bathroom is the sterilization area...
to think creatively. The bathroom is also the sterilization
area. Baby's drinking water is boiled in the kettle provided
by the hotel and stored in the room's ice bucket. Alongside
our shampoos and soaps sits a
row of newly cleaned baby bottles and nipples. My daughter
warms the food by sitting it in the hand basin filled
with hot water.
When we, adults,
get hungry we snack on 'Cup of Soup' or pizza with Chinese
toppings washed down with Tsing Tao beer from the Pizza
Hut next door. There is no table top free of diapers,
toys and pacifiers -- we sit cross-legged on the hotel
stops her hunger strike...
by little Baby Lotus begins to trust us and starts to
give up some of her secrets. We learn that she won't touch
the Western scrambled eggs on the breakfast buffet but
loves Chinese-style steamed eggs. My daughter and I beg
our waitress to summon the hotel chef so he can see with
his own eyes how he has thwarted our 'little Gandhi's'
hunger strike. The amused man not only makes his appearance
but teaches us the secrets behind this simple dish the
baby loves -- mix eggs and water and steam over boiling
water for ten minutes until the mixture hardens. Sprinkle
with a few drops of soy sauce and serve. I vow to cook
this specialty for Lotus on her first sleepover with Grandma.
gather around me...
stays behind at the hotel with Lotus while I make my way
through teeming streets to the Chinese grocery store.
My plan is to observe what Chinese mothers are buying
to feed their babies and to bring some of that home for
Lotus. I enter. There isn't another foreigner in sight
and after several attempts at communication I surmise
that not a soul speaks English. Approaching a female employee
that looks relatively kind, I take a deep breath and begin
my grandmotherly pantomime. Step One -- cradling an imaginary
baby in my arms, I rock her back and forth. Shoppers around
me stop what they
are doing and stare in wonderment at this possibly deranged
grayed-hair woman. I persist with Step Two -- holding
a pretend spoon in one hand and bowl in the other, I begin
eating. A crowd starts to form. I am undaunted. My granddaughter
is hungry and I am going to bring home food. The clerk
seems to understand. She beckons, I follow through the
aisles and there lies the answer -- rows of Nestles powdered
formula and jars of Heinz baby food -- each with an additional
Chinese label pasted to the product, each three times
the price I'd pay for the same thing in a Toronto supermarket.
I stock up on spaghetti with noodles, tangy applesauce
and mashed yams planning to convince Lotus that this is
what all other babies in China eat.
hours in transit...
as our little family unit settles into somewhat of an
unorthodox routine, our two-week stay in China draws to
a close. Mixed emotions abound. We can't wait to reunite
with family and friends but twenty-two hours in transit
with a baby in tow is daunting even for the bravest travelling
woman. Leslie and I stay up late devising our battle plan.
We stuff two carry-on bags with survival gear -- diapers,
toys, towelettes, pacifiers, bottles, formula, baby food,
spoons, lots of chocolate bars (to keep our energy up),
storybooks, bibs, pajamas (to convince Lotus its sleeping
time) an extra set of new baby clothes designed to dazzle
those waiting at the airport, snowsuit, baby blanket and
a few more chocolate bars because we know we are desperately
going to need them.
Things go exactly
as we expect them to go on the plane. Lotus cries, Lotus,
eats, Lotus cries, Lotus sleeps and my daughter and I
devour chocolate bars. We take turns catnapping while
the other holds the baby. I learn that no matter how tired
a grandmother or a mother is she will not allow herself
to sleep if she is holding her precious little bundle.
We arrive in Toronto twenty-two hours later, two semi-conscious
bedraggled caregivers and one beautifully rested baby.
Lotus dazzles our welcoming committee.
Life goes on...
settled in now -- Leslie and Lotus in their flat and
I in mine. Life goes on and our newest little family
member is making wonderful progress. She's sleeping
through the night, her bronchial infection has cleared
completely and she has discovered the wonders of animal
cookies, chocolate ice cream and salty potato chips.
When I stop by to visit she squeals with delight. That
makes me believe she doesn't recall the antibiotic incident
but remembers me kindly as the nice lady that brought
home the tart apple sauce with the Chinese labels.
For photos of Lotus, GirlTalk China Guide, mentors
in China and adoption resources, click