Below is a [very long] summary of Days 3 & 4 of our trip – the days we got to meet and get to know the two little girls that we are adopting! Just as a reminder, I can’t post any face pictures of them until we pass court in Ghana so you’ll have to use your imagination – but let me tell you they are BEAUTIES! :)
Once we arrived into the foster home we approached the gate, and chaos ensued as the orphans in the home saw that the awaited visitors had arrived!
A little while after my mind had soaked up the excitement and emotion of these moments the very kind house mother holding F motioned for me to try and take her. Much to F’s dismay, the house mother handed her over to me and there I stood in the very cramped quarters of the foster home with my future daughter screaming her head off! Yep, more humbling moments! After about 5 minutes F was still not allowing me to console her, so back into the house mother’s arms she went where she clung for dear life and gave me a look that said, ‘don’t ever do that again.’ :)
After our memorable introduction to our girls, we got down to business handing out the loads of donations that we had brought just for the foster home. Shorts, t-shirts, and shoes for the boys, and fancy, decorative pillow case dresses for the girls. It always gets a little chaotic and crazy when the donations start getting handed out (no matter how organized you think you are), and I felt like I was in a whirlwind for about 30 minutes straight. Little J waited patiently in a chair right next to me as she watched me outfit the kids with correct sizes of clothes. Some of our other tripsters got into the groove of sorting through sizes and handing out, so I grabbed J’s bag of gifts that we had brought just for her and kneeled down beside her. We started flipping through the photo album that showed our family, house, and life here in the U.S. With every new photo J could barely handle the excitement of what she saw and she would let out these adorable SQUEALS of pure delight! It was the cutest thing ever!
Eventually our group realized that these kids really needed some face-to-face interaction and attention! There is a quiet street right in front of the foster home, so we led the kids out there and played bubbles, football, read stories, and started getting to know each of the kids individually. Many of the other children that lived near the foster home couldn’t help themselves and ventured over to soak up some attention too.
Woke up the next morning around 6:45am to a little girl playing with my hair. After about 5 minutes she tapped me on the shoulder and motioned to ask for some water. J doesn’t know how to speak English yet, but we’ve been able to communicate quite easily by using hand signals. I could tell that she was ready to start the day so we got her some water, got dressed, and went down to see about ordering some breakfast while the boys slept. We ordered oats, boiled eggs and toast and then went back up to the room and started in on a mini-tournament of the matching game. She LOVES this game! I’ve never heard so many squeals and giggles and just plain outbursts of delight and joy! At the end of one of our matches, much to my surprise, J started counting her matches in English and got all the way to 14 speaking each number out loud. Then, a little while later when we had gotten the coloring books out I noticed her flip to this page and immediately go to town on writing her numbers….
About 2 hours later we were on our way to the inauguration ceremony for the new orphanage. When we arrived I spotted F sitting among the crowd with the house mother. Before and after the ceremony Jake and I did everything we could to inch our way into F’s heart and comfort zone. As we tried to offer F food, loving touches on the arm, kisses on the cheeks, and eye contact/interaction F first clung even tighter to the housemother. But right before the ceremony started we had a small victory as F sat on Jake’s lap for a good couple of minutes while playing with a bracelet. By the end of the ceremony F was dancing to the music, accepting food from us, and looking us in the eye. Right before it was time to go I noticed the house mother slowly inch herself out of sight. We had all been sitting around playing, and F was distracted by dancing with another little girl her age. The house mother tucked herself behind some cars and peered over the hood with a smile as she looked at me – I knew this was my chance! Pretty soon F started looking around for the house mother because she realized she was gone. Then she started wimpering in worry. I scooped her up (huge progress that she allowed me to do this!) and was somehow able to fully distract her by walking over to show her some ants crawling on a tree trunk, and then watching a worker take down balloons. All in all I got to hold her for about 20 minutes – then she caught sight of the house mother and it was all over! No worries though – I’ll take what I can get. We were all headed to the foster home next anyways, so I knew we would get to have more time connecting.
Some sort of switch must have been flipped between our time at the ceremony and getting to the foster home because F completely let her guard down with us! She let us hold the water bottle for her while she took sips, she sat on our laps numerous times and we finally saw her giggle and smile while she playfully interacted with us! Yay!
Our group spent the entire afternoon loving on the kids at the foster home, and the many other street children who happened by. We had brought loads of coloring books and crayons, and I am not kidding the kids colored for almost 2 hours straight. This is considered a special activity to them, because they don’t get the chance to do this in everyday life.
After baths J got snuggled into bed and was asleep in no time. I had to work the ‘mom sway’ with F because she had realized that it was bed time and she didn’t know where she was. She cried for about 5 minutes, but fell asleep in my arms soon after. Eventually I did the old hold-your-breath-and-hope-she-doesn’t-wake-up-when-you-lay-her-down-move and it worked. She stayed fast asleep.
For about 45 minutes that is.
And then she woke up shrieking for “MA!” So we swayed, she fell asleep, and this routine kept up for a few hours. After the first couple of rounds I realized that F was most comfortable sleeping on my tummy, belly to belly. I think she probably would have slept through the whole night that way, but I was so afraid that I was going to fall asleep and roll over, sending her onto the floor! Eventually I was able to maneuver her off of me, and get her to her belly on the bed and this kept her sleeping for almost 1.5 hour stretches each time. But poor baby just wasn’t sure where she was when she would wake up, so she would start tossing and turning, lift her head up and flail her arms around for me until her hand hit my face. Then she would shriek “MA!” until I picked her up and would sway her back to sleep. Midway through the night I knew in my mom-heart that she had to be hungry, but she wouldn’t accept the bottle of porridge from me and I offered it each time she woke up. Then 6am rolled around and as the light started coming through the window she was up again but this time she happily took down her bottle of porridge and wouldn’t you know it – she conked out right after the last sip for over 2.5 hours. Stinker! Because of course, by this time little Miss J had gotten a glorious night of sleep and was up and ready to roll! Ha! Honestly the night reminded of me of what it’s like having a newborn in the house, and even though I was tired, it was so worth the bonding and getting to teach my future daughter that I would be there to meet her needs. I also did get the sweetest picture of F conked out with porridge running down her face and using JJ’s stuffed bear as a pillow.
The best part was when F woke up later in the morning. You know what it’s like when your baby wakes up in their crib by themselves, cooing and talking and happy as ever? That’s how F was. She actually woke up while J and I had gone down to the front desk to order breakfast! We came back up stairs and she was wide awake just looking around the room quietly while everyone else still slept. I soon realized that a major diaper change was in order, and ended up needing to give her another bath. Once she was all fresh and dressed she sat on the bed with all the kids - giggling, playing, rolling around on the bed and just plain content. As I walked around the room packing up our things she would holler out to me, “Ma!” And then I would say, “Yes?” And then she would just give me this look like, “Just checking to see if that is what I am supposed to call you.”
Who would have known? Who would have known that when I set out in life hoping all my dreams would come true that the Lord had a much different plan than I did. God has opened up my eyes to the needs all around me in this fallen world. He has broken my heart time and again over the lives of His children who are afflicted and wounded and oppressed and in need of something so simple, yet so profound – LOVE IN ACTION. Oh that we would say YES when God asks us to stretch a little further, to bend down to the level of the hurting, to die to our selfishness and plans and need for control, and give tiny pieces of our so called ‘dreams’ away! When we do we may find that life as we know it or as we planned it is LOST, but that the Lord has actually granted the desires of our heart along the way.