Matthew’s Adoption Diary

Monday September 27, 2004

Congiusta Family, party of 4. Your table is ready.

  • Matthew arrives via caregiver express.
  • Cheerios, thy name is manna from heaven.
  • Mark and Aelex eagerly await Matthew’s arrival.
  • Daddy outnumbered for the last time!
  • The Congiusta Family, Release 4.0!
  • Daddy showing the kids incorrect Ring-Around-The-Rosie procedure.
  • A thrilled Mommy with her latest catch.
  • Yeah, but you should see the other baby.
  • It’s been a hard day’s night for one Matthew Peng Lei Congiusta.
  • View from our hotel room. Dorothy, we’re not in Hong Kong anymore.

It’s a boy! That’s right, at approximately 8:57:23 A.M. Hefei time the Congiusta Family officially became a foursome.

We woke up to our alarm clock — I mean daughter — at around 7 this morning (actually when I say “we” I mean “me” because Dorothy did not sleep at all last night. She tried to blame me for snoring too loud but I am sure that the imminent arrival of a certain young man into our family may have contributed something to her sleeplessness as well). We cleaned ourselves up, had breakfast, killed some time on the streets of Hefei and went to our appointed meeting spot for our 9 A.M. rendezvous with our son.

Unfortunately, Matthew was not brought to our hotel room the way Aelex was. This time we had to all meet in a conference room with the other families (who are all very nice by the way — more on them in the coming days) and pick our son out of a lineup. Well it wasn’t really that bad — how bad can meeting your child for the first time really be? — and once we laid eyes on Matthew we thought, “Good Gravy! He looks like he just went 9 rounds with Mike Tyson!” Again, not really (Dorothy is so much better at these heartfelt descriptions of familial tenderness, but she is out cold right now and I’m all you’ve got. I am trying to coax her into writing a sarcasm free account of the day but that will have to wait. Regardless, back to the story…) It seems that Matthew fell into a chair a few days ago while trying to walk, giving himself a black eye in the process. I am so proud! I cannot wait to get this kid on a football field. He already looks the part. Trés manly!

Once we got past the rugged bruising, our hearts melted. His caregiver from the orphanage handed him to Dorothy and he cried momentarily but quickly regained his composure and calmed down. He looked more confused than anything but he put his arms around his mother and held on tight. It was at this time that I got a big piece of dust in my eye triggering my natural tearing reflex, but the situation quickly corrected itself.

About 6 hours later Dorothy eventually handed him over to me so I could hold him. He came to me with no complaint and again held on to his new parent very tight. Dorothy quickly took him back and hasn’t allowed me near him since (see I can say these things now because she is asleep. I will of course deny everything once she wakes up tomorrow so don’t tell her that I am making all these jokes).

Seriously though, we are two of the luckiest parents in the world. With both of our children, we never experienced any degree of trepidation from either of them towards either of us upon first meeting them. It makes life so much easier when the child takes to both the mother and father right off the bat. It took Dorothy almost 3 whole months to turn Aelex against me, so I should have at least until Thanksgiving with my son (all right, all right… I’ll stop now).

Matthew is still a little reserved. He does not seem sure exactly what is going on, but the only time he really cries is when we put him down. When you do hold him, he has a firm grip on you as well. We had some trouble getting him to take a nap this afternoon so I had to rock him on my shoulder until he fell asleep. This is one of the greatest pleasures in being a Daddy and it never grows old for me. Although I am hoping that by the time my kids reach the early teens they are able to fall asleep on their own.

Oh, by the way, does anyone out there want to buy 4,598 little boy outfits because none of the clothes we brought with us for Matthew fit him, this kid is huge! Did I mention how I envision his professional football career going? I see him as a linebacker in the Dat Nguyen mold. Of course now we have almost nothing that fits Matthew, meaning that of the 14 suitcases we brought 13 were pointless (although the extra tee-shirt and sock that I was allowed to bring are working out quite nicely for me). Dr. Gong — Brightside’s resident pediatrician here in China — assures us that Matthew is of not out of the average height and weight range for his age… if you assume that he is 12 rather than 1 year old. The silver lining to this (besides the fact that I get to live out my reclining years on Matthew’s dime from his multi-million dollar NFL contract) is that Dorothy gets to go shopping for more clothes for him. My food rations have been cut to 600 calories a day to accommodate for the extra money now needed to buy Matthew clothes. But Dorothy assures me that I should most likely survive until we get home.

We initially had a little trouble getting Matthew to eat the food we brought for him. He shockingly turned up his nose at rehydrated rice gruel and some type of flavorless barley paste. He also wasn’t having any of the soy-based formula we brought for him. On a hunch, we took him down to the hotel’s restaurant and got a big steaming bowl of Congee (a watery overcooked rice soup) and the kid proceeded to chow down. A quick trip to the store for some regular milk also solved his liquid intake problem as he chugged his bottle containing that. With tomorrow our first full day with Matthew, we will try to discover what else he will eat. I mean the kid’s gotta keep his strength up if he wants to get drafted in the first round.

All in all, Dorothy and I could not be happier with our son. He is a beautiful little guy who with every passing minute gives us a deeper glimpse into his true personality which seems to be outgoing and happy. I am sure that in the coming days we will discover more and more to love about our son. We cannot wait to bring Matthew home and introduce him to everyone stateside and in Eire. And please, for the love of god, send clothes…

The best big sister in the whole wide world.

Who is better than Aelex? No-one.

O.K. that’s a biased father’s opinion but the way that Aelex has taken to Matthew is better than we ever could have hoped. Granted we are still not technically back on “her turf” and there is the occasional jockeying for parental lap real estate, but overall things are going great between our two kids.

Aelex loves to kiss and hug her brother, constantly referring to him as “my Matthew”. She gives him toys and loves to hold his bottle for him and is always asking questions about him. “Why Matthew cry?” “Matthew eat?” “Will Matthew be my gopher and can I do bad things and place the blame on him using him as an effective scapegoat to avoid punishment?” O.K., she never really asked if he wanted to eat.

One of the highlights of the day for Dorothy and myself was during an attempted feeding when Matthew was less than thrilled with the menu selection and lustily voiced his disapproval, Aelex took her prized stuffed Monkey — one that I am not even allowed near — and handed it to her brother to try and calm him. How cool is that?

Before she went to bed tonight she called out “Night Mommy, ‘night Daddy… Night Matthew.” Man I love that kid…

It’s exactly the same. Only different.

When we adopted Aelex, we had no idea what to expect. Sure we did our homework, read all the right books and talked to all the right people, but it’s like climbing Everest for the first time; everything is academic until you see the view from the top. We were awed by the process, to say nothing of the result. It was a totally unknown experience, without precedence for us. The thoughts and emotions were uncharted territory. Then we decided to go for it again.

We never really thought about how we would feel the second time around when we started the process. I guess we both just naturally assumed that we would feel exactly the same way about everything. But we didn’t. We had already gone through all of these procedures so we knew a lot of what to expect. This prior knowledge did not affect the outcome — we love our son as much as our daughter — nor did it affect the inherent joy you get from engaging in the process. What changed really was the things you worried about.

With Aelex, we drove ourselves nuts over things we had no control over: “What if they change their mind and decide not to give her to us?”, “What will happen in China?”, “Will she love us?” Whereas with Matthew, since we already knew the answers to these questions (for the record they are: “They will not change their mind.”, “We will have a tremendous adventure.” and “She will love her mother, the jury is still out on the father.”) we concentrated on less dramatic and more practical issues: “When should we start him in speech therapy?”, “Did we bring enough antibiotics?”, “Will he love us?” (Sometimes analytics has no place in life).

It’s like falling in love. The first time it’s visceral — totally emotional. You do stupid things for stupid reasons and live in the now, tomorrow be damned. But the more practice you get, how you love changes. You realize that the power of love is not just emotion but it also lives in the head. This is what we came to realize.

At first we felt guilty that we weren’t blindly enamored with the process. It was almost as if because we were approaching Matthew’s adoption with more forethought than Aelex’s that we were shortchanging him. This is of course nonsense. All that has changed is the yin and yang (analogy totally intentional) between heart and soul has become more balanced. We are moving in the right direction and, who knows? After three or four more, we may even get it right.

(Editor’s note: The management of this web site apologizes for the sappy and unfunny nature of the preceding passage. The offending parties have been properly reprimanded and are being forced to watch the full “Naked Gun” and “Pink Panther” movie catalogs until things return to normal around here. We again apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused…)

So that’s it for now. Be sure to check us out tomorrow for adoption day. It’s sure to be quite a treat.

Mathematically gender neutral in the capital of Anhui…