I realized that I wouldn't be doing justice to the previous post without showing the beginnings of the story. This is Q just a day or two after we officially became her parents in the adoption office in Nanjing. I have happier photos - because she did lie down and giggle with us, give us glimpses of that radiant smile, even in the first few days. But this one shows more clearly what a shock it must have been. She is dazed in this photo, glassy-eyed. She was also very underweight and sick with parasites, and her beautiful skin did not look entirely healthy. Many children coming from an orphanage bed at her age (11 months) could not even sit up on their own. At this age, many of them are still confined to a crib and haven't had the chance to build any muscle tone. Q, we learned, had taught herself to sit up by threading her feet through the bars of her crib and dragging herself upright. This initiative on her part meant that she already had a surprisingly strong core, though she could not, of course, stand up. Her leg muscles were very underdeveloped and it would be months before her legs could even support her in a crawl.
This semi-shock that you see in this picture lasted through two weeks in China, and maybe the first three or so weeks at home. That part is a blur to me because I was, of course, also in a bit of shock, and also because I'd caught her parasites and was very, very sick for the first weeks home. Once I had recovered somewhat from my own illness, her sunny nature had already prevailed. Finished with his "baby leave", my husband had gone back to work, and as I grew stronger, I spent the days working in my studio with her rolling and playing on a flokati rug beside me. I quickly learned the charm of that smile and that rusty giggle, which would draw me inexorably from my work.
She has had two major surgeries since we brought her home. The recovery from these is lengthy and painful. During the second surgery, she stopped breathing four times while attempting to come out of anesthesia. It's tough for such a tiny body to make it through a three or four hour surgery. Still, she remains fearless and undeterred. She has never been either resentful or marked by her experience. Much more than the pain, it is the confinement that irks her the most. Wearing arm splints during the recovery period enrages her. Even compromised, even in pain, she's rarin' to go, wild to move on to bigger and better things.
One could learn so much from this tiny child, bundled and left on a stoop at three days old, unable to even eat on her own. Her resilience, her spirit, her optimism, her utter absence of resentment against her lot in life, her fierce ambition. I began by trying to imagine how I would go about teaching her all the things she needs to know about the world. Instead, she has apparently been put on this earth to teach me all the things I needed to know about this world. Isn't life a wonderful mystery?
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