Face to Face with Love
My husband and I adopted our daughter from Anhui Province last month. This was our second adoption trip to China, and an important part for me was meeting the babies that I know so well through my role as Anhui Healing Home (AHH) Coordinator.
We met our new daughter, now named Megan, on Monday, and had the amazing opportunity to share a meal with her loving foster parents.
On Wednesday, Megan came along with us to see the fabulous work that LWB is doing through the Healing Homes program. We were able to tour both Heartbridge and AHH.
Now that Heartbridge Healing Home has moved to Hefei, the two homes are really just walking distance apart. We received a warm welcome from every nanny who was working that morning. Not one had empty arms. I shed a couple of tears through my ear-to-ear smile as Mr. Matt was the first one to greet me. “I know you!” I exclaimed to him as I took him into my arms. I almost didn’t recognize him because he has gained so much weight while at AHH.
You would never know that this little guy suffers a heart defect that affects his energy level, and his loving nannies have worked so hard to get sufficient nutrition into each feeding. Matt’s smile is so wide that his tongue sprouts from his mouth!
After Matt and I finished our initial flirting session, he came along for a little walk as we explored the rest of the home. I was hoping to get little Leo in a quick snuggle, but he would not even think about leaving his nanny’s arms. He is shy but very observant and just sat in his perch and took it all in. I might have made him cry by getting a little too close, but any witness to that was sworn to secrecy.
I reluctantly passed Matt back to his nanny when I entered the first bedroom because my eyes found the one baby I wanted to give a “mama” check up: Stacy. As AHH Coordinator, I have seen many pictures of Stacy sleeping since she arrived. Stacy absolutely has good reason to get lots of shut-eye because she was born prematurely and needed time to eat, sleep, and grow! A special shout out to all of our AHH Formula Fund sponsors. Stacy is the living proof that you make a tangible difference!
I scooped up sweet Stacy and she immediately met me with intense eye contact and a crooked smile. She didn’t mind at all that this white-skinned stranger was checking her out from head to toe. She is bigger than I expected, and after a moment of introduction, I realized that she was actually imitating my sing-song voice. Her tiny little lips gave me the most precious “ah-goo” I have ever heard. I could have sat with her all day.
But I couldn’t because I could hear Linda making trouble in the next bedroom. I expected our little spitfire Linda to be a tornado because all of her reports tell us that she is a “leader of the pack”. She daily comes up with new ways to teach her nannies a new trick.
On the contrary, as soon as I walked into her room, she shied away from me and no matter how I coaxed her, she kept a perimeter beyond my reach. Her nannies made me laugh as they plopped Dominic right up against her on a ride-on toy as if that was the switch to turn on the “wild” Linda. She refused to perform, but she didn’t cry, which was a win in my book.
Dominic is as charming in real life as he is in his photos. He is just an easygoing chap who gives smiles and jibber-jabber without expecting much in return. He was content to just hang out with us and was not intimidated at all by all the extra people (my husband, nine-year-old son, and our new six year-old daughter).
As I sat on the floor enjoying my time with Dominic and Linda, over my shoulder appeared Jeri, who I call my little “Rocky Balboa”. I don’t know why, but I just want to say, “Yo Rock!” to Jeri. He is a solid little guy, and if babies could be athletes, he looks like he would be on the podium – top and center.
Luckily, he was won over by my love for him and let me take him into my lap from his nanny, who didn’t go very far. I told him that I traveled thousands of miles to bring the love of his sponsors to him. He heard how proud we all are of him and that we have so much hope that his future will be bright.
This trip was one of the few in my lifetime that I returned home with less in my luggage than I arrived with (ask my husband). We were honored to deliver many generous sponsor donations to Zhang Ming, our wonderful Healing Homes China Manager, who will distribute them to the appropriate facilities.
The healing home babies received new clothing, diaper cream, vitamins, and medicines. We also transported 72 cleft bottles for LWB to distribute where needed. It is amazing to think that a simple bottle could be the difference between a child having a family or being an orphan. I’m hoping that delivery means 72 fewer orphans because we know a cleft bottle can equal hope.
All in all, I came away filled with complete humility that I have the honor to be a small part of the LWB Healing Homes team. These homes make such a tangible difference in the lives of orphaned children. Babies arrive frail and undernourished. They graduate with chubby rolls on their thighs and smiles on their faces.
And they leave knowing what it is to be loved.
~Laurie Sweeney is LWB’s Anhui Healing Home Coordinator.