Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Gotcha Day - Things I'll Never Forget (By Daddy)

Sweet Mia Pu,
You have no idea how nervous I was to meet you one year ago today. We flew in that morning from Beijing, rushed to the hotel, dropped our things in a pile, and scrambled onto the bus headed for the Adoption Center.

The bus ride could not have gone any slower. I grabbed a window seat and tried to take it all in. The rain falling, the Nanchung city streets, and that somewhere - perhaps just around the next corner - you would be in a room, waiting. That you, my daughter, were so close, so near...after all these years. It's hard to put into words, my sweet. I just knew that, in one blink of an eye, our lives would change forever. My life. Your mom's. Your sister's. You. Our worlds were about to collide into something beautiful.

Your Mom and I had so many dreams - what you would look like, how you might smile, and we imagined the light in your eyes. What would your voice sound like? What would your interests be? And there were so many fears - would you attach to me? Would you be healthy? Would you allow us to love you?

I just stared out the bus window with my ipod in my ears, playing "your song" over and over (Mat Kearney, "Breathe In, Breathe Out"). The tour guide was nervous for us, I think. She kept getting on the intercom and giving us unnecessary instructions. It was a bit irritating and I remember thinking, "Can I please just have a moment here?" All I wanted to do was listen, look out the window, and pray and pray and pray and pray.

The bus pulled over and we parked beneath a towering office building. You were up "there", Mia. Just a few floors up. Actually, at the time, we didn't know whether you would be there yet or not. My expectation was that we would have to sit in the "waiting room" and then the adoption officials would bring one baby out at a time. But that's not how it happened. Instead, we walked into the room and there, in the far right corner of the room, were a group of Chinese women holding the most beautiful Chinese babies. Crying babies.

Whispers began to sweep through our group. "Are those our babies?" and "I think that's our babies!" I turned to look. The first baby I saw was you. You were the only one not crying (or so I remember). Your eyes were soft, nearly calm. And, sweetie, I'll never forget my first thought. It was simply, "Please, Lord, oh please. Let HER be Mia!"

And you were. They called out, "Feng, Pu Han." It took me a split second to register...Feng, Pu Han....Feng, Pu - THAT'S MIA! I scurried around, trying to get my hands free, barking at your Butde (my Mom) to get the camcorder ready, and I dizzingly walked across the room towards you. I didn't know what to do. I had my papers...I had gifts for the Orphanage director...I had everything that was required of me to call you mine. But no one else quite knew what to do either. There was an awkward pause. I didn't know if I could pick you up and no one immediately gave you to me. In my head, I kept thinking, "Please give her to me!" Mia, I was so afraid that someone would say, "Oh wait, we made a mistake. She's not your daughter."

Because I wanted you. Only you.

Within seconds - but what seemed like forever - they checked my papers, matched it to your name tag, and they placed you into my arms. I held you for the first time. And, honey, about that...there are no words. How could I ever describe that feeling to you? To hold my daughter for the first time?

I loved seeing how much Miss Jen, your caregiver at the Orphanage, loved you. She said you were a sweet baby. She said you liked to watch TV. Hmmm. She had a hard time letting you go. Minus an ear infection, you were healthy, your skin so smooth. Your clothes were handcrafted and impeccably clean. You were fixated on your nametag, clutching like it was all you had left.

You also threw back your bottle in 2 minutes flat. They handed each of us bottles to feed you so I took you over to the opposite corner where we could be alone. You know, I always loved giving you the bottle, it was such a special time for you and me. Our first feeding together was no different. I did have to adjust, though, to your style. The Orphanage used formula with rice mixed in. Then they cut the nipple about a nickle-size in diameter. Then it was down the hatch. I was impressed and began to worry about your future sororiety days.

Finally, we left. I'll never forget getting back on the bus...but now with an 11-month old baby. You sat on my lap, facing my chest. Within seconds, you fell asleep. You made this little rocking motion, side to side, stuck your two fingers into your mouth (you know which two), and dove your head into me. That bus could not have driven slow enough.

We got to the hotel and I was in a panic. I didn't know where the diapers were, where your clothes were...my "system" was not in place. It was quite stressful. We put you on a blanket on the floor and surrounded you with pillows. You played with what became your favorite colored cups. You were sitting up, of course. And you could crawl...but it took you a while to figure out that you could go for distance. You were good for about 5 feet but then you'd stop. Within a few days, that changed. You were pulling yourself up on nightstands and crawling around corners.

As soon as I got us situated, I called your Mom and choked out, "Honey, she's beautiful." We cried together.

I then tried to change your diaper and clothes. This I was unprepared for. Your sister Bri was only 6 months old at the time and, little did I know, a lot of things happen in 4 months. You squirmed and rolled and grabbed everything in sight. I needed 5 arms to do it.

But maybe my favorite moment of all was when I put you down for the night. Mia, you were quite the sleeper. We're talking 13-14 hour spans. I suspect that this is how you grieved all the change and loss. You would often cry or whimper in your sleep. I stayed with you most of that time - rarely even stepping away into the other room. Sometimes I'd read, but mostly I'd blog and post pictures of you for your Mommy. She spent those two weeks halfway around the world, waiting up most nights, just to see one more picture of you.

Your crib was right in the middle of the two twin beds so I slept nearly right beside you. Sometimes, you woke up and started to whimper again. I would then place my hand on you through the slits in your crib. Instantly, you would calm down. If I removed my hand, you'd whimper again til it returned.

Sweetie, my greatest fear was that you wouldn't attach to me. That it wouldn't be until we got home to Mommy that you'd feel contented. So we prayed faithfully that you would feel safe with me and that a bond would form instantly between us. It seems this happened within you - naturally, effortlessly, and magically. BUT I KNOW it happened within me - a love that transcends continents. A Daddy's love for his first-born.

Breathe in, breathe out
Tell me all of your doubt
If everybody bleeds this way,
just the same
Breathe in, breathe out
Move on and break down
If everyone... goes away
I will stay

- Mat Kearney
For more of Mia's story: http://journeytomiagrace.blogspot.com/


grey like snuffie said...

Glory, woke during the night with a headache...came to the computer to read while drugs take affect...just read these glorious words. OH MY WORD....I HAVE NO KLEENEX---I WASN'T PREPARED.

These are the kinds of words that each of us should hear from our fathers. Mia will be so blessed.

Betty W. said...

Deebles - Has it ONLY been a year - seems like she has been yours for soooo much longer. What a way to start my day!! Much love!! MO

amy said...

Dan. I'm crying in Dunn Bros. People are staring. Thanks. :) Happy one year, my friend!