My boys have so much newness to figure out. Everything they know is their crib, the walls of the laying down room, the revolving staff of institution nannies, and how to survive for five long years without a mama. Suddenly there is no crib. No laying down room. No nannies. Just this mama lady, who can’t speak much at all, except some gibberish. Her food is strange. Her rules are different. She smells different. She keeps dragging her boys all over the place, through train stations and in and out of cars, in and out of buildings. What must they think of their new life? It has been quite a busy couple of days, that’s for sure! The boys have had (and passed) their medical exams, and we’ve been to the embassy for our two appointments. We have visas in hand, all our paperwork in order, and we are ready to go home! We fly out Friday morning, because the Thursday flight was full. Arg. I really want to get them home, but I am trying to appreciate this extra day in our apartment for the opportunity for further bonding. Our very-not-baby-proofed apartment. It’s exhausting! But we sure are bonding.
Gideon is a very busy, curious boy, and I think he is trying to make up for five lost years of freedom all at once. He wants to figure out everything, touch everything, smell everything (he’s very big into smells) and taste everything. His first time in the grocery store was intense. He loved it! He whooped and pointed and nearly gave himself whiplash trying to take it all in. But he couldn’t understand why he wasn’t allowed to just grab everything. He kept trying to chew through the packaging and eat up all that good food right that second. He is learning the word “wait.” As soon as we got outside he was rewarded for waiting with a bite of chocolate candy bar. Happy boy!
Lest you think that Gideon is unscarred from his five years of imprisonment, let me assure you that he is not. I am seeing all sorts of institutionalized behaviors that we had not seen during our brief visits with him. He is a strong, brave, resilient little boy. But no child can survive what he has survived without scars on his heart. I am so grateful to finally be here for him and to love on him. I am loving him more every day!
Micah is taking things much less in stride. The first two days that I had custody of him he was absolutely terrified of every single thing. He was rocking himself continually, fluttering his hands in front of his eyes, and refusing any touch or eye contact from his mama and grandma. Unless he was allowed to lay alone on the floor, staring at the wall, he would yell and scream and struggle. He also completely refused to take even the smallest sip of water or taste of food. And he cannot afford to go without, even for a day. This child has no reserves.
So I spent the first day trying to coax him to take something, anything, into his mouth. I tried bottle, sippy cup, regular cup, spoon, food on my fingertip . . . he wanted nothing to do with any of it. He just wanted me to leave him alone. He didn’t even want to try. Finally I had a chance to go to a pharmacy and get a syringe (about a two-hour ordeal, at three pharmacies, trying to work past the language barrier to explain what I needed). But finally I got what I needed! After removing the needle I had a nice little tool to squirt drops of water into his mouth, and throughout the day yesterday I managed to get several ounces of water and a small amount of rice cereal, soup, and baby food into him. He spit as much of it out as he could, so I’m not sure how much he got, but I kept trying, throughout the day, and even though he hated it, my sweet boy did get enough water in to keep him at least somewhat hydrated for another day. At this point, we are being advised to get him home to the US instead of trying to have him admitted to a hospital here. In this country, it can be difficult to find a doctor who is willing to treat a child like Micah. As long as we can keep him stable for another day, he will receive much better medical care at the hospital in the US.
Well, I’ve been sleeping in the big bed between Gideon and Micah, and last night Micah woke up in the middle of the night and scooted himself around sideways until his head was on my stomach. And then he reached out and took my hand and finally decided to make eye contact with me. During visits at the institution he liked me, but this was one of the first times since I took custody of him that he really seemed ready to like me again. I had been awake anyway, watching him sleep and praying over him, and suddenly there he was, awake and ready to let me past at least some of his barriers and a bit closer to his heart. Oh, how scary it must feel to let down those carefully guarded barriers he has had to put up around his sweet, vulnerable heart. My brave boy! He and I laid together for a long time, sometimes staring into each other’s eyes, until that became too much for him and he would have to turn away and rock himself for awhile. Then he would turn back to me and reach out his hand to me once more, ready to try again. I watched his face. His brow would furrow and I could see him struggle with the choice. Can I trust this mama lady? Should I? It was hard not to cry openly, because I didn’t want to confuse him any more than he already was. Oh, my son. Please pray for him as he begins this hard work of learning to trust and love and attach.
Then the best part was that when he woke up, he accepted a baby bottle from me, and drank about 3 ounces of water, rice cereal, and bananas voluntarily! I sat very still next to him, afraid to cheer or exclaim, lest he change his mind. After 3 ounces, he threw the bottle across the room and decided he was done. But a couple of hours later he drank 2 more ounces! How sweet it was to wake up to this, instead of having to pry his mouth open and pin him down to force water into his mouth. I know that some of you have been praying about this specific situation, and I want to thank you for your prayers. I felt like I was watching a miracle as I saw Micah choose to eat today! He is still refusing to try my soup. Apparently he doesn’t think his mama is a very good cook, because he took one taste and then tossed the bottle. We’ll keep trying. But Micah has been SO much calmer today, so much more like the Micah I have come to know during visits with him. He is ready to look around and take in the apartment we are staying in. He is playing with toys on the floor, playing catch with mama, laughing as I tickle his toes, even letting me hug him for about five seconds at a time. (It’s all about the baby steps with Micah.)
So on the one hand, I am so frustrated to be stuck in this city for this extra day. I am so worried about Micah’s health and so anxious to get the boys onto American soil. But on the other hand, I am hoping that this extra day to bond and adjust has been good for the boys. It sure seems to have been. Now I am just hoping that the two long airplane rides will not send Micah scurrying back into his shell too much. I am hoping that Gideon can remain calm and curious. When he becomes scared and overwhelmed, he can have the most sudden, noisy meltdowns! Neither of the boys is doing well with transitions. The language barrier doesn’t help, because it is hard to explain to them what is happening. As long as things are calm, life is good. Tomorrow things will not be calm. Airports just are not calm, generally speaking. But we will try to find a calm, quiet haven in the airports for our waits, and we have requested a bassinet and bulkhead seating for our flights. And by 1 pm Friday, we will be home! We are so so close now. Hang in there, little boys. Your new life is crazy right now, but it will get better! You are almost home!