Adoption is beautiful.
And adoption is ugly.
We are beyond fortunate to have had August transition to us very well so far. He seems comfortable and easy going, content and generally happy. I image we will continue to see his personality come out (we already have!). But our 10 month old Chinese beauty seems content to have us as his Mama and Baba!
But all of adoption is not rainbows. There are many rainstorms along the way and here I will be downright honest in sharing all of our wonderful amazing RAINBOWS, yet not leave you thinking this is for one moment easy or simple. I will share some of our RAINSTORMS as well.
I will start with China as a country. There is much beauty in China. The architecture is like nothing I have ever seen. It is intricate beauty and takes your breath away. The greenery (in both Kunming and Guangzhou) is impressive. Plants, flowers, trees are well maintained, watered, pruned and always look their finest. The fresh fruit (which I have not been brave enough to eat as I am petrified of food poisoning while here, truth be told) is so inviting. Baskets of fresh berries on the street, piles and piles of fruits both familiar and not.
And then there are parts of China that are a shock! I am certain much of this shock is bred from my lack of travels and culture outside of New England. And honestly, we could find things just as shocking in the USA for certain! The smells of China are so different (particularly in Kunming). Things are rundown and sometimes plain dirty, yet you will see people constantly mopping sidewalks and cleaning everywhere. Western toilets are fairly easy to find, but outside of the hotel, be prepared for those squatty potties I mentioned (and toilet paper and soap will not be existent in these areas!). And let me just say this…THE FRESH MEAT DEPARTMENT AT WALMART….Oh. My. God.
Now meeting August MinXian for the first time was certainly a RAINBOW on our trip. We had fallen in love with a photo of a baby boy. And I like to thing that in some infeasible pull from this earth, our souls connected across the massive oceans. It was like he belonged with us and a peace was felt.
But don’t be fooled into thinking that this was without RAINSTORMS. Leading up to our trip, as I mentioned, we found out August was in the hospital. He spent from April 18th to May 2 hospitalized (it is not uncommon for hospitalizations to be lengthy in China…nothing like the “kick you out ASAP” in America style!). He had pneumonia (his orphanage city is known for a high coal production, therefore lots of respiratory issues), wasn’t eating well and some developmental concerns began leading us to think he may have been a preemie. So the week leading up to our trip went from pure excitement to being drowned out by worry for our son. We had no idea what to expect.
He was brought to us lying limply in the staff’s arm. He was alert and bright-eyed. I prepared myself well for the developmental delays that are nearly always expected from orphanage life. I knew he would not be like a typical 10 month old. And he is not. And for a few days it was so very hard to see. We quickly realized that August MinXian was VERY malnourished. He was skin and bones, the tiniest chicken legs you have ever seen. His tone is very low and he is weak…so, so weak. His development appeared to be at about a 4-5 month level. He is not yet sitting and he is not bearing weight through his legs. And he had a decent cough lingering still.
And…he had a rash covering his entire body. I mean COVERING HIS ENTIRE BODY! We were told it was eczema and given a Chinese cream. I am not a doctor. But I KNEW this was not eczema. NOPE. I immediately knew what this was, so amidst the RAINBOW of meeting my new son, now my brain could think of little else than how to RID this baby of SCABIES while in a foreign country. Yes, SCABIES. And any cringing or itching you may be doing, multiply that by 20 and that is how I felt.
BUT…this boy needed us and we needed him. So what were we to do but embrace this and hold and snuggle and touch this boy as he needed. Don’t think for a moment that this was easy. I obsessed about this constantly and desperately wanted a solution. We took a taxi in Kunming to the hospital (yes, yes, we did!) and prepared to pay any price for Chinese medicine with no insurance. We paid to see the doctor (fifty CENTS!), paid for lab testing of his skin ($8) and were given 4 prescriptions (total of $4). Combine that with the taxi ride and a tip for our guide ($23) for a total of $35.50! Phew! BUT…we walked out of there with a positive diagnosis of eczema and our prescriptions included hydrocortisone, zinc oxide cream and calamine lotion. UGH, UGH, UGH.
So, what do we do? We, once again embrace it. We love him, hold him, itch as we consider the inevitable and move on with our trip.
Until we get to Guangzhou where the next RAINBOW happens. Our agency has an office right in this hotel. Previous adoptive families leave loads of items here for other families to use. And we were able to get Permethrin Cream!!!!! Thank the good LORD! I had never been so happy for a prescription in my life.
Then the next RAINSTORM came along as we began the laborious process of SCABIES treatment. Cream treatment for the ENTIRE family. Laundry (in CHINA) including boiling water and then sending out for laundry service (not as expensive as we imagined, actually) and change of sheets. Isolating clean clothes, bagging items we can’t wash. FUN, FUN, FUN times 7000 miles from home. But we are treated. I will rely on some prayers and thoughts that we have nipped this while in country, but we will be cautious and treat once more in a week. August was so very itchy and it will take weeks for his awful rash to go away. We found out this poor baby has had this rash for THREE to FOUR months! And other kiddos in the orphanage have it untreated as well. So our guide called the orphanage to ask that it be treated. We will never know if it will be but at least have done out part.
I tell you this purely out of my downright honestly in this process of adoption. Not because it is a comfortable or FUN topic for me to share. But we somehow made it (I THINK AND HOPE!!!!!). And now he is even able to snuggle in our bed! YAY!
But even through the sceevy-jeebies of this all we are seeing so, so many RAINBOWS now. And let me please share. We are so proud and so amazed and I think you will be as well!
For the first 6 days, August barely peed. I was lucky to get one pee diaper and his urine was do dark the entire area of the diaper was nearly brown. Getting him to take 16 ounces of formula in a day was a challenge. August has a cleft lip and palate, so feeding is not simple. He uses a cleft bottle (the orphanage had and we brought some with us and donated some to the orphanage!). This was a learning curve for us, even as an OT, I had to learn how he would best drink. But this boy has adapted. He chews and he “sucks” (sucking with an open cleft is equivalent to sucking through a straw with a hole in it!) so adaptively and impressively.
And on day 6 he began to take his bottles much better. We are now getting 20-27 ounces in him every day (not including solids!). And he suddenly started to pee! A LOT! For several days is poop was, um, not nice. We had so many explosions I will spare you details of. But some daily probiotics and a few days of his belly figuring this whole “NUTRIENTS” thing out and we, for the moment, have normal poop, too!
Even more rewarding than pee and poop, is August’s demeanor. He now seeks us out. He smiles at us from across the room without us talking or even smiling first! He reaches for our face to get our attention. He imitates sticking out his tongue and tries hard to imitate clapping. August reaches for and LOVES toys. He bangs toys together using both hands (I had been worried, from previous photos and video, that he wasn’t using his left hand well, so this was a wonderful sight!).
August talks when he is happy (no consonant sounds yet, which is expected due to his open palate). He giggles with us. Just yesterday, he began to reach for food and try (unsuccessfully) to bring it to his mouth.
He WANTS food. He stares at us when eating with mouth open wide. He handles food so well (only a few incidents of IMPRESSIVELY MESSY nose related food issues due to his cleft, I will, again, spare you the details).
He does not LOVE or even LIKE a little when I make him work. But he is already getting stronger in his belly. We have a long ways to go but just as a five month old wobbles as he begins to figure out sitting, August now does the same. When mad or tickled, he will now momentarily stand on his legs and he kicks off the bathtub using those chicken legs as well (he loves bath time!). He can roll, but not yet eagerly.
We have little doubt that August MinXian did little but lay on his back for most of his ten months. It is amazing he has the perfect round head he does (an OT happy moment!!!). It makes us sad and upset, but makes his time with us, his gains and strengths so very rewarding.
It was also clear that August put himself to sleep regularly. He soothed himself with a squeaky whine and vicious head rocking in the crib. It was sad but we left him to do what was known and comfortable. BUT, just last night, he decided that this was no longer any good. His much anticipated FUSSING began to awaken. He cried when we put him down and he craved us to hold him and rock him to sleep. This is suddenly more work for us and it is the most rewarding and imperative.
We do not know what the future holds for August. Just as we do not know what the future holds for ourselves or our three biological children. He has work to do. We have work to do. If he was a preemie, possibly we have more work then we expected. Maybe not. He has a cleft palate that needs surgery soon (already scheduled in Boston for August 1st). Feeding and speech will not be simple. The rash, an issue so minor in the grand scheme of it all, needs to clear and I anticipate this Chinese boy’s gorgeous olive skin very soon (again, pending all of your thoughts and prayers that we nipped this…we were quite obsessive if you can’t tell!).
But he has a family now. He has love. He has nourishment and he has attention. He has a mama that knows infant development well. And he has a mama that has LOTS of therapy resources. He will work hard. He will HATE it. We will laugh and we will cry. We will learn. We will be rewarded with gains and crushed by the unexpected.
Out of this we will all become stronger. I KNOW (as I have already experienced many many times in one short week) that I will often feel weak and defeated. But through this the entire FITZGERALD family will be stronger.
We anticipate the many more RAINBOWS and ask for thoughts to get us through the inevitable RAINSTORMS to come.