"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.
A new adopted
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."
My daughter, who is a single
mother and I had a little over twelve months to prepare for this
incredibly emotional journey. We began researching our destination
right after her application for a Chinese
daughter was submitted to Children's Bridge, a Canadian adoption
agency with headquarters in Ottawa.
Six weeks before our departure,
Leslie received an e-mail with a picture of her intended daughter
attached -- serious eyes, a tiny pink mouth, black hair standing
straight in the air and little 'sticky-outie' ears. Rings of baby
fat were distributed in all the right baby places. Her given Chinese
name translated to "Little Love." We were completely
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.
We 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 (all the time muttering to myself, "catch
it, catch it"). 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 ducklings...
We 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 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 offspring's antics, we cry when we and
our baby have trouble adjusting to each other.
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
8 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.