Yesterday was a long, exhausting, but amazing day! We, along with 5 other families, met at 6:30am to begin the 4 hour drive to visit the orphanage in Maoming, where our children had lived until just 4 days ago. There was some apprehension about the day, because we didn't know how the little ones would react to being back there and seeing the nannies who had loved and cared for them. It was a long, bumpy ride, but we finally pulled up to a gate, and walked into the place we had only seen in pictures.
As soon as we pulled in, there were nannies there with umbrellas to lead us up to the third floor where the children lived. We walked into their little playroom, and shortly after, a little line of children filed in and started playing. We had been told several times that Ayla loved to ride "the trojan," which is a little blue plastic rocking horse. She pretty much shut down when we walked in, and started looking all over the place. It was very similar to the way she responded on "Gotcha Day." A few of the kids were playing, so we walked over to the rocking horse. I started to put her down to see if she wanted to ride, but she clung to me and didn't let me put her down. I was TOTALLY fine with that!
There were a couple nannies who came up to her and rubbed on her face and talked to her. She looked at them a little and then turned her head away when they put their arms out to hold her. There has been one nanny who we've seen in lots of pictures with her, who she was very attached to. That nanny was not in the room. I wondered how she would respond to her. I knew it might be hard, but I really wanted to meet her and thank her for loving our daughter and preparing her for a family. I kept looking around for her, but didn't see her anywhere.
They had also prepared lunch for the kids so we could see what they were used to eating and how they were fed. I thought we had been feeding her a lot, but it turns out we've been holding out on her! They eat a big bowl of rice, beef & chicken, something green and leafy, and then something soupy in it. The nannies fed them with a regular spoon and big bites! Ayla took a few bites and then shook her head "no."
As I sat on the floor holding Ayla, I just looked around...at the parents holding former orphans in the very room where these kids had spent countless hours, children still waiting for families, some adopted kids crying for their nanny...and was completely overwhelmed. It was so hard to imagine that this was all Ayla had known up until a few days ago. Any tears that didn't fall on Gotcha Day were falling now.
We didn't spend a whole lot of time in the room. There was a quick trip to the next room over, which was the crib room. Actually, we just looked through the window because the beds were full of sleeping babies. One of the nannies pointed out which bed was Ayla's...it already had a new owner.
It was almost time to say goodbye, and up walks Ayla's nanny...the one I had been hoping to see. She came up and reached for Ayla, but she just turned her head away. I was overcome. The nanny was so sweet with her and just talked to her and smiled at me, although I have no idea what she was saying. Through our guide, we were finally able to thank her for taking care of Ayla and preparing her for our family. After a few minutes, it was time to leave. The orphanage director, the nanny, and one other nanny who worked with Ayla came to tell her goodbye one more time. I was about to have Steven get a picture of us with all 3 ladies, but 2 of them started crying and turned away. More tears. We are so blessed that our daughter was loved enough that there were people sad to see her go. She was loved, and even though she will not remember her time in the orphanage, I know these special women have made a lasting impact on Ayla's ability to attach and love.
On our way back to the bus, we were taken through the back orphanage gate to Ayla's finding spot. It was nothing more than a dirty alley. We were told that babies are left there at night so whoever leaves them doesn't get caught (it is illegal to abandon a baby in China). It was hard to imagine that Ayla had been left there. She was found in a paper box, wearing flower clothing, with a birthnote that said her birthday was May 4, 2010. She was found on May 24...less than 3 weeks old. We also found out that she was a premie, with a low birthweight. A tiny new baby, abandoned and all alone. The fact that she was left at the orphanage where someone would find her does say something about her birthmother. Someone risked getting caught to make sure she was found. We definitely don't plan on telling Ayla some fairytale story about why her mother had to give her up, because the truth is we don't know. However, I am thankful that her birthmother chose to give her life in a culture where abortion is common. I am also thankful that she was most likely cared for by her birthmother for her first 3 weeks, and then left with a note in what was probably the safest place they could find.
We made a few more stops to the finding spots of the other children in our group, had lunch, and then started the long drive back to Guangzhou. That night at the hotel, Ayla began coming out of her shell. She let me put her down and she played and ran around the room. We heard some great laughs as we chased her around!! Later that night though, we also saw a more of the other end of the spectrum. She had a screaming, crying, back arching fit, and was inconsolable for 20-30 minutes before she wore herself out and went to sleep. Bedtime and naptime have been a struggle ever since (hence the lack of blogposts). On one hand, it is good that she feels comfortable enough to finally grieve. On the other hand, it is exhausting, and has been the hardest part of the journey. We are praying this phase gets better and better...preferably quickly! Still, we wouldn't trade this journey for anything!
It's Tuesday night now, and Ayla's suitcase is packed to come home. Honestly, we have really enjoyed being here! The time has gone by really fast. While we are excited to get home, we are not super excited about the long plane rides coming up. We just purchased a lap ticket for Ayla, rather than getting her a seat. That was probably best since she
We cannot wait to get our sweet girl home! We would LOVE to see any of you at the airport Thursday who would like to come. I will give the details in a separate post, so stay tuned!
Just tried to upload pics twice and it won't work. :( Lots of pictures on facebook though! Heading to bed for the last time in Guangzhou...