What happened to her right hand?
Meili was born without a right hand. She has a wrist and can pick up a cheerio and put it in her mouth by capturing it in her wrist. She also has some “little” fingers that have feeling but don’t seem to be able to move independently. The most likely cause is that the umbilical cord wrapped around that part of her body and inhibited growth of her hand. This is called amniotic banding, or amniotic band syndrome. It is possible that she may want some type of prosthesis when she is older. For now, she is a happy girl learning to use what she was born with like anyone else.
How is she adjusting?
Meili has an overflowing joy for life. She seems to prefer dancing or running to walking and likes to speak loudly. Meili and I have a game where she says “da-da” and I answer “Meili.” Then she says it a bit louder, and I answer in kind. Eventually she is yelling at the top of her lungs and of course I oblige. We love it. She likes to hang upside down, be thrown high, and be surprised. She still really likes rice but also eats just about everything we do at dinner. Of course we have been eating more rice.
How is she attaching?
There seems to be no question who mama and baba, or dada, or daddy, or dad are. She continues to want to spend most of her waking hours with one of us. If another girl snuggles up to dad on the couch she will say something very loudly (maybe Cantonese) and try to push her away. She is OK with staying with Leanne, so Laura and I are able to get away from time to time for a date..
Does she talk?
Meili started with “ay!” which means “yes” or “right” in Cantonese. We would say “hi” and she would say “ay!” She now says both “ay!” and “hi.” Before we left China she was routinely saying “mama,” (the same in Cantonese) and threw in an occasional “baba” (Cantonese) and “dada.” She now says variations of “kitty,” “all done,” and “bye.” She also has been using some very distinct combinations of sounds lately to express herself, like when a sister is too close to dad. These are often combined with body posture and arm motions that convey displeasure and, seemingly, authority. She has always conveyed a lot through non-verbal communication. The morning after we were handed this little girl, she was making eyes with dad and even gave him a smile at the breakfast table. She has continued adding to her repertoire of antics which now include what we call “stinker face.” As you might guess, this is the face she gives when she decides that she doesn’t want to do what Mom and Dad are asking and is currently contemplating her alternatives. We are reminded at these times that we adopted a little girl, almost two years old, not an infant.
Where was she?
Meili was found at the entrance road to a hospital January 9th, 2009 when she was about six days old. She was taken to the Welfare Institute of Lianjiang City, an orphanage in Southern China. This is where she spent her first twenty-one months. We were not able to visit the orphanage but have seen a number of pictures. The orphanage is a four or five story building with continuous balconies on each floor. There are crib rooms with stainless steel cribs. The babies sleep on plywood and have a blanket. They also spend time in a playroom and on the balcony. There were about 25 babies her age and about 100 in the orphanage. The first couple nights after we returned home and Meili was jet-lagged I would sleep on the floor next to her pack-in-play. This seemed to be just what she needed. When she woke up she could see that someone was there.
Do you know anything about her parents?
We know nothing of her birth parents. It is illegal to put a child up for adoption in China. If parents find themselves in a position where they cannot, or are not willing to care for a child their alternative is to abandon the child.
Why is her hair so short?
Her head was shaved in the orphanage. It was a little surprising when we saw her the first time. We expected to get a little toddler with a full head of hair. Instead, we were handed what seemed to be an infant with no hair. She looked just like the referral picture which was taken almost a year earlier! They shave their heads because either they believe their hair will grow in thicker or because they are easier to take care of that way, probably both. We found out later that it is common for the babies to revert to infancy behavior on gotcha day. They are experiencing so many new things, they’re in a state of shock. Their whole life has consisted of a couple rooms and a balcony until this day. On gotcha day she took a five hour bus ride and was handed to strange people.