Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Observations on Adopting a Toddler from China

This post is for my yahoo group CHSFS China WIC. Hi all!
This is just cut and pasted from an email that I sent to a friend who adopted a toddler from China last summer. Take from it what you will, as they say - YMMV (your mileage may vary). I will try to find my packing list that I made up for her too, stay tuned for that post.


Here's a list of observations, excuse the spelling, grammar, fragments, run-on sentences and what-not:

Sleeping: Slept pretty good and on schedule (8 pm to 7 am with a nap from 1 to 3). Cried in her sleep occasionally but it didn't wake her. We spend many nights in China with her crying and me crying too while I rubbed her back and talked her through it. She did not want to spend one extra second in bed and would stand up to be taken out while still 99% asleep. It took months for her to lose this behavior. To this day she has problems sleeping if she has on overstimulating day. She does well on a schedule that is predictable.

Eating: Only ate rice, noodles, eggs & peach juice while in China. Ate scrambled eggs and diced peaches for breakfast every day for at least 2 months after we brought her home. Would not touch bread, pancakes, waffles, cereal or any "normal" breakfast food. Does not like green food. Does not like melon. Does not like pb&j sandwiches. Likes savory food - bacon, sausage, pepperoni pizza. Loves ramen, wants to eat it every day. Took her months to like mac & cheese. Now her favorite foods all have noodles as a theme - mac & cheese, ramen, spaghetti, ravioli, chicken noodle soup.

She is lactose intolerant and things get "explosive" if she eats yogurt, and only mildly unpleasant if she drinks milk. [updated to add: after 2 years she can now drink milk and eat all dairy] She loves Very Vanilla Soymilk by Silk. I still cook with milk and cheese, she just doesn't sit down and eat or drink a "pure" milk product. It took much coaching to get her to eat little bites (we would tell her xiao chi - (pronounced sheow cheh) "little eat", it's bad Chinese - I know, but she understood what I meant). She was used to being fed and didn't like to eat with her hands. Still doesn't like to have food on her hands and likes a napkin close by for a mid-meal clean-up. If a grain of rice or a noodle fell out of her bowl, she would pick it up and put it back in - she would not waste one bit of food.

When potty training - it took her a long time to be able to leave her meal at the table to run and go xu-xu. More than a few times, she ate while sitting in a puddle (unbeknownst to us), because she didn't want to leave her food. I remember telling her "your food will be here, don't worry, no one will eat it when you're gone". Man, that took a lot of convincing.

We were told that she took a bottle at the orphanage - and went on a mad dash to shop for a bottle, formula and rice cereal to put in the formula. She never drank out of the bottle, hated the formula and was more than content to drink peach juice from a sippy cup and eat noodles. My motto in China was "let's get through today, we'll worry about nutrition when we get home". Ramen and peach juice for every meal? Sure! Please stop crying at mommy.

Potty Training: She was potty trained when we picked her up (meaning that if we held her over the toilet and told her to xu-xu she would). She was deathly afraid of the hotel toilet and I would have to kneel in front of her and bear-hug her to get her to go potty. This was not going to work, I wish I had brought a little fold up potty insert for the toilet. We ended up putting her in diapers and she was not happy! She would scream her head off when she wet herself - like on the plane from Hefei to Guangzhou - sorry fellow travelers! We ended up potty training her at home that summer, but I wish we would have tried harder with the potty while in China.

Behaviors: Would bang her head or kick the side of her bed when she she was asleep. I would rub her back and talk her through it. This tapered off pretty quickly after we came home, but continued when she was sick or upset. (or if she was wound up from a crazy day)

Has nightmares that make her scream and cry in her sleep. We have to sit her up and wake her up to get her out of it. This only happens now on days that she's overstimulated or sick. [another update: after 2 years, this has totally gone away]

Health: We had blood tests done to check the level of immunity she had from her immunizations. They had to draw the blood anyway for the HIV and Hepatitis tests - so might as well do a few more. (I would rather pay for more tests than over-vaccinate a child.) We also did stool samples and discovered that she had Giardia. She was the same size in February as they reported to us in August, so who knows how long she had this bug.

And one last thing about health, her lungs are in pretty tough shape. She hasn't been officially diagnosed with asthma yet, but we have had many problems with her lungs and keeping her oxygenated when she has a cold. She has an inhaled steroid (Flovent) that we give her at the first sniffle to try to ward off any asthma attacks. If the Flovent doesn't keep her healthy, we give her albuterol through a nebulizer to improve her air flow. I don't know how much of her breathing problems are genetic, and how much are related to the fact that her clothing reeked of fuel oil when we picked her up. The air quality in her home province (Anhui) was dismal - as bad as Beijing.

Speaking of size: She was much smaller than we expected her be (and skinny) - I don't know if this was because of the Giardia or if her height and weight numbers were exagerrated in August to make her appear healthier on her referral paperwork. She was only 33" tall and weighed 22 pounds when we picked her up (she was just shy of her 2nd birthday). I expected a size 2T kid, and she was an 18-24 month kid. My nephew Sam (age 6) met us at the airport and was rubbing her back - he said "why is she so bumpy?", he'd never met a kid with vertebra sticking out of their back before.

Physical Strength/Abilities: She could walk, but at the level of a kid who doesn't quite have the hang of it yet. She was doing what we affectionately call the "chimp walk", where she would hold her arms up like a monkey for balance. She grew out of this very quickly, I think she just needed more practice being up and about. Also her muscles were very weak. She couldn't sit herself up using just her stomach muscles, she would roll over and use her arms to help herself up. She had no concept as to how to pull herself up onto furniture or how to climb the stairs.

Baths: Uncomfortable in the water. Does not like water in her face at all - would scream so loud I had to tell the neighbors "don't mind us - kid doesn't like to have her hair washed!" It took 4-5 months to get her comfortable enough in the water to lay back in the tub to rinse the shampoo out, until then we just did the best we could. (btw - she's fine now)

Toys: Would hide toys under her leg when she was playing on the floor or in the tub. She would also gather all of her tub toys into her lap and even sit on some to keep them away from...I don't know who. She also had no interest in the TV (except the Chinese Price is Right), and didn't want to watch any of the videos we brought for her.

Miscellaneous: This just popped into my head - the skin on her legs was like sandpaper (it was the middle of winter when we were there) so I would massage her with Aveeno cream every night before bed. She still craves this kind of close contact - a back rub, a belly rub, a foot rub...etc. Also, her toenails and fingernails were in tough shape. We gave her a mani-pedi her first night. Her toenails were scary long! She has very sensitive skin and we now only use California Baby products. The Johnson and Johnson stuff made her break out in an awful rash.

And one last thing - all of the turmoil about leaving the orphanage and moving in with us at the hotel resulted in no poop for 3 days! She was a miserable little thing, she would cry and cry. I would hold her and walk her and her little legs would try to walk up my stomach, she was so uncomfortable. I would have paid $100 for some children's laxative drops.

If I think of more, I will send you another email. This should be enough information to go on for now!

Take care,


p.s. Chinese diapers are horrible and we couldn't find Pampers until we got to Guangzhou. Bring enough US diapers/pullups to last until Guangzhou if you can fit them in your suitcase.


One final note - no matter how bad it gets, remember that this is a once in a lifetime experience. Enjoy yourself. I wish we had taken more time to just relax and soak it all in.

Also - take what the orphanage director tells you about your child's eating/sleeping habits with a grain of salt. We found out later that our daughter was in foster care before she came to us, the orphanage had not had her in their care for months and that was probably why there was a discrepancy in what the director told us about what she would eat (a bottle) and what she actually wanted (real food!). I do not in any way want to imply that the director was incompetent or being deceitful - please don't take it that way. She just had outdated information.

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