Friday, October 26, 2012

Reflections on the First Days

Reflections on the first days as a family of four: 

I've already tried to write this post once, but I left that page full of words for a fresh start. There is so much to say and so much potential to say everything but what is really on my heart. I write this primarily for myself, a journal of sorts so I won't forget. So I can look back and smile at the memories and feel relief that we survived the early days. I write it for the girls too, so they can some day read their story from my vantage point. And I write it publicly for anyone who wants to follow along and hear about our craziness, get an honest perspective of adoption, and possibly be moved to step up and fill the family void for the fatherless. Because there is so much I could say and so little time to do so, this post will likely lack any semblance of order. Consider it part birthing story, part baby book, part diary. You've been warned! This first family post is dedicated to the girls, and I'm going to write it to them. Maybe I'll like that angle and continue doing so, who knows.

Your birthing story:

Bringing you home required no morning sickness or labor and delivery. But there were some birthing pains of sorts. The papercut phase from hundred's of documents (lest there be scoffing, I still have the stacks to prove it). Doctor visits. Vaccinations. Insurance meetings, social worker meetings, fire inspector meetings, finger printings and background checks of all sorts, more court house and government office visits than I can count, and the list goes on. Then the waiting phase. 18 months of, well, waiting. Then the travel phase. 11 flights totaling approximately 65 hours of flying time, 22 hours of airport time, and 15 mystery meals (14 1/2 of which I politely declined). Then the treatment of and exposure to a variety of "critters" with names such as giardia, bacterial enteropathogens, tinea capitis, scabies, intestinal parasites, etc. most of which are either present or suspected to be diagnosed in one or more of our family members. There is indeed, a fungus amongus.)So you see, your arrival did include being monitored and tested, tracking hours and stages, facing fears and unknowns, and some uncomfortable bodily functions. But the good news is, Dad had to do it all too. Minus a few things on the above list of critters he managed to escape. At least thus far. 

Once you both arrived, my little honeymoon bubble lasted about an hour, until it was abruptly burst by little sis breaking out the big screams at the nice, quiet Ethiopian restaurant we all went to for lunch. You screamed for nearly an hour, pausing on the van ride home after the dear family riding with us called on Jesus to comfort and calm you. He responded and quieted you for the rest of the ride, but you kicked in again when we arrived at our room. Then the kind lady next door paid a visit and offered me some good Momma advice while my eyes got all watery, and she called on Jesus to comfort and calm you and Momma. We gave you some meds and then Auntie Jan played her guitar and you smiled through your tears. But that was just the beginning of a rough week. We knew you were sick,  and possibly very scared, but we had no idea what to do to comfort you. Momma felt so much fear. I missed Daddy. I missed Grama Bec. I missed my own bed and 8 hours of peaceful sleep. One night you snored so loud with your stuffed up nose I couldn't sleep at all. I cleaned out your nose several times. I turned my phone's sound machine on loud. I took melatonin. I put the phone on my pillow so it was even louder. I put earplugs in. THEN I finally got some sleep. I felt helpless to know what to do for you. I was strange to you, you were strange to me, and we both weren't sure we liked eachother. One night you started crying at midnight and I couldn't calm you. I was so tired. You screamed. I sobbed. Auntie Jan heard all the crying and she came to the rescue. She rocked you in the bathroom and when you finally quieted, she put you to bed and then prayed over Momma. She told me to stop believing Satan's lies that I couldn't be a good Momma, or that things would not get better. My heart filled with peace and we all slept good the rest of the night. She knew that your crying upset me, so she helped me so much. I would stay up late to get things done, and she would get up early to feed you.

Big sis, you jumped into life with a new family like it was a walk in the park. I was so surprised. I knew how shy you were, and when we met you the first trip, I could see the fear and hurt in your eyes every day. I saw it some this time, and still do on occasion, but you made such a change in the time we were away. We prayed every day when we were apart from you that your heart would be healed and that you would know you belonged even though you couldn't see us. I knew when I picked you up that God was answering that prayer. You would get very quiet sometimes and wouldn't want to talk and we knew you were thinking about all the changes, but soon you'd be back to your happy, non-stop giggles. (For a few days you giggled so constant Auntie Jan and I were beginning to wonder just how much giggling we could handle. We now know that is one way you show your nervousness:) You tested Momma's boundaries several days, trying to see just how much I meant what I said. And you tried to play with my heart a few times, giving all your love to Auntie Jan and not wanting anything to do with me. Those days were hard, but I knew you were feeling me out to see if I was really going to keep loving you no matter what. Guess what? I sure am!

Daddy's arrival was one of the best days of my life. After such an exhausting week, me being sick for a few days, and feeling the weight and responsibility of parenting on my shoulders and like I had no clue what i was doing, Daddy's presence was reassuring and refreshing. Plus he gave Auntie Jan a break from morning duty, and we all caught up on some sleep. He was so excited to see you, and you both were happy to see him. Big sis, you went to bed so pleased about the empty spot we had waiting for Daddy. When you woke up in the morning and saw him sitting by your bed, your eyes lit up! You were all bashful for a day or so, but it didn't take long until your playfulness came back full force. Auntie Jan and I were managing fine and were having many moments of joy with both of you girls and just experiencing Ethiopia, a country that we both love. But when Daddy came, I finally felt like we were a family and we weren't just going to survive, we were going to thrive and have a great time doing so!

Coming home with you was so exciting. Daddy and I could hardly believe it was really happening. Big sis, you were so pleased with your pink bed and monkey. I was amazed at how well you both did with all of the transitioning. The changes that you experienced were astronomical. I have to be honest, I have planned and dreamed and longed and waited for your arrival for years, and yet I think the adjustment thus far has been more difficult for me than you. The first days were so blurry. We were tired and just trying to get your basic needs met. Wake up, get dressed, eat, nap, eat, bathe, sleep, do it all over again. But now we are starting to find our rhythm. With Momma having some more sick days and Daddy having to jump back into long hours of harvest, we've had rough moments. But each day we start afresh and find God's grace is sustaining us and more than that, filling us with joy!

 I am falling more in love with both of you every day. Little sis, despite the fact that I'm giving you medicine 9 times a day (currently treating ear infection and giardia and trying to prevent more thrush) you are seeming to feel better. You're eating and sleeping good, finding more smiles and giggles, and your little birdie face is irresistible and frequently showered (smothered?) with kisses by all of us, sometimes you sis nearly suffocates you with her love. I feel myself melting more each day as I watch you laugh at my tickles, splash in the bath tub, cuddle with your pink sheep, clap your hands and grin, terrorize Ebby, and be generally adorable. I won't deny that you've given me doubts about ever having baby fever again, but I'm so thankful that you don't hold my clumsy, impatient, irritable moments against me. I love how we are learning to know each other and both liking what we see more each day.
Big sis, you are amazing. I have watched you go from expressionless, wordless, and practically motionless to smiling, laughing, talking non stop, and bouncing from room to room like Kanga. I have seen you face your fears head on. You went from shaking and crying in terror at the little monster dog that lives in this house, to happily playing together in a matter of a few days. You are almost brave enough to feed the giant dog by yourself. You not only held back the tears at the many pokes, prods, and tests at an all day Dr. visit, but you even pulled up your own sleeve for the needle. And lest we would forget that feat of bravery, you remind me countless times every day that "Sami cry Arsema no cry". We applaud your courage, child, but if you ever need to cry when the needles come out, we will be no less proud! Your vocabulary is exploding. Every day you add multiple words to your English collection, and are even starting to carry on imaginary conversations in mostly English. I love our advancing communication, but dread the day when your Amharic/Tigrinya is gone. You sing all the time. I love it all but the 5:30 am part. And you have rhythm (of course) and the ability to pick out different beats within a song so quickly. You recall countless names from Ethiopia throughout the day. You will say "Mommy blank...Ethiopia. Boy." Then you will either say "big" or "baby" to describe your friend's age. When playing memory, I was telling you that one of the animals was an octopus. You looked at me for a moment and then said "Octopus, November, December!" When Ebby has an accident on the floor (the strain of being dethroned seems to be effecting her bladder) you inform me multiple times "Ebby shint Arsema no shint". I'm having a hard time explaining to you that there was no question in my mind who the pee puddle came from. You are starting to use phrases, most of them sound strangely familiar. To your baby: "Baby bottle? Say 'bottle please'." And to Sami: "go to sleep, ok?" Yesterday you started saying "I love you" again. I don't know what it was the kept you from saying it for several weeks, possibly when you started to realize the meaning more it just wasn't comfortable yet. We were fine with waiting until you wanted to say it, and when you do it is music to our ears. Today you told Sami "I love you so so so much!". After I gave an emphatic lecture about how hot the stove was tonight, you went around saying "veddy veddy veddy hot!" You fold your clothes and make your bed very nicely, clean up the table when you're done eating, dance like it's your birthday when I tell you you can take a shower, go to great extremes to try to quiet Sami's crying, including screaming at the top of your lungs to get her attention, and throwing all your toys in her crib. The main thing you have had to be corrected for repeatedly and set in the "think about it" spot for is pushing buttons that should not be pushed. Printer, laptop, phones, radio, dryer, dishwasher, microwave, alarm clock, etc. You just can hardly resist a good button punch. Your sweetness is what melts me most. So many times a day I hear, "Aww, Mommy konjo! (Amharic for beautiful)." "Woo, soddy! (sorry)" "Thank you, Mommy!" "mmmm yummy!" To basically everything I give you, including your medicine.

I want to capture these moments in words, because I know so quickly this early stage is going to be over. And because it is so good to reflect on all of the beautiful moments you girls have brought into my life. Sometimes I get distracted with the hard. It's a struggle to give up my sleep, my time, my social life, my independence. My flesh wants the best of both words, wants the elusive greener grass, wants to fast forward the hard moments and disregard the grace to be seized even in the pain. I have had doubts that I am capable of being the mother than you need. I second guess myself constantly as I try to determine your needs and gauge your adjustments and attachment to us and try to balance responding to normal childhood behavior versus behaviors stemming from a hurting place. I've wondered if I'll ever get out again. I've murmered about biting off more than I can chew. I've worried that I will pour into one of you as your needs are made manifest, and miss the needs of the other whose cries for help may not be as obvious. And I've prayed every day for the Lord to fill me with the fruits of His Spirit and cover all of my mistakes with His grace and to knit us together with love that is unbreakable. But amidst all the fears, doubts, and concerns that Satan tosses into my mind, one thing remains steadfast. I KNOW that God brought you two into our family to be our daughters. I know it was His work and I know it was and is His plan for our family. I have and will continue to go back to that knowledge every time a fear surfaces, because that one thing has always remained sure in my heart. He wrote your story into our story. And what He does is always good. His plans are that of sustenance and prospering and blessing. He is a redeemer of lives, and just as He has redeemed us from a destiny of sure destruction and despair, He is working out a smaller-scale redemption story in you, buying you back from a life of sadness, grief, and loneliness. He is the one who does the healing and restoring, we are just instruments in His Kingdom plan. All of us broken, all of us gently being pieced back together by the Artist's hand.

Welcome home my loves.