Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Us, New Year

Our first week home is behind is, and has gone reasonably well.  The medical stuff has been a little rough, but given that some families travel home with their children on oxygen and are met at the airport by an ambulance, I'm not going to complain.

Frannie was pale.  Paler than I've ever seen myself or one of my girls.  There wasn't a hint of pink anywhere on her.  Each time we brought home one of our girls, the first order of business has been to get them in for labs ASAP.  You just never know what the actual transfusion status of your child is until you get them checked yourself.  So after 28 hours of travel and one jet lagged night of sleep we headed to the hospital to get Frannie's labs checked.   To top it off, I headed to the doctor because I was having trouble breathing.  My oxygen saturation was low so I had a nebulizer treatment and some labs done myself.

First blood draw about 15 hours after returning home.

Big girl did a great job.

Later in the day we got both of our labs back and none of them were good.  Poor Frannie's hemoglobin was at a critical level of 5.9 g/dL.  My labs came back and while my hemoglobin was decent, I had an elevated d-dimer test, which is a screening test for a blood clot.  So while we were working out a plan for getting Frannie blood--and getting it fast--I headed into the Emergency Department with my dad for a CT scan to determine whether I was having a pulmonary embolism.  [Thal lesson for the day:  The reason for the worry is because patients with thal intermedia are at an increased risk for thrombosis, and the risk is even higher in asplenic patients. So, everyone was a bit alarmed.]  Exhausted, nervous for Frannie, nervous for myself, and generally miserable I spent 5 hours waiting for the scan and results, which were thankfully negative.  It turned out I simply had a horrible case of bronchitis, which would need to be treated outpatient with nebulizer treatments for the next few days.  My dreamy visions of our first days home singing "Getting to Know You", cuddling on the couch, and playing was quickly getting replaced by our usual return-from-China reality which has always included emergency appointments for myself and our new addition.

So for Frannie, our infusion unit was booked up and understaffed due to people being on holiday.  Because it was urgent for her to get blood, she was admitted to the hospital for the day on Sunday for a transfusion.  Getting blood on the floor as an inpatient takes much longer than in our infusion unit, so we were there for a 9 hour day even though she had her type/screen already done.  Hematology came by and said that while pale, Frannie looked good.  They also noted that even though she was getting a big transfusion, because she was so low it wouldn't bring her up to where she need to be.  So, we'll need to return soon for additional blood before she can get on a normal schedule.  Frannie did remarkably well at her transfusion, despite the fact that she was stuck three times.

Pale and very anemic, but otherwise doing great.

Blood flowing after three sticks.

Emmie and Rosie having a little fun time with Baba while we
were at the hospital.  (And by having fun, I mean going to the supermarket.)

The next few days were full of more medical appointments for my bronchitis, for Frannie's bronchitis and first check-up with the pediatrician, and for the girls' transfusion.  It was feeling a little difficult to spend any time as a "normal" family because someone was always at the doctor.  Still in the little calm time we had at home, Frannie was definitely starting to settle in.  Right from that first night home, she started exploring around our house, testing out the toys, and learning where things are kept.  She quickly figured out which seat at the table was hers and where the snacks are.  When it is time to go out and she sees Emmie and Rosie get their shoes, she'll go and get hers and bring them to me.  She's been making herself right at home, which really makes us happy.

Frannie has a few pet peeves in her new home.  She doesn't like her crib, and fights sleep with all her might.  It's been impossible to put her down for a nap, resulting in sheer exhaustion later in the day.  She protests when we put her in the crib at night.  She is also very anxious around meal time.  She screams and cries and pounds her tray while she waits for me to bring her food to her.  If she wasn't as plump as she is, I would think that she did not get enough food and was left hungry.  And she *hates* when I have to leave the house for a minute.  Which is unfortunate, because normally at this stage I would never leave the house for one single second, but I have had no choice because of the medical stuff.

Most of the time, Frannie seems quite happy.  She is a great imitator and definitely a bright little girl.  She likes to play alone, with us, and with the girls.  Sometimes she just watches her sisters' crazy games and smiles at them.  Other times she joins right in pretend cooking or chasing each other around the house.  She likes to color, have pretend tea parties, and knock towers of blocks over.  During one of our typical family dance parties, at first she just sat there and looked at us like we were crazy, but then she took my hands and joined in, laughing.  She is slowly warming up to us.  While she doesn't spontaneously offer hugs or kisses to us yet (and I wouldn't expect her to), sometimes she comes up to me and puts her arms around my legs and presses her head between my knees.  When she looks up at me, she has the sweetest smile on her face.  She is quickly taking over as the best eater in our house (well, not better than Baba).  She tries anything.  The only thing we've come across that she didn't like was a crinkle cut fry in the Executive Lounge at the Holiday Inn Shifu, and tonight she spit out a brussel sprout.  She likes hummus, pork tenderloin, and pastina, and I have had to really ramp up my chicken congee production.  The only problem with her eating is that she wants to do it all the time!

Very happy once the food is on her tray.
Like her sisters, she loves Nana's chicken soup.
Emmie and Rosie continue to amaze me with their maturity when it comes to our new family member.  It's not easy to have a new person touching all of your stuff, in your personal space, and vying for your parents' attention.  But they are handing it with such grace, sharing with her, playing with her, and trying to love on her.  It is so funny to watch how taken they are with her "baby-ness" in both positive and negative ways.  Emmie keeps talking about how excited she is to show off her baby sister when she returns to pre-K and Rosie wants to try to help feed her.  But Emmie also says things like, "Mama, she's disgusting putting chocolate cookies in hummus."  And they are fascinated with her needs like diaper changing.  One day, poor Frannie was having some tummy troubles from all of the changes in her diet, and as a result had some diaper rash.  Rosie-who thinks she has to assist every diaper change-saw how sad Frannie was as we were getting ready to put on more Desitin so she stroked her face and sang to her:

Oh, baby sister Frannie
Don't you cry
Mama will make you feel better
When she rubs that yogurt on your tushie

So that sort of sums up our crazy family, and our crazy first week.  Throw in a random high fever, a bout of terrible hives, a goopy eye, and some sort of irritation on her face, and that's Frannie's welcome to America.  She is such joy, and we are all really enjoying having a baby in the house for the first time.  And we're happy to report that we are all feeling better, and that the jet lag has begun to subside.  Hopefully the medical stuff will continue to settle down, and then the fun will really begin.

The gals getting new blood on New Years Eve.

The five of us all snuggled in, feeling better, and ready to celebrate
New Years Eve (ie, Eat snacks, have a dance party, say we're going to watch a movie,
and then pass out at 8:35pm.  Perhaps we are NOT over the jet lag yet.)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

And so...

I hate to leave you all hanging.  All three readers.  But, as you probably know whether you've adopted or know someone who has, or, heck, just traveled to China...the trip and re-entry tends to be a tad bit bumpy.

So after a really fun Christmas Eve and late night packing, we left the Shifu at 5am on Christmas Day to start the very long journey home.  Door to door it was about 28 hours of travel.  Leaving China with a new family member is always sad and happy for us.  It breaks my heart to think about what had to happen to this little perfect baby in order for her to be ours.  But I know that given her circumstances, becoming our daughter is the best thing that could have happened.  Especially for us. We are the lucky ones.

Christmas breakfast at Hong Kong airport Tsui Wah.

Goodbye, China.

Do not be fooled and think that the entire plane ride was this peaceful.
Or, that even 10% of the entire plane ride was this peaceful.

The first flight while long (13+ hours) went reasonably well.  The big girls slept on and off and were able to be entertained with videos.  The baby, on the other hand, was able to be entertained by...nothing.  Wriggling and wrestling me for hours on end was about it.

The Christmas Feast at 38,000 feet!

Snacks, snacks, and more snacks.
Our third daughter officially became a US citizen when we landed in Chicago.  By this time, I was clearly coming down with her bronchitis, so I was barely able to utter a cheer, never mind break out into the National Anthem.  It was a little different this time than with Emmie and Rosie.  Instead of the officer simply taking the hallowed Brown Envelope and sending us on our way, he ushered us into a back room at Immigration.  I overheard an officer say to another individual there, "Your fingerprints showed up in our system.  Do you want to explain the reason that might be?"  Another man was sitting there with his head in his lap, nearly in tears.  There were several interview rooms and for whatever stupid reason I got nervous thinking that they were going to ask me some questions I was not prepared for.  As it turns out, they went through our paperwork (and several other adoptive families returning home) pretty quickly.  We went through that annoying pick up your bags/recheck your bags scenario, rode a train for what felt like the entire length of the Red Line, and then relaxed for the rest of our 4 hour layover.  Well, as much as you can relax in an airport, feeling completely filthy, tired, and unable to breathe from bronchitis.

Christmas dinner part deux--McDonalds at O'Hare.
We were all feeling pretty beaten down at this point.

The last leg of our journey probably felt the longest.  We were all so tired we felt crazed.  The kids were inconsolable.  Patrick was still feeling crummy from the end of his latest illness, and I was getting sicker by the minute with Frannie's bronchitis.  With my ears feeling like ice picks being stabbed in them, we descended into Boston's Logan International Airport and I had the same twinge in my stomach I've felt twice before.  This is it.  Here we are.  I can see the Pru.  There's Boston Harbor.  Those are the streets we walk on when we go into the city.  The city we love is the same, but we are returning different.  And I feel scared.  Nervous that I am enough mother for this little person who deserves the very best.  Worried for her health.  Anxious about her tiny heart as it heals.  But we are not only different...we are better.  Better for what we have experienced.  Better because our hearts are fuller than ever with love for these three girls.  "Welcome to Boston.  The local time is..."  And before I know it we make that surreal walk through the airport +1, our weary selves are greeted by our family and we are home.

Impromptu late night Christmas Dinner redux.  This time with *real* food
courtesy of my mother and sister!  We have another meatball lover!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Twas the Night Before Christmas

I never, ever thought I'd be spending a Christmas Eve in China.  But here we are, after a busy day with our bags all packed and three little elves all tucked in their beds.  Three little elves.  Three perfect little blessings.  The best Christmas presents in the world don't come in a box.  They cry, they giggle, they pout, they snuggle.  They bring the joy of Christmas every day.  They are our girls.

Frannie has already changed so much since the day we met her with the crazy hair hat on.  We are seeing more and more of her personality every day.  She is funny and fun, but she also has quite the little temper on her.  She wants to be held by me or in the carrier constantly.  She's starting to show some affection, and snuggles into me when I hold her.  I want to smother her beautiful baby face with kisses.

I'm thinking a lot tonight about the changes that are still in store for our new daughter.  I remember well when Emmie--who had just started to settle down a little at the end of her adoption trip--walked into our house and started to cry.  It was as if she was saying, "Not this again.  Stop changing things on me."  For months after returning home she was terrified every night.  I would lay in her room for hours and hours every night until she fell asleep.  So I can't help but worry for Frannie, who has seemed to settle in to our routine here in China.  I hate the thought of her feeling scared when we mix up her scenery yet again.  It's OK to be hopeful, but it's foolish to think that the hard part is behind us.  Not to mention the fact that the day after returning home and jetlagged, we'll already be at the hospital getting her lab work done, which is sure to be traumatic.

So Merry Christmas to everyone from China and I'll sign off with some pics from the past two days, which have really been nice family days.  We are so lucky to have these girls in our lives.  Wish us luck on the very long journey home!

Visiting a Buddhist temple.  Patrick and I absolutely loved it and
everything Connie taught us.

Liuhua Lake park.  Connie said, "I planned the temple for the adults,
the park for the girls."  She was right on-the girls had a blast.

Late night dim sum.  Frannie can EAT.

Oh, shoot.  She's hooked on Starbucks already.

Pure joy!

Lychee Park.

Flower boats.

Enjoying a peaceful boat ride.

Emmie performing "Let It Go" on the boat ride.

Super excited to get a bowl of turnip cakes.  She eats and eats and eats...

Christmas Eve dinner.  A little different than usual.
Out celebrating our last night in China and Christmas Eve.

The pedestrian mall area was packed with people celebrating.

And, of course, Baba reading "The Night Before Christmas."

Monday, December 22, 2014

Shopping and the Consulate

Does Frosty the Elf visit people living in hotel rooms in China while they are adopting their third daughter?  Well, of course he does!

Frosty flew a long way to find us.

The girls woke up to a visit from Frosty as well as some letters from Santa sent right from Santa's Village.  We are doing our best to keep the holiday spirit alive while here in China.  We are so happy to see holiday decorations around and hear Christmas songs everywhere we go.  (Michael Buble seems to be a favorite.)  Still, it's weird spending the holiday season away from home.  But holding my daughter now, I know that coming as fast as we could was absolutely the correct decision.  Pushing things off and leaving her here to keep from disrupting the holidays seems so selfish.   Especially when it could have snowballed into an ever longer delay due to the upcoming CCCWA computer system upgrade.  I didn't bake holiday cookies or decorate as much as I usually would or get to participate in the last minute bustle.  We'll be eating our Christmas dinner on a plane or in an airport food court instead of with my family who we miss very much.  But I will have the best Christmas present of all right there with me.  I'll be with my family and new daughter.  Isn't that what Christmas is really about?

Baba reading letters from Santa.
On Sunday, we headed out shopping with Connie.  We actually were not even supposed to be with Connie on Sunday, but she admitted that she loves to shop and would be happy to join us for a half day.

First we headed to a tiny jade store.  It was the same jade store that Helen took us to on Emmie's adoption trip.  I bought some small jade circle pendants for myself and the girls so we could all match.  As an early Christmas present, we decided to get me a jade bangle, something I've thought about getting for awhile now.  Connie told me that Chinese women say that if it hurts when you put it on, then it's the right size. Chinese women also never take them off, so they buy the absolute tiniest bangle then can jam on their hand.  I tried a few of the larger bangles on but didn't like the way they looked so I decided to try a smaller one that I *could* take off if necessary.  The jade dealer put a plastic bag around my hand and wrist and told Connie to tell me to sit down before he tried getting it on my hand.  Terrified, I sat down and the owner and his wife jammed it on my hand.  I wish I had a video of me squealing as they did it.  They promised me I would be able to get it off with copious amounts of lotion.


Hand throbbing but with my lovely new jade bracelet on, we headed to the same pearl store where we got Emmie and Rosie's pearls.  As soon as we walked in the owner recognized us.  We all picked out a perfectly lovely strand for Frannie and watched their quick work stringing them.

Watching intently as their little sister's pearls are strung.
Our last stop was at the Government store, where we always go to buy some fancier gifts.  After shopping, they treated us to a traditional tea service which we all loved.

After a quick ramen break in the room and some playtime, we headed out to stroll Shamian Island.  We took the now-familiar walk through the pet and spice markets full of noises and smells and crowds to the quiet and relaxing island.

We've eaten a lot of noodles around this table over the years.

Spice market.

Shamian Island.

Monday was our Consulate appointment.  I'm not sure if anyone really gets very nervous about the Consulate stuff, but after our experience on Rosie's adoption trip, I'd say we were a bit anxious about the whole thing.  It went smoothly, and now we just have to cross our fingers that Frannie's visa is issued without a hitch.

After our appointment was done, we tried for a little holiday photo session in the Holiday Inn lobby since they have such nice decorations.  That did not work particularly well as one of our little friends does NOT like to be put down by mama.

Emmie looks sick because she's rocking a NEW cold now which she
has generously passed on to Patrick and me.  Will the germs ever stop?!?!

Merry Christmas from China!
(Can you hear her screaming, "MAAAAAAMA" because she did not want to be put down?)

That's better.
Since we only visited Shamian briefly yesterday, we decided to spend the day over there relaxing and shopping for squeaky shoes and souvenirs.  We made our usual stop at the Starbucks there, which has to be one of the nicest Starbucks in the world.  That's where each of our girls has had their inaugural sip of coffee.  It was such a nice day just hanging out like a regular family, and made me think of what it will be like when we are home and living our "normal" family life.

Thanks to everyone for your well wishes and prayers for our health and healing.  We are inching closer every day to where we want to be...home.  It's a hard trip and a long trip, but each time we have done it, we have gained an unimaginable new joy in our lives.  This is no exception.