Friday, August 31, 2012

The Orphanage

I'm several days behind in writing, but here we are in Guangzhou with much better internet connection. I'm hoping that blogging won't be so hard now.
What a difference an hour plane ride makes. Guangzhou is NOTHING like Nanning City and I'm at ease here. It's very developed, quite Westernized, and there are many American adopting families here. At the risk of sounding like a spoiled brat who just can't tolerate other cultures---I feel so much better. There are several families from Birmingham here that I know and met another yesterday while standing in line to check in. Friendships are forming and my extraverted personality is revived. I can talk!!!!!! :)
Before we travelled here, I went back to Will's orphanage for a chance to photograph key areas in his childhood and talk with the people who have cared for him since he was found at 14 days old. The first site I photographed, was the main gate to the Nanning City Social Welfare Institute where a stranger found Will wrapped up in blankets alone on the ground. He picked him up, notified the police, and carried him inside the gates of the institute where he remained until entering a foster family at around 3 months. I could picture that day in my mind and it was hard not to cry. I dread the conversation that is coming when Will asks why his parents didn't want him. Heartbreaking. The orphanage is large, housing some 200 children. It's colorful and clean, but it is what it states--an institution. There are bars on the windows and the staff are in uniform. It's no place for a child to grow up. I'm thankful that he was only there for a short amount of time before being moved to foster care where he had sisters to play with and a good upbringing. The director would not let me onto the floor where Will stayed so I couldn't photograph his crib or anything like that. I did meet several nannies who cared for him and it is clear that he was a favorite. I believe that they took good care of him especially when it came to rehabilitation and therapy. I was quite impressed with their new facilities.
The foster mom was there at the orphanage to meet me. She has a sweet, kind face and I can tell that she loves Will as her own child. Under orphanage policy, we aren't allowed any contact with her outside of the orphanage, but my guide was very sneaky and asked if we could come to her house after we toured the orphanage. We secretly agreed that she would leave and wait for us a few miles from the orphanage and that our driver would then follow her to her home. What a gift! Following our tour , we did just that and I was able to spend a few hours with her in her home. She was so hospitable--allowing me to come inside and meet her other foster girls who were kidnapped at some point and are with her while they search for their biological parents. She let me photograph her home and packed up some special things of Wills for him to have. She also answered many questions and asked many questions. I could tell she was interviewing me and later told our guide--"Now that I've met her...I feel better." I guess I passed the test. I'm not going to post the photos of the foster home as I want to save those for Will's eyes to see only when he's ready. It's not a slum, but it's pretty close. Tiny living space. Unbelievably hot. Minimal furnishings. It's dirty. Trash-filled. It smells rank. But there is love in that home without question. She is an incredible woman. From the day she got Will, she began to train him to sit up and strengthen his trunk. Then she would make him stand in a chair to strengthen his legs and squat and stand. She was determined not to let the CP hinder him from walking. When he could walk, she had him walk everywhere on his toes so that his calves would develop. She took him to therapy three times a week. He is walking because of her and we are grateful. I gifted her family with a financial gift in a red envelope and she gifted me with a zip-drive of hundreds of pictures of Will growing up. His birthday parties, Chinese celebrations--everything documented. I was speechless. She had just handed me his childhood and I will be forever in debt to her. We have her address and she wants pictures of Will as he grows which we will be so happy to provide. We also got the address of his best friend from the orphanage who was adopted recently by a family from North Carolina. I plan on getting in touch with them once we return home. How sweet it would be to reunite the boys who grew up on the same street.
All in all it was an exhausting but rewarding day. I feel like I can offer Will a lot of information and documentation about his upbringing which is rare. Praise be to God.
Update on Will: we've had a few more meltdowns, but the last two days have been wonderful. He is so playful with Brent and wakes up slowly but happy and without crying. He gave me a kiss yesterday--a true kiss and I about burst with joy. He smiles freely and loves to be carried around so he can see everything. He still hates the toilet and the shower. He HATES darkness. He goes to sleep in the bright light and then we dim them when he's asleep. He likes our toys but he better be able to see his Angry Bird stuffed animal and that darn Spongebob animal. Those are his security items. He is scratching less but still picks at his lips when he's nervous. We've come a long way in a few days and I am grateful to God for his faithfulness. His cerebral palsy is barely noticeable. He walks and runs. We do see that his legs are a bit mis-shapen, but I'm not sure if it really is palsy or a deformity. Either way--it doesn't slow him down one bit.
Tomorrow I'll write about our trip to Guangzhou and our doctor's visit. Gracious--what an ordeal. Right now, he is sleeping in his crib in the hotel room (another miracle). He went right to it, Brent put him in it and he talked until he fell asleep!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is huge.
I would like to add that Brent is currently eating a cheeseburger from McDonalds with such a look of delight that it's hard to sum up in words. You can take a boy out of Birmingham....but he remains he same.
Thanks for reading. Will post pictures tomorrow of our little guy. Love to all.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

First outing with Will

Yesterday we took Will to the Science and Technology museum for an outing. He was slow to warm up to the place and so requested that "Daddy carry". After a while, he did want to get down and play a little. We looked at robots and all kinds of interactive exhibits. We also paid to see a children's IMAX movie. We got all settled in and starting watching the show about animals. Dinosaurs appeared and other large creatures which I thought might scare him. I looked over and he was fast asleep! So much for that. We stayed until about noon and then went for lunch. The child can eat some serious fish!! It's his favorite food and he ate and ate and ate. I was so worried that he was going to be sick (he had been sick in our bed at 6am that morning). Thankfully, it all stayed put. I think his stomach is calming down a little. We saw so much more of his personality today--laughing and playing etc... We had a great day. Getting him to nap was hard. He cried and didn't want to go to sleep. Finally he fell asleep on me and I laid him down. Didn't sleep all that long, but I'll take it.
We thought we were in the clear as the sun set. NO TEARS. Things were really going great (despite crying all through bath time) when he caught sight of his backpack from the foster home laying on the couch. That was it. It tripped a tantrum--screaming, crying, swatting at us to get away from him. We couldn't touch him or hold him or even be on the bed with him. So we both moved to the couch and waited it out trying to say the few things we know in Mandarin to calm him. Eventually, he settled down and reached for us. The poor child is confused and he doesn't know what he wants. I gave him his hot milk bottle and turned on some cartoons and he got sleepy (thank goodness!)
When he was finally out in our bed, I just bawled my eyes out. I was prepared for this but being here and living it is so different. So hard. I began to get overwhelmed by it all--having four children, Will not speaking English and not wanting to sleep; Will not being able to stomach new things without vomitting everywhere. It's a lot to handle. Brent prayed a beautiful prayer and it calmed my spirits. I fell asleep crying and didn't sleep well because I just miss home and miss the children so much. I feel it will be easier to deal with in our own house with my support system around me. I have to keep telling myself that we have to put Will back together one little piece at a time. We've only had him a few days--it's a miracle he even comes to us at all!
Tomorrow I head to the orphanage alone to tour it and see where Will grew up. I'm also going to get to meet the foster family and speak with them We thought it best that Will not return for this trip even though EVERYONE here tells me it's healthier for him to return. I just can't go backwards and his love for his foster mom is so deep that I'm not sure he'd be able to get over saying goodbye a second time.
Please lift us up when you can. Love to you all.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Off to court we go...

We had to be up early for our court appointment yesterday, so while Brent was in the shower I woke Will up. Words cannot express the horror in his eyes when he saw my face and looked around the room. I almost vomitted. As a mother, you'd die to remove any and all fears from your little ones. To be the source of fear is an especially heart-wrenching experiencing. I quickly scooped him up and handed him his beloved toys from the orphanage and he calmed down. I do know several words in Mandarin now that our guide taught us so I was able to say "don't cry" and "I love you" over and over. We dressed him for breakfast and took him to eat. The entire morning he was in that glazed over trance of fear where he was just glued to our arms.
The driver and our guide, Hannah, picked us up and drove a rather bumpy drive to the office where we'd go before the registrar and get our adoption complete. There were three or four other American couples in there. I almost kissed them all. Its been several days now since we've seen another American and it has been very isolating. The people stare constantly at us--they can't help it. So to see other Americans and to hear our language was a welcomed relief for me (the talker). I immediately went over to them and began asking them the details of their experiences thus far. And then it happened. Yep--moments before we were to be interviewed by the registrar--Will threw up an extraordinary amount of breakfast all over Brent and down himself. It just kept coming and coming. I scrambled for some wipes but that was like trying to use a water gun to put out a forest fire!!! We did the best we could, but we walked into that court appointment smelling absolutely foul. So much for remembering to pack a change of clothes for him and us. I think the bumpy van ride and just stress made him upset. You'll love the photos below of the very dark side of Brent's shirt. That would be Chinese puke.
Court went very well. Hannah is a goddess. She is very familiar with the process so she held our hands through it all and they saw us fit to have Will as a Cobb. All the documents were signed and massive amounts of money were exchanged. SIGH OF RELIEF.
We had one more stop and one more van ride which was to the notary's office to make everything official. After some water and a few cheerios, Will was feeling better so off we went. The Notary did not give us warm fuzzies, but we paid her and signed all the documents and got out of there as fast as possible. I'm sure she was thinking those Americans smell rotten!! All I could think about was getting a shower because I'd been holding Will in his vomit soaked clothes for much of our court time. It was just horrible....but funny.
We had some small victories yesterday.... we finally got his orphanage outfit off of him (HAD TO SEND IT TO LAUNDRY). After much coaxing from Hannah--we got him into the bath with me holding him. He enjoyed it but I could tell he was nervous. We did get some smiles and some chatter. Boy were we wrong about how much Mandarin he would know. He is very verbal and expressive and we have no idea what he's saying. Without Hannah--we are completely lost. I think we'll need language help when we get home! He is comfortable reaching for either Brent or I and loves being held. We love it too. He loves being touched or kissed which is wonderful. He does not like the dark and does not like having his shoes taken off--still an issue for him so we wait until he is either asleep or very distracted before we attempt it. Brent very astutely noticed that his fear mechanism is scratching. He is absolutely right. When he is nervous, he begins to pick and scratch at his skin. When he's relaxed his hands are still and calm. This is very helpful in removing him from stressful situations. We know what to look for.
At dinner and as the sun was setting, he began to cry his grieving cry. I can tell when it's happening. It sounds different from his other cries. It's very soft and sad. Hannah was with us and she asked him if he was missing someone. He replied, "yes". She was able to explain to him that mommy and daddy love him very much and understand that he needs to cry. And so when it starts, we just hold him and let him cry. He cried on and off all evening until I gave him his hot milk bottle at night and he fell asleep.
Tomorrow is another day. It's harder being here than I thought. It's ridiculously hot here with humidity double what it is back home. We sweat constantly and feel tired. It's hard hearing nothing but Mandarin around you and being amidst thousands of people. Everywhere is a chaotic crowd. Usually we fall into bed right when Will goes off to sleep. God is so good, though, he's holding our hands and reminding me that this is a moment in time. I long to be home with all of you and with our children and family most of all. I knew this wouldn't be easy, but I just had no idea how hard it would in fact be. Love is worth it all, though.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Gotcha Day

Sorry that I haven't been able to write with details until now. Internet connection is spotty at best and I have to go to the lobby to write. This has been hard to do over the past 24 hours.
I feel like I have lived a lifetime in jut a day. It all seems like a dream--a foggy dream. Yesterday morning we went to the Bank of China to exchange our US money into Chinese. We took in about $9,000 which raised some eyebrows. We raised even more when we walked out with a brown paper bag stuffed with about 45,000 RMBs. We couldn't wait to get rid of that money!!!!
Will was scheduled to arrive at our hotel door around 4pm. I couldn't eat lunch. I was nauseated and anxious in the pit of my stomach. Truth be told--I was calculating a way that I could throw everything in my suitcase and run. I asked Brent to pray with me and he did and the peace of God washed over me. I still wasn't sure if I could do this, but I knew the Lord was with me and that he'd help me through it. After a long nap, I was feeling better. Numb, but better.
The knock came promptly at four and as Brent turned on the video camera, I went to the door. Standing there was our son surrounded by our translator, his social welfare worker and the supervisor of foster care programs and another caregiver from the orphanage. I was just kind of stunned--staring at him and not believing that he was here in the flesh. I bent down and started softly talking to him and the workers began to talk to him telling him who we were and showing him the toys we'd brought. His face looked terrified--sort of blank and emotionless. He went to the trucks and picked them up. I was able to touch him and stroke his cheeks and whisper to him that everything would be ok. The workers answered some questions for us and spent many minutes explaining to Will that we were his parents and he'd be staying with us. He started to cry--a very controlled, heartbreaking sob. I picked him up (instinctively) and thus began the trauma attachment to me.
Paperwork was signed and pictures were taken with his workers and very quietly his workers slipped out of the door. It was just us and him. We played with him a little but it was mostly us playing in front of him while he starred straight ahead. Off and on, he'd weep and I'd pick him up and he'd cling to me. I cried too because I knew we were the source of fear and he was grieving for his foster family. I couldn't calm him in his native tongue and it was a difficult, helpless feeling. After swaying with him and walking, he fell sleep in my arms and I climbed on to the bed and let him rest on me for a while.
A family photographer showed up about 20 minutes later to take our picture for the adoption certificate. I gently woke Will and he started crying again. He has two stuffed animals from the orphanage--a blue Crazy Bird animal and Sponge Bob (unfortunately). I gave them to him and he clutched them and calmed down. He wants them constantly around him which is fine. Photograph was done and we met with our translator and went to dinner. He did let us carry him, feed him, and hold him on our lap in the restaurant---all good signs. He ate some fish and chicken and drank water from a sippy cup that we offered. When he's overwhelmed, he goes into this trance where he stares blankly ahead and his eyes don't register with anything. Towards the end of dinner, he was beginning to cry again and glaze over so we paid and left back to the hotel. We tried to get him to change clothes, but he shrieked. We let him sleep in his orphanage clothes without taking a bath, but we did manage to get his shoes off of him. Small victories, right?
The greatest part of the evening was when Brent mixed him his "hot milk" bottle. In bed, I held him in my arms and he quietly drank the entire bottle and drifted off to sleep. I laid him down next to me and proceeded to sleep too. He slept all night beside me, never waking.
What a joyous and terrifying day. He knows that he's left his foster family who he loves. He knows that he's left his caregiver who he adores and he's very quietly aching. The sadness in his eyes just about kill us and we long for the day when they light up at us. He hasn't smiled or talked. He just stares, but it's ok. He's dealing with this is a healthy way. This is a good foundation to build on. We are so grateful to God for watching over us today and we cling to him as we head into the next few days. We're just looking for progress. ....just a tiny glimmer of recognition in him that he knows he'll be ok.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Strangers in a foreign land.

We made it. Over 18 hours in the air, a couple of bad Zac Effron movies, and a whole host of granola bars later....we are in Nanning City, China.
My head feels rather like it's been in a tumble dryer for two days so who knows what I'm actually writing? All I know is that we're here and tomorrow we meet our son.
The journey was good. Long, but good. We've had no issues thus far. Our luggage arrived. Our travel guides have all been present to pick us up and we've had no problems checking into the hotels etc.. We are so grateful. Spent the night in Beijing last night. Well, we spent a few hours in Beijing. Got to our hotel around 1:00 am and headed to bed around 1:50. We were up and going around 9:00 am to catch our flight to Nanning City. I'm quite happy not to see another plane for a few days.
Today we checked in, un-packed and met our guide for dinner. Oh, dinner. We were encouraged to try the local cuisine. Tee hee. Brent began to sweat. Our guide, Hannah, is so lovely and helpful that we were only delighted to accompany her to dinner. It was amazing. For around $20.00 we had a feast! White rice, seasoned egg plant, spicy beef, and Chinese pancakes. We also had some potato thingy...and yes, Brent ate it all...with chopsticks. I love that man. He is embracing the experience!! I was so proud of him! Pizza Hut was just around the corner too!
Now to the miracles---as we drove with our guide she told us a little more about
Will and I could literally feel my breath leave me. First, she told us that a few months ago, Will was moved into a foster family situation. He has been cared for by a Chinese couple and has two "big sisters". This is truly a miracle. Not only has he been introduced to so many more experiences, but he has learned to be a part of a family. He has attached to those people in a special way which means that the next few days are going to be really really difficult for him. However, he can healthily attach and give and receive love. Also, his foster family has been telling him about us. He even speaks some English!!!!!!!!! He may even be potty trained. Say what? This is truly a gift and though tomorrow will begin the grieving process of saying goodbye to his "family" it will also be the foundation upon which we can build.
Second, when we inquired about Gotcha Day, Hannah told us that the Nanning City Social Welfare Institute has decided to bring him to our hotel rather than make us come to the civil affairs office to meet him. This is such a blessing. It will be a quiet, calm introduction and we'll be able to spend some special time together in the hotel immediately. We never dreamed that this would happen and we're so relieved that we can by-pass the "cattle call" experience.
We also found out what HongDong means. Sorry all you SEC fans, but Hong means "big" and Dong means "east". This is apparently a very good Chinese name...and they say it a lot better than we do too!
Heading to bed shortly and trying to wrap our heads around the fact that tomorrow afternoon our little boy will walk through the door of our hotel room and become ours. I have to say that we are nervous about his reaction to us and about our ability to calm and reassure him. However, we know it will take time and we trust that we can get through it. It will be an amazing day no matter what.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

T'Was the night before China....

Well, this is just a test to see if everything is working properly with our iPad and new camera. If not....I have sixteen hours in the air tomorrow to figure out how to make it work.