Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Days 7-13 ~ July 10-16 ~ Getting to Know Emilia

Greetings on a Tuesday evening from Guangzhou.

It's hard to explain (or even personally digest) the last week here in China - and especially all the excitement and emotion that came with receiving our new daughter. I suppose the best way to summarize this last week is to describe it as a time of settling in.

After receiving Emilia last Monday and officially adopting her Tuesday, the next phase has had many layers to it. I'd call the first layer Surviving the Trauma. This sounds ominous and I suppose it is. This girl has gone through all kinds of trauma.

First, there's the trauma of becoming an orphan. We won't be sharing with very many people the details of how she became an orphan. This will be part of HER STORY, and will be HERS to disseminate over many years time. We’ll tell her the story at the appropriate time along the way and let her tell others when she feels safe doing so.

Next, there’s the trauma of being removed from her caregivers. These people have loved and cared for her for the last several months, and she is connected to them. We literally took her right out of their arms. That was traumatic.

Then there’s the trauma of having strange looking people who talk funny feed her weird food.

And so much more... So much trauma for a 15 month old to handle. And with all of this we have begun to understand the shock she is in. She has basically been in survival mode, and that meant we weren’t seeing the little girl we had seen in the pictures and videos over the last three months. The laughs and giggles. The interactions with her caregivers. Hardly any of it. There were times when I wondered if they’d given us a different girl and didn’t tell us. We’d wonder if and when we’d ever get to see a smile.

While we were in Nanchang we got to know another couple (Jeremy & Elsie) who were adopting their second daughter from China. Jeremy encouraged me with a little piece of wisdom when I was wondering if Emilia would ever connect with me; being that connection is going to be slow for these kids, maybe about 3% per day, but when you put all of that in perspective, you can see transformation in a little over a month. So we set our expectations low and just focused in on loving Emilia right where she was.

Hanging out at the train station

In my last post I mentioned how she was bonding with both of us. Well... that quickly came to an end after Day 2. Suddenly she decided that I was the only one that she wanted to be with, and when I say that, I mean literally 24/7. She refused to be held by April and would scream if I ever set her down, even for five seconds. For the last week she’s been Daddy’s girl. You can imagine how hard this is for Mom. You pour all your love and every bit of energy and emotion into this child and they basically reject you. We had been warned a while back that this could be a possibility, but it’s still hard to take in while it’s happening. But remember... 3% progress per day. As I write this post, she let April carry her and hold her yesterday and today. April has fed her, and was even able to sleep with her the night before last. A little progress is happening every day. We’re praying that by tomorrow night, when we have a 12 hour flight, that she’ll be able to be held by either of us for extended periods of the flight.

Don't judge us. There's no such thing as a car seat in China.

Letting mom give her breakfast yesterday.

Walking back after dinner last night just
leaning into her momma.
Adopting Emilia has been one of the most amazing things ever for April and me... but it's also fun to see how it's been for Peter. He has been such a champ on this trip. He's been flexible, has learned a ton about China, and has basically been a fun mini-adult to have along. It's been cool to watch him love his new sister unconditionally and be okay when she rejects him. We truly think he will carry the memories of this experience with him for a lifetime and that it will make him a great big brother to this beautiful little girl.

Peter at the White Swan Hotel standing in front of
a ship carved from a single slab of jade.
Peter the photographer
"Carbing up" for the day.
Getting fitted in some
traditional Chinese garb.

As I've previously mentioned, the process of adopting a child from China is a straight-forward one, After the adoption is finalized in her home province, the final part of the process involves obtaining her visa from the U.S. Consulate here in Guangzhou. Our visa interview was yesterday (Monday,) and we had the privilege of joining two other families. It was a special moment as we were on sovereign U.S. soil taking an oath on her behalf and signing the last necessary pieces of paperwork. Now we simply wait to receive her passport back tomorrow with the visa enclosed - her official permission to enter the U.S., and once she goes through immigration at LAX she will officially be a U.S. citizen.

This is more than likely my final post from China. Tomorrow evening we'll catch a flight that leaves Guangzhou at 9:30pm and arrives in L.A. at 7:30pm the same day. (That's a minus 2 hour flight for those of you keeping track)  With a 3 1/2 hour layover in L.A., we're hoping/praying we make our final flight in to Sac and will be sleeping in our own beds Wednesday night. There's so much more to digest and unpack from this journey and we'll be doing much more of that in the days to come, but suffice it to say for now that I am all the more convinced that adoption is a window into the heart of God.

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Days 5 & 6 - July 8-9 - Making Emilia Ours

It is impossible to capture in words what we experienced yesterday and today.  I wrote in my journal last night for over 6 pages, and still was maybe half way through everything just from yesterday.  What a journey of sight, sound and emotion.  Many things turned out differently than expected, and yet everything turned out right!

Monday, July 8 - Gotcha Day

9:23AM - We took a quick picture in our hotel room on the way out and I posted it on Instagram, hoping that our friends back in the U.S. would see it and remember to pray for us. We were heading out to get her!

The drive took about a half hour through the rain and took us into an older part of Nanchang, much less modern and, as April would later describe it, a lot more like we expected China to be. We walked up a wet walkway and entered a nondescript building,  heading for the 25th floor. The door opened up and there we were at the Jiangxi Provincial Registration Center of Foreign Adoption and Foreign Marriage. This is where we would be meeting our new daughter in just a few minutes. We rounded a few corners and were in the room. Also waiting there was another couple we had met the day before at our hotel. They were from Nashville and were adopting their second child from China (both with albinism.) 

9:56AM - Through the entrance walk several people and it's instantly obvious that they are the ones bringing the children. The other family walks up and takes their new little 17 month old girl into their arms - and then we see a man holding Yun Xi. That's our girl! What do we do? Do we just go take her out of his arms? Do we wait? We'd imagined this moment for a long time, and of course it's playing out differently, but that's okay.  She definitely  has a bond with this man. He has traveled with her all the way from Beijing to bring her to us and she does not want to leave him. She was not happy! They very soon place her into April's arms and then she really starts to scream. I'm thinking to myself... this girl has some strong lungs and she does NOT want to be here.  After a few minutes, April hands her to me, and immediately she takes the screaming to a whole new level. For both of us, we're experiencing a mix of emotions. We're so sad for her as she's obviously is confused, upset, and more than likely grieving yet another major loss in her life. We both recalled later that it was almost as though she knew what was happening. And yet we're also grateful that she's screaming and reaching out for this man that she knows. It means that she has experienced connection, and even though she's upset at leaving him, it gives us much confidence that she will learn how to connect with us. This is not always the story with adopted children, and it's something we've been spending a lot of time praying over for the last few years, long before we even knew who she was.

10:15AM - We get all her feeding supplies and medications and we're on our way. We haven't even signed a single piece of paper yet. That would be coming tomorrow, but for now they give us 24 hours to consider her and be sure that we truly do want to adopt her. In our hearts and minds this decision was made up long before we arrived in China, and one we were sure we would not go back on; but that's the China process, and we're going to take this little girl back to our hotel and get to know her.

10:20AM - We're in the car and on our way. The driver starts leaving and something amazing happens... she just leans into April and is comforted. No smiles. No interaction. No looking around. But for this time in the car, she's settled... and she's settled with April. I start to just lean in and tell her stories about Titus and Audrey and how much she's going to love them, and how she's going to need that strength she obviously has to protect herself from them pushing her around. For the next while, she won't leave April's arms. We try to have me hold her a few different times, but she'll have none of that, and I'm okay with that. She's bonding with April and that's a good thing! As we get to the hotel, she's got her thumb in her mouth and continues to lean into April. She needs her mama! We finally get back to the room and begin getting settled in with her. 

11:08AM - We finally set her down on the floor nestled in close to April, and give her some toys. Let's see if she'll play. For the next several minutes she plays, leans into April, plays a little more, leans in more; and she's even playing with Peter a little bit. Check out the video I posted on Instagram. I've been doing my best to play with her, do a little peek-a-boo, and talk to her a lot.  Pretty soon I stand up to get something and she's tracking with me. Progress! April needs to take a break, so it's my turn to try to hold her, and amazingly enough, she lets me. She even lets me giver her a bottle. I can't even begin to tell you all how important this is that she's attaching to both of us. From this point on, she has allowed either of us to hold her and comfort her. When either of us approaches her, she'll reach out. And boy does this girl love to cuddle. We heard that early on about her, and it's definitely true. She will just rest her head on our shoulders, put that thumb in her mouth, and finds her rest.

Afternoon - She took a nap next to April. We went on a family walk through the hotel, and then started feeding her.  She has been a total champ. Our guide Mary had to go out and buy us a rice cooker so we could make a special protein-free rice for her here in the hotel room. She's eating the rice, enjoys puffs, banana, and pretty much anything we give her.  It's time for us to get some room service and feed ourselves. Tired and yet encouraged, our first day with her is going better than we could have imagined. She had even allowed April to give her a sink bath. (Our adoption workers had warned us against trying a bath for the first few days because they said it was often quite traumatic for the child.) 

7:26PM - The schedule they gave us for her says she normally goes to bed at 7. We're basically preparing ourselves for the worst. We'll probably be awake most of the night. She'll probably scream a lot. She'll probably be sleeping next to April all night, leaving April exhausted. None of that! Around 7:15, she starts to fall asleep on April. A little while later, April sets her down in her crib. She turns over, sticks that thumb in her mouth, and stayed asleep... and she didn't wake up till 6:30 this morning. WE ALL GOT A FULL NIGHT OF SLEEP!

Tuesday, July 9 - Official Adoption Day

As I mentioned earlier, with China adoption, you don't sign the official adoption papers until you've had 24 hours to spend time with your child. We woke up slightly anxious, but definitely excited for what was to come today. Time to head back to the same location where we picked her up yesterday, but this time to make this official. We had been warned that this day would be hard and chaotic, that we'd be in a room with many other families adopting, and that there would be kids screaming everywhere, and that basically we needed to grin it and bear it. It was nothing like that at all...

9:50AM - We're in the same room where we picked her up yesterday, and there are only two other families there, both of whom we've already gotten to know back at the hotel. We have some great conversations with each of them about how the first night had gone. The adoption officials we interact with are friendly and obviously grateful.  We sign lots of papers, take official pictures for the paperwork, sign some more papers, and then at 10:19 our guide Mary walks up to us with the official adoption certificate. She is now ours! 

As we wind down Day 6 in China, we are so grateful for our new Emilia Mae Yunxi Carey. She is beautiful, quiet, loves to play with her stacking cups, knows what she likes and doesn't like, eats well, sleeps well, and cuddles with her mom and dad. The trip is far from over, but for now we're settled in and enjoying our new life as a family, longing all the more to be home and begin the new normal.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Day 3 - Saturday, July 6 - Beijing

This is our guide Helen.
Notice the flowering Lotus plants
growing in the water
Rickshaw Ride
Reminded me of the 80's one hit wonder band Rockwell...
"I always feel like somebody's watching me."
(These are everywhere here.)

Tienanmen Square

Acrobat Show - The guy on the left actually
did this blindfolded. 

Acrobat Show - He went even higher  after this.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Day 2 - Friday, July 5 - The Great Wall

We've been grateful to have Bethany Christian Services as our adoption agency.  They know what they're doing, having helped families like ours bring home thousands of orphans from China over the years.  A key part of the trip is the first few days.  They intentionally have you arrive in the country four to five days before you receive your child. This helps parents gain a good understanding of the child's culture, while also giving a few days to get over the jet lag.

April and I were talking earlier today about how glad we are that we're taking these first few days at the beginning of the trip like Bethany recommended.  We tried to imagine receiving our little girl the morning after having been traveling for 27 straight hours.  Suffice it to say, it would have been awful.  We would have been a mess. She would have been a mess. It would have been a mess all the way around!

Our guide took us to the Great Wall today - a once in a lifetime experience. We climbed SO MANY STAIRS.  My phone told me it was equivalent to 74 flights!  We climbed... climbed a little more, rested for a minute, climbed more... and well, you get it.  The views were breathtaking and it was so significant to stand on such an historic spot. It was a moment none of us would forget. And to cap it off, we were able to FaceTime back to Fresno and talk to Titus, Audrey, Grandma and Grandpa.

All in all, it was the perfect way to spend our first full day in China. Tomorrow will be Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, Hutong Tour and an Acrobatic show. More to come...

Day 1 - Sacramento to Beijing (via Shanghai)

Thank you Greg Thwing for the ride. 
Wednesday, July 3... the beginning of the final journey to get Emilia. 

Upon arriving at the Sacramento airport we learned that our flight would be delayed up to a half hour. We figured we could handle that since we would still have an hour to make our connection in San Francisco. Well... that was not to be.  The Sacramento flight ended up being delayed so long that we missed our flight to Beijing, but United came through and rerouted us through Shanghai. 
Waiting in Shanghai

Shanghai was another adventure as we had a pretty tight connection transferring from an international flight to domestic.  This time it was Air China that came through in the bind, and allowed us to check in for a flight that they had already closed.  We were able to get through security quickly, gate check our bag, and then... wait... because of course this flight was delayed.  The delay gave us some time to regroup and then we were off to Beijing.  

We've finally made it to Beijing.
Our guide Helen met us at the airport, and off we went to our hotel to finally get to bed sometime around 12:30am local time.  All said, it was about a 27 hour travel day.  Exhausted and excited, off to bed we went.