Ed was lucky enough to have a 36-hour birthday this year--but he spent 20 of those hours on an airplane or in airports. We had a few bumps (figuratively) with our flight to Shanghai (thought we were in the wrong terminal; walked to another; turned around walked back to the first one; missing baby seat ticket, etc.). But Sophie was good for the 2.5 hour flight. She's a decent little traveler.
We had to collect our luggage and recheck in as an international flight in Shanghai, but that was OK, as we had 5 hours there. We met some Americans--one, ahem, older gentleman who was marrying a younger Chinese woman he had met in UAE and a guy from Oklahoma who had been visiting his Chinese fiancee, whom he met online. Interesting. We also met a nice businessman from China who was going to Evansville, Indiana, of all places. We had noodles with him in the airport restaurant as our last Chinese meal.
Big mistake. Ed and Sophie both got sick from them--Sophie in the diaper within an hour of takeoff (other passengers laugh when you carry a baby into the bathroom with wipes and a diaper and walk out with a naked, except for the new diaper, baby). Ed was sick and pasty white the first few hours of the flight, but felt marginally better later.
To be honest, the 13 hours from Shanghai to Chicago weren't as bad as I had expected. We had bulkhead seats, with a bassinette on the floor, an empty seat next to us (armrests don't go up though--argh) and a very nice Chinese couple on the other end of the empty seat who made goo-goo eyes at Sophie a lot. She slept about 11 of the 13 hours, though mostly in my lap and arms. Unfortunately she didnt' like that baby cot. Ed held her so I could go to the bathroom and take a few catnaps.
We arrived to O'Hare and speeded through immigration, customs and the procedure with the "brown envelope," then walked out through the double doors--to nothing! The Manions, my parents, Sam, balloons and signs were at the other exit! My eyes teared up when I saw the first sign: "My mama always comes back. --Sam." That is what we all have been telling him for months.
I couldn't believe how different he looks--he's taller, heavier and his face looks different. I think he might have more teeth, or bigger teeth, or something. I know part of it is that I'm used to looking at Sophie now, so he seems "unfamiliar." Ed and I had prepared ourselves for any reaction (including him clinging to Amy and not wanting to see us) but he ran into my arms right away. Man, we missed him so much. That was, hands down, the hardest part of this trip.
My sister, her husband, kids and my parents videotaped, took pictures, carried our bags, escorted us home, carried everything inside (where we were greeted with a warm house and a welcome sign from our neighbors), and brought three days' worth of meals--one of which they immediately cooked, served and cleaned up after. It even included birthday cake for Ed, who checked in with his side of the family by phone as soon as we got home. We are very blessed to have such supportive family.
Sophie clung to me most of the time, but smiled at everyone, especially my nephew Kevin. Sam gave lots of hugs. In the car on the way home, he talked about sharing toys, and once home he tried to give Sophie a bottle and a kiss. Both made her cry. I think he is going to be a wonderful big brother.
We are jet-lagging, of course. The downside to Sophie sleeping the whole flight is that she now thinks night is day. She took a 2-hour "nap" last night but was up at 3:30. Ed and Sam are still sleeping and she is having breakfast while I catch you all up.
We are already having offers from friends for help and meals. Today we may make an appearance at the neighborhood WiggleWorms. But for the most part, we'll be settling in, unpacking and sleeping--and enjoying being a family of four.
Thanks to everyone--friends, family and strangers--who followed us on this journey. It's so good to be done! Now, as my mom says, we just have to raise 'em!