Thursday, September 1, 2011

Inside, outside, upside down

by Ruth

It's been a rough few weeks for Juliana. She's been through a lot of changes. First we woke her up at 2:30am to begin seemingly endless days of travel. When we finally arrived at our new home, we wouldn't even let her crawl around because everything was so dirty. Throughout a week of jetlag and waking up coooooonstantly all night long, we gradually began expanding her area: we made the bedroom safe and relatively clean, then the living room, and finally her (future) bedroom.

Then we started our “foundations/pronunciation” class and every day we left her in an unfamiliar room with two strange (though very nice) Chinese woman and two other strange (though very friendly) kids. It was only for an hour a day, but she still didn't like it. Even when we were with her, we were distracted by cleaning and unpacking and organizing.

This summer she not only got to be around mama and dada all the time, she was surrounded by adoring relatives, ready to shower her with attention at every waking moment. They played with her, read to her, laughed at her, built her block towers, bought her new toys, talked to her, fed her, and she loved every moment of it. It's hard to go from that to...well, much of anything else.

Even though she has spent most of her life in China, she was away for two months (1/5 of her life), and America had become normal. She wasn't surprised to see all those 'foreign' faces anymore. She enjoyed carpets, large bathtubs, and abundant cheese snacks. She didn't even fight the car-seat too hard after a while.

This summer she was insanely happy. Coming back, it seems like she has been unhappy all the time. She isn't really, but that's how it has seemed. She cried because she didn't want to sleep at night and fussed because she was tired during the day. She protested our divided attention, the fact that we wouldn't let her play on the floor, and then the fact that we couldn't hold her all the time. She even freaked out at bathtime – and she usually loves bathtime – I suppose because her small, baby tub was now unfamiliar.

All these things were starting to become more familiar, but then we started abandoning her. I'm pretty sure that's how it seemed to her, since she has spent an average of 1-2 hours a month away from us in her first 10 months of life.

One of those nice Chinese ladies who watched her during our pronunciation class has become our “ai yi” ("auntie"/house-helper). She will be coming in the morning twice a week to clean and cook (yay!), in the afternoons twice a week to watch Juliana while we meet with tutors, and two other times each week to watch Juliana when we both have class at the same time. She does not speak any English and we...well...there's a reason we're going to language school. (Hint: Our Chinese is pretty darn bad.) So at this point, communication is quite a challenge. She is very nice and patient, though, when I cock my head and look perplexed.

On Tuesday she came for the first time. She played with Juliana and sang to her and gave her lots and lots of attention, but even so, Juliana was not happy. She screamed tortuously when the ai yi took her away from me. She cried for about 4500 hours (i.e. at least 5 minutes) until the ai yi sufficiently distracted her. She did pretty well for the first part of the time, but toward the end she became inconsolable and sobbed until I finally rescued her. The ai yi (who watches some of the other students' children) said, “The other children don't cry. She cries a lot.”

As any normal, paranoid mother would, I felt that I was scarring her for life. Even after her rescue, she clung and cried and fussed all evening.

Today our ai yi came back. This morning she whisked Juliana away for a few minutes, and once again Juliana screamed and cried. This afternoon she came back to watch Juliana, and the start was the same - heartbroken sobs. But after a few minutes Juliana stopped crying and the rest of the time was much better! Even at the end, when I came in to get Juliana, she didn't start crying. She was still willing to laugh and play with the ai yi (so long as I was close by). The ai yi said, “She is getting accustomed to me. She is happy now.”

Next week will start Juliana being away from me for 18 hours/week. It's not so much compared to working full time, like many people have to, but it's a lot compared to being with me all the time. Hopefully she will continue to quickly get accustomed to her new life!