One thing we learned when we adopted Cassie was that every day brought new surprises. Today, the day Chloe became a part of our family, was no exception. Those in the IA community have a vision of how "gotcha day" is supposed to go. A handful of families waiting at a civil affairs office. Babies and children arriving. And let's not forget the crying, lots of crying. The adults, that is. We saw all of that today, straight out of the IA playbook.
We woke up as a family of 3 for the last time today. We went to the hotel restaurant and had a nice breakfast. The buffet here is similar to the White Swan in Guangzhou, which is to say that we won't starve - not by a longshot. At 10 minutes til 10am our guide, Jin, picked us up in the hotel lobby, and took us to the Civil Affairs Office. There we were the last of about 6 families to arrive. A few already had their new children. We quickly scanned the room, and were at once disappointed and relieved that our precious Chloe was not yet there. We were dying to see her, but we wanted to capture the moment on video. Also, the idea that she would be waiting for us to arrive while we were eating a nice leisurely breakfast would make us feel very guilty. So we settled in for what would be about a 15 minute wait. We watched other families forming right before our eyes. Sonny has been working on a project for Struandale Engine Plant in South Africa, and one of the people there, a proud new grandpa, had spent his career working at Struandale Engine Plant. He invited Sonny to visit if his work ever brought him to Struandale. It really is a small world but today was not about making new friends. Today was about completing a family. And 15 minutes after arriving, we looked out the window and saw our baby arriving. Sonny fired up the video recorder, and still photo camera, and pointed them both at the door. (Yes - video will be posted, but not until we get home).
So, how did it go today? For starters, Chloe appears to be in very good health, at least to the untrained eyes of her new parents. She carries a fair amount of baby fat, unlike her sister who was prominently displaying every rib and vertebrae when we met. Chloe also is very easy going. She is perfectly happy having Daddy hold her, which is something Cassie would not tolerate for more than a few moments until several months after we brought her home. Chloe, like Cassie, has a repaired cleft lip. The doctors here appear to have done a great job. Unlike Cassie however, Chloe also had a cleft palate. Based on the pictures we had seen, and the opinion of the cranial facial surgeon we had consulted, we believed it to be a fairly severe case. The first surprise of today was that the palate had been repaired. Chloe hasn't let us inspect her mouth yet. When we try, she lets us know that her teeth are sharp and her jaw is strong. :) What she has also done is demonstrate for us in a few ways that the palate is completely closed. First, she sucks from a bottle, something that would not be possible with a cleft palate since any attempt to suck would simply pull air in from the nose. Second, she scarfs down Cheerios, rice, and chicken like there is no tomorrow, and - sorry for the gross visual - nothing came out her nose. With a cleft palate, especially the one we saw in pictures, food would be coming out her nose if the palate was still as open as we saw. We were informed by the assistant orphanage director - her name is "Coco" - today that Chloe had her palate repaired in July. Again, it appears the surgeons here did a great job. We had packed special bottles designed for children with cleft palates. They are difficult enough to find in the U.S. and almost impossible to find here. We asked Coco if the orphanage would accept them as a donation. She smiled, said yes, and thanked us.
Chloe, typical of children who live in an orphanage, currently has poor muscle tone. She is not able to stand on her own. She can stand while holding something or someone, but cannot yet take steps. We'll get working on that straight away. She has a beautiful complexion, and soft, silky hair, a little darker than Cassie's.
She likes apples, bananas, and oranges. She is still getting formula twice a day, and has already drained two bottles with us. She makes eye contact with both Momma and Dadda while eating, which is a very good sign. We had sent pictures of us, Cassie, and Tehya and Sage (the dog and cat), and it is clear that they had spent time with her showing her the pictures. When we hold her and point to the pictures, she smiles.
Cassie has predictably had a mixed reaction. Mind you that she's a little mixed up in terms of sleep cycle, and she's always a grump when she's tired. A few hours ago, Cassie was melting down because she was having to share Momma, Dadda, treats, toys, etc. But as this post is being typed, they are exchanging toys and treats on the bed. I'm sure we're in for a lot of these ups and downs before they negotiate a more permanent arrangement between themselves.
Chloe's nanny, a Half The Sky nanny, was there today, and told us a lot about Chloe. We are told that her favorite toy is "pretend kitchen stuff". How fortunate for us then, that Grandma and Grandpa Jones got Cassie a complete play kitchen for Christmas this year. So our two little chefs can work together to cook up all sorts of pretend concoctions.
And now, the photos. Sorry to keep you waiting. Most of these really do speak for themselves, but we've added a caption because we're feeling verbose today.