"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
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.