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Will My Adopted Chinese
Granddaughter Remember?

 

The bathroom is the sterilization area...

We learn 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 room floor.


Baby stops her hunger strike...

Little 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.


Shoppers gather around me...

Leslie 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.


Twenty-two hours in transit...

Just 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...

We're 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 here ...

 

 

 

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