Happy Birthday!

This day has been so much better than we dreamed possible- one of the seven happiest days of our lives. While the “labor” has been the longest of all the children, the delivery happened so quickly we hardly knew what hit us. After a short drive to the Civil Affairs Office from our hotel, we entered the building full of butterflies and anticipation.

 

100_2144

Headed to the civil affairs office with two other families!

 

Before we had time to sit and stew in our nervousness, our guide quickly grabbed us and said, “get your camera…it’s your turn!” If you watched the video of our first meeting, you will know that while we prepared our hearts for the worst, we got the absolute best first encounter possible! No one could believe it. Our guide prepared us and the orphanage staff warned us in an update (remember the screaming pictures?) that she is very timid and her #1 fear is strangers. We know it is only due to the prayers of our friends and family, the praying we have done for months for the Lord to prepare her heart for us, and our agency and our guide this morning meeting to pray specifically for Charlotte as they were concerned about her reaction to us since she is known as being so fearful, that made this day go so smoothly. Joey was instructed to stay in the background a bit and let me go to her since she is more afraid of men. I was apprehensive about taking her from the lady, but with just a few little whimpers, she came right to me! It was the exact same feeling I had when I gave birth and first held my new baby and gazed into their eyes and knew that they were mine. Best moments life has to offer.

100_2147

Face to face for the first time!

 

Caught on video:

Charlotte is so precious and beautiful!! When I had a chance to sit down and take a breath and look at her, I noticed that her headband looked very familiar…then I noticed they had sent a small bag with her that included a photo album with some pictures from the orphanage and OUR family photo album we had sent in our care package! We never knew if she had actually received the care package, so this was such a joyful confirmation that she HAD indeed seen our faces before. We were impressed with how much effort her caretakers made to dress her beautifully and even put the headband on her that we had sent for her. The other families who were getting their children around us in ratty old clothes were calling Charlotte the “fashionista”, which indeed, she will be. 🙂 We spent the next thirty minutes in the office there gazing at Charlotte and watching her look back at us and take it all in.

IMG_0844

Connecting without saying a word

She was so scared and exhausted after such a long day- it was a 5 hour car ride and she had also been a little car sick. She literally passed out in my arms after the emotionally draining experience.

 

“Well I came home

Like a stone

And I fell heavy into your arms

These days of darkness

Which you’ve known

Will blow away

With this new sun”

I Will Wait- Mumford and Sons-

 

IMG_0847

The day is crazy…

IMG_0848

…but she feels safe enough!

 

 

Charlotte’s video theme song couldn’t be more true!

One orphanage director, Mr. Han, came out to meet me while Joey was back asking the other director, Ms. Ma (through a translator) some questions that will help us in caring for her these first few days. They told Joey that Charlotte is very smart- that she enunciates her Cantonese words carefully and she tries to imitate things that people say to her. The directors are kind-hearted people, and when the one met Joey, her first question was if Joey loved children. They are concerned that we have good intentions in adopting Charlotte and wants to know she’ll be loved. He encouraged us to come visit the orphanage and meet all of Charlotte’s friends later in the week. We are leaning toward doing that even though it will be a long, expensive, and difficult day- it’s the least we can do to thank them for such a gift as caring for our precious daughter for the 2 ½ years that we could not. We want to tell her from firsthand experience someday about where she came from, too.

100_2161

The lady with the black bag was one of her primary nannies. The other two are directors.

Plus, not just one nanny brought her to us today- the director, assistant director and one of her two main caretakers (they have one nanny for 16 children and work shifts) made the effort to be there. Our agency told us that while her orphanage is understaffed and underfunded, they truly love the children and try to do the best they can for them. Their philosophy (while wrong) is good intentioned – they have believed that by not interacting and giving too much attention to the children that they are helping them to bond with their adoptive families in the future and making it easier on the child to leave them behind when that time comes. Our adoption agency is working on training the nannies to see how important it is for early brain development in the children to have healthy bonding and attachment with their caretakers. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for those nannies who have loved and cared for her for her 2 ½ years of life to let her go so quickly like that. We got pictures with all of them, and it broke my heart as her nanny teared up and turned to go and kept turning back to wave good-bye to Charlotte. What an emotionally difficult day for so many!

When we left the Civil Affairs Office, we were taken to the local “Wal Mart” type store to get her formula and some snacks she would eat, then we came back to the hotel.

IMG_0856

Charlotte had never left the orphanage before today. Time for shopping!

IMG_0858

Griffin enjoys his first shopping cart ride ever – in China

 

Joey had to go to the conference room to fill out paperwork, and I was able to have some bonding time with her as Gaige cared for Griffin. I will say that having Griffin here has helped Charlotte because she watches us care for him and it helps show her that she can trust us.

 

Here was the very sweetest and most memorable moment of the day. It was so spontaneous and unexpected that I didn’t get to capture it on camera, unfortunately, but I’ll describe it as best I can. I went back through the small bag of her belongings the orphanage sent with her and pulled out the recordable book I had sent her at Christmastime- one of those Hallmark books you can record yourself reading. I hadn’t noticed it in there until now and I decided to read it with her. As soon as I opened the first page where I had recorded myself saying, “Hi Charlotte Mae. Mommy loves you!” She looked up at me and a huge grin broke on her precious little face. Her eyes literally lit up and some life came back into her! She recognized my voice and it was like she put it all together and she KNEW me! I fought back the tears and we finished the book and that was the first time she didn’t act in a frozen, zombie-like state of fear. We looked at the family photo album and I told her about all her siblings as she pointed to each of their faces. She was interacting with me!

IMG_0869

Reading her the book we sent

IMG_0867

Gaige caught a blur of a second smile with the book later

 

Later, I was finally able to put her down on the floor (while holding her hand) and I wanted to see if she could walk. She stood still, but wobbly, and I tried to get her to take a few steps. Her legs were stiff and she sort of shuffled three little stiff-legged hobbles- I wouldn’t call it walking, but it was enough for one day. While she stood there, Gaige was being his usual silly self and trying to interact with her. He was able to get two more smiles out of her!! Leave it to Gaige- if anyone can make you laugh and smile, it’s him!! I will post the video of that smile that we were able to capture!

 

We quickly realized that bedtime in her crib was not going to happen. I tried to lay her down in it, and it’s the first time she let out a big cry. She was having no part of it! I tried to hand her to Joey to go to the bathroom- she was having no part of that yet, either. Oh boy. We knew it would be tough. We decided that Joey is going to warm up to her by doing some of the feeding. He held her bottle while she laid partly on my lap, and partly on Joey’s while I nursed the baby (this is no small feat, I tell you!). Baby steps, literally.

 

For now, Charlotte is in our hotel bed (good thing it’s a king-sized, because she is a huge bedhog!) Joey and I each had a foot-wide section to ourselves at opposite ends with her sprawled out horizontally across the middle most of the night, but we didn’t want to risk waking her to move her over. She woke up once and whimpered and then latched onto me, grabbing my shirt like a frightened little puppy. We realize that some bad habits are being started, but we’re willing to do the work of un-doing those habits later in order to get her to trust us now. I got up at 4AM to type this. Since Charlotte hasn’t let me put her down yet and she’s now sleeping, it was a guaranteed time I could get this done. I tried to type with her on my lap, but something about the bright computer light scares her and she cries when I try to sit here to do anything. I can’t sleep anyway- it’s like that first night in the hospital after giving birth when all you want to do is stare at them while they sleep and you just can’t believe that they are yours. Thank you, Jesus, for the privilege of being her mommy and daddy!

IMG_0826

The first day of the rest of her life…and ours