Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Nanjing adventures, yesterday and today

This is the part where much happens and I have very little time to write about it. Internet service at the Nanjing Ramada is purchased in 24-hour increments, which is better for us than the pay-by-minute service in Beijing. We like to look at all our websites in one long session, and chat with family/friends if we can. We've decided to alternate days. So, today, no internet. By the time you all read this, it will be tomorrow.

A quick summary of the things that have been happening here:

The Good

*AwesomeCloud is an angel in public. He greets cooing strangers with a look of mild interest. He brings everyone who sees him a moment of joy.
*AwesomeCloud seriously loves music. When he's upset, as long as he's not TOO upset, the “Mama hao” lullaby works like a charm. But pretty much any music pleases him.
*AwesomeCloud loves his bottle. He cannot be without it. I feed him by hand every now and then for that essential bonding experience, but we let him carry it around with him wherever we go. It's better that way.
*He sleeps well. In fact he's sleeping now.
*He's a good size, and healthy too. Aside from the issues we knew about ahead of time, he doesn't seem to have a thing wrong with him.
*He is alert and intelligent. The orphanage was not lying about that.
*As of sometime this morning, he is legally ours! Yesterday we just had him on loan for 24 hours. Now he's here to stay.
*We got the baby sling to work. It needs to be altered a bit, but I can carry him around in it as it is now, and he seems to rather like it.
*We tried him out in the stroller too, which is a relief. One less thing to worry about for the plane rides from here to Guangzhou and from Guangzhou homeward.

Side note: I'm a long-term thinker by nature. Ever since we got here, I've been looking at the faces of all the men, wondering what AwesomeCloud will look like when he's 10, 20, 40, 80 years old. He's a permanent member of the family now, which means that when we're 80, we'll have a 40-year-old Chinese-American son. Hopefully a happy, healthy, successful one, however he defines success at that point in his life. Our grandchildren will be at least half-Asian. When he takes his girlfriend home to meet his parents, his parents will be white. The word 'adopted' will be spoken early and often by everyone we meet, even when he's a grandfather himself.


The Bad

*Remember when I remarked that I'd consumed so much tap water that it was a wonder I wasn't dead yet? Guess what! Actually I'm not doing so bad. I feel lousy and have no appetite, but the messiest symptoms I could be suffering are absent.
*As a result, I don't really want any more Chinese food. Or much of any kind of food really, but especially not a tripe-and-weird-vegetable stir-fry with glutinous rice.
*I don't like Nanjing. Sorry, but Beijing was more appealing on several levels. Not least of which is that the English speakers actually knew English! If it weren't for our wonderful guide, I don't know what I'd do. Draw pictures every time I order takeout, I guess.
*I went to a local restaurant and ordered takeout by drawing a chicken, a turnip, and a bowl of rice on the ordering pad. It was hilarious and a cultural victory I'm mighty proud of, but I don't want to do it again. Once was plenty.
*The feeding of AwesomeCloud has gone through some difficulties. We learn from our mistakes. We got him some nutritional formula for older babies, which takes some of the pressure off of feeding him a balanced diet. He's regressing to formula and other fluidy foods like congee until we get him home, and he seems uninterested in solid food right now anyway.
*He does scream. Mostly when we're in the hotel room. He's not the screamiest screamer ever to scream, but it's still nerve-wracking. You still go through the process of checking his diaper for pinches, feeling his forehead, and scrambling for other causes of distress, even though it's likely that nothing like that is wrong and he's just having an emotional moment.

There is fruit in the room. I think I can tolerate a banana. Did you know it's easier to peel a banana from the bottom? Ever since I learned that, I've been eating my bananas from the bottom, and it really is easier. My husband laughs at the idea, but he doesn't even like bananas, so it doesn't affect him.

Today is my husband's birthday. We were going to do something special for food. I don't know what it was going to be. He went to McD's with AwesomeCloud, just to do it, while I stayed in and washed dirty clothes in the sink. Yay. Oh well, he got a kid on his birthday. Hard to beat that no matter what I dream up.

Those last two items belong in the “Good” category. In fact, I'm even kinda enjoying this banana.

The Ugly

Yesterday, when I wrote this entry, I didn't have much of an 'ugly'. Nanjing is pretty ugly, but that was about it. However, today I can say that almost the whole day was ugly. Our guide made a valiant effort to bring us sightseeing. When we got to the brocade museum, there was no English-speaking guide available, so she guided us herself. She brought us to the Nanjing City Wall. She offered to bring us other places too. However, somewhere in the middle of this, AwesomeCloud went fully catatonic. I was worried for him, so we cut the adventures short and came back to the hotel.

I gave him a bottle of formula and convinced him to nap for ½ hour, or maybe he just went catatonic again. Then he jolted awake and went into a full-scale meltdown. Scary stuff. I was holding him on my lap, letting him scream and scream and scream and scream and scream and scream while I sang and rocked him... when... the front desk called. They were concerned about the crying baby. I couldn't hear exactly what the woman said, and I'm sure she couldn't hear what I said either. But I gave her a long explanation about why babies may sometimes cry like this, and how I'd take him elsewhere but there's nowhere else to go. She said, “Okay okay okay.”

And that was it, except the frantically trying to keep him quiet we've been doing ever since. He has never liked the hotel room much, and he cries less when he's going somewhere. But that may change after this morning's erstwhile sightseeing attempt.

This adjustment period would be hard enough at home, where no one would call to complain about the crying baby because the neighboring houses are too far away to hear him. Where we'd have our own stuff, our own routine, and family and friends to support us.

Here, we have more than nothing – we have our agents on the phone, our wonderful guide, shops to buy stuff from, and at least the hotel room is our own space in a manner of speaking. But oh my god, do I ever want to get out of here. I now officially hate Nanjing, and I dread Guangzhou. I love the baby, and in general I love China, but both at once is so hard.

I want clean air, clean streets, and my clean hybrid car. I want trash I can take out myself. I miss the cats something awful. I want my house. I want my parents and my sister and every shred of advice they can think of.

My husband's been wonderful throughout this, but we're in the same boat. We're dealing with the same problems in much the same ways, except that he's coping by eating fast food (of both the chain and local variety) and I'm eating almost nothing at all. Some cookies and some fruit.

And cake. The hotel gave us a birthday cake. It's delicious, if not quite traditionally American in its composition, and it was sweet of the hotel to honor us in that way. It's huge, though. I wish we had people to share it with. I wish we had other families with screaming new children to commiserate with, right here in the same hotel, so the pressure won't be all on us.

We're both very lonely.

I was going to post pictures. Forgive me for the delay. Maybe next time.


  1. Hang in there gynn each day will get a little better he screams because everything I'd new to him. Each passing day will be easier.the catatonic state is his coping with all the change he shuts down when he is overwhelmed
    just try to establish some routine and he will be better when I got Olivia she slept for 18 hrs I was frantic thinking something was wrong she was just coping. Keep your chin up knowing it will get better. Kate

  2. I stopped eating sometime in Nanjing, too! Hang in there. Nanjing was my least favorite city during our travels, too. Guangzhou was so muc better, by far. It was beautiful, with plenty of American food, and many people who spoke English.

    I think Kate's right about the catatonic state, too. The little ones seemed even more overhwelmed on our trip than the older ones. Many families with babies had to abort the tours altogether because it was just too much. Don't feel bad if you miss the factories:) Do what your instincts tell you with your little one. If he seems overstimulated, he probably is. The trip is horrendous for even the adults. Our Maia held onto me for dear life most of the two weeks in China, and I couldn't blame her. It definately WILL get better once you're home, in your own surroundings.

  3. First...Happy Birthday Rick!
    Second...just keep telling yourself that this is tough, but it will pass. Having had a constantly crying baby myself(in a different situation of course), my heart goes out to you, my stomach still turns a little thinking about those times and I can't imagine going thru it in a hotel in a foreign country! Don't worry about bothering others, you gotta do what you gotta do. Try to relax, AwsomeCloud will definitely sense your tension (easier said than done)

    What seemed to work for us, if you haven't already tried these, was holding the baby and walking around, looking at different things, the mirror, out the window, the clock, or outside feeling grass or tree bark(is there any in the city?!). Though I'm not sure if it just maybe helped me more. Also, for some reason water always seemed to be calming too. I remember just turning on the faucet and putting his hand under the water, now that he's older I sometimes just stick him in a cool shower to calm him down!
    Hope this helps, I don't really feel qualified to give you advice, you've always been intuative, caring, and patient. I know you are doing a great job even though it's stressful. Don't you think it really is the hardest, but the best thing you'll ever do!

    We're praying for you and especially AwsomeCloud! Keep us posted on how everyone is doing. (I can't believe he's so big, I don't have any clothes to hand down to you because we're just getting in the his size now!) -Val

  4. Glad to hear how good the good is. (I ended a sentence with a preposition. I'm sick, I'm exhausted, I spent the day in the ER with our 18yo having a collapsed lung, I can't write coherently, forgive me.) The bad and the ugly make me cry for you because I want to be able to help in some way and you're all the way in China and that's the problem in the first place. I so wish you could be here, getting to know each other with support of family and friends but that's not how it works and so all you can do is your best there and all we can do is let you know you're in our prayers and we're here for you when you get back.

    You seem to be handling things pretty well, from your description. I always wondered if the rocking and holding and singing did more for the child or the mom but either way, it does help! Glad to hear he likes music, that's always helpful in soothing man and beast. ;-)
    And I'm glad to hear Rick got a cake for his birthday. Hee officially became a dad on his birthday, you're right-can't beat that. Happy Birthday, Rick!

    Hang in there. {{hugs}}

  5. Happy Birthday Daddy Rick!
    I just wrote lots of words to you and lost it all!
    Just remember we are with you in our thoughts and prayers. If you can survive the first week with your son, it will become easier. Poor baby!
    He is taken away from the only home he has ever known-with people he just met. No wonder he is so upset!
    Eat to keep up yur strength.and loving attitude.
    Rock, sing, and walk back and forth, back and forth with your baby. That is what I would do,
    others who have adopted probably have better advice.
    We will be ready for you when you come home.

    Love you all.


  6. ::hug::

    Sounds like you're doing well, actually, given the circumstances. May you be surrounded by understanding--or at least *patient*--people for the rest of your trip.

  7. Your mom is right, gotta keep up your strength, even if you don't feel like eating. And make sure it's healthy stuff! Nothing but cookies and cake will make you feel like crap, and thus you won't have any patience or cope. I know from experience. ;) Find some veggies and grains. I'm glad you have some fruit. Have you tried mashing some banana for AwesomeCloud? I bet you have, but I'm just thinking aloud, here. Hope your day gets better!