Saturday, April 2, 2011
Holding Chanty as she fed drop by drop on her formula through the long night, the overly hot, dark room fell away to another place and time as I dreamed about the beautiful child she would grow to be. I wondered if she would love me, or resent being taken away from her Country and culture into a much different life. Pondering the meaning of nature vs. nurture, and adoption and was this really God’s plan, or have I made a huge mistake and taken things into my own hands. I have a tendency to take things when I should leave them to God…I watched Chanty watching me as I held her close in my arms. I cooed at her and she stretched with her arms rigidly stretched above her head and her little fingers closed in a tight fist. I wrapped her tiny fingers around mine and promised that we would love each other and that would be enough. Soon she was sound asleep and the early streaks of sunlight began to appear. I heard the first sounds of families preparing breakfast on the street. It seems that early morning in Vietnam is one of the most favored times for working families. The sounds of laughter and the clatter of cooking utensils made me realize that I couldn’t remember when I had last eaten. I layed Chanty next to sleeping Douglas, covering them both with the same sheet and crept out of the room. Down 180 steps..my flip flops slapping the stone stairs and my wrinkled skirt flying with me. I’m really hungry and not too worried about catching anything…such as botulism. Street food is really the best food ….if your brave enough. Out the glass door with the name of the hotel stenciled in black. The heat and humidity..the smell of smoke and cooking envelope me with a welcome hug. Just steps away, next door is a motorcycle repair shop. A family had gathered on the sidewalk, crouching, or squatting around a coal stove and were in the process of eating. The Matriarch was serving out noodles and broth into outstretched bowls. Everyone spoke at once until they saw me…silent, watchful, and curious brown eyes followed me as I tried to pretend I belonged.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Our van was waiting for us as we concluded the formal adoption. I was so hot..slightly dizzy as a result of the heat and humidity and well..I had just adopted a baby! I wish that I had enjoyed the ceremony. Chanty had been given to me tightly wrapped in an worn piece of fabric..not exactly a blanket. I was given the opportunity to change her she didn’t have a diaper on…slightly bemused I changed her into a little pink frilly dress and bonnet I had brought for her. Freshly diapered and wrapped in the baby blanket I had made for she layed in my arms looking at me. Maybe disinterested maybe curious. I felt like I should introduce myself to her. I stumbled on the word “mother”, I didn’t feel like a mother. She promptly fell asleep and slept through the entire afternoon. After leaving gifts for the foster family and yes..the Government officials. I high tailed it to the van to wait for my sister who had to take her son to the rest room. I got to the van where the Vietnamese driver was waiting, smoking a funny cigarette. Smelled noxious, like nothing in my experience. Soon the cigarette was smoked to a nub and the bathroom adventurers were ready to drive away from the little Vietnamese Provence Chanty would more then likely never see again. Traveling by car on any road in Vietnam is an amazing experience. I still hear the noise of the horns and see the wide aray of transportion vehicles. Motor bikes carrying entire families along with penned farm animals strapped to the fender. We passed a large truck with sides so high that I couldn’t see what it was carrying, but I could hear the bark and howling of dozens of dogs. I had a feeling that they were headed the same place as the penned hog on the bike was. In Vietnam dog is meat…to my horror. After just a few minutes we pulled into a place to eat. I am hesitant to call it a restaurant because that indicates some sort of facility that definitely was not present. Rather it was a three walled shack. Completely open to the highway. From the van I could see a blackened brick barbecue where slabs of meat roasted. A large fire pit where pots were suspended by posts, and several card tables with an odd assortment of chairs and stools. The place was hazy with smoke. Cindy and her son Douglas jumped out of the van and I more slowly followed with the sleeping Chanty. I was just about to step out when the driver put his hand out to stop me. Vietnamese babies adopted by non Vietnamese women do not go into such places apparently. I had to sit in the heat of the van and rock my baby girl. My sister felt badly for me and offered to bring me dinner..but I was still digesting the fact that I was now a mother and did not have room for food. Sipping on the ever present bottled water and humming lullaby's and watching two cultures collide…my nephew Douglas and the Vietnamese diners. I watched my sister washing him down with the ever present disinfectant as he struggled, trying to get free. He had exploring on his mind. He came to the open van window and told me he intended to eat Buster Douglas… MY DOG. I forbid him, as well as his mother, who kept asking what the Vietnamese word for chicken was. When the Cindy and Douglas show became boring I found myself watching an older women holding a child about ten months old in her lap She had cracked the top of a large soft boiled duck egg and was spoon feeding it to the little one. I was enchanted by the sight for some reason. Soon the driver indicated it was time to get to the hotel. Cindy dragging a barking Douglas to the van, leaving the laughing crowd behind we drove to hotel where we apparently had reservation. We checked in leaving our passports and visa and began the 180 step climb. The hotel personal ran up and down the stairs with our bags and laughed at me as I stopped every twenty or so steps to catch my breath. Finally someone offered to take Chanty…I found myself refusing the help. Reluctant to give her to a stranger I guess. From my previous trip to Vietnam I knew that most Provence turn off electricity starting about one in the morning. The theory is saving energy during sleeping hours. No air conditioner or fan makes for very uncomfortable sleeping. It’s a good idea to pack a flashlight for the middle of the night bathroom trips..not so that you can see your way to the bathroom, but rather so that you can shine the light and scatter the cock roaches and other non paying inhabitants. Never Never take your shoes off in Vietnam in the middle of the nightly power outage. Its also at this time that Chanty decided to wake up. I had finally found a comfortable sleep position when from a far distance I heard a kitten mew. The mewing kept on when my sister hissed at me to take care of my crying baby. Oh yeah , I forgot…I’m a mother! The sweet mew turned into a louder mew . I had forgotten to prepare her formula..so in the dark I had to carefully measure out what I needed adding bottled water shaking and mixing the formula. I had become acquainted enough with Chanty to know that she had trouble with the bottle, so holding her close in the humid and hot room I found myself dropping drops of formula onto her screaming lips. She swallow each drop and another drop would follow. I had also noticed that her tummy was distended and hard. She had not pooped the entire day I had her. So through the night Chanty took her bottle drop by drop while I wondered what the heck I was doing in Vietnam holding this baby who seemingly had no idea how to take a bottle and as time wore on it became apparent that she didn’t intend to sleep.
Saturday, March 19, 2011
It's really difficult for me to believe that I have been a parent for twelve years now. Twelve years...Makes me think about ME and who I was and who I have become..and where the heck am I going? One thing I do know beyond a doubt was that I was never intended to be a parent. I believed when I turned thirty nine and had not began a family that I was pretty securely destined to be the best Aunt ever, until January 1999. I reluctantly agree to attend an international adoption meeting with my younger sister. She's younger only by twenty two months . She already had a biological son who was three years old, but she was very determined to attend this meeting. When we arrived I found the only people present were my sister and I and the facilitator who had three adopted children from Vietnam. They were running around the house creating quite a raucous. I always believed that children and meetings did not mix...I always believed that children should be quiet if they were having a meeting in their house...I fell in love! I signed all the papers and began adopting my own little sweet, quiet infant girl. By the end of March I was notified by cable that my daughter had been born and by May my passport and visa in hand ..vomiting and physically ill with nerves I began the first leg of my journey along with my sister and her son of course. She was also processing her paperwork and preparing for her own child. No one knows why my process was so quick...hmmmm. Applications and Visa typically take almost a year. I was flying to meet my baby girl in 5 months. By the time we briefly landed in Juneau to board passengers I was ready to get this done. Seattle, Honolulu, China, Han oi very long 3 day drive to meet my baby.... Just a few hours giving gifts and translating paperwork with village official and Government official. Lots of chickens, farm surrounded by jungle and smiling brown faces watching large American women with a wild 3 year old taking off his shoes and playing with the shy local children. His mother, my sister had her bottle of sanitizer fruitlessly trying to prevent a germ. I was in shock holding my baby girl..wondering is this normal she is so limp and sleepy. Leave Chanty in the jungle..tears promises of quick return..Bangkok, Honolulu, Seattle, Juneau and home. First trip done. Now to wait thirty days to make sure my baby was not spoken for by family members. Thirty one days and we received a cable that she was waiting for me. Juneau, Seattle, Los Angeles, Japan and Han oi., 3 day van ride staying in small hotels with lean to restaurants attached. Watching precocious greenish yellow lizards and very large cock roaches intermingle with humanity. Smile and compliment...really enjoy! Just don't look too closely. Its finally the day I formally receive my daughter. The Government official hands her to Barbara McClenahan from America...that's me, really it is. I'm standing outside myself watching..and boy do I look overly hot..flushed and sweaty. Then there is the baby...I watch myself making sure its the same baby I had previously met last month. She is beautiful, limp and sleeping in my arms. She has so much dark hair standing straight up. Chantilly Rose McClenahan or Phuc Le Nguyen until she lands in America.