Friday, March 19, 2010
Day 5, Gotcha Day!
I woke with the sun this morning and lay quietly so as not to wake River and Nate. I was running through all of my Amharic phrases in my mind- 'Eenayahnatiknegn' which is 'I am your mommy', or 'Yeh-nay-lij'- 'My sweet baby', and so on... I couldn't help but imagine beautiful scenarios of meeting my children, all of which had me tearing up into my pillow. Of course, the reality is that these kids don't know me, and will most likely take some time to adjust, as is what happened with Stephanny, who is now a bubbly outgoing girl! I finally rose and began selecting the most appropriate outfit, something that might say 'mommy', though I realized it really didn't matter. After a quick bite, we loaded the CHSFS bus with the other adoptive parents while River sadly stayed back in bed all day with a low grade fever and stomach ache. Arriving at the care center, we were instructed to remove our shoes and were ushered into a room for a briefing by social workers. The center is somewhat of an old worn-in palace, with a grand old meeting room and empty deep swimming pool with a great view across the land. There are 5 floors of rooms, all housing children of different age groups. A front patio has small bikes and toys, and there is a small grassy area. The kids are kept to a fairly regimented schedule of school, play, snack, meals, etc. One by one we were to be called away from the group to meet our children, and our names were called first. We walked up 4 flights of stairs and into the baby room. There were many babies lying on a blanket on the floor, and Hirut was sitting upright in a Bambo seat. One of the nannies picked her up and placed her into my arms. The feeling of finally having this long-awaited baby in my arms was overwhelming, and I lowered my face into her neck, arms wrapped round her sweet baby body. Hirut however, was not feeling the same vibe and quickly turned to lean toward her nannies, big tears rolling down her chubby cheeks. They soothed her and sent her along with me to spend some time becoming more comfortable. We walked back down the flights of stairs, Hirut now quietly distracted by the motion and chage of scene, and to the outdoor grassy area. There was a row of classrooms leading away from the main house, and Krem at the time was in 'school'. Our social worker slid open one of the doors and called Krem's name. I searched the many faces of children quickly, and found him sitting in the very back of the classroom with the boy they said was his friend in the center. The boy began poking Krem, telling him to look up. When his face rose and caught sight of us he broke out into a huge smile and leaped from his chair and began running up the aisle quickly and jumped into Nate's arms, squeezing around his neck and laying his head on his shoulder. He stayed like that for over a full minute, while Nate held onto him, big tears falling down his cheeks. When Krem finally looked up to look at me with his big flashing smile, I realized there was no need for fancy words or explanations- he understood who we were and that we were there for him. We spent the next two hours playing in the outdoor area with Krem while I held Hirut, trying to grab her attention and engage wtih her. She remained quiet unless a nanny's voice was in earshot, in which case she would lean toward the sound and cry. Krem wore a proud face while riding bikes, and flashing us his wide smile every time he'd pass. He loved blowing the bubbles and hitting the balloons we brought. We made our way downstairs for more indoor play on the floor, and Krem showed us his incredible ability to turn almost anything into a spinning top- like corners of blocks and Lego's! We were stunned and said 'Goh-Behz!', 'good job!'. By the end of the day Hirut was showing some sweet smiles to me, and spent some time studying and touching my face. At one point one of her toys rolled away and she quickly showed us her crawling skills and went to fetch it across the room. When she looked up she quickly searched out my face and came zooming back to me, buried her face in my lap and lay snuggling. The bonding had already begun, and Nate and I were overjoyed. Krem found a baby toy elephant that he played with nonstop and carried around with him by the arm. He was very proud to have it, as most things are quickly passed around the many children in the center. Soon it was time to say goodbye. We walked back up to the courtyard and changed our shoes. Krem became very quiet when he saw the bus, and his face became increasingly worried. Gripping his elephant, his eyes became filled with tears. I leaned down to re-assure him but his previous joyful warmth had turned cold and stiff and he turned away. We left him amidst the crowd of running kids and loaded the bus. He stood watching us with big tears streaking down his cheeks. A couple of times a nanny tried to push him to run and play with the other children, but he stood still, an accusing look on his face. I sat in the back of the bus watching him, tears rolling down my face as well, feeling guilty to have shown up and told him I am his mother. It was a confusing situation for a 4 year old to digest- these great people show up and play with me, telling me they love me and then leave. It is the policy of the agency to allow the children to slowly get used to us as parents, and while I can see that being effective for a baby, this 4 year old who has already had much disappointment in his short life, was not needing a slow transition, he simply needed his family, solidly, unwavering from then on out. As the bus pulled away I saw another boy run up and tear away his elephant that he had been clutching on to. Krem threw back his head sobbing and ran to stand by the fence watching us fade further in the distance. When I finally turned around, I saw that the other mothers were also crying for us- it was completely heartbreaking.