Amelie Sarah Ling Gerber
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Quick Update:

I know, I know, I know.  It's August 23rd and there has been no update since we returned home.  Here's a shock..... I have little time to do anything that I want to do now.  I guess the web site falls into that category.  I shouldn't be surprised though.  I knew it would be this way.  So the quick update is that Amelie is doing great. She is sleeping better, eating better and loves being the center of attention.  In other words, she loves the parade of people that have come through our door to meet her.  And she is still a mommy's girl. 

I will get online this weekend and provide a more thorough update, post more pictures and update your comments.  I promise. 

August 10, 2008

Amelie is 14 months old today.

As I lay in bed last night reflecting on things, I turned to look at Susan.  I smiled as I looked at my beautiful wife.  I marveled at how she instantly turned into a mom.  I had spent the day watching her take care of Amelie, play with Amelie figure things out about Amelie…….all the things all new moms do when motherhood is instantly thrust upon them.  It warmed my heart.  I then got up and looked at Amelie.  I thought back to similar moments I had with each of my three sons.  I would constantly stare at them while they were sleeping.  It always amazed me how I could love someone so much, and with so much passion…….after just meeting them.  I looked at Amelie with the same feeling.  It doesn't’t matter where they come from…..or how they come to you….your children are your children.  You love them with all your heart.  Period…end of subject.  I returned to bed and fell asleep.  I had the best night sleep since coming to China.  And it had nothing to do with being at the White Swan Hotel nor the bed I was sleeping in.

Amelie woke with her usual cries for mama, but more importantly her cries for her bottle.  We had done such a good job of getting Susan and Amelie to bond, that Amelie had no use for daddy.  Actually, that wasn’t the case.  It wasn’t that she didn’t want me.  When Susan was not around she was daddy’s girl…….her usual happy self all giggles and smiles.  But if daddy and mommy were together…..all she wanted was mommy.  Susan and I decided that today we would try to equalize things a little.  So I was the one who picked her up out of her crib, I changed her, I fed her.  And eventually, when Susan joined in on the morning feeding, Amelie chose to stay with her daddy.  During the morning activities, Amelie split her time between both Susan and I (making me very happy).  We’ll see how the rest of the day goes.

August 9, 2008

We never made it to Pizza Hut.  The rains returned and we couldn’t walk there…….and trying to get cabs for 6 families was a disaster.  So it was one last, lousy meal in the hotel restaurant then upstairs to bathe Amelie, put her down and pack for the final leg of our time in China.

We went to sleep dreading the early morning wake-up call, dreading having to wake Amelie up and dreading the short flight to Guangzhou. Guess what…… wasn’t bad at all.  All the activity in the room caused our little peanut to wake up at 4:45 on her own.  She had a smile on her face and was as happy as can be.  The plane ride went fine and we boarded the White Swan Hotel’s luxury bus.

Unfortunately, just about the time that Amelie fell asleep, we stopped for her visa picture and medical examination.  We had to wake her up for her picture.  With tears streaming down her precious face, the photographer snapped away until she got a picture that would meet the government’s requirements.  Then it was off to the clinic for her medical exam.

More tears started flowing and she proved that she had quite a set of lungs on her as her wailing could be heard above the wails of all the other children.  Everything checked out and we learned that Amelie weigh’s 16 pounds and is 28 inches long.  Our little daughter is growing nicely.

Then it was off to the White Swan Hotel.  This hotel is the final stopping point for all kids leaving China and going to the United States.  And what a hotel it is.  We could have been in any five star hotel in any city.  It is the perfect oasis for us to get ready for our journey home.

Not being the complaining type I never spent much time talking about the actual accommodations in Nanning.  The hotel was nice, nothing lavish, but nice.  The beds looked soft and inviting, but were not.  I felt I was sleeping on piece of wood with a thin cotton mat.  Needless to say, I didn’t sleep well…or much there.  And the food.  I guess I like what I like…..and not much more.  I also seem to lose my appetite when I walk into a restaurant and see dead chickens and ducks hung from the ceiling, being displayed to all to entice us to order one of them for our meal.  I could go on and on…….but remember, I’m not a complainer.  So I’ll stop. I didn’t complain when I didn’t sleep.  And I didn’t complain  when I didn’t eat (I needed to lose a few pounds anyway).  I participated in all the group dinners, no matter where w went, and I spent the time feeding my baby.  Breakfast was my meal.  I guess fried eggs, toast, danish and fruit are universal.  Lunch was peanut butter and crackers in my room……..and dinner was whatever I could force down.  Usually rice with soy sauce, sautéed vegetables, noodles or on occasion, a pizza with no sauce and Kraft cheese.  I must say, my stomach started to shrink.  But things were about to change for me.  More on that later.   

Susan and I finally got Amelie to sleep.  If I continue this journal after we return home I will spend some time writing about this subject.  Putting Amelie to sleep was our first parenting challenge, Susan and I having very opposite opinions on how to go about this.  When I was alone with Amelie I did it my way, when Susan was alone I’m sure she did it her way.  When we were together, I acquiesced and let Susan do it her way……but not without smart remarks and little compassion.  Susan would probably say I was a jerk about it.  And she would be right.  But on this day, we had a breakthrough.  On this day we got her to nap.  And we didn’t use Susan’s way.  And we didn’t use my way.  We did it our way.  We combined our two methods, so both of us were comfortable…….and guess what….Amelie went to sleep.  And Susan didn’t feel bad about Amelie’s tears…….and I didn’t feel bad either. A breakthrough for Susan and I.

As Amelie slept, we decided to take turns checking out the island (the White Swan and the surrounding area is an island). Susan went first and was gone for about 20 minutes.  She came back boasting about how wonderful it was.  It was my turn next and I was gone for an hour and a half.  I had the time of my life.  I walked completely around the island, partaking in one of my favorite pastimes.  I turned a corner, not sure how far away I was from the hotel……..when something caught my eye.  One of the first signs of western civilization I had seen since getting to Guangzhou.  I had heard about it, but I had not yet seen it.  A Starbucks.  Those who know me know my heart lept.  Not at all like when I see Susan or Amelie…….but it lept.  Like having meatloaf and mash potatoes or turkey with stuffing, it comforted me to see it.  Of course, I had a double cappuccino and headed back to the hotel.   

The rooms at the White Swan were grand.  Although the beds were about the same as the hotel in Nanning, they seemed a little softer surrounded by all these amenities.  After Amelie’s nap it was off to see the town.  Lots of shopping, street vendors and sites.  Guangzhou has a interesting history…….and we took it al in.  We made some small purchases but mostly got a lay of the land.  Susan picking all the outfits she was going to buy…….Amelie (not herself…..surprise) and me doing my research.  Gathering pricing information to prepare for the bartering I was to do tomorrow

When it was time for dinner we ventured off with another couple to eat dinner.  We had heard that the food in Guangzhou was good and we had heard that the Italian restaurant was very good.  When we walked in, I knew we were in for a treat.  We were greeted by the owner/chef, a gentleman who was 100% Italian.  I won’t dwell on the meal (like I did on finding a Starbucks), but the Tortellini del bordo and the Penne alla carbonara was as good as I’ve had anywhere…….as good as on Taylor street in Chicago, and as good as my favorite restaurant at the Piazza Novona in Rome.  Enough said.

We ventured back to our hotel, putting Amelie to bed……no fighting between mommy and daddy……and baby slept peacefully.

Nighty night.

August 8, 2008

Yesterday was a day of rest… official business.  So what did we do…..go on a field trip.  We visited a small village out in the country…….to us it seemed like a very poor place… reminded me of the village that my son Ben stayed in this summer in Honduras.  Dirt roads, cinderblock buildings…..some with windows, some with doors…lots of animals running around all over the place.  The first thing we saw when we got there was a large cement pond where many of the villagers were washing clothes.  After a tour of the village we visited a local tourist attraction (trap)……and saw the caves…….it was very interesting, but about half way through it the majority of us were ready to go……how many stalactites and stalagmites can you look at?

After that it was back to the friendly confines of our hotel where we were held captive to the rains that started in the afternoon.  Lots of group playing, napping and changing of diapers.  The weather kept us inside for dinner so it was the American Restaurant in the hotel with 5 other kids…….and their families of course.

Amelie continued to be the happiest child.  Waking up all smiles, giggling with her mommy and daddy.....sometimes I feel we're playmates to her and not her parents.  So what....we deserve that right now.  She has also become quite the mommy's girl.........daddy is just there to smile at.

This morning at breakfast, we met a couple and their 10 year old child who had been adopted when she was 10 months old.  They had come back to adopt another child, but first came to Nanning to visit the orphanage and the foster family where she grew up.  Over the last several days we’ve seen lots of families doing the same thing.  We can’t wait for Amelie to join us on a trip to visit the places where she grew up.  After breakfast there was more paperwork and more playing.  After our morning nap the rain stopped and we ventured out for a walk.  And what a walk it was.  Amelie got two pairs of shoes, a stacking game…….and best of all, her first ice cream cone.  She gobbled it up, loving every minute of her ice cold treat.  If there were any questions about a bath tonight or not………..the ice cream decision dictated the answer.

One thing that I haven’t written about yet is what w found on Amelie’s left ankle………when we got her she had a gold ankle bracelet on her.  It was engraved with some Chinese words.  Later that day we noticed the other child who was in the same foster care home as Amelie wearing the same bracelet.  Days later our translator told us that the literal translation means to leave and return on a trip safely……..what it meant for our daughters was to have safe travels to America.  We were so touched that her foster parents did this.  It said something about the type of people they were.  We couldn’t help but know how much Amelie was truly loved and cared for while she was with them.

Well it’s off to one more meeting then dinner at Pizza Hut.  By now most of us are craving “normal” food so pizza will have to fill that need.  It will be an early night tonight because we board our bus at 5:45 am for the airport and depart Nanning for Guangzhou.  We’ve finished the “China” paperwork and it’s off to start the “American” paper work.  We received Amelie’s passport tonight.  We’re free to leave China…….now we just have to convince the Americans to let us in.  We are entering the last leg of this journey……..and anticipating the trip home to begin the next phase.

But first we have to get to Guangzhou, and Amelie’s first flight……that should be a treat. 

August 7, 2008

…..Having too much fun today to write……..will update you all soon.

August August 6, 2008

This posting from yesterday a little late.

What a difference a day makes.  We have the happiest baby in the whole wide world.  Mother and daughter spent the entire day together.  Of course, I was there…for part of it….but you wouldn’t know it from the way the two of them carried on with each other.  You couldn’t tear them apart.  Two peas in a pod.  Frick n Frack,

After breakfast it was time for Amelie’s morning nap.  Susan and I got the web site going…thanks again Joe for your help from across the ocean.  After Amelie awoke, we played in the room and in the foyer of our hotel floor.  Amelie played with her friends with her mother by her side at all times.

In the afternoon, Susan and Amelie went to the park with another mom.  Dad went to Walmart to buy stock up formula and smaller diapers.  Our little Amelie is a tiny peanut, and the medium diapers just didn’t do the trick.

I finally got to hold Amelie (first time of the day) on the way to dinner.  We watched her eat her usual repertoire of food, but today she added duck and rice.  She sat on my lap since the restaurant ran out of high chairs.  I think I was wearing as much food as Amelie got into her mouth.

Back in the room, it was time for her first bath (from us).   Amelie didn’t like it and we got it done in record time.  After brushing her hair…..and having Amelie brush both Susan’s and mine, the three of us played on the bed.  Amelie giggled so much it warmed our hearts.  She also tried to stand up…….over and over again.  She made it a couple of times (holding on to things), but her tired legs just wouldn’t hold her up.  Maybe tomorrow they will.

I’m over tired and need to go to bed.

Good night Amelie.  Good night.

August 5, 2008

Another very emotional Day, for many different reasons.  Today’s update comes to you late…..I was so drained….and for issues you will see later in this posting, not in much of a mood to communicate with the world yesterday.

First, the night before.  Amelie went to sleep…..I’m sure hungry.  But she went to sleep.  So did Susan and I (in separate beds I might add, because in China, if you are two people, you get one full size bed each…….we’ve been calling it their version of population control).  At 1:30 Amelie woke up but still wouldn’t take a bottle.  We each took turns holding her.  She was on my lap when I showed her the Cheerios but didn’t feed her.  I put them in my hand and offered them to her.  She grabbed on with those tiny fingers of hers and started shoving them into her mouth.  A milestone…..the first time she has fed herself for us.  So I got bold……I picked up the bottle and put the nipple to her mouth.  She opened wide and sucked the nipple into her mouth……then drained the entire bottle.  When she finished, I tried to get her to burp…no such luck……maybe she ‘s not like her dad in that respect….then put her down to sleep.  Knowing that she finally ate something made us all sleep well.

The day started off very hectic.  Personally, it’s been many years for me having to get a little one ready….as well as a properly stocked diaper back and setting up a brand new snugli (baby carrier)  We made it to breakfast at 8:10  and then had to be on the bus at 8:30 to go back to the local adoption authority to make the adoption official.  We gathered into a reception room to await our individual interviews.  After questions, signatures thumbprints and Amelie’s footprints, there was a ceremony where we received our adoption certificates as well as several gifts from the adoption authority.

All this time, Amelie was very lethargic, freely being passed between Susan and I, not enjoying the hand off, but not showing favorites.  Our first thought was excitement that she hadn’t chosen just one of us…..but both of us……..totally overlooking her non responsiveness to us and her surroundings.  As our time at the adoption authority progressed, Amelie seemed to get tired and cranky.  Then it began…….she only wanted to be held by her daddy.  When I would try to pass her back to Susan, she would cry hysterically and put her arms out back to me.

Next stop was the notary office.  Another interview, more thumbprints then back to the bus for the trip back to the hotel.  Just when we thought we were leaving the director of the adoption authority stepped onto the bus with two bags.  The first one was handed to another parent, and the other to us.  Both of our children had been in foster care with the same family and we thought it was a parting gift from the foster parents.  What a gift it was.  Our translator told Susan and I that in the bag were some clothes and the blanket that Amelie was found in when she was left in the doorway of the market in Donglan County.  The fatigue of the day and the crying of Amelie were a distraction to the magnitude of the moment, but later in the evening as, Amelie slept, we talked about how lucky we were to have such an important totem from her past.

When we returned to the hotel, we put Amelie to sleep and she slept for over 3 hours.  We were excited that she was sleeping, hoping that her crankiness (and sole desire for daddy) would vanish when she woke up.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

When Amelie woke, we took her for a walk.  It was her first time in a stroller.  As I put her in it, she complained for a second…….but was calm after I started pushing her around the halls of our hotel……up and down….back and forth.  As we walked around town and into a park with a pond, amusement park and street vendors, Amelie was a little too calm.  She was just sitting there in her stroller, slouched down staring into oblivion.  I picked her up to see if that would help, and it did perk her up a bit.  She started pointing, kept her head up and kept looking around……..not as lethargic anymore…….but not the bubbling baby we had expected.  Between the 90+ degree weather and the 15 pounds of baby I was carrying, my arms got tired.  I passed Amelie over to Susan………..only to have her passed back to me immediately.  Amelie was having no part of her mom.  My heart went out to Susan.  I could not even imagine what she must be going through at this point.  I made some lame attempts at trying to justify Amelie’s behavior, but we both knew that nothing I would say make Susan, or me,  feel any better.  I put Amelie back into the stroller and we walked back to the hotel.

We rode the elevator up to our floor.  The doors opened to a noise, laughter, and bubbles.  Several of our fellow families had gathered in the foyer with their daughters and were having an afternoon play date.  We sat Amelie down to join in.  Susan sat next to Amelie and I retreated to our room…..hoping that it would give Susan and Amelie a chance to bond.  Not being there, I have to go by what I was told.  I hear Amelie livened up, played with the other kids and even smiled and laughed a little.  A proud moment for me was her first baby fight.  Amelie was sharing her cheerios with the other kids,, but apparently she was saving a pile just for herself.  Her pile was being taken by her new friend Leah, but Amelie was having no part of that.  She grabbed her cheerios back from the Leah’s hands, winning her first battle.

We went to a group dinner and watched our daughter eat solid food (if you don’t count cheerios) for the first time.  Her favorite dish, thick flour noodles.  Amelie was finished and getting tired.  I took her home to get her ready for bed.  Susan returned shortly thereafter and tried to hold her daughter.  But Amelie only wanted her daddy.  Susan was so upset that she left the room.  While I was putting Amelie to bed, Susan was talking to a friend of ours who recently adopted a baby from China.  When she returned to the room she was still disappointed about the situation, but not quite as upset, hearing from her friend that this was totally normal and she would be a “different” baby soon.

Needless to say, it was an emotionally draining day.  For Susan, I couldn’t even imagine what it was like to wait seven years to adopt a baby only to be rejected by her.  For me, even though I was the “loved one”, I couldn’t help but think that Amelie was still not responding to us.  As much as we were prepared for this moment, educated that some babies pick one parent over the other……..knowing that some babies shut down emotionally while others play laugh and giggle as soon as they are handed off to the adopted parents.  It tore our hearts out to see all the other kids playing with their new parents.  While we weren’t the only couples in our situation, we couldn’t help wonder why it was happening to us.  I rarely ever ask god for something…..I figure he has a lot more important things going on to deal with…….but as I laid my head on my pillow I asked him, or her, to help Amelie with her journey to her new family…….and I asked him to help Susan too.

Amelie slept all through the night.  And so did we!

Technically it’s the morning of August 5th as I write this.  The night before, Susan and I talked about how we would deal with the day.  We agreed that when Amelie woke up, Susan would take on the responsibility of changing her diaper and feeding her.  We even planned to have me leave for part of the day so she and Amelie had some time together when I wasn’t in sight.  Little did we know what the new day would find for us.

A different child woke up.  Not the disengaged, emotionally shut down child who I laid down to sleep the night before.  The Amelie that woke up was the daughter we read about from her foster parents.  The child we expected to meet when we traveled across the world.  The Amelie that woke up laughed, even giggled and smiled.  And more importantly, the Amelie that woke up didn’t even look for her daddy, she let her mom change her, feed her.  When the morning necessaries were done, the Amelie that woke up even played with her mom.  With all the toys and stuffed animals that we lugged all the way to china…….her favorite things to play with…….a chapsitck and the case to our digital camera.  Later we would find another favorite thing for her to play with…..the bowl full of cheerios.  I think she may even want to take a nap with it.

Amelie stood for us while holding on to the bed…….she walked with us…..while holding on to her hands…….and she played with the other kids in the foyer of our hotel floor…..all the time with her hand stuck inside the cherrios bowl.

With a new outlook on things we headed down to breakfast.  We joined some of the others in our group in our own section of the restaurant.  Amelie ate like a champ.  Noodles, watermelon, cantaloupe, hard boiled egg, tomatoes and croissant were all gobbled up.  Back upstairs for some more play time with mom.

It’s time for her morning nap.  I’m signing off for now so I can watch my baby fall asleep.  Then I want to hold my other baby……Susan…..and celebrate the day.  I don’t think I’ll ever be able to put into words the emotions I’m feeling at the moment…….So I’m signing off……I just put a song on the iPod to listen to…….Paul Simon….Mother and Child Reunion………..

August 4, 2008

GOTCHA Day.  This it.  The day we’ve been waiting seven years for.  Susan’s tossing during the night won, and around seven in the morning she hit the gym.  I on the other hand continued to sleep.  After she returned, we went to the breakfast buffet and visited with many of our group.  Emotions were high and everyone was anxious.  The group met at 10:30 am with Jane from our adoption agency and Lee our translator.  Last minute instructions as well as another round of paperwork we needed to complete.  Lots more questions before we split up for our last few hours before meeting our daughters. 

There was a lot of discussion about getting our daughters, and the one thing that was stressed is that we shouldn’t be alarmed if our daughter only attaches to one of us.  It is a very common thing.  That news didn’t help Susan as her anxiety level is already through the roof.  My thoughts are I hope she attaches to one of us…….for Amelie’s sake.  My other thought is that I hope she attaches to Susan…….for Susan’s sake.

7:20 pm:           WOW! WOW! WOW! What a day of emotions.  At exactly 3 pm, our bus departed for the local adoption authority.  I don’t need to tell you that everyone was on the edge of their seat.  We arrived 15 minutes later and entered the room where we would receive our daughters.  We were 15 minutes early and were told the children had not yet arrived.  We stood around, impatiently waiting.  All at once a procession of caretakers holding little girls walked past the open door into another room.  From the quick glance we saw they were all wearing little red outfits…….and none were crying.

As soon as they passed, seven years worth of emotion hit Susan.  Tears started flowing, her knees felt weak and she felt like fainting.  Lucky for all of us she didn’t.  Some quick thinking by all…….a little water to drink……the floor to sit on……;.and a bag to breathe into…….allowed our girl to rally before the big moment.

Then… the distance……we heard on lone child wailing at the top of her lungs.  Guess who???  We’ll get to that later.

We did some last minute paperwork, then were told the order that the babies would be handed out.  Of course, we were 9th out of 9 families.  Our disappointment ended as all nine caretakers walked in with nine babies and we saw, for the first time, our beautiful little daughter.  We also found out that she was the lone baby that we all heard crying before…….and she still was the lone baby crying.  But it didn’t matter because her sounds were music to our ears.  We couldn’t take our eyes off of her.  She was so beautiful.  And so small.  She is so much smaller than she looks in her pictures.  She’s our own little peanut!

As the babies were handed off, and our turn got closer and closer, Susan’s knees began to shake.  But by the time it was our turn to get our baby, her maternal instincts took over and she was ready…..ok….maybe I’m exaggerating a little…….but Susan took Amelie into her arms and became a mother immediately…….even as Amelie continued to wail…..and wail……and wail.  It was obvious that the source of her tears was the fact that she was no longer being held by her caretaker.  (We realized later that when she entered the room she wasn’t being held by her caretaker because her caretaker was holding another baby.  Once the other baby was handed off, her caretaker took Amelie……who stopped crying……if only temporarily until her hand off)   Amelie continued to cry until her caretaker and the others left the room…for good.

On the bus ride back to the hotel, Amelie fell asleep in Susan’s lap.  Unfortunately she had to be woken for an official picture for the adoption file. We went back to our room and Susan hung out with our daughter while I reported to our in to work on more paperwork.  When I returned, I found Amelie somewhat calmer and in Susan’s arms.  We got her to eat some Cheerios, but so far has not been able to drink her bottle.   It’s now an hour after her normal bedtime and she’s still up.  But we’re having the time of our life!

August 3, 2009

FINALLY!  We arrived in Nanning after 32 hours of travel.  We won’t dwell on the details but in one word it was brutal.  We checked into the hotel and immediately started getting ready for tomorrow…..gotcha day……the day we get our daughter.  We had a late lunch then a group trip to Walmart to stock up on supplies.  After our Walmart excursion, we were all sleep deprived and jet  lagged so the group scattered and did our own thing.  Some went to sleep, others went out to dinner.  Susan and I were not hungry so we went to the lounge for a nightcap then off to bed.  I slept forever and Susan…….well she got some sleep.  Her nervousness about the coming day took over.

My mom bought me an interesting book (this is a Gary)…..thanks mom.  It is about a couples journey to adopt a baby written from the fathers perspective,  It made me think a lot about the journey we were embarking on.  One thought I had as our plane touched down in Nanning was about Amelie.  I couldn’t help but wonder what Amelie was doing today,  Surely her foster parents were preparing for our gotcha day.  Did Amelie have any idea what was in store for her.  Did she sense anything?  Surely there were changes to her normal daily routine that would be a tell to the changes that awaited her.  I hoped she wasn’t scared.

Later in the evening I found out that Amelie was probably already at the orphanage awaiting the four hour drive to meet us the next day. It would have been her first night back in the orphanage for almost a year.  I knew then…..that she knew something was going on……and the world she knew had already begun to change.

Sleep well Amelie.  We love you.  Mommy and Daddy will see you tomorrow.

August 1, 2008

Stay tuned for updates when we arrive in China!


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