The Big Day
December 4, 2000
This is the day we have waited for - the day we would meet our daughter face to face for the first time. We were unsure of what to expect and also were extremely nervous. We once again checked our paperwork, then boarded the bus with the other families to take us to the Civil Affairs office.
As we entered the 20-foot, square office we could see the caregivers from the various orphanages holding the babies on the right and left sides of the room. The babies were brought in from 4 different orphanages. Stephanie had to take a 90 minute ride from her orphanage in Hanchuan to the Wuhan Civil Affairs office.
We were instructed to sit in the middle - which we obediently did while, at the same time, scanning the room to find which baby looked most like our Stephanie. We found her sitting on her caregiver's lap clutching rice crackers and dressed in several layers of heavy red clothing. That's when it hit me that this is for real and that our lives, and hers, will forever be changed.
Each family was called up one at a time to be processed. The processing consisted of a series of questions, paper signings, fingerprinting, and a ceremonial gift from the orphanage. As we waited our turn, we were able to walk over to Stephanie, talk to her and hold her. Stephanie was incessantly crying in spite of our best efforts. I felt sorry for this poor baby who was abandoned when she was born, then taken away from her foster mother a year later. We knew it would take some time for Stephanie to feel comfortable with us, but we still felt her pain.
It took about two hours to process all the babies. The room was very warm with all the people in it and it was obvious Stephanie was getting very hot. I didnt want to change her there so as not to insult the caregivers. I did however, put a diaper on her after she "baptized" me on my leg through her split pants. This was only the second time in my life I handled a diaper and the first time I got pee'd on.
Finally, we piled back into the bus with our new daughter and immediately took off her jacket. When we made it back to the hotel, we rushed to undress her. It turns out that she had on seven layers of clothing beneath a heavy outer coat. No wonder she was hot. Some of the babies had notes from the foster parents sewn into their clothes, but unfortunately, Stephanie didn't.
Stephanie was obviously grieving over the change in her life. Each time I put her down or even carried her below eye level, she would bawl. For the first few days, she would let only me hold her - not even Grace. My arms have never gotten so sore in all my life! In order to put her to sleep, we had to rock her for about a half an hour then gently put her into the crib; hoping she didn't wake up. She did however, wake up several times during the night.
Stephanie went through the grieving process almost for a full week. She was one of the last ones to adjust. It showed me that she was well loved by her foster mother and that Stephanie missed her very much. It had us a bit on edge to see her so heartbroken, but after she finished her grieving, she was the most lovable, fun-loving child you could ever imagine.
She was obviously taught well by her foster mother. Stephanie already knew how to eat with a fork (and hold it properly), wipe her hands and mouth with a napkin, clean the table, drink from a sippy cup, use a straw, drink from a regular cup, etc. She had no problem eating anything we put in front of her and eating large quantities of it.
The Story Continues...