It’s hard really to put it into words. The way I feel when I see these pictures, just a year after they were snapped. How it makes me sad, just a little. Happy, just a bit. How it makes me long to do it over – do it better. How it makes me glad it’s behind me and that I can’t quite remember just how much it hurt. That I can finally see the distance between me and those moments. Distance that has taken careful and long and short months to put into place.
How wonderful it was. And how hard it was.
Our travel group – who I miss all the time. Who I still think of and wish I could see. Looking at these pictures brings them back to me in a warm, comfortable, anchor sort of way. Because that’s what they were to me – so many thousands of miles from home. An anchor. You’re not alone. We’re in this together. If you feel alone or miserable or scared, lean on me. And I did. If you’re happy or amazed or excited, lean on me. And so I did. And they and their children were such a wonderful group of people, that I still feel sad that this was our one moment. Those 16 days where we were experiencing this same life altering experience. This cement that slides between you and says “you and I, we did this together” and you can’t erase that. It’s not just the girls that brought us together – though that’s the core. It was the moments. All the little moments that made up that entire trip. Living life together for those few weeks. Sharing most meals together. Walking the streets together. Seeing new things, experiencing a new country, becoming parents (again) together. Passing each other in the hotel hallways and smiling the knowing smiles that say “here we go” or “I’m so tired” or “this is really hard”. Reaching out a hand. Sitting in a circle in the those same hallways, babies in our laps, laughing that we had made it this far – could have come so far for so long – and here we were…trying to fit into our new lives. Together. Anchors. I miss them so much. Sometimes I think they are the only people who really, truly understand everything that trip was for us.
Miss you, K! So much…
The culture was a lot to take in. Mostly amazing. Mostly beautiful. And when we walked a few blocks to this store, I was probably too happy…too shocked…when I saw Double Stuffed Chocolate Covered Oreos on the shelf. I might have bought two packages. I said “might”. This was our first day in Changsha. We were finally in the city where our daughter would be brought to us. It was exhilarating. Shopping was the last thing on my mind. But Oreos. Well, enough said.
There was this tangible nervous energy flowing around – from family to family. And we would run into other families – clearly American – and they would say “when did you arrive” or “what day are you on” or “congratulations! you made it!”. We would exchange pleasant conversation with families who we would pass in our hotel lobby, or restaurant. We would say “how did you like the city?” or “isn’t she beautiful” when we would see them sitting with their new daughters – looking a little overwhelmed or too tired. Which strangely, did not alert us to what might be coming our own way. Strangely did not worry us a bit.
I remember clearly, checking into our hotel room – walking off the elevators and seeing a line of cribs, as we approached our room for the first time. The room we would spend a solid week in. The room our daughter would get to know us in. The hotel room in which, our lives would take a sharp turn. Realizing we were – all nine families – on the same floor. Our rooms one right after the other. Later to be of so much comfort to me, that it makes me weepy to remember. Having each mother there – within reach. Strength in our numbers. Some of us stronger in those moments. Some of us, not. But all of us, bonded through a shared experience and a sense of knowing. Listening to the sounds of our new friends, adjusting to their new lives. Adjusting and making do – so many miles from home – with what we had. Listening and taking comfort in the sounds of mother or fathers walking the hallways, late at night, humming quietly to their babies. Comforting them. Comforting me without knowing it.
Trying to be excited, when what I really felt was nauseous. Not figuratively. I was truly sick. And somehow these huge moments that I had seen unfold on so many blogs before mine, somehow they were anti-climatic to me. Which I took to mean that I was doing something wrong. I saw the crib. Saw our future coming full barrel at us. Saw myself being a mother to two. And oddly enough, I couldn’t be overtly excited about it – because I was too busy fighting the nausea and fatigue I was feeling. I was too busy fighting the sense of dread I had carried with me – all the way from home. From my safe place. And it had followed me right into those moments. And I’ve joked for years that my intuition is sharp as nails. So this did not comfort me. My dread was heavy and I was weak. And I wanted all of that to be untrue. To be as far away from me as I could find it. But instead, it was my constant. And I still have guilt in my heart about this. That I wasn’t jumping up and down. That I was, sedate. Nonchalant. Tired. And sick. And it’s not at all the happy memory I want it to be. The pretty, lovely, wonderful moment that I had been building in my mind’s eye for so long. But this is what was. And the truth is more important.
And that little crib? That little crib would be full within 24-hours of this picture. It would hold a little baby girl. One that I now kiss and hold and snuggle and cuddle every day. Several times a day. One that follows me everywhere I go shouting “my mommy!” and one who has twisted the hearts of her older brother and oh-so-willing Daddy right around her perfectly formed fingers.
And that little girl? I remember her wanting nothing – absolutely nothing – to do with me. That little girl in that little crib…just 24 hours later, was first going to unintentionally break my heart. But I had no idea it was coming.
These are the things I remember…