"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
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 strollers
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
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.