I want to remember it all. The way I saw her walk in... I knew it was her even without seeing her face, just because she was the size I imagined she would be. The way she clutched my China necklace the moment they handed her to me, winding those little fingers in and out, in and out. No tears. Just quiet glances at my face when I wasnt looking directly at her. The way she sucks her first two fingers when shes overwhelmed. The surprising way it felt to meet her for the first time... a stranger yet not a stranger at all. The way I realized late last night that it already felt like she has been a part of our little family for more than a day... it feels not only like she belongs, but that shes been missing all along.
The room was chaotic. I think Alea might have been the only child not screaming in terror. And nearly twenty children screaming in one concrete block building with coordinators yelling above the noise creates an indescribable sound of sadness. Alea wasnt crying, but rather a bit shut down. She was taking it all in, but was clearly overwhelmed by everything. In a surprising bit of Gods grace -- though why should any of this be surprising at this point -- Cora acted as if what we were doing was the most normal thing in the world. They had a lilttle play area off to the side, and Cora happily played there by herself, shrieking and laughing above the din. It was one of the first times since weve been in China that Cora wasnt velcroed to one of us, and in by far the most overwhelming set of circumstances. Grace. And when we called her over to meet Alea for the first time, she joyfully hugged her little sister and she has been thrilled about "her baby" since then. I realize once the newness wears off, Cora might be less thrilled... but for a little gal who doesnt really like babies that much, this has been a total surprise and another glimpse of Gods grace.
Jacob wisely decided to take Alea outside. There was a small park with a fountain in front of the building, and we walked over and sat in the sunshine, away from all the noise and fear. Alea squinted in the sun, but she started looking more closely at both of us. She doesnt seem to have a strong preference for either of us in particular, and would probably happily go to anyone as long as they were willing to hold and feed her. She loves to watch Cora play, and I think it wont take long till she's Cora's little shadow.
By the time we got her back to the hotel, we thought she might be hungry. She made no indication that she was, but it just seemed like feeding her would bea reasonable thing to do. However when she saw a bottle, she began whimpering and hungrily sucked it down. Shes tiny... some 6 to 9 month clothing is too big, and we think she would eat all the time if we let her. (Its hard to know how much to let her eat... we know she may know the feeling of a hungry belly, but we dont want her to gorge herself and make herself sick in these early days.)
Despite her size, shes clearly been well-cared for. She came to us incredibly clean in a darling pink outfit. She crawls very well and loves to pull-up to stand. She is alert, curious, and engaged... signs that she hasnt been left to stare at a ceiling for hours on end. Jacob got some giggles out of her by gently tossing her up above his head, and he put her to sleep for her first nap (and her second). We think she loves his big soft arms, and I have to confess it has been nice that shes comfortable with both of us because Cora is definitely a mamas girl, and I was a little worried about having TWO mamas girls. (To be honest, this experience has made Cora more willing to let Jacob do things for her than before... again another Grace-gift that I didnt expect, as I anticipated the opposite.)
The man who brought her to us said that she was in the Half the Sky program, and that her nanny cared for her and three other children. Those are absolutely INCREDIBLE ratios in an orphanage setting, and we will be forever thankful. We got an album of pictures showing Alea with her nanny, and we know that she has left an imprint of love on Aleas heart. Today when Alea woke, she was much more detached and somber than yesterday, and we both think she is probably missing her nanny. I cant even begin to describe how much it breaks my heart to think of what our little girl is going through right now... And that the calm facade doesnt reflect the probably inner turmoil... and that honestly Im just not the person who knows how to comfort her best right now. But we are doing our best to love her well... treating her as we would a newborn, responding to her EVERY need as soon as we realize what it is she might want.
After a nap from about 3-5:30, she slept great last night. She went down at about 8:30 and didnt stir until about 7:30 am. I tried to rock her to sleep, but she wouldnt settle and seemed to want out of my arms. I prayed about what to do... what would bring her the most peace and comfort, and decided to lay her in her crib. Within 5 minutes she was asleep. She didnt stir in the night. She was within arms reach of me, and I woke several times to check on her because I honestly expect that if she did wake, she wouldnt cry but would simply lie there silently. I want her to learn -- as soon as possible -- that she has a voice and that her needs are worthy of being met by her mama and baba. This morning she ate a great breakfast and its been a busy day of meetings and appointments. And just like that, its official. In the small lobby of a Henan civil affairs building, we became a family of four. Alea slept through most of it, and Im so thankful she feels safe enough to do so.
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