It is September 13, 2007 and it is our two year anniversary. It seems like yesterday that I went downstairs to meet the six little people who were to change my life. As I have often said, I was a 44 year old spinster that morning and that night I was a 44 year old spinster with six children. I remember the fear....I had a heart baby, a spina bifida, two cleft babies and two newborns. The next 11 months were just a period of total and utter sleep depravity. When I look back at this time I am in awe of my own ability to have survived. It was really tough and often I was often alone with the six babies. I woke up for them every night. Slowly the volunteers started coming and in May I got really smart and hired nannies. I should have done that much sooner. You have got to wonder what took me so long!!!. I remember the first few nights that I consistently got a decent amount of sleep after the night nanny started. What absolute joy that was. I felt like I had been on a vacation.
Just when things were going well and the older ones were not waking up so much I decided to add another six. Life became substantially more difficult. This was due to the hardest babies we have ever taken care of, the three cleft palette babies: Michael, Gabriel and Sarah. They were double the amount of work at half the result. Michael and Gabriel had to be dropper fed because they stopped sucking on their bottles for two weeks. It took an hour to do that, twice!! All the while they both screamed blue murder. Sarah took months to get to 4 kgs. She has been the queen of the throw up. You would feed her two ounces and she would throw up four. Tuesday was weigh in and Sarah is a tubby 17 month old weighing in at almost 10 kg!!! She is toddling around, looks mostly like a drunk sailor. Michael and Gabriel are big strapping boys even though they are both a little short.
After that we sort of added babies one by one. Sean now looks like he caused a famine, but when he came he looked like he had been through a famine . Olivia, my smiling girl, who I got because she was so friendly. Nathaniel who was the ugliest like dwarf baby you had ever seen, who has become such a handsome young man. Rachel, who had been abandoned by her mom in a hospital after he mom found out she had a heart condition and Jeannie our high pitch screamer that smiles so easily now. We added three spina bifda babies (The three flowers: Heather, Jasmine and Lily) in February 2007. I think of my first experience with Nina/Flower and I smile. I am so much more knowledgeable about this condition and I continue to learn all the time.
We added another two heart babies (Rebecca and Danielle) and that is because of Dr Li, whom I trust to do the best for my kids. Our most recent additions, another three spina bifida babies ( Cailean, Erica and Christopher) have been rather easy to take care of. I also arranged for Christopher to go into private foster care because his sack is really fragile and if it broke he would need to be close to Dr Bao. So he is now in Shanghai.
This is not to say that we have not had some really difficult times. Losing a child is hard on all of us. Our most trying time was in November and December of last year. For me loosing Susan was the hardest time I have had to face. I am so grateful for the chance that I got to love her and hold her. She and the original six taught me so much and I learned to be confident in the decisions I was making. In spite of Susan's death I knew I would not give up. I had now had the skills to help save babies lives.
Taking care of the 29 babies we have had so far, is obviously not just my job. It really is a combined effort. So here is some people I would like to acknowledge:
• First and foremost, I want to thank my nannies who love the children so much. They tend to the babies with such devotion and I feel they often love the babies as if they were their own. I have stood with them when we have said goodbye to our four adopted babies, when we all cried. I have showed the pictures and relayed news about how well the four of them have done in America and they have been so proud. We have sobbed together when the times have been really tough. I watch them daily tend to the children and our successes have been in large part to their hard work.
• To Kay who is such dependable friend. I have had to rely on her in times of crisis and how stalwart she has been. I appreciate her so much.
• To all the volunteers who come from far and wide to come with one purpose and that is to help the children. I am so grateful for all your efforts. You make such a difference, not only to the babies but also to me. I love all the ideas, opinions and personalities. This also includes so many Chinese nationals who have a sincere desire to contribute. I am amazed to see how the babies effect all the volunteers and how they easily they can fall in love.
• To all the medical teams that we visit. I am so extremely grateful for your service. You share your skills and you time and I love you for that. It makes my job so much easier. We have had so many successful surgeries this year. The three spina bifida babies as well as Carrie who is from another orphanage up north, two cleft lip and palette babies (Nathaniel and Sarah) as well as four heart babies (Rachel, Olivia, Danielle and Rebecca) The three newborn spina bifida babies are doing particularly well and I think they are going to strong enough for their surgery soon. Erica and Cailean have almost doubled their weigh since they came six weeks ago. Christopher is looking exceptionally good.
• I am so grateful for the government in allowing me to take care of the babies. It is a big leap for them to entrust their children to some foreigner and I have been grateful for their confidence in me. Thanks to Laura for her help.
• I am also grateful to our donors who are so moved but the plight of the babies and who then give so generously. I know that you cannot always see just to what a great effect you money is being used. What you do makes such a difference!
• A special thank you to Jeannie Butler who makes sure that our babies are dressed well. Thank you for the many heavy boxes you send us with the cutest clothing. I am also grateful to all our supporters who send gifts to the children. We love it when we get mail.
• To all the travelers who are so generous in bringing us much needed supplies. The letters offering help are so sweet and so many people go out of their way to be of assistance.
• I so enjoy writing about the babies and all our adventures. I appreciate the letters of love and encouragement that I get and the interest you show in what I do in China. I am grateful that I get so much support. It has been so helpful in times of adversity and stress when I thought I was not going to make it.
We have two children who have been matched and another two are at an adoption agency. So there are two dossiers that I have no idea where they are. Another three have had their paperwork submitted and we have six babies dossiers ready for medicals so that it can be send to the CCAA. That leaves five in my house that have not had any paperwork. We are hoping to get two of them done soon and the three spina bifida babies who are still too young. We have to wait until they are six months old.
I love the chance to make such a difference to the children in my care. It is without a doubt the most demanding thing I have ever done. It has made me stretch in ways that I never could have imagined and I have learned about subjects that I thought I would never need. I have made friends all over the world. The blessings have been so immense. I have grown a heart for each of my babies and I have tried to make decisions with them in mind. My questions has always been: What is best for the babies?
I am so blessed to be able to do what I do. It is a unique opportunity to truly make a difference in a child's life. To know that we, as a team of people, who really want to help the babies, have been successful in saving their lives and helping them until they are adopted. I feel that if we had just helped one child we would have been successful. The fact that we have been able to help so many, I am truly grateful. So I wish you my kind of success.( What movie is that from? The last few minutes of Jerry McGuire).
I have added some of my favorite pictures. There are so many to choose from.
Thanks for your love and your laughter,