Getting to like you. Hoping that you like me.
I have to confess that the original title of this post was "Angriest...Baby...Ever", but I figured that it has only been four days, and it is too early to give her the title. As it turns out, we have a very complicated child. We are taking a lot more time trying to figure this kid out.
Tuesday morning when Kaya woke up, we finally got to see what she looked like without red puffy eyes. The mosquito bites on her face are starting to fade, and she is a very pleasant looking baby. She has a definite wave or curl in her hair and curly eyelashes which is quite rare among Chinese people. Physically, Kaya is pretty advanced for an 8 month old baby. She can crawl across the room, she can stand if assisted on one hand, and she can pull herself up to standing. Two years ago, we picked up Cheyenne at basically the same age, and Cheyenne couldn't roll over.
Kaya has developed a strong bond with Lisa. Lisa can hold her and walk up and down the hallway and she will not scream much, mostly a little whimpering. But it is not a secure bond yet. If Lisa hands Kaya to anyone else, Kaya will scream and arch her back to look at where Lisa went. And if Lisa stops moving or, God forbid, tries to lay her in her crib we are subjected to the entire range of Kaya's vocal ability.
On Monday, our guides told us that we would visit the orphanage on Thursday. In the Hunan province it is against the rules to visit the orphanage when adopting, but because of the personal connections of our guides with the orphange directors, we were granted a visit. (Kathy is able to get new parents into any orphanage in China.) We were asked not to tell the Dutch and Spanish adoption groups in our hotel about the orphanage visit because our visit was a special favor by the orphanage assistant Director. We were also told that the orphanage would not give out any information on the orphanage's foster families. Five of the six babies in our group were raised outside of the orphanage in foster families, but we have no information on those families.
We were given information on what our babies were fed, how often they were fed and when they went down to sleep. Kaya slept from 9am to 10am, 2:30pm to 3:00pm and from 8:00pm to 6:00am. Kaya actually sleeps 10 hours every night with two fifteen minute naps during the day. Our guides went through the process of making a Chinese bottle with us. They use two scoops of formula, 4 scoops of rice cereal for babies, and then fill the rest with hot water. Not lukewarm...hot. No one was sure which scoop to use, so we picked the pick red ones. (This turned out to be a mistake, and we moved to the smaller white ones.) When the bottle is made with the rice cereal, you get a large ball of white slime in the bottom of the bottle. If you let it sit for 10 minutes while the rice fully hydrates, you get a real runny rice pudding.
Not that it mattered, because Kaya wouldn't drink it any way. She would grab at the nipple and shove it in her mouth, but she didn't know how to suck correctly and would end up frustrated. After a day and a half, she started taking about 2 ounces of straight formula out of a bottle. And now, on Friday morning, she is starting to drink about 6 ounces of formula in a feeding. Occasionally, she has gotten more than 2 ounces of formula this week and inevitably ends up spewing foul smelling cottage cheese all over Lisa. Parents reading this may sympathize with the baby vomit story, but Lisa and I have not been subjected to baby vomit yet. Cheyenne has never vomited...ever. In fact, she can eat two full strawberry yogurts and then be spun like a top, and she won't throw up. And I've tried that.
Luckily Kaya is easily spoon-fed. She eats nearly anything Lisa puts in her mouth. We are guessing that she was not bottle-fed much, if at all, and that her foster mother fed her by spoon. Although the paperwork states that our baby was fed formula, all the signs point to a baby that was fed traditional Chinese baby food of pureed rice and egg. Also, she is tiny. The referral pictures show a plump baby sitting on an oversized hand, but she must have been bundled in 4 or 5 layers of clothing, because she is by far the smallest baby in our group. This is another sign that she did not get formula. When Kaya arrived on Monday, she was wearing a cotton top and split pants. Over this was a wool sweater top and matching knit split pants, and over that was a sweatshirt and split sweat pants. Over her bottom was a diaper. By the time we got her to the hotel and changed, she had heat rash on her neck and limbs.
I noticed on Tuesday that when I held Kaya, occasionally she would stop screaming for a moment and roll into me and grab at my shirt. She would stuff my shirt in her mouth and start sucking. As soon as she realized it tasted like wet tshirt, she would resume screaming. I mentioned it to Lisa, and she had seen the same behavior. None of the other Chinese babies, Cheyenne included, had ever tried to nurse on their new parents. So we mentioned it to our guide, and asked if it was possible that Kaya was wet-nursed by her foster mother. Kathy told us that it was impossible because Kaya's foster mother was very old. Um... never mind.
On Thursday, when we went to visit the orphanage, we met with the staff in their conference room and were told a little bit about the orphanage system in Hunan. Jeff and Jana were shown the note that was left with their babies and were given a photocopy of it. The note was a red napkin torn in half with information about each twin written on it. Jim and Monica's child was the only orphanage baby, and the rest of us had babies that were raised in foster care, all of them only spending a week or two in the orphanage. We were told how they pick foster families. They can not have any other children in the household under six years old. Each foster family can only have a single foster child. (Jeff and Jana's twins were raised separately). The family must be financially secure, and the parents cannot be older than 50 years old. Um... wait a sec... aw shoot.
A little bit about baby noises. So far, we haven't heard Kaya cry. When she is hurt, she whimpers a little. But nothing that sounds like a baby crying. Most of the time she is screaming. Full voice, angry face screaming. We can turn it off and on like a switch. Lisa puts her in the crib, she screams. Picks her up, she stops. Kevin picks her up, she screams. Hands her back to Lisa, she stops. The other families are a little amazed at the volume, ferocity, and dependability of Kaya's screaming. If she was hungry, hurt or lonely, we could understand and sympathize with the screaming, but right now, she is just angry. I've learned to appreciate all of the sounds of Kaya's escalating screaming. When Lisa takes a shower, I know that I have 20 minutes to endure, so I've started dissecting the process. It starts with a shout, as she twists in my arms and tries to see Lisa in the room. The shouts gradually get more forceful and develops a rattle in the back of her throat as she attempts to force a lot of air through a baby-sized opening. Eventually, the rattle turns into a gasping wheeze as she starts flailing her limbs and arching her back. The final stage sounds like a wounded dog and is accompanied by her digging her nails into her arms and pulling the hair out of her head. Luckily this doesn't start until the last five minutes of Lisa's shower. So I only have to restrain her for a few minutes. Over the past week, I've learned that no amount of soothing and nurturing on my part will change her behavior right now, so I just try to remain calm and keep her from hurting herself.
Lisa has taken over the job of getting Kaya to go to sleep. Because Kaya is mobile, she will crawl to the side of the crib screaming,and pull her self up to standing while screaming. After a minute of pulling on the side of the crib she will arch her back and fling herself across the crib, invariably hitting her head on the bars on the other side of the crib. So, Lisa has learned how to restrain Kaya in her crib. It takes about 30 minutes of restraining and screaming in the dark before she just quits and falls asleep. She doesn't wind down, she just quits screaming and sleeps.
Tuesday night, before we started restraining her, we just let her cry. At one point we heard a loud clunk as her head hit the bottom of the crib, then a couple soft whimpers, then nothing. We wanted to make sure that she was okay, but we didn't dare turn on a light. They say 'discretion is the better part of valor', so we waited ten minutes, and then very carefully turned on a night light. Lisa crept to the edge of the crib and listened for breathing noises. Once she was sure Kaya was still breathing, Lisa gave me a thumbs up. Cheyenne and I smiled at each other, and we all went to sleep.