John and Nancy Jacobs
Meeting Mia Ming Part I
After all the endless months of waiting since we began the adoption process in March of 1996, it all happened with lightning speed.
We had received our referral on June 13 via a phone call from Nan and Tom, the people at the adoption agency whom we had been working with. They called at my office in Los Angeles and I could tell from the excited tone of voice of my assistant Trudi that it was good news at long last. I think Tom especially loved giving the good news because he had fielded numerous despairing phone calls from John and myself over the past year or so. My office friends Trudi, Pam and Laurel crowded into my office to hear the news. We were told our new daughter's name was Wu Ming, meaning Famous Wu and that she was a ‘classic Chinese beauty.' Her ‘special need', enabling her to go to a family which already has children, is that she is a true orphan as opposed to be being abandoned.
We were told she was months old and residing in the Xianning Children's Welfare Institute in Hubei province and that we would be traveling to Wuhan to meet her. Her medical report indicated that she was healthy and that she weighed 11.8 kg on her last medical exam in January of 1997. We later figured out that this weight was impossible and figured she must have been weighed with the many layers of clothing we later saw in her referral photo taken at the same time. Given that it was winter and the medical facility may not have been heated this theory made sense to us.
All this news was greeted with loads of tears from me and also from my co-workers who had been on this entire journey together with John and myself. The next phone call was to Dad-to-be-once-more John who was excited in his own way (but not the very demonstrable way of the office!) The rest of the day was lost in phone calls and daydreams. I went to meetings literally unable to focus in any way, being so relieved that we were indeed going to get a daughter from China and that it would be soon. It was wonderful to have concrete details about her and to be able to start planning for her arrival knowing her age.
I had compiled two very large notebooks of stuff from the Internet, divided nicely (with Trudi's help) into areas like ‘Travel Tips', ‘Emotional Issues', ‘Health Issues', etc. I delved into all the relevant areas and searched out personal stories of those who had already adopted toddlers. I was in heaven!
At the end of the day our big kids, Emma age 8 and Hannah age 6 got home from camp and we were able to tell them their little sister was coming at last. They were extremely excited. We also told our even bigger kids, John's kids who are 21 and the details about their newest sibling.
Few days later our Federal Express package arrived with a tiny color xeroxed photo of a very worried looking little girl wearing very puffy clothing topped off by a newly shaved head. I spent hours trying to imagine that little face with a big smile. We couldn't wait to see that smile although we knew it might not happen right at the beginning of our time together.
The picture was adorable but not at all what I had pictured. I had pictured kind of a frail demure little girl with a traditional Chinese bob (yes, I had heard that sometimes the heads were shaved but had spent so much time looking at Internet photos of those kids who had been back a while that I mixed them all up). We spent the next month bonding to that photo, memorizing its details and wondering what she would look like with hair. I even took one of the little color copies and drew hair on it but the frown remained.
The referral call was on June 13 and it was another month before we got to the next stage. On Friday July 18 Trudi again sounded excited when she said Nan was on the line. I was just heading out the door to leave for a business trip to New York and excitedly grabbed the phone. Nan said we would be leaving for China in a week! Wow, knew it would be short notice but expected more like two weeks but of course we would be ready to go.
I didn't return from New York until late the evening of the 21st and John left for New York the same day and didn't return until the day we left, the 25th! Only four days for me to pack from scratch, alone with two kids and working full time! No problem due to the many packing lists I had complied from the Internet and the Texas medical kit we had already purchased. We packed long on medicines and snacks and light on clothes and were very glad we did. Many of the tips I had gotten from other peoples' lists were right on and I never would have thought of many of them. Because Emma and Hannah were traveling with us I had every type of medication three kids could possibly need and it provided a wonderful feeling of security to have all that stuff although John thought I was insane.
I worked a full day on Friday the 25th and sent the kids to camp because our flight was not leaving until 1:30 am (!) We had to arrive at the airport 3 hours in advance, especially since there was no advance seating on China Southern. We needed to get our seats assigned at the airport. There we met up with the other couple we were traveling with, who were coming from Montana. I had left all these messages for them about how to recognize us but that was unnecessary because there was only one other Western family on the flight!
The flight was wonderful, the plane clean and comfortable and not too crowded. It took about 14 BD hours and we each slept for 5 or 6. The girls were wonderful travelers and I marveled at how grown-up they have become. They have traveled quite a bit but used to have to have special sticker books, new toys and markers, etc. to distract them and keep them amused. This trip they could settle down with a scrap of paper and a pen and play tic tac toe or hangman for hours. What a relief! The Cup A1o Noodles and endless cups of tea on the plane tasted delicious and we were all pretty happy and excited.
When we arrived in Guangzhou we were required to do our only non-guide traveling in China, to make the connection to the flight to Wuhan. There our guide would be meeting us and he would be with us for the rest of our trip. We were given 2 hours to make this connection and the importance of not missing the plane was stressed by our agency. In a daring leap of faith we had checked our luggage straight through to Wuhan on this new airline (at least new to Los Angeles Airport and still being manned by Delta employees) but went with the other couple in our little group of two families to retrieve their bags. Then off to the domestic terminal a block away from the international one.
This one block walk was our first taste of China. The first shocker was the heat! It was sooo hot and soooo humid it was really amazing. The second shocker was the teaming mass of people all over the street and all the people streaming by on a mix of bicycles and cars. It was what you would expect from the videos and TV shows about modern China but still amazing to witness in person. This was also where we first experienced everyone staring at us, something we would be living with for the next 12 days or so! Our blond haired blue eyed little daughters attracted the most attention, followed by our blond haired blue eyed nanny from England, Caroline, who came along with us.
It was in the Guangzhou airport that the first Chinese man came up to stroke our little Hannah's long blond hair, quite a shock from the fear of strangers we instill here in America. Our guide would shoo these stroking men away from the kids but they posed for countless photos with Chinese who wanted their photos taken with the blond Americans. I started calling this phenomenon ‘the Olsen twins go to China', which would always be greeted with a ‘Mommmm' from the kids.
It was also at the Aside from the uncleanliness there was an absolutely enormous cockroach sitting in the middle of the floor. Guangzhou airport that we encountered the first and last Chinese-style toilet of our trip. Nobody seemed to know or care. Emma and I were so traumatized by this public toilet that we all planned our fluid intake for the rest of our trip so that we could take advantage of the hotel and restaurant facilities. I had read specifically not to do this since one's body needs to not be storing up all its waste but we just couldn't face another restroom like that one! We were also grateful to have antibacterial soap with us and used it often throughout our trip along with many little packages of tissue.
Making our connection was pretty difficult since there did not appear to be gate postings anywhere. None of the clerks seemed to speak English and each one we showed our tickets to directed us toward a different gate, none of which were for Wuhan. It turned out that we were too early and that the gates are not assigned until right before departure for these short haul flights which function like shuttles. We got on the right plane and made the one hour and 10 minute flight to Wuhan. There we were met by our guide Thomas, who was fantastic throughout our journey.
Our baggage leap of faith was justified and we met up with all our bags in Wuhan. We got into an air conditioned mini-bus and made our way into Wuhan. The traffic was amazing, cars, trucks, bicycles and pedestrians all mixing without any seeming pattern or rules. The poverty was striking, with all manner of people cooking, eating, brushing their teeth, washing up, all out on the street. The air was very hazy and seemed very polluted. Indeed in our 6 days or so in Wuhan we never saw the sun directly and never saw a patch of blue sky or white cloud. Just gray, every day.
The heat was the most incredible I have ever experienced. Even coming from a building moderately air conditioned our eyeglasses and camera lenses would steam up upon going outside. After a short walk sweat would pour down my back and my hair would be absolutely soaking wet. I have read that Wuhan is considered one of the four ‘furnaces' of China, which I thought was impressive given how big China is. The word furnace, though, doesn't get across the incredible humidity. It is more like a steambath than a furnace. At any rate it is amazingly hot.
We went to our hotel, the Jiangying, and I have to say it was very dismaying to see our rooms. I will admit to being a very pampered and spoiled business traveler but we were all quite disappointed in the dreariness of our surroundings. Nothing was too clean, and our view was of a very industrial group of ugly buildings. Worst of all the air conditioning did not really work so we never got cooled off. We had no shower curtain and the lights in the rooms and hallways were extremely dim so the rooms seemed dark all the time. The bathroom was particularly dark. At this point John and I seriously questioned our decision to bring Emma and Hannah along since the accommodations were depressing and Wuhan did not look like much fun.
We proceeded to lunch without showering or changing clothes, having been awake for about 40 of the past 45 hours. None of us could eat, being so beyond tired and knowing we should stay up since it was only lunchtime in China. At that time Thomas told us we would be getting our babies that day at 3:30, only a hour and half or so away. A feeling of panic gripped my stomach. Where was the joy I had been anticipating? Suddenly I just felt tired and worried. What was little Wu Ming going to be like? How would we get enough energy to care for her?
We hurriedly finished picking at our lunch and packed a bag for Wu Ming, soon to become Mia Ming Jacobs. What to bring? We had no idea if we would keep the clothes she would come in, whether she would wear diapers or panties, be drinking out of a bottle or a cup. What toys would she like? Snacks? We threw some stuff in a bag and headed out with all our camera equipment to meet Mia at a nearby hotel where the provincial adoption office was headquartered. Emma and Hannah and Caroline came along with John and myself, the other couple in our group and our guide, to meet the babies that would be ours forever.
After a brief interview with the provincial official in charge of adoption, Mme. Wang and the orphanage director, the two babies were brought in to meet us. We were told that Wu Ming was very active in the orphanage and got into everything. As if to illustrate that point Wu Ming had a quite burned left foot. We were told that she had gotten into boiling water 5 days prior and that the foot was healing and she would be fine. Attached to this foot, which looked quite ghastly, was a very frightened little girl with a stiff upper lip she was trying to keep from quivering.
Mia didn't cry as she was passed from Mme. Wang to me and ultimately to John, but she didn't look too thrilled either. She was wearing a Christmasy kind of red and green shirt and split pants. Her shirt was tight and showed her sizable belly. She looked quite large, especially in comparison to the petite 11 month old baby the other couple had received. I couldn't tell if she was cute or not but definitely felt a desire to take care of her. We all ooohed and aaahed over her and the girls touched and petted her and Caroline held her too.
We were told that she was potty trained, drank from a cup and not a bottle and slept alone in a bed. We were told that she just went down to sleep, no tricks to it. And that she ate solid food. We thanked Mme. Wang and the orphanage director for their time and told them we were thrilled with the kids. Then we were off to the mini-bus and back to our hotel. We took Mia up to our room and tried to play with her. She was totally quiet and had no real expression on her face. She limped on her little burned foot which worried us and made us feel sad. Nobody could make her smile or react, which of course was understandable. We gave her an Asian Itty Baby doll to play with and she started punching it and biting it quite ferociously. After encouraging her to play nicely with the doll we decided it better to put it away.
We tried Wu Ming/Mia on the Western toilet but she screamed and clearly didn't know what it was. So we diapered her and changed her and headed off to dinner. She clawed at the diaper and clearly disliked it but couldn't use the potty so we figured we had no choice.
At dinner Mia ate like there was no tomorrow. She ate as much as a famished adult would eat. The lazy susan would go round and she would point and motion for some kinds of food and reject others. She somehow knew which ones she wanted (how? They surely didn't serve steamed bao with meat in an orphanage?) and kept asking for more and more. She was remarkably adept at communicating with sign language and also at feeding herself, with spoon, fork and hands and even trying with chopsticks. It was heartbreaking to see how much she ate and how desperate she was about food. She would grab food from other peoples' plates and hands. It was clearly orphanage ‘survival of the fittest' behavior and Mia clearly knew how to survive.
This maniacal eating went on for days and still does to some extent. We figure that once she realized food is always available and will not be in shortage to her that Mia will relax about it. The Chinese, however, are stricter about food and kept telling us not to let her eat so much, that her belly is too big and it is not good. We would just motion that we understood and let her go right on eating. We felt that further deprivation would just make food more of an issue and make it even more important to her.
I can't remember if we bathed Mia that night or waited until the next day. At any rate we all stumbled into bed and put Mia in a rollaway bed in the little living room outside our bedroom. Caroline and the ‘big girls' were in another bedroom down the hall. I tried to tuck the sheets around Mia and the mattress so she would not fall out. I think we rocked her to sleep that first night by dancing around. I know that she was quite tired and had had a three hour bus ride from the orphanage in addition to the shock of being placed with all of us. We all dozed off.
Later I suddenly heard a clunk and a brief cry that stopped right away. I raced into the other room and couldn't locate Mia. She was not in the bed, not on the floor around the bed where I thought she had fallen, not in the hallway or the bathroom or our bedroom. I started to panic and in the delirium of exhaustion thought maybe I had only dreamt that we had gotten her and maybe we were going to get her the next day. I finally found her back asleep under her bed. How could she have fallen asleep again so quickly? Did she have a concussion or something?? I put her back in her bed and built barricades with other furniture so she couldn't fall out again and stumbled back into my own bed.
I laid there clutched with terror. Why was Mia beating that doll up? How did her foot get burned? If the foot was healing why did it look so awful? Did she get a concussion from falling out of bed? Why did Wuhan not live up to my fantasies of China and why did we bring Emma and Hannah with us? What was I thinking to do this at all? My life had been wonderful and well balanced and getting easier all the time ‘ why did I feel the need to mess around with it and jeopardize it all?
Of course matters improved somewhat with the morning light, as they will do. Breakfast brought on yet more overeating but eventually that day we got some little tentative smiles and some interaction with the girls. The first baths were big ice breakers and Mia learned to sit down and to splash back! She went quickly from being totally perplexed by the process to absolutely loving bathtime.
We did some sightseeing that first day, I think to the Yellow Crane Tower, but all the days run together. During our time in Wuhan we would sightsee basically half the day and have free time the other half. Our guide lives in Wuhan and was definitely busy the half days we were free so we really had nothing to do. Besides, the heat so claustrophobic that a half day was all one could stand. Our hotel was near nothing so it was impossible to walk around.
At any rate we saw the Yellow Crane Tower, an emperor's tomb with big chimes and many other items that had been excavated, a very beautiful large park with a lake, a silk wall hanging factory, a jade factory, a carpet factory, a department store, etc. Each factory tour was accompanied by what John would term a ‘retail experience' and we readily bought many souvenirs to bring home. Our family loved the sightseeing time and especially enjoyed the time in the mini-bus watching all the sites of Wuhan in air conditioned comfort. There was so much to see and all of it new to us. Wuhan is a very large city (actually three cities in one) and we saw many different parts of it, the Yangtze River, bridges, many neighborhoods. All fascinating.
We also visited Hubei University, a very large university with a very large and interesting campus. In this setting as well as others the screamingly loud noise of the cicadas made the heat seem hotter and more tropical. Our active family had a bigger problem with the down time and we begged Thomas to take us places. After all, Mia is not the only Jacobs who is ‘very active'! We finally took to playing ‘hall ball' in our 8th floor hallway of the hotel. All the ‘floor ladies' would be there, completely bored and ready to play. I guess this was one of the advantages of staying in a too not fancy hotel because nobody seemed to mind small balls and large balls hitting off the walls, being kicked and thrown. This is how Emma and Hannah blew off steam and Mia loved it too. She would run around and kick with the best of them and all the floor ladies adored her. They would play peek-a-boo with her and she would run into their private work areas to play.
These same ladies would knock on our door if Mia was crying because we couldn't get her to sleep. They would whisk her away and rock her to sleep, dancing and swaying, and return her to her bed sound asleep. The kindness of these ladies and of all the Chinese people we met, toward children, is one of my favorite memories of China and of our trip. It was so wonderful to be in a place where so many people pay attention to children, fuss over them, and protect them. There was no fear of the stranger, all the strangers we met were wonderful. The floor ladies would lie down on the floor and play cards with Emma and Hannah, using only sign language to teach them the rules of their games. So much love. We felt perfectly safe letting Emma and Hannah have run of that 8th floor as opposed to at home where they are literally not allowed to go next door without being escorted by an adult. It made us long for the world of our childhood where kids could have some freedom to roam around.
I guess we were doing some important bonding with Mia during these Wuhan days as she learned we would be there each day and as we covered miles of walking during our sightseeing trips, holding her in our arms. The heat didn't seem to faze her at all ‘ she must have been totally used to it. So she could rest in my arms both of us drenched with sweat as we climbed the many steps of a very tall pagoda. We were in it together and we certainly grew much closer. Staring at her awake and asleep we learned the contours of her face and her pretty eyes and tiny little lips and decided she was certainly beautiful.
As we grew more attached to Mia during this leg of the trip she seemed to still be making up her mind about us. She would still fling herself at any Chinese stranger rather than be with us. Any floor lady would do, as would the flight attendants on the flight to Guangzhou. Thomas, our guide, was vastly preferable to any of us and Mia would try to get him to pick her up and carry her or let her sit on his lap. This was a little hard to take and a little embarrassing, although certainly understandable on her part. It was also embarrassing when the hall ladies could get Mia to sleep when we couldn't. I tried to copy the technique but it just wasn't the same for her.
While in Wuhan we also went to the hospital to get Mia's foot looked at. The hospital was a not very clean teeming mass of humanity and as hot as anyplace in Wuhan. Luckily, Thomas knew the ins and outs and got us whisked through the system quite quickly. We got some saline solution to clean the foot with and a spray to prevent infection. We alternated that with some antibiotic cream from the Texas medical kit and the burn healed nicely. It turned out that some kind of purple medication had been applied to the burn while in the orphanage so it looked much more terrible than it actually was. Mia also had an eye infection that we cleared up with some antibiotic drops from the kit. She also had a sinus infection but we didn't know that until we got back home and our own pediatrician saw her. We thought her runny nose was due to teething since she seems to be getting some molars.
Also in Wuhan we were invited to dinner at our guide's parents' home. We knew this was an honor and were happy to be able to meet a Chinese family. Their apartment was a fifth floor walkup that is certainly rudimentary by our standards. The parents' bedroom, the only room with an air conditioner, is also the eating room with round table and lazy susan and the television room with a rather large monitor. The teeny railroad style kitchen with two burner stove nonetheless turned out a fabulous meal of many assorted dumplings, soup, pickled vegetables, tomatoes, watermelon, etc. Mia enjoyed her meal enormously and again we were scolded for letting her eat too much.
The kids connected with our guide's nephew ‘Martin', who is 7 and they exchanged writing their names and connected through the international world of children's television. It was nice to see them connect.
Upon leaving the apartment, by flashlight since there was no electricity in the stairwell for the upper floors we saw a big rat scurry away among open piles of garbage. We reflected, not for the first time and not for the last, on how different our everyday lives are than these Chinese people and how easy we have it in America in some ways.
We had our second official appointment with Mme. Wang and signed some additional paperwork. We learned our baby's official history and she became our legal daughter. It was a big relief and a wonderful feeling. We received her Chinese passport which was awesome, realizing that our little daughter was still a Chinese citizen. An odd feeling for sure. We also received a little ball of dirt from the orphanage and a note from the orphanage director saying how much they would miss Mia and a map showing where the orphanage was located as well as a photo of the outside of the orphanage. We cherish these items as our few links to Mia's unknown past.
On Friday early am, August 1, we left for Guangzhou. We were all very excited because we knew our hotel was rumored to be much nicer than where we had been in Wuhan and we were looking forward to exploring a new city. An added bonus for us was moving our guide out of his home town. In Guangzhou he was as bored as we were, and looking for action, so we did a lot of ‘extra' things together.
We flew into the Guangzhou airport again and headed off for Shaiman Island and the Victory Hotel. It was raining when we first arrived but even in the rain it felt less humid than Wuhan! On the ride to the hotel we could tell we were in a much more cosmopolitan city. I suppose if we had been to Guangzhou first we would have thought it extremely poor but after having been to Wuhan it looked like Paris!!
We passed the Hard Rock Cafe and couldn't help thinking that would be fun (and it was, for two separate meals and Mia's first exposure to balloons!) Entering Shaiman Island we thought the architecture was very pretty and we loved the look of our hotel, the Victory, overlooking the river. We entered the hotel's beautiful, classy lobby and were met with a gust of wonderful, absolutely cool air. We all smiled. We smiled more broadly as the three kids huddled around the colorful lobby fountain and still more as we entered the lobby store stocked with familiar food and drink items. This was going to be much easier than Wuhan!
Our rooms were great and very air conditioned with pretty city views. We had working TVs and some stations were occasionally in English. We checked out the rooftop pool and the big kids vowed to have a swim later on. We had to get visa photos and then had the weekend off without official appointments.
In Guangzhou we did some fun sightseeing, Mia in tow. We saw an emperor's tomb which had been excavated on sight with numerous concubines and possessions buried with the important man. We saw the very large pagoda which is 9 stories tall on the outside and 17 on the inside. We went to the absolutely gorgeous Guangzhou Zoo, in which we were clearly as much an oddity as the animals. Also the Chen Academy where many have studied and which provided a beautiful setting for photographs. We also visited the monument to Dr. Sun Yat-Sen which was formerly the government seat and which was architecturally beautiful.
For recreation we went over to the nearby 5 star (Chinese government stars, not Michelin) White Swan Hotel, complete with waterfalls, koi ponds, etc. We took a few meals there and did some shopping and it gave us a destination to go to outside our hotel. It was a surreal experience to enter the White Swan (which our guide pronounced as Swan rhyming with Ann) after all the ‘real' China we had experienced. A gust of wonderful air conditioning greeted us and entered a gigantic Western looking lobby, all glitzy and glamorous like a big hotel in Hawaii or any other resort area. It was a shock for us to see all that marble and twinkling lights right in the middle of China. There were many many shops and we knew things probably cost a lot more than outside the hotel but nonetheless had some fun shopping experiences.
We took more taxis than we had in Wuhan since we did not have the air conditioned van at our disposal that we had had in Wuhan. The taxi experience involved us stuffing our family of five, including Caroline, into little cabs that would barely seat two in the U.S. We just crammed ourselves in there and hung on for dear life. Nobody in China seemed to wear seat belts and we never saw anything remotely like a baby's carseat. We just accepted that we were in an unusual circumstance and things were beyond our control and hoped for the best! The big kids enjoyed the break from the stringent riding laws in the states and had a wonderful time riding on peoples' laps in front seat and doing other ‘forbidden' things. We got so used to it that when we arrived home both Caroline and I realized we had ridden back from the airport in our own car with no seat belt on and never noticed. Had to change those habits right away!
In Guangzhou we had our first break from Chinese food. In Wuhan we had had our meals provided for, free of charge, in the hotel, three meals a day. We were amazed at how ‘Chinese' the meals were. All three meals were family style, chopsticks affairs with steamed bao, rice porridge, steamed milk, roasted eggs and the like for breakfast, a heavier lunch with linen napkins and a meal lighter than lunch for dinner. No dessert and few gloppy sauces so John and I both lost a significant amount of weight despite eating quite a bit. We found the food to be excellent and much less foreign or strange than we had anticipated.
In Guangzhou we had our first Western style meals and we were ready. However we soon learned that the Chinese had limited understanding of Western cuisine and we were better off in general with Chinese. Nonetheless the kids loved the spaghetti at the Hard Rock and our guide was amazed to come ‘home' to our floor one night to discover that we had successfully ordered a delivery from the local Pizza Hut without his intervention!
We also took an amazing walk through town with Thomas to a real Chinese restaurant about a half hour away from our hotel. Crossing the first main street was a life threatening experience with the traffic coming at us from every direction and at great speed. The walk took us through very crowded streets with no other Westerners in sight. There were live chickens living on the street and each store had a little storefront and was totally open to the sidewalk. We asked Thomas what happened in winter since it gets quite cold in Guangzhou but he said the stores are just as open in the winter!
The restaurant did not look too promising as we entered and was immensely crowded with Chinese who, of course, stared at us. But the waiters were extremely attentive and the food was absolutely delicious. We had some wonderful crab (Emma loved it!) and other seafood dishes. We were really glad we walked all that way and braved the look of the place to enjoy a great meal.
On the way back Thomas bought the girls each a flower and they brought them back to the hotel to put in water. It was one of the many nice gestures that endeared Thomas to our family.
The kids discovered that they loved playing with Thomas, who was much more available to them in off hours than he had been in Wuhan. They played in his room, teasing him and hiding his big shoes everywhere, including the little room refrigerators.
The other baby in our group developed chronic diarrhea and the daily hunt for Pedialyte became part of everyone's routine. In Guangzhou we met many Westerners (we had seen none in Wuhan except one group of Scandinavians who spoke no English). It was wonderful to see other Americans adopting Chinese babies and we began to talk to these other families and hit them up for Pedialyte for our fellow travelers. Of course at the end of the line in Guangzhou people are looking to unload their suitcases to fit more souvenirs for their Chinese daughters so finding Pedialyte was not that difficult.
We did our medical appointment at the quarantine station and Mia had to receive a couple of inoculations even though the orphanage papers indicated she had already had them. The quarantine station said they didn't trust the orphanage to have actually done them. Diligence or wanting more money? Who can say but it is difficult to watch your little charge who barely trusts you receive shots on your watch'
Speaking of trust, Mia did start to trust us during this time in Guangzhou. No longer did she fling herself at Chinese passers-by or at Thomas. She only wanted Mom, morning, noon and night. What a switch! It felt good although her degree of tentative attachment was quite extreme and quite stifling. Since she would accept no substitute to Mom at this stage, Mom handled each meal, bath, excursion, etc. At the end of the day I would fall into bed (after pacing the hotel halls for BD hour to an hour trading off with John walking Mia to sleep) absolutely bone tired, my back and arms throbbing and aching. And up the next day to begin anew.
The saving grace in Guangzhou for all the weariness was the excellent shower complete with shower curtain and wonderful degree of water pressure. It made us feel human after a long sweaty exhausting day. The towels were also thicker and more plentiful than in Wuhan so one could really dry off.
A couple of times the big kids tried the rooftop pool, which they loved. Mia tried it once too, but wasn't so sure. I was trying not to dissuade her through my body language since I was thoroughly grossed out by the pool, the smoking around it, the hawking and spitting over the side, the unclean ‘Astroturf'. I had hit my limit of what I could gamely pretend was OK and luckily Mia didn't know the difference.
Shopping in Guangzhou was unbelievable! I could have spent a fortune. Now that we are home I wish I had bought more things. It seems so priceless now to have things bought in China when we were actually there as opposed to through a catalog or in Chinatown. As it is we bought silk pajama sets for all three girls, and some for Mia to wear through the years in all different sizes. We also bought silk padded jackets for Hannah and Mia and myself and tea sets, chopsticks, a snuff bottle for my friend Janie, some silk bathrobes, etc. We had fun choosing what we thought each person at home would like to receive.
The appointment at the American embassy was very easy and it was nice to see so many fellow Americans. We felt fortunate to be able to go in the entrance for American citizens as opposed to the separate one for the many Chinese who were waiting for visas to come to America. We briefly met other families from many other parts of the U.S. including Texas and New Jersey. Most of the families seemed quite middle class and middle American. There was not the ‘yuppie' factor one reads about in Vanity Fair about upper middle and upper class people from New York and Los Angeles adopting from China. We didn't meet anyone else from L.A. or any other major city in our time in China. Most people seemed very ordinary and average except for the fact that they had a Chinese baby in tow.
We saw one woman a couple of times with a Chinese child she was adopting who must have been 5 or 6. They were the only pair we saw where the child was older than Mia. Most of the children were 9, 10 or 11 months old with Mia being noticeably older and bigger. This one little girl who was older looked so cute in her nice dresses and hats no doubt provided by her new Mom. She also had one arm in a splint which reminded me of Mia and her burned foot. These kids endure so much in their childhoods.
We visited a public park in Guangzhou where we saw senior citizens practicing Tai Chi and we were reprimanded by Chinese women for Mia's bare arms in 100 degree heat (they keep ‘em covered) and her shaved head (sign language seemed to be telling us to let it grow). All eyes were focused on us and I began to tire of being an attraction and having our actions second-guessed all the time. This extreme attention to China was mostly a plus while we were there but sometimes wore on one's nerves!
Finally it was time to go home and we set off with mixed emotions for the long journey. We parted with Thomas, who would be coming to the U.S. shortly and would hopefully be in contact. We were glad to be going home but also were surprised by the depth of attachment we had developed to China. It was odd to realize that it might be a long time before Mia would get back to her homeland and that the country would probably have undergone significant changes by then. I hoped we had done a good job with our photos and videos so Mia would always have a sense of what our trip was like and what China in 1997 looked like.
The airplane ride was as unpleasant as the one on the way to China had been pleasant. The plane was jammed full of passengers and there was no way for anyone to spread out to sleep. Even worse, Mia screamed bloody murder for almost all the trip. No amount of snacks or walking about the plane or even Tylenol could make the crying stop. When we visited our pediatrician at home we found out that poor Mia had had a sinus infection and was probably in a lot of pain on the airplane. At any rate the time dragged on the little electronic mapping device mounted on the back of the seat in front of me and I thought we would never arrive!
Of course we did arrive eventually and breezed through the immigration process pretty quickly. It was a good feeling to pass our American passports to the immigration officers and realize we were home! Mia had to go through a separate process to enter the country and a very nice woman welcomed her in. Soon we got a glimpse of our friends Laurel and Janie as well as my Mom and they all got their first look at Mia Ming. Mia was handed a Raggedy Ann doll, her first gift in the U.S. After the hugs we loaded up our vans and stopped for Taco Bell, which Emma and Hannah had requested as their first meal back in the states.
At home we were met with a wonderfully decorated house and a load full of neighbors anxious to meet Mia. She toddled around the driveway and connected immediately with our neighbors' dog Travis. She was understandably wary of all the new faces and of course we were all exhausted. We did feel loved and welcomed and it was nice to see Mia sitting among our friends, family, and neighbors.
Our adjustment at home was difficult at times, with sleeping being the major issue at first. We were all turned around from the 16 hour time difference and had no idea how to get Mia settled down to go to sleep. We tried many different strategies and sought advice on the internet from those who had gone before. It seemed as though we would never get it solved but of course we did eventually.
It was wonderful to watch Mia experience so many new things. The first trip to the park and her reluctance to step on the sand, her funny face and look for reassurance that grass was OK to step on, her first look at the ocean, her first time on a swing. Each first encounter was cautious and the second encounters so much more relaxed and enjoyable as she remembered the familiar sensation.
Mia's first experiences with other children in the neighborhood were too aggressive to be acceptable behavior. She had no idea how to share toys and used hitting and biting (!) to communicate when she was displeased about something. However, in an amazingly short time she learned that these behaviors were not OK and learned to be quite social. Her adaptability was extraordinary.
At the present time, about a month after we came home, Mia is doing extremely well. She now gives hugs and kisses regularly and greets us with clapping hands and huge smile when we arrive home each day from work. She pats us affectionately on the back when we hold her, as opposed to the rigid arms she had at first. She communicates beautifully through body language and head shakes and we rarely have any communication issue. She uses some simple words like Mom, Dad, dog, up, etc. and sticks to a few Chinese favorites like ‘hue' (drink) and ‘je je' (older sister), which is what she calls both Emma and Hannah. She rarely hits and doesn't bit anymore although she is quite jealous of anyone having physical contact with Mom.
Mia is very musical and loves to dance and sing. She knows Barney now and loves to hear the ‘I Love You' song. She drags everyone in the family into a circle to do ‘Ring Around the Rosie' over and over and over again and also loves the ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider'. It is wonderful to see her sway and bob her head to the music, singing in her soft little voice.
Mia's hair is growing in on her little head and is very soft and cute. She is very big boned and has a big old belly and looks so adorable toddling all over the house. It is impossible to imagine life without her now. She still has a bit of a food obsession and is always looking for food or taking parts of other peoples' food. However our pediatrician is convinced, as are we, that this will subside as Mia realizes the food is always here and that there is no shortage.
It is said in Chinese lore that there is a ‘red thread' that connects those who are meant to be together and that eventually those people will find each other. More pragmatically it is also said that the Chinese adoption authorities in Beijing work very hard to match families and children together who will be right for each other. Whichever factor was at work, Mia is definitely the right match for us. She is active and energetic in a family that is always on the go. She has a big audience for her wonderful sense of humor and a Grampa that will feed her musical inclination with a broad range of music to listen to. And all of us melt at her hugs and kisses and can't wait each day to see her smile. Meeting Mia was one of the very best experiences we have ever had.
John and Nancy Jacobs
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