Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sometimes Dreams Do Come True...or...The Best Day of My Life

Today, (2/7/08), we celebrate the second anniversary of the day we met Lia. Although I FELT like a mom from the moment I laid eyes on my sweet girl on referral day, nothing can ever compare to the emotions I experienced when I held her in my arms for the first time. Although I have re-lived the day a thousand times over in my mind, I have never taken the time to write down what the day was like for me. I want Lia to be able to read this someday and know....KNOW! what an incredible gift she has been to me, her daddy and her entire family.

We were up early on February 7th. We had to fly from Beijing to Shaanxi, Lia's province. One of the most poignant moments of the day for me happened in the early morning darkness in the hotel lobby. Although the whole travel group for our agency consisted of around 60 families, we were divided into Province groups depending on where our child was from. Two of the families in our large group live very near to us. Although we had not known each other previously, we were thrilled to meet through the shared experience of our adoptions. All of our babies were from different provinces and as I hugged my friends and wished them safe travels, I knew that when we met again in Guangzhou at the end of our trip, we would have our new daughters with us. After talking for many months about this moment, here it was.....and it was overwhelming and surreal. I was literally overcome with tears and emotions and our day had barely begun!

For some reason, our plane from Beijing to Xi'An, the capital of Shaanxi, was delayed by a few hours. I remember that the airport was very crowded. After the many months of waiting, those few hours in the Beijing airport seemed to last an eternity. Once we were in the air though, it was a short flight to the city where Lia was waiting for us. My prayers on our flight revolved around Lia. She had to make quite a journey herself, about three hours by car, to meet us in Xi'An. I prayed that she would not be scared. I prayed for her caregivers as they prepared to relinquish her care to us, I prayed for her birth parents and I prayed for the children left behind in the orphanage. I also prayed for wisdom and strength to know how to comfort Lia in our first few days as a family as we all got to know one another and began our lives as a family of three.

We did not have much time to get settled once we arrived at our hotel in Xi'An. Because of the flight delays, we had just enough time to do some basic unpacking and assemble the gifts for the officials and the nannies. We were soon on the bus on the way to the Civil Affairs Building. Our Province group had 10 families. I was so glad that it included some veteran moms and dads. Although I am sure they were nervous, I so appreciated the kind words and reassurances that all would be well.

The Civil Affairs Building was impressive from the outside. Inside, however, it seemed damp and cold. There was a ping pong table in the lobby. Hallways were lit by single lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling. The babies were waiting on the seocnd floor with the orphanage staff members who had traveled with them. As we walked down the long hall, I suddenly heard the wail of ten scared babies. I remember grabbing Jim's hand, completely overwhelmed and unable to speak.

We crowded into a large office with all of the families. The babies were sitting on long tables off to one side and the nannies that had made the trip with them were sitting behind them. Since referral day, I had had a recurring fear that I would not be able to pick Lia out of the group of babies...and, well, that's exactly what happened. Jim picked her out right away. She was the only baby with a bottle in her mouth. Occasionally she would shake her head back and forth (and I only make this comparison to fully explain!) like a dog, letting the bottle shake by the nipple. Additionally, she was shredding a roll of toilet paper to tiny pieces. In the scant information we received in our referral packet, it had mentioned that she "liked to rip paper". Jim was insistant that the baby with the toilet paper was Lia and I will never forget him whispering, "Likes to rip paper. Likes to rip paper!" in my ear during the introductions of the orphanage personnel.

We were the ninth family out of 10 to receive our baby. I was thankful that the families ahead of us were ushered out of the small office as they received their babies. It had grown very hot and quite chaotic as the babies were so confused and scared, each crying louder than the next. Finally they called our name and we moved forward to receive Lia. They handed her to me and she immediately started to cry and reach for her nanny. I was able to walk with her a little as Jim signed some documents and she seemed to like the small stuffed bunny Jim's mom had sent for her. Truly though, those first few minutes and even the hours following were a blur. We thought we were just going to meet the babies and travel back to the hotel, but in fact, we had to get pictures taken and fill out quite a bit of paperwork. It was draining to say the least. I could tell that the nannies were very attached to Lia. They kept coming up and taking her or talking to her. One nanny filled her bottle with hot water from the coffee maker to show me how to make her formula. I felt so stressed at that moment because I was so grateful to all of the nannies for their care and obvious love and I didn't want to offend her...but that water was just too hot to give to Lia! Luckily Jim's brother Joe, was able to convey that somehow and they added some cold water to it.

After completing the paperwork, we boarded the bus to go back to the hotel. Lia fell asleep on the short ride, as did many of the babies. I think everyone was just glad to have a moment of relative peace and quiet in a cool place. Lia woke up soon after we got back to the room. I felt so sad that she had fallen asleep and awakened in a strange place with people she didn't know, but she settled down fairly quickly as we quietly let her explore some toys on a blanket on the floor. We got a smile from her very early on when she tried cheerios for the first time.

We took our time peeling layers of clothes off one at a time. She came to us with three layers of clothing, although the outer layer was very heavy...kind of like a quilted snowsuit. Lia seemed to enjoy her easier mobility as each layer came off. She tolerated a sponge bath (barely) and was fascinated by the fingernail clippers as I trimmed her nails. She did not cry much that first night as I think she was just in shock. She went to bed easily and slept for 10 hours straight. I think I got up every hour or so just to check on her and as Jim and I waited for her to wake up in the morning, I remember thinking that she was such a good sleeper... silly, novice Mama that I was. The gods of sleep must have been rolling on the floor laughing at that. Just for the record, I don't believe I have waited for Lia to wake up one day since then!

It was an overwhelming, emotional, unreal, exhausting, exhilerating day. It was a day that seems like a lifetime ago....but is so fresh in my memory I can conjur up the sights and smells in a flash. It was a day that I first saw the face of an Lia Nanette.

It was the best day of my life.


Melissa said...

Oh happy day! There is no words to describe what that day feels like, is there?

I'm so happy to know about you and I love your blog...I've got to play catch up and read some earlier posts.

Thanks for stopping by and saying hi!

Melissa & Leah

Don and Lisa Osborn said...

Oh Kate~

What a beautiful account of such an amazing day. Thank you for sharing it.

I am so glad we have connected and are here to celebrate Lia & Lindy and their mei meis...


Sophie's Mom said...

Congratulations on two years together! The time sure flies!
Christine (Sophie's Mom)

Steffie B. said...

What a beautiful is wonderful to think back isn't it and then see how much they have grown and what a blessing they are to us! ;)

Love your blog....I have the same scrap kit! It's too cute!

Jake and Taryn said...

What a beautiful post! Lia is so adorable! Thanks for stopping by our blog...and come back soon! :)


Heather said...

Wow! What an amazing account of such a special occasion. Thank so much for sharing your very soul, this post really spoke to my heart.

Lia is a sweet, sweet child of God. How magnificent that He knows how to place everyone exactly where they belong!

Congratulations on two wonderful years.


Rony said...

My goodness little miss Lia is the picture of cuteness!

Julie said...

What a precious story to share with us. Thank you. It really makes me want to sit down and reflect on our days too. In such a busy time, it is such a gift to reflect. I am new to your blog - I linked thru your comment on As we wait for Lily Kate. Your blog is beautiful and so is your daughter. I look forward to stopping by.

Danielle said...

These photos are beautiful. I can't imagine how amazing that day was. Thanks for sharing the story of the best day of your life.