Wednesday, November 02, 2011

2 Glorious Years Together! Happy Forever Family Day Hannah XiaoFen!!

I’m feeling very emotional today and could cry at the drop of a hat. Two years ago today God blessed me with the most amazing baby girl in the entire world when Hannah Catherine XiaoFen was placed in my arms in Changsha, Hunan, China!!! Imported Photos 00049

I can remember the details of that day as if it were yesterday as well as the day prior. The stress of November 1st, trying to fly from Beijing to Changsha in the midst of a snow storm. A storm that grounded us, sitting in our plane on the tarmac for 7 long hours while chaos erupted inside the airplane. And yet, peace. A peace that only God could provide. Sweet, sweet peace.

The relief of hearing the de-icing machine beat upon the fuselage of our plane at 9:45pm and, as we lifted off at 10pm the peaceful sleep that enveloped me that lasted the entire 2 hours to Changsha. We landed at midnight, found our luggage and then boarded the bus. I remember looking at Norma when Sara (our guide) began to share with us the details of that day…THAT day! Due to the flight delay is was now Monday, November 2, 2009. The day that God planned long, long ago.

The day that Hannah and I would become a Forever Family!!! (centre)

I remember walking into the grand Dolton Hotel and wanting to absorb every detail that I could. Imported Photos 00026 This was a pattern my entire time in China. It was like I wanted to draw into myself every sight, every smell, every nuance that was China so that I could remember it and someday share it with Hannah.

Imported Photos 00009 As we made our way to our room we passed a playroom that was filled with toys. We were on the ‘baby floor’ and it was designed to aid us in as many ways as possible. In our room there were special racks for housing baby ‘stuff.’ A little plastic bowl and spoon intended to help with feeding and a little stuffed red Ox sitting in her crib….CRIB!!!...waiting to welcome my beautiful little ‘Year of the Ox’ baby. Imported Photos 00011

Before we unpacked and moved things around, Norma and I took pictures of the room, wanting once again to soak in and remember every little detail of the first space that Hannah and I would share together. Imported Photos 00005 Imported Photos 00006

Imported Photos 00032 Although by now it was after 2am we unpacked and I began to prepare some things for Hannah’s arrival. Little toys that I’d purchased over the past 4+ years were unpacked with care and lovingly placed in a basket she could reach. Heh….little did I realize at the time that my sweetie would be just learning to sit up and that crawling would be out of the question for a couple more months. We prepared some but then it was time to try and sleep a bit before the big day!

(On a side note, sleeping for me in China involved a bit of gymnastics! I have sleep apnoea and use a CPAP machine. I quickly found out the first night we were in Beijing that turning off the lights at the head of the beds also turned off all electrical supply to that side of the room! My solution? Sleep upside down in the bed each night with my head where your feet normally go and my feet at the top. A chair for ‘Darth’ – the pet name of my CPAP machine, and we were good to go!) Imported Photos 00015

Although the night was short and I think we were up at 6am, I remember sleeping well which truly was a gift from God. I tend to get very nervous when ‘big things’ happen and lack of sleep and frequent trips to well….you know where, have always accompanied me during times of high stress. I tell you, this was the BIGGEST thing that had ever happened in my life and yet…peace. God’s peace! Precious, sweet peace.

My parents, Norma and I met the other families in the restaurant for breakfast. I distinctly remember looking around at all the tables and realizing how vastly different it would look the next time we sat down to eat together. Oh how wonderfully different it would be!! Imported Photos 00004

At 9am Mom, Dad and I boarded the bus with the destination of a couple of branches of a bank to transfer our traveller’s cheques into Yuan.  While I was extremely thankful not to have needed to carry vast amounts of cash on me while travelling, exchanging the travellers cheques proved to be quite and ordeal.  I believe it took us almost 3 hours to accomplish this and the clock was quickly ticking.

While we were at the bank, Norma was touring Changsha with another gal and scouting out places we would go back to later. She was also preparing things for me back at the room (unpacking gift bags and tissue, ironing my clothes and more). I will be FOREVER grateful for all the things Norma did behind-the-scenes to help me be able to focus on what needed to be done that day. Thank you Norma!!

From the bank we boarded a bus and went across the street to a Carrefour store to stock up on supplies I would need for Hannah. My parents (who were absolutely AMAZING the entire trip!!!) were with me helping to try and keep me focused and also helping make such major decisions as how many bags of formula should I purchase and how many diapers? What stroller for the few times I might use it? Trust me, when you’ve waited 43 years to become a Mom and you’re now half-way around the world and she is just hours away, even breathing was something that was no longer coming naturally!! Imported Photos 00035

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We made it back to the hotel with about an hour to prepare to go meet our babies. One hour to prepare for HANNAH! One hour? Oye!!!

Once again, Norma was amazing. I remember walking from the windows…to the bathroom…to the windows…to the bathroom…and not accomplishing anything! I knew I needed to be doing something but what it was I didn’t have a clue! Norma would gently ask me if I had xxx in the diaper bag. Oh yah….I’d put that in. Then….pace! Heh! She wrapped my gifts for the orphanage as well as the director. I’m sure if she hadn’t done this they would have ended up getting unwrapped gifts – if I’d even remembered to take them!!

One funny thing during this time was that on my pacing path between the windows and the bathroom was our safe which held our passports, money and all our official documents. I’d opened the safe and left the door wide open. It was blocking a good bit of the small hallway and really was in the way. Norma would gently ask if I needed anything out of the safe or anything to be put into the safe and I’d answer with, ‘I don’t know’ so I left it open. I’d accomplish a few things, pace some more and then she’d gently ask about the safe again and I’d respond the same way! That silly safe truly was in our way but making the ‘huge’ decision about what I might need in/out of it was too big to make at the moment so for the entire hour it stood gaping open and each time we passed by we had to squish ourselves against the wall to get by the door! Memories….

Finally at 2:00 we were ready to go!!

- Camera – check!

- Video camera – check!

- Diaper bag – check!

- Bottle – check!

- Passports – check!

- Gifts – check!

- Mommy-to-be – CHECK!!!

We went downstairs and met the others and this is where I finally lost it! The tears. Oh the tears! Knowing I was just minutes from holding Hannah in my arms overwhelmed me with emotions of God’s goodness and love; that He would entrust the baby girl whom I already loved, into my care! Imported Photos 00043

We boarded the bus and headed to the Changsha Center of Adoption Affairs. Sara shared with us what we might expect and also a little bit of what the babies might be experiencing. Imported Photos 00044

As we arrived a couple of the babies were making their way into the building with their nannies. Hannah was not one of them but I knew she was close.

We went up the elevator and entered a room that I could describe in great detail to you even today. The room where I would become Hannah’s mom!! A quick scan of the perimeter showed some babies on nannies knees and while I took a quick double-take at one of the babies, I quickly realized that Hannah was not there. We went into an adjoining room where I unpacked a little toy for Hannah and just made myself busy trying to fill in the time before the families were called to meet our babies. I remember at one point Norma rushing back into the room and saying that Hannah was here and…I froze!! I was so frightened that it might not be her (for some silly, silly reason) that I couldn’t go out until I knew it was time for me to meet her. Silly, I know that now but at the time it was what I was experiencing.

Very quickly (like seconds later) they began to call names and I believe I was the 3rd name called.

And…there….she……was!!!!!!!!!!!! (Tears streaming down my face even now as I type this!) Imported Photos 00056

Hannah….my Hannah….my DAUGHTER!!! The child God had created for me.

I reached out my arms and for the first time in my entire life I knew what it was to feel unconditional love like no other! The love of a mother!!! There was not one single second of hesitation, my daughter was in my arms and we were together forever!!! Imported Photos 00048

In a room filled with laughter, tears, talking, calling out of names…it was like we were the only 2 there. Gazing into one another’s eyes. Getting to know one another. Mother and daughter…love!!! Imported Photos 00051

She was so little, so young and…so calm! I had anticipated tears but they were absent. (Well…mommy shed a few. Hannah calls them my ‘Happy tears in China.) Imported Photos 00064

I had anticipated a look of fear in her eyes, but it was not there. Bewilderment? Yes. Uncertainty? Yes. But fear? No.

I held her beautiful head in the palm of my hand and we gazed deeply, intently into one another’s eyes. She was so young (only 8 months, 6 days old!) and this played such a huge part in her acceptance of this life changing moment as did prayer. The many prayers I had offered up, those of my parents, family and friends. And those that were being offered at the exact moment Hannah was placed into my arms. God revealed Himself in the answers to those many, many prayers in the way He wove Hannah and my life together from that moment forward.

It didn’t take long for Hannah to gently get to know me and her precious little hands began to explore my mouth and face. Imported Photos 00083

This video makes us laugh as we call is her, ‘Mommy….you talk a lot!’ video!

We spent a little time with her travel nanny but as she was not the one who cared for her on a daily basis, Hannah did not appear to have any real attachment to her. That being said, the following day we saw the orphanage director when I finalized Hannah’s adoption and Hannah knew who she was and lit up when she saw her! All the time though she was keeping a close eye on Mommy. The long, long process of attachment had begun. Imported Photos 00015

I was prepared to wait a long time for that first smile but Hannah blessed me with it and many more within the first half –hour of meeting one another…and they’ve never stopped! Imported Photos 00091

She even found some giggles!

While I was feeling so much love and thankfulness, I also remember moments of overwhelming uncertainty. Would I know how to care for her? I knew it would come in time and we would learn more and more about one another yet in my heart, I just wanted to take away as much of the stress from her little life as possible. When I fed her her very first bottle I remember questioning, ‘Is it too cold? Is it too hot? Is it thick enough? Thin enough?’ Imported Photos 00093

I was confident in my abilities to be Hannah’s mom, but getting the details right would take time and now, 2 years later, I’m still a work in progress!

And on that day, not only was I blessed beyond measure to become Hannah’s mother, she also gained an entire family who love hear dearly! Imported Photos 00067

Grandma and Grandpa were unbelievably patient as they met her and yet allowed me to be the one to meet all of her needs for the first 6 days. Thank you Mom and Dad. Your love and support through this entire journey of many years is appreciated more than you know. Saturday, November 7th they held their granddaughter for the very first time and it was poetry in motion as they gazed at one another with love!  Imported Photos 00009

Meeting Auntie Norma on November 2nd Imported Photos 00068 and then being held for the first time on Nov 7thImported Photos 00019

After about an hour we boarded the bus, mother and daughter(!!!) and headed back to the hotel. I remember feeling so complete and so much love! My daughter was in my arms….just where she was meant to be! I don’t know what Hannah was feeling but I can tell from pictures that she was trying to figure things out too. Who were these new people who looked different, sounded different and smelled different? Imported Photos 00114

My sweet baby girl decided to trust. God allowed her to trust. She fell asleep in my arms and for the very first time in my entire life I knew what it was to be a mother holding their sleeping child in their arms. And it was beautiful!! I was complete! Imported Photos 00115

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There were tears when she woke and we worked our way through those. I remember being calm and just trying to figure out what would be the best thing to help her through this time. Imported Photos 00122

From this point forward in the day, my memories are more blurry. I vaguely remember some things but more than anything remember the feeling of holding Hannah and it was all about her. Gazing at her, changing her diaper, feeding her, examining every finger and every toe. Being a Mom and doing all those things that moms do!

Early in the evening Sara came to our room and Norma carefully wrote out the translations to all the documents the SWI had sent. I learned some of Hannah’s schedule, her likes, dislikes and food preferences. I’m sure glad Norma wrote it down because even though I was sitting there listening to all of it, not a lot was staying with me. I’m sure you can understand why!! Imported Photos 00098

Later in the evening there was paperwork to be completed and our team of 2 showed up in our ‘gear’ that was to become our staple baby ware for the next number of weeks and months. Hannah in her baby bjorn, safely secured to mom and often fast asleep.

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Since she was sleeping soundly and it had been a long day, Norma and I did something fun and treated ourselves to a pedicure. Heh….isn’t that what all new moms do the day they become a mom? Hannah’s life as my ‘go with the flow’ kiddo, had begun!

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As the day drew to a close I pulled Hannah’s crib alongside my bed and gazed at my sweet baby girl sleeping peacefully in her crib. So blessed. SO BLESSED! There were more tears. Tears of a mother who knew not how to express her thankfulness to God for allowing her to be the mother of the sweetest , most perfect child for her! Imported Photos 00100

‘The LORD has done this, and it is marvellous in our eyes.’

Psalm 118:23

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Hannah and I preparing to go out to celebrate this year’s Forever Family Day!  I’ll share about that soon.


  1. This is just BEAUTIFUL and it brings back so many memories for me ,as well. Our daughter will be 16 yrs. old in February and I can remember this day for us in 1998 ,when she was to become "our daughter" a precious gift from our AMAZING GOD!! Thank you for such a beautiful way of telling such an amazing day!! love your blog--love to you and Miss Hannah !! Cathy in Illinois

  2. Happy anniversary Hannah and Catherine!!

  3. Happy Hannah Day!

    Reading about your day reminds me so much of mine. Me being in a fog, my sister guiding me through and handling the details, Mia was 7 1/2 mths old, made eye contact immediately, smiled within an hour, me being so focused on her that the rest of the day was totally a blur as far as where we went and what we did and why we did it. LOL! Our days were so similar.

    I can hardly believe how tiny Hannah was. She's blossoming in your love. :)

  4. God Bless your wonderful family!

  5. Happy family day anniversary, such sweet memories.

  6. Sigh, that was the best post ever. Better the second time around as I know the next part of the happily ever after story and I love it.

    Thanks for reposting it all. Hannah was then and is now just perfect.

  7. What a beautiful post about your forever family day!

  8. Wow...2 years already! Congrats.....beautiful post. What great memories to share when Hannah is older.

  9. Happy Hannah Day Anniversary!!! Congratulations on two beautiful years together!

  10. Happy Anniversary,

    Brings so much memories, as this month too we will celebrate our 6th anniversary with our precious Beatrice! So tiny when she was a baby, so tiny at 7 yo, and full of spunk. Enjoy these precious moments. We have been blessed with precious gifts.


  11. Happy Family Day my friend!!! This post is beautiful and a treasure to read...I remember that day so well and crying just as much for you. God has blessed you and Hannah with so much love! Lots of love and hugs to you both.

  12. Beautiful words spoken, thank you for sharing. I was there with you while you were in China, keeping up with your blog was so exciting.I am so happy for you, you are a wonderful Mother, and God has blessed you and Hannah so much. I know God has many many more wonderful years for you and Hannah, His blessings just keep coming!!!

  13. Happy Family Day! amazing that you remember so many details of that day :) Hannah still has that twinkle in her eye and the same smile! Love you both!

  14. Such a wonderful post and a gift to everyone reading it. I have the same crystal clear memories of meeting all three of my wonderful daughters. Some moments in life are surreal....and no mere words can trully express these..but you have done an excellent job at this.
    Thanks for sharing.
    CTG from RQ

  15. o.k. I am drying my eyes here as your post obviously had me in tears. Happy 2 family years together and many many many more!

    Now I must go "squeeze" and give my girl a kiss (even though she is sleeping)

  16. Oh Catherine, I just cried and cried through that entire post. What a beautiful job you did recapturing that most AMAZING day. To look back on those photos of you and Hannah meeting and gazing into eachother's eyes....I just really needed to see that today. At the moment, I really can't put my emotions into adequate words. It's simply beautiful and perfect.

  17. I can't believe it has been 2 years already!!

    I got goosebumps reading that and going down memory lane.

    I am so happy for you that you have such a wonderful daughter and I am so happy for Hannah that she has such a great Mommy!!

    Happy Anniversary!

  18. Happy Family day!!! WOW two years! Guessing the BEST two years of your life!

  19. Happy family day and what an awesome two years!!!!

  20. I can't believe it's been two years!! Time really needs to slow down a tad.

    Happy Hannah Day! (belated)
    What a treasure!!

  21. What a beautiful story about your first day together! What a blessing!
    Kate in Geneva

  22. Happy Hannah Day! I remember that day so well, here in Canada bursting with excitement for you.

    Tears in my eyes as I read you account of that forever special day.

    Keep smilin!


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