I guess the day started when I woke up at 4 am with my heart and mind racing. I managed to fall back asleep an hour later but Austin and I were both up and out the door around 8. We headed down for our first Chinese breakfast and it did not disappoint! Noodles, buns, multiple flavors of congee, dragon fruit- and coffee and donuts for my adventurous travel buddy. We set out to explore the neighborhood for a couple hours. The streets are busy with tiny shops, motor bikes, and people walking/shopping. It really wasn't that unlike some cities in Romania that we've spent time in. We found our way to Shamain Island- a little strip of land that was occupied by the British some time ago but has retained its European atmosphere years later. It is super popular with elderly Chinese practicing all manner of group exercise along the water front and the latest fashion models and photographers using the historic looking buildings as a backdrop for their photo shoots. Shamain Island also has a history among adoptive families- it once housed the U.S. Consulate and all families would stay at the luxurious White Swan hotel. The hotel has since been renovated and is more geared toward the business crowd but it is an interesting place to walk around and look in the shops.
We took photos, shopped a little, spotted a few adoptive families with their newest little ones tucked into carriers and strollers. After we had seen it all, we walked back to our hotel through the Qing Ping market-where all manner of dried creature and plant is available in wholesale quantities for cooking and herbal remedies. We played 'name that dried sea creature' as we walked. The end of this market is the pet market- goldfish, turtles, kittens, bunnies, you name it- are available in little bins and cages. I'm sure Americans are generally repulsed by some of the sites we saw but it was fascinating!
We still had time to kill so we headed to the pedestrian street that is basically an outdoor shopping mall surrounding our hotel. We wandered in both directions, occasionally finding seemingly hidden escalators to higher levels of stores and restaurants above the market. We both had no appetite but I stopped for some passion fruit juice with basil seeds (yum but I was a little afraid that I would regret my drink choice later) and Austin grabbed an ice cream cone from McDonalds (there's something for everyone here!)
It was almost 'time' so we went back to the hotel, changed clothes, re packed backpacks a few more times, and went to meet Cordelia in the lobby.
Mr. Thomas our driver was waiting for us so we piled into the van and off we went. About half an hour later we pulled into a not very impressive office building where our lives would change forever.
We rode an elevator up a few floors to the Adoptions Affairs office and waited in a large room with two other families about to meet their children. We watched as new families were formed and tears dropped down little faces.
As Cordelia was taking care of business, suddenly, I saw her- our tiny daughter- held in the arms of a Chinese woman. I waved and we were nodded over but Cordelia decided we needed to wait for something official so we retreated to our corner. Finally, whatever was supposed to happen, happened and we were allowed to go to her.
The orphanage director - Mrs. Zhong- immediately whipped out the photo book we had sent to her and pointed at Austin and my pictures. Our sweet little girl looked on apprehensively until she was suddenly thrust into my arms. Cue the waterworks. We rocked and bounced and I patted her back and she actually settled down into my arms. Austin came and sat close to us Mila was very interested in his gopro. Since it's basically impossible to break, he handed it to her and she quickly mastered turning it on and off and scrolling through the videos on her own.
The director was randomly telling us about how smart our daughter was. At one point they made Cordelia translate that it must be fate that we were together- Mila is super afraid of strangers and never goes to someone she doesn't know without melting down. Austin decided to tempt those fates and took Mila in his arms- and she eagerly clung to him. We passed her back and forth a few times while we took turns completing paperwork. I was sitting with her when the director came over and said something to Mila. She hopped out of my lap and walked to the director. When the director told her to come back to me,she began to wail. I scooped her up to calm her down and the director and her assistant disappeared. That didn't seem to help the situation though I know that was their intention. They spent the rest of the meeting hiding around a pillar while Mila searched frantically for them. It was heart breaking. Austin took her again and she finally began to relax. But if I walked near her, she would begin searching and crying once again. We finished up the meeting and returned to the van. Mila was wedged between austin and I and quickly fell asleep.
When we got to the hotel, I carried her in while Austin ran to find diapers and formula. Mila woke up and though she didn't cry, she certainly wasn't too happy to see me. We got to our room and I rocked her for a bit. She was so exhausted that she began to doze off. I laid her on her bed and she woke up immediately. Without moving a muscle, tears began to flow down her cheeks and she cried and cried. I stayed next to her and let her grieve. The tears stopped and she began to scratch at her neck. She was very bundled up due to catching a cold and was quite miserable. I carefully unbuttoned her padded overalls and helped her remove a thick, itchy sweater. When she understood what I was doing, she helped pull her hands through the sleeves and allowed me to slide it over her head. Taking off the sweater seemed to help her relax a bit more. Austin came back and she seemed to relax further. He was able to get her to take her shoes off and pulled out a backpack of little toys we had brought. She peered inside and was immediately drawn to a plastic princess toy our friend Danielle had given us. She clung to the princess and a rattle ball and cautiously began to play with them. I fixed her bottle based on my best guess of what the orphanage usually did but she was not interested in it at all. We dumped the formula and offered plain water and as long as Baba (dad) was holding the bottle, she eagerly drank. She made sure to give a good stink eye if I ventured too close.
We spent a few hours playing, Mila mostly staying close to Austin and alternating between ignoring me or purposefully kicking away whatever toy or snack I offered her. She's got spunk for sure! She is curious and loves the little toys we brought- intentionally playing with them and exploring. But she has kept a very concerned, sad look on her face since we met her. We checked the schedule the director gave us of mila's routine and saw that she has a nightly bath. We decided to get it over with since we were both sure it was probably the last thing Mila would want to do. I said the mandarin word for bath and she looked at me without the usual hint of distrust. I started the bath and Austin brought her in. She let us peel off her layers of clothing and set her in the tub- and she eagerly started to splash and play with toys! She even giggled and accidentally smiled at me! I rubbed her hair with baby shampoo and poured water over her head and she continued to be happy for the first time since we had met her. I wa worried about her getting too cold so we let her play a little whip longer and then grabbed a towel and held my hands out to her. She stood up and reached for me! I wrapped her up- she's absolutely tiny by the way!- and we dried her off and got her dressed in the snuggling Jammie's we had brought. They were fleece footie pjs,size 18 months- and she's swimming in them!
After we had her bundled,we decided to try to grab some food at the lounge upstairs. We grabbed w bottle and some rice cereal and headed up. I mixed her bottle and this time she hungrily drank it after watching me put it together. I grabbed a little bowl of congee for Mila and remembered that they had told us that she liked soup so I strained out the broth of some veggie soup too. Austin held her and I carefully scooped some soup to her mouth- and she gobbled it up!
She ate a whole bowl and was happy enough about it that she willingly came to my lap. We pretended to feed her princess soup too and I heard another tiny giggle escape. We switched off feeding Mila soup and eating a bit ourselves. As long as there were NO CHUNKS she was happy. Any tiny bit of texture though and out it came. We'll work on that someday :). Other people started to come into the lounge and we could tell Mila was tensing up a bit so we grabbed a couple extra bottles of water and headed back to the room.
Mila continued to want to stay close to Austin so he scooped her up and she fell asleep on his chest. She's sleeping- and snoring she's so congested poor thing!- in her little bed next to us now. I exot her to wake up hungry and afraid again but we'll be here and eventually she'll learn that I'm not so bad (and actually the fun one) and it will be alright.
Tomorrow we go back to the adoption office and sign the official papers making her our daughter forever.