Surgery Afterthoughts

Meili continues to improve and has regained her laugh today! :) The post operation experience is still as unpredictable as ever but all signs appear to point towards significant healing. We finally got confirmation today that ALL the plumbing is back to normal and operating at peek capacity. One of Meili’s nurses explained the process of waking back up after surgery as the brain coming back online first followed by all the other vital systems – like rebooting a network. We are happy to say that all systems are go and frankenbaby is up and about – it is so sad and funny at the same time to see her try to scratch her head. Luckily, she is still at the over-sized-head-undersized-arms stage of childhood so it is doable with some effort.

Meili will learn as our other children did eventually that Tracy and I have children for our own amusement. Sure it is awesomely meaningful to bring a being into this world but what about all the silly tricks you get to teach them in their formidable years?!? We taught our now 12-year old, Corbin, to stand on his head at age 2 (on command, he would bend over and place his head on the floor while still standing).With Meili in these stiff arm braces for a couple weeks, the possibilities for entertainment are off the charts!

Tracy and I were dwelling on the emotional upheaval in the life of our adopted daughter late last night. These midnight chats are sometimes the only time we have for meaningful conversation – all you parents out there with a house full of kids gimme a whoop, whoop! Anyway…I digress (sometimes frighteningly quickly). Over the last 21 months of her life, Meili was abandoned at the gate of her orphanage the day she was born, raised by well-intentioned but “employed” nannies who went home to their own families every night, taken to a hospital in Nanjing to have her clef lip repaired without a Mom or Dad to comfort her throughout the process and then returned to the “special needs” orphanage to grow up with the other forgotten sons and daughters of China. Then one day she is awoken, dressed in 3 layers of clothes – probably everything that was in her barren closet – and placed into a car for the 2.5 hours trip back to Nanjing. At 16 months of age she was handed over to total strangers who looked nothing like her and did not speak her language at all. Over the next 2 weeks she was taken all over China in the arms of exhausted caretakers wrestling with the Chinese juggernaut of bureaucracy to become her legal parents (see previous year of postings). Four long plane rides later (of which she had never experienced before) she was sitting in the floor of her new home getting to know a whole different cast of siblings in an extremely different world a lifetime away from the institutional environment of her baby months. By now, she has gone to sleep and awoken in an estimated 8 or 9 different environments wondering if each one was where she would stop the change train.

Then we take our asian angel to the hospital for surgery.

It was in the wee hours of the morning when Meili launched into an all out physical wrestling match with Tracy in room 134 at Scottish Rite. Out of still sleep and into a hurricane of activity, Meili began to call out for “Ma, Ma, Ma” – the only words she knows and is able to verbalize, practically climbing out of Tracy’s arms. Through bloodshot eyes and tears, Tracy looked at the nurse and asked for the Morphine to be replaced by a different pain reliever. Morphine has many side-effects and is a controlled substance meant to treat severe pain. It can cause confusion and a delusional response in some patients and we feared it was the source of troubling visions in the mind of our daughter. After we moved over to Tylenol with Codeine, things got much better.

What moved us so deeply about this experience is the realization just before they discharged us that Meili did not know if she was to set up a new life here in this institution or if her familiar protectors were going to take her back home. Her life experience so far has taught her to stay nimble, don’t get too attached and expect the unexpected. She held tight to one of us at all times and began to cry whenever someone from the hospital entered the room. To relieve Tracy, I would hold her periodically but Tracy would have to leave the room so Meili would stop fussing (screaming can separate the fragile closure from the surgery). In Tracy’s absence, Meili would sit in my lap like a little bundle of tightened muscles, eyes open and searching for the one person in her life who has brought consistent comfort. There were moments when she could be passed to me asleep but if she were to wake up in my arms, you better believe I got the evil eyebrow treatment.

So here we are today with Meili. Having been through so much she has yet to say a word to communicate the backlog of confusion and upheaval in her life. She is like a complicated enigma in my heart – unable to understand her life but deeply moved by her solemn beauty. This little miracle is slowly but surly weaving her complexity into the fiber of my soul – growing a totally different love than that of my other children. These last days in our family have been difficult but worthwhile as all of us have marveled at the enormous strength of Meili. I just don’t know what else to say.

Sometimes I feel like I am talking into a darkened room – like I walk down the hallway, open a door that leads to nowhere, stick my head through and begin talking about Meili. I hope this is helpful to someone but the therapy is priceless for me. :)