Friday, March 2, 2012

The paperchase is done!

Well, after three days of driving here, there, and everywhere, and countless hours of waiting, I have finally completed all of the paperwork necessary to get the boys out of the institution!  It took longer than expected, and cost more than it should have, of course, because that is just how things seem to go for me.  But the boys are worth it, and now it is done.  And I managed to survive three days of carsickness, too!  Here are some of the views out the taxi window of the gloomy, gray winter scenery:

Now all that I am waiting on is for the passports to be ready . . . which will be Monday!  Monday afternoon I am going to dress my sons in their very own brand-new clothes, scoop them up, and carry them outside.  I am going to get my sweet boys out of the institution forever!

On Tuesday I was able to see the city in which Micah was born, on the Black Sea in a cute little tourist-trap village.  We drove through a windy, snowy mountain pass and then quickly descended down the mountain to catch a few glimpses of this hillside village and the sea beyond. 
 I'm sure if it were not the dead of winter it would have been lovely.  I understand that on its better days it tends to look a bit more like this:

On Wednesday I visited Gideon's village of origin, a forgettable, dusty, run-down location not close to any tourist destination at all.  The only notable quirk of this village was the bicycles:  half the people in town seemed to be riding one, all strange, old-fashioned bicycles with small wheels and tall seats.  I wish I had brought a camera so you, too, could see that it is indeed possible for a lady to ride a bicycle while wearing a fur hat, long fur coat, black skirt, and fur-lined, high-heeled boots.  

I also got to visit a bank in the same neighborhood as the baby-house (orphanage) where the boys spent their first four years of life.  I was not able to see the actual building where they lived, but at least I will be able to tell them that I was close:

On Wednesday afternoon I had an opportunity to spend a little bit of extra time with the boys, and also to have a practice run at life outside those institution walls with them.  We had to take them to another city nearby to have their passport photos taken, so we picked them up, along with a nanny from the institution, and drove the 45-minute drive to the passport office.  I did not take pictures.  It just was not that sort of a trip!  Let me explain . . . First of all, the good news:  Gideon rode in the car like a champ!  He was SOOO excited to see, well, everything!  He was exclaiming and reaching and pointing, looking everywhere, all wide-eyed with wonder at the big bright world.  This boy is so ready to experience life!  He knocked on the car window and waved at people on the street as we passed.  He watched in slack-jawed awe as the gas-station attendant filled the gas tank and washed the windshield.  He sat sweetly on my lap (no carseats here!) and soaked in everything zooming by outside the window.  Sounds pretty idyllic, right?  Well, that was the good news.  

The not-so-good news was concerning my sweet Micah.  He has probably been outside about twice in his entire life:  once to go to the hospital for his surgery and once when he was transferred to the institution.  And outside is very, very scary for Micah.  Being in a car is even scarier.  Bumping and jostling down pot-hole-filled roads, even scarier yet.  And the worst part of it all . . . nowhere to lay down and be alone.  My dear precious son was so terrified that he cried, at very loud volumes, the ENTIRE THREE HOURS we were on this outing.  And mama holding him definitely did not feel reassuring.  Micah does not yet understand that being hugged and kissed and cuddled is supposed to be what little boys love.  He understands laying down, alone, in his crib, hour after hour and day after day.  He can tolerate a couple of minutes of mama holding him, but after that he is ready for a break from all of that emotional closeness and vulnerability.  And in the back seat of that car, there was nowhere to get a break.  The nanny and I took turns holding him, and laying him down across our laps, but nothing helped.  My Micah cried out in terror, clawing for the door handle, trying desperately to get out of the car, to get away from all those hands holding him.  My heart was just breaking as I held him and he fought against me.  How can a little boy live for five long years and not know that a mama's hug is a good thing?  That being in a car is okay and that going bye-bye is supposed to be a fun adventure?  We kept thinking he would eventually grow tired and stop fighting, but my son is strong!  He never stopped struggling, the entire time.  Gideon, meanwhile, remained calm and happy to be in the car.  A couple of times he tried to offer Micah a toy, but Micah shoved away any and all attempts at distraction, so Gideon soon gave up on calming his brother and decided to ignore the ruckus.  

The only time Micah did settle down was after we were inside the passport office.  After several more minutes of crying, he was taken, by the nanny (because I was holding Gideon) into a small, windowless room in the back of the building to get his passport photo taken.  Small windowless room.  Familiar footing to my little boy.  And Micah stopped crying.  Finally he felt safe.  They took his photo, then took Gideon's.  Both of them sat up like big boys, and did great for their photos.  Micah got to lay down on a vinyl bench in the waiting room for a few minutes after that, and he smiled sweetly at me, happy to hold my hand.  I was hoping that now that he was calm, the drive home would be peaceful, but as soon as we stepped back outside with him, the desperate crying began again.  And it continued until we reached the door of the institution.  As soon as Micah was carried back inside the familiar building, he took a deep, shuddering breath, sighed, and stopped crying.  Gideon, meanwhile, started to jump up and down in frustration, reaching for me, as he was led away down a dark hallway to take his nap.  He wanted to go have more adventures outside!  

How is it, I wonder, that these two little boys have had such similar life experiences, both abandoned at birth, both growing up in the same orphanage, both spending the majority of their lives alone in a crib, and yet one is as bouncy as Tigger with eagerness to launch himself into life, while the other is literally quaking with terror at the thought of leaving the walls of the institution?  I truly do not know, except to say that they are different boys.  Each of us is born with our own unique personality, and Gideon and Micah seem to be complete opposites in many ways!  But anyway, now you can see why I never got around to taking any pictures on that particular outing.  It was heart-breaking.  

But one bright lining to the cloud is this:  Micah is strong.  The first day I met him he was so physically weak that his hands were trembling and his grip was weak.  He seemed to move in slow motion.  He seemed so frail.  Now, during this car ride, holding him down was like wrestling an angry lion cub.  He struggled and thrashed about and exhausted everybody in that car.  There is no doubt that he has become stronger in the last two months.  And while his terror is heart-breaking, his strength is encouraging.  Micah is a fighter.  He is facing surgeries and therapies, and lots and lots of hard work.  He is going to need that strength.  Micah is a really tough little guy.  He has been through so much already.  But he is not a kid to just lay down and give up.  He is facing a whole lot of hurdles in his life, and I can see now that he is strong.  He just doesn't know it yet.  But I know it, and I believe in him.  

At the passport office some ladies were asking our facilitator why we would adopt such a child.  "What are they going to do with a child like this?" they asked.  It is a question that many people are asking.  Why?  He has so much stacked against him.  He has so many "problems."  He is going to be a lot of work.  He is going to be expensive.  He may never "accomplish" much.  I guess those people do not see it yet, but I see it.  Right now he does not talk and he does not walk.  His head is huge and heavy and lop-sided.  He is missing one ear.  His eyes do not both look in the same direction at the same time.  His body is thin and so, so small.  He doesn't know how to play with toys, turn pages in a book, or be cuddled.  He is terrified of many things.  But I don't see all of that when I look at him.  I see Micah.  My son.  He is beautiful, and he is worthy, and I believe in him.  He is my son, and I am so, so blessed to be his mama.  

Micah is going to have a lot of travel and new experiences thrust upon him in the next week.  I am going to do everything I can to keep him calm and to reassure him (and to keep our fellow passengers from chucking us out the emergency exit of the airplane half-way over the Atlantic).  All I can say is, it is going to be a very, very LONG trip home!  Please pray for Micah!

Today we had a lovely visit with the boys, and Micah apparently has forgiven me for subjecting him to the torturous venture into the outside world, because he was back to his calm, sunny self now that he was once again in the familiar safety of the institution:

Gideon and my mom, his Grandma Doris

Grandma saved her package of crackers from the airplane
because she knew she would soon have a grandson to share them
with, and Gideon was more than happy to help her polish them off today!
We haven't found a food Gideon does not like yet!

I finally decided to try out this new activity today:
Micah liked to sniff the play-dough . . .

and he actually played with the play-dough, too!
Way to go, Micah!

Even more amazingly, Gideon (who is probably starting to think
his NAME is "Not in your mouth!" because he just can't resist
tasting, well, everything) also played very nicely with the play-
dough and only tried to sneak a taste twice (although he also
enjoyed smelling it!)

I should have taken a video instead of pictures of these moments,
because Gideon was jumping up and down like a jumping bean
while Grandma held him and helped him to bounce!  It was so cute!

Cute, cute boy!  By the end of our visit he is always so
tuckered out.  It is almost nap-time!

I love to hug Micah and sing to him, even if he is not too sure about it yet

I showed Micah his new shoes and asked if he wanted to try
them on, and he immediately popped his foot up for me.
And they seem to fit!  

Gideon's new shoes fit, too, thank goodness!  He has trouble
flattening his feet, so I wasn't sure he would be able to wear these,
but they fit great, and they actually seem to help him to walk, because
they keep him off his tip-toes a bit more.


DayleLauber said...

Wow, Rachelle. That was some adventure out to get the photos for the passport. Your love for the boys is God-honoring and heartwarming. They are lucky little guys. They have such beautiful smiles. I will try to read your blog to your Auntie Eleanor. Yesterday was her birthday. She is now 86. Be sure and phone her when you get home to tell her all about it.
Lots of love, Dayle

Jolene said...

They are the most precious little boys and we'll be praying for the travel details and the adjustments to come. Can you post the itinerary so we can pray for you all while your traveling with the boys? Let us know when your leaving, etc?

Many blessings!

Pam said...

Praying for sweet Micah that he will adjust and be able to tolerate the trip well!

Anonymous said...

Poor little Micah! I know when little Katie from the blessingsofverity blog was adopted they had a car seat they were able to take Katie in on the plane which also had a cover. Would something like that be able to calm Micah?

Jolene said...

I was pretty surprised to see that another "Jolene" already left you a comment. Not a common name, and I thought... "Wait a minute... I'm sure I didn't leave a comment on this post yet." Then, I saw the picture and realized that it was another Jolene. Let me tell ya, THAT is rare!

Anyway, it was a pleasure to meet with you and your mother today. You are such beautiful ladies and we are so very inspired by what you are doing for these boys.

And, praying for your Micah especially.... that God would help calm his heart and prepare him for this new experience.

If you need ANYTHING during these last days here, PLEASE let us know!

Anonymous said...

If you aren't allowed to take a car seat on the plane, could Micah lie on the floor in front of your seats on a thin piece of foam (that is wide enough to curl up on each side to cover the footrests and so forth), with a blanket draped over him between the seats?

Randi said...

You have such a warm heart Rachelle, a true mommy!

Will be praying for you all - especially Micah. May God prepare him, and you for the journey back home.

Loving the pictures of Gideon and your mom! She seems like such a sweet lady :)

Lots of love, Randi.

Jill said...

We will definitely be praying for sweet little Micah. Praying for God's incredible peace to surround him. Can't wait to see Gotcha Day photos!

Btw, the same vendors are still in the exact same spots by the bank over a year later! LOL I'm sorry you didn't get to drive by the were really just a stone's throw away...