That was the plan all along. We had read up on her "special need" (polydactyly), learned about her home town and her province, bought clothes for her and anticipated meeting and seeing her for the first time. Emotionally, she was "mei-mei".
And so the first couple of days were really just meaningless. I could describe the old colonial enclave of Shamian Island for you, or talk about the sights and sounds of southeast China, but that would be about another subject, and this story is, purely and simply, a tragedy.
I suppose that human nature prevents us from seeing ourselves as players in a tragedy, from seeing tragedy as something that happens to us rather than actors in a play or on a screen. But suddenly there you are, your chest breaking open with the sobs you can't keep in while you know that, even as you cry your tears are vain. That the Wheel of Suffering is exact, and swerves not a hair, sparing no one and nothing. That you will be called upon to receive the fullest measure of pain to the satisfaction of the Giver and not the capacity of the Gifted. And so our calvary began Monday morning when a little girl in a white onesie was carried into the "gotcha" room at the Civil Affairs Building in Guangzhou.
It was a brutally quick handoff. The nannies appeared, gave us a quick precis on her likes and schedule, passed her to us and departed. We were informed that in Liangjiang dialect the "xin" in her name was pronounced "yun", "Baoyun", and her orphanage nickname was "Yun-yun". Xin or yun, she sobbed equally on Mojo and myself, comfortless amid the crowd of wailing, babbling, cooing and crying families. For the rest of the morning she lay on Mojo's breast, clinging to her with her tiny simian hands and feet in a desperate search for human contact.
The next two days passed in a confused crescendo of parental worry punctuated by official paperwork. We, of course, were helpless. Clueless. Utterly unsure of why this tiny human seemed so inert. We tried to make sense of the problems, tried to reason ourselves into some rational order. Of course she was hurt. Traumatized, bereft, probably ill...no wonder she couldn't raised herself up from the prone, roll over, stand from sitting, vocalize except for crying. On Tuesday we noticed white lesions on her tongue, which the White Swan "doctor" diagnosed as something to do with "food sitting in her mouth" and prescribed some sort of hideous 18th-Century iodine swab we dutifully applied to her tongue twice a day.
But even after meeting the nannies again on Tuesday and desperately trying to find reasons for her intertia, by Wednesday afternoon we were near panic. This was not the active toddler we were told to expect. This was more like a six-month-old, and a weak and sick one at that.
So Wednesday night we called "Rob", the agency guide-cum-fixer, and told him we wanted to go to the Guangzhou Children's Hospital. This hollow, ringing porcelin tile sanitarium is a medical facility in the Graham Greene tradition of southeast Asia, full of immense, dimly-lit halls and entire mendicant families huddled around their sick offspring. There, in an open examination cubicle, an appropriately 19th Century-white-gowned and -masked medical person peered at our sagging daughter, picked her up and set her down on her feet and directed Mojo to do the same. She felt the baby's leg, went back to her desk and started writing, saying something to Rob.
"She say something is wrong with the baby's braid." I thought I heard Rob say.
"Braid?" I was stunned "Rob, this child has no hair whatsoever. What is she talking about?"
"No, no..." Rob replied "...something is wrong with brain."
Moments later we had the adoption agency's rep in Beijing on the phone. Her English is notably better, and she explained eaxctly what the doctor had said:
"She says your baby has cerebral palsy."
Mojo burst out sobbing, and I stared at the phone in sick disbelief.
Next: Before the cock crows shall ye deny me.