Everyone is sleeping so I am going to try to write while I can. It’s remarkable how life with 5 kids does not allow for much free time. heh. Truly though, there hasn’t been a free moment since we got the kids as we have been busy with paperwork to finalize the adoptions and spent yesterday traveling to Joseph’s birth city 2 hours away to apply for his passport so he can leave the country. Today we will travel to Marianna’s birth city 4 hours away to do the same. Long grueling day of travel ahead–pray for us? There is much that I want to share about our two newest little ones, about how wonderful they each are, how beautifully the bigger kids have attached to them, about how crazy it is to try to keep track of who has had a bottle and when and who has pooped and who has not and all the crazy and wonderful moments of family life these last 48 hours. But for now, I need to back up and share some of the details of Gotcha Day…
Didn’t sleep much the night before Gotcha Day. Woke up at 3am and started praying the Rosary. The boys have been sleeping with Linda-Anne in the room next door and by 4am they were knocking on our door, jumping up and down with excitement that “today is the day!” We were once again the first people down at the breakfast buffet at 6am and enjoyed a beautiful spread of delicious food at our new hotel (Crown Plaza) which offered a few more familiar western breakfast dishes than the SunWorld Dynasty in Beijing. At some point I need to take my camera down to breakfast and capture just how beautiful the food and it’s presentation is here.
We paced the floors until at 9:30am, all 9 families met in the lobby of the hotel and boarded the bus that would take us the 15 minutes to the government Civil Affairs office where 12 children were being escorted by orphanage workers to meet us.
When we arrived, there were about 4 or 5 children already there. We quickly scanned the room but neither Marianna or Joseph were among the babies there. So I whipped out my camera and started snapping away to capture the first moments of the families who did have their kids. As a photography enthusiast, I was in my element and got a little lost in my work when Mike pulled my arm and said, “she’s here”. I threw my camera at Isaac and walked over to a woman who was holding a little girl whose face I had memorized these past 5 months. I told myself I would not break down. I would hold it together so as not to scare the babies. But raw emotion just poured through. I reached my arms out to her and Marianna leaned into me and dove into my arms.
Let me say that again: she dove into my arms.
She had a sucker in her mouth and seemed not the least bit distressed but just stared at me and the tear-streaked face of her new dad. The boys crowded around us, Samuel grinning ear to ear but Isaac…my sweet Isaac. He was not too tough to let the raw emotion show. His eyes were filled with tears and he buried his head in my shoulder as he rubbed her back, saying, “Momma…she’s here! She’s perfect!”
I’m not sure what happened next…it’s all a blur. The room was hot and not air-conditioned and there were babies crying and I was just a mess of joyful tears watching it all, experiencing it all. Then somewhere in the midst of it all, I saw a woman carrying a little boy with his back to me. But by the hair, I could tell it was our Joseph. I would know that spiky hair anywhere now. Then he turned his face in my direction and I grabbed Mike’s arm for support.
He was clinging to the woman’s neck, clearly overwhelmed by the noise and confusion of the moment. I was holding Marianna at the time so Mike put out his arms to him but Joseph immediately turned away. It’s ok. He was scared and we weren’t going to rush it. The orphanage worker handed Mike a sucker to try to entice him and handed Joseph over to Mike’s arms. He just sobbed and arched his back and tried to reach back for the orphanage worker. My heart clenches even now as I write that. He was so scared and confused, it just broke the heart. But we knew we had to persist.
Then things just felt all sorts of crazy at that moment.
I tried to hand Marianna to Mike to let me try Joseph but then she started crying, not wanting to go to Mike. With the enticement of a fresh plum (brought by her nanny) she finally allowed Mike to hold her which freed my arms up to try my hand at soothing Joseph.
He screamed. I walked him to the other side of the room where Sarah was playing with some toys. He sobbed in my arms as he watched Sarah play. She looked up at him and said, “Oh hi Joseph Michael!” and then returned to the bouncy toy she was riding on.
Joseph’s caregiver, clearly accustomed to the scene, made him a bottle and I settled down on a chair to feed him. He hungrily drank the bottle while his eyes locked on mine. He was tolerating me for the moment but his little body was tense. The bottle did the trick because he calmed down and even accepted a sucker that I offered to him. Then he put his little head down on my shoulder and promptly fell asleep.
And that folks, is when I felt your prayer the most.
It was an existential moment. I looked around the room at the other families, some still struggling with crying babies others able to arouse a giggle from their new little one…all of us overwhelmed by the event. How many and different paths lead us all to this room on this day and with these children. But it had all been planned from the moment of Creation. Tough as this day and the next few days are going to be, each one of the parents in that room was born for this. For them.
Paperwork was signed (the document was entirely written in Chinese so we have no idea what we were signing) and finally families were ushered back into the bus for the ride back to the hotel.
Joseph remained tense and suspicious of us back in the room but Marianna was completely at ease. The 5 kids played together on the floor with some stacking cups and and blocks while Mike and I just hovered around the perimeter, observing…staying out of the way. And just as we hoped would happen, the universal language of children…of play…started to break down the wall around Joseph. For the first time we began to see their little personalities shine through.
We have discovered that Marianna smiles with her eyes and indeed her whole body when she’s happy. She flaps her hand and whimpers when she’s offered something she doesn’t want. She is very social and prefers me to hold her or otherwise be near he. Joseph continued to have a flat affect and mostly just observed the activity. He casually picked up a cup…and then tossed it. We erupted in laughter and so he did it again. He figured out the action/reaction and slowly, gradually he started to relax.
It was 1pm and already past the time when we knew both kids typically nap. So we followed the tips on the information sheet we had been given and laid Joseph on his tummy in his crib and covered him with a blanket. The child never made a peep. He simply turned his head to one side, closed his eyes and started breathing deeply.
I have never had a child fall asleep so quickly. So easily.
Marianna needed a little more coaxing so I put her in my sling and walked with her for a few minutes and she too eventually gave in and slept. She transferred easily to her crib. We looked down. Two cribs. Now with a baby each. Both sleeping….at the same time.
Our cups overflow.