 'en masse'
to eat authentic Chinese food. Together we create common
memories and learn about our little girls' culture.
Later, when they are older we can teach them about it.
We laugh at our new offsprings' antics; we're sad when
they fret and we don't understand why.
bathroom is our steam room...
During our five days
in Xi'an, my daughter and I try to unravel this adorable
Chinese puzzle called Lotus. Our little hotel room begins
to resemble a Canadian version of a third world refugee
camp as we attempt to eat, sleep, play, do laundry and
cook in the same
10 X 12 ft. space. The bathroom is our steam room where
three times a day we run a hot shower attempting to unclog
Lotus's bronchial tubes. She resists the moist air as
her mother and grandmother sing countless off-key verses
of 'Old MacDonald Had a Farm' to keep her amused. The
baby understands no English but is intrigued by these
two strangers making very strange sounds. We wish we spoke
Chinese so we could comfort her. Eventually, her laboured
breathing begins to improve.