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
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.
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
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
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