Friday, December 28, 2007

The New Jew Review and Other Sleepless Tales

It's been nearly two weeks since we've posted, and our lives have been crazy-hectic since our return. Some folks have opined that we should change the name of our blog since our daughter IS finally, technically home, but our journey is not yet done, at least until everyone sleeps all night in their designated bed. So for now we will keep our post-travel adventures under this same banner, and we thank everyone for keeping up with us.

Before our trip, our son Harry expressed to us his fear of no longer being the baby; of no longer being special to us. I assured him that love is a thing that grows as a family grows. This has come true to unbelievable proportions. In truth I was afraid that mine would be the only heart that couldn't adequately expand. Although my heart usually thinks before my brain does, I had kept my heart incredibly safe during the more than 2 1/2 years it took for us to crawl over the crags to get to our daughter. Would I be too exhausted at the end of our journey to love her properly?

When we got together with our daughter, all my fears fell away. My heart unlocked to receive her totally. She met us more than halfway on that score. But we did not feel like a family of four until we touched down in Newark and Harry was in our arms once more. And there was still work to be done; Harry had been left out of our first two weeks with his sister, and there was a heavy price to pay. Now we needed to lay all our love, and then some, on both kids.

It wasn't more than a few days before the little mister was his old self again. He fell in love with his sister right away (and she with him), which tided us over in the meantime. When he once more began soliciting hugs, kisses and "I love you"s (in English and in Mandarin) we knew we were back on the right road. Now they chatter constantly and each understands the other 99% of the time. He calls her Mei-Mei and she calls him Guh-Guh except for when she teases him and calls him Dee-Dee (little brother), which he thinks is a hoot.

The second most amazing discovery here is that everyone was right: the heart is indeed our most flexible muscle, with room to grow and expand for every special person we add into our lives. The most amazing discovery is how much more our love could grow for the child who was already in it. I love Harry more each time I see him, and not just because of the patience and guidance he displays toward his sister. His very soul has grown in the last two weeks, and it is a blessing to our entire family. There is nothing he wouldn't do for Xiao-Ling.

As for the cats, they are besides themselves with joy. They swan around the house purring loudly all day; they check on their newest "kitten" with nuzzles and more purrs, and end up in Mark's or my arms, buzz-bombing us with halleluyahs that plainly say, Thank you, thank you for bringing her home! We can't believe we have another baby to take care of and we love it love it love it!

Our first major outing as a family came five days after we got home: to the mikveh in Teaneck, where our little one formally Joined the Tribe. I went into the water with her. She looked awfully cute but I can't post that picture here. So I'll post its opposite: the first-ever published photo from the POV of the Ritual Bath - check out the smiling rabbis, all good friends of ours, who served as our Beit Din:

So this is what it looks like to watch somebody turn into a Jew! The short one in front has yet to be ordained: he is still known as Guh-Guh.

Yesterday our daughter turned five. We had a family-only celebration with lasagna and cake. Xiao-Ling joined in the singing of "Happy Birthday." I can't believe we are the parents of two five-year-olds. Mark and I have Jewish twins. It's amazing.

The hardest part comes at night. At first we put each kid in his/her own bedroom, but they got up and partied way into the night. Then we put Harry and Xiao-Ling into her bedroom together and...they got up and partied all night. As much as he loves her, he soon got tired of getting up to play, so she did it alone. Then she would cry like an infant when we put her back in bed - dozens of times in one night. We tried a few times to wait until she fell asleep on one of us (after she was in her PJs) but the moment she felt her body being laid prone, she woke up and cried to break your heart. By this time we were putting her in a toddler bed at the foot of our bed (our bedroom is on the main floor) and putting Harry in the guest room (same level) because he didn't want to be the only one sleeping upstairs. I know I haven't had a full night's sleep in two weeks. That's never happened to me before.

Last night it finally hit me: The infant-like weeping, the clinging to me in her sleep unlike any interaction when she's awake, the refusal to sleep alone - it all added up. Between the orphanage and the foster-care center, she's never had a room to herself. The first ten months of her life are a mystery, but chances are she has never slept they way we're all used to sleeping, or at least napping, immediately after we're born: cuddled up to a parent, assimilating his or her aroma, receiving unconditional physical care. The term "kangaroo care" comes to mind (see Internet) and I spent the the entire night holding my youngest. Although she isn't a preemie and both parties were fully pajama'd, Xiao-Ling had her most restful night yet Stateside. Before she can graduate to somnulent independence, she must first experience what every baby is entitled to: a hand-on feeling of love that guards her while she slumbers. I feel quite confident that she won't still require this when she graduates college, but for now it's necessary. Shabbat Shalom - we'll keep you posted!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mark and Jacquie, I've been reading your blog with fascination and just want to add my congratulations and good wishes to your new, bigger family. And the family bed is a good thing, in my opinion, since sleeping alone is such a modern invention and feeling safe and loved at night is not a minor issue. Glad you are all getting a bit more rest. She won't need this forever, I know from experience. Bless you all.

Auntie Sara in Seattle