This is my daughter Raimi and myself about 15 minutes after she had been placed in my arms (and my husband's). We're in the Dolton Hotel in Changsha, Hunan Province, PRC in the summer of 2000. Raimi is falling asleep and I am falling in love.
Birth Country: CN
Decade of adoption: 2000 or later
The day we were to fly to Changsha miraculously arrived. Our group of about 40 was to gather in the hotel lobby, check out and wait to be "baby-stepped" through the day.
Somehow we all managed to get on a small airplane, an airplane that was going to, of all places, Changsha. Actually, the way we managed was the way we managed to do everything - with Sophie holding our collective sweaty hands.
Emotions were running up and down the aisle like crazed weasels. The Muzak was Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" and even hard-bitten, world-weary Glenn Woodruff was moved to tears. When we saw Changsha from the plane, I just about lost a tear duct. This is my daughter's home. She is here and this is where she was born. After so many months of waiting, after so many years of waiting, and all that had happened to bring us here, we were here. Well, we were almost there, I reasoned. Not wanting to introduce an untruth to our first day that we would spend breathing the same air, I whispered to Raimi, "Hang on baby. We're almost there".
Changsha Airport looked like an airport in any small Latin American town that was expecting a coup. We deplaned and milled about and nattered to each other about absolutely nothing. The wonderful Sophie gathered us all on a bus with gaudy bright blue curtains and she announced that at 1 p.m., we will get "the bebes." It was then about noon. Then she passed out keys and for a minute there I thought I had passed out. She double checked some of our documents, made sure the whole group was still breathing, and soon we were at the Dolton Hotel.
The Dolton Hotel in Changsha is a lot like home, if your home happens to be Buckingham Palace. It is very white and gold, enormous, light and airy and packed with elegant people. We emerge, most of us sweaty, tear stained and one half hour away from becoming parents.
There were people with babies there. I mean, like, our kind of people. Like official looking people and nanny looking people and each one had a baby on their lap. I scanned the little faces for Raimi's and just as I decided she is not there, the wonderful Sophie announced, "These are not Changsha first Institute bebes. They will be here in about fifteen minutes".
Most of the waiting families were downstairs at that point and I was having a problem. The problem for me at that point was that I was crying so hard it was getting embarrassing. I mean I was loud - very, VERY loud. It dawned on me that years from now, when friends and family of this group watched these incredibly moving events, they would ask, "What is that horrible sound in the background when you were receiving the bebe?" I started making efforts to stifle myself but was not too successful.
I looked to see what Glenn was up to and I saw he was alternately taking video and looking pretty nuts. Steve went up to him and asked him some sort of real easy question like, what the time was, and Glenn answered, "Hebbada geebeda gleebada gleb." Steve threw his arms around him; hugged him and walked away laughing.
I was still crying when I saw Deb and Mike get Mckayla and Jan and Rob got Amy. Then I really don't remember much until a few minutes later there was a hubbub at the huge lobby doors. Into the enormous hotel lobby swept a line of people holding babies and for a minute I caught a glimpse of very very pale skin and a thick hunk of hair.
The entire cavernous lobby went silent for me. I stopped crying. I heard myself think, "this is for the rest of our lives," and then I think my heart stopped. I was so scared and my legs felt rubbery. I had no idea where Glenn was and then I heard Sophie's voice saying, "Judy, Judy, here is your daughter." And, miracles of miracles –it was really happening. To me. Someone handed me my daughter.
Glenn, of course, immediately went into gaga mode and whispered, "I love you" to Raimi before I even let him hold her (for a minute). Tons of people were congratulating us and saying what a beautiful baby she is and how much hair she has and how much hair I have and so on. But I swear, all I could think was, "This baby is sick. She's on total overload. I need to get her away from all this now."
I was prepared for a screaming child. I was prepared for a smiling child. I wasn't prepared for a child with that face (exactly from the photos but so different) who stared at me with almost closed eyes and her tongue lolling out of her mouth. "This little baby is sick and we need to take care of her," I said to Glenn and off we went to the elevator to do something parental.
PS: It's now August and the formerly quiet, shy Qiu Qiu has evolved into a whirly dervish of blabbing, crawling at the speed of sound and trying to stand up using anything and everything in sight (dogs are favorites) activity girl. Raimi is now spending a rare moment in repose, sitting in her playpen right next to me, patting her Teletubby doll in the stomach with a plastic ring and saying "Da da da. Hey da," very loudly. She is truly the most amazing person I have ever known.