Wednesday, 16 November 2011
There he was
>I forced myself to watch a mindless romantic comedy when we were 3 hours until arrival in Kampala. I was already jittery, could feel the first affects of adrenaline as I bounced my knee, fidgeted and kept watching the status board tick down the minutes.
With one hour to go, I freshened up and then forced myself to read a little. I opened my bookmark to the chapter in Mary Beth Chapman’s “Choosing to SEE” where she describes her family’s journey to adoption, her fears, her doubts and finally her first meeting with her daughter, Shaohannah. Would mine feel the same way? Unlikely. But I do love reading others’ accounts anyway.
Finally, we touched down. I think we had walked halfway up the plane before others even got out of their seats. The humidity swallowed us up on the jetway and had us already sweating in the five minutes it took to get to the visa counter. Next was luggage: all there.
We could see the door from here. The door we would walk through and see our baby, meeting us at the airport with his wonderful foster parents. Instead of running to the door with abandon, like dorks we changed the configuration of our bags about five times in the 50 feet from the baggage claim to the doors leading to arrivals/pick up. We had to get it just right so that we could both have an arm free to hold our baby, but Nathan could also videotape the whole thing on his phone.
Hearts pounding, we walked out. We saw him through the glass first.
“I see him… I see him!” Nathan said.
I don’t remember if I said anything at all. I think I may have been holding my breath a little, blinking hard to make sure I was really seeing him. But there he was: this baby whom I had loved through photos and video chats. There he was. In front of me. Then, in my arms.
It was a very sweet moment, but it wasn’t exactly how I thought it would be.
I had imagined this moment many times. But then there he was. And though I knew I loved him and couldn’t believe I was finally there, holding him, it was also unfamiliar. It was strange and disorienting. It’s like the name of a fellow Rwanda adoption blog – he was our mystery guest. He was unsure, too. It’s a strange feeling to love a baby so much, and then upon meeting him you realize you have a lot of catching up to do.
Then, after the strange, the unusual, unfamiliar, it all became very regular and normal, very quickly. We have an 8-month-old baby, and some of his needs are the same, no matter which continent we’re on. He needs to be fed. He will soak through his diaper and onto you if you don’t change him in time (especially true with Ugandan diapers). He cries and we don’t know what he needs. Is he gassy? Bored? Teething? Tired? Hungry? Wants to stand up? Lay down? Go outside?
Beyond being out of practice for babies in general, we’re also contending with the fact that Benjamin has lost his primary caregiver at least four times. In some ways, we need to treat him like a newborn, responding to his needs immediately. In others, we need to set boundaries and rhythms because that, too, engenders trust and security. It’s not easy to suddenly have an 8-month-old baby who doesn’t automatically reach for you when he needs something. It’s a lot of back-arching and pushing us away when we try to comfort (but it’s also been less than 24 hours since he laid eyes on us). It’s heartbreaking to think of what he must have endured, even with loving caregivers along the way. He doesn’t know whom to rely on for his needs anymore. We will patiently teach him, through love, love, and more love, that we are it for him. We are the ones. He can ask us for everything he needs, and we will provide. We pray that one day he’ll finally get it.
Soon, we will know each others’ signals and begin a lifetime of trust. For now, we are having beautiful moments of gazing into one another’s eyes, playing lots of games and giggling away. Benjamin thinks everything is hilarious, so we do too.
We’re making appointments ahead of our court date on Friday, including seeing where Benjamin spent his first 7 months, seeing some other kiddos waiting for their parents to arrive, and checking in at the Embassy. Otherwise, we are hanging out and getting to know each other through the hours and hours of normal in Uganda.
Kim Van Brunt
Sifting through the broken pieces and holding them up to the Light.
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