Thursday, June 30, 2011

Rwanda Rewind: The First (whole) Week

May 2-8.

Finally, we were able to start on some adoption paperwork! (Never thought I'd be happy about more paperwork.) Monday morning we hit the ground running, heading to MIGEPROF, and then to the orphanage for a very short visit. Then we headed to sector to work on our Act of Adoption paperwork. We were so excited to get it done!
The first thing checked off the list! (I know this is probably absolutely boring to those of you not in the adoption process, but it's good for us to be able to remember. So bear with me!)

After that, we went back to the orphanage for like two seconds. Then we headed to a new restaurant for lunch. Called Afrika Bite, it was Rwandan food and delicious. Especially the traditional bread. Chipote? I have no idea how to spell it, but I could eat it every day. And the peanut sauce. Yum.
Then we all headed to the airport to pick up the five families who were coming today. It was hard to believe that we were supposed to just now be arriving, when it felt like we had already been there so long. Meeting some new friends (only known to us online) and seeing old ones was so good. And the size of our group more than doubled. Yikes!

More running around all afternoon, dinner at the pizza place, and home to the hotel. We switched rooms this day, unfortunately in that we went from a nice room overlooking the courtyard to a very loud one overlooking a construction site and an insanely loud road. But fortunate in the fact that we got to have a room adjoining the Bowers' room. Fun!

The rest of the week was filled with running around to different offices and buildings, requesting a court date, visiting Laina, going to court, waiting for our ruling, eating at various places (meals take hours in Rwanda), waiting for things to happen.
I learned to do laundry in our room, and we never had to use the laundry service. It was actually kind of relaxing and normal in the midst of stressful and different. Not that I typically do our laundry in the sink, but you know what I mean. Mindless repetition and all that.

We attended court, which was nerve-wracking before and surprisingly quick and painless. We went to the Genocide Memorial (I wrote about it here). It was beautiful and heartbreaking.

Then the big day arrived: Gotcha Day, the day we'd pass court and Laina would be ours forever. May 6, 2011.
It was a bit surreal for me because I missed it. I was pretty sick that day and had to stay at the hotel the whole day. Yuck! So I found out via text that we had a new daughter, and I had to wait until the next day to see her.

But the next day (Saturday) was another good one because we got to take her out of the orphanage for the day! The families who passed court got up bright and early to be at the orphanage by 6:30 and take our babies with us. It was amazing to walk out the doors with her. We had a lot of firsts that day.
First nap on our bed (on top of the ergo, in her orphanage clothes still).
First bath with us (in the sink!).
First outfit chosen by us (a shirt the boys picked out for her with Aunt Kelsey, grey leggings, and a headband and bow from Aunt Lindy).
It was a bit intimidating--okay, a lot intimidating--to be given this almost-ten-month old baby and being supposed to know what to do next. How often did she nap? How much formula did she need, and how often? Was she on solids yet? And on the questions went. I felt like a first-time mother again, except more relaxed. As in, "I have no idea what I'm doing, but it'll work out."
We hung out around the hotel for a lot of the morning, and then we took a trip outside the city to a nearby village. The country of Rwanda is amazingly beautiful, as are her people.
We had to bring Laina back to the orphanage that night, which was heart-wrenching. This trip was so full of highs and lows it was astounding. But Sunday morning, we picked her up again and got to go to church with her. And it was Mother's Day! Church with my daughter on Mother's Day. Now that's a good day.
And so ended the first full week in Rwanda. We made great strides in our paperwork, we spent time with Laina, we missed our boys like crazy, we learned and loved Rwanda some more.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

One Month Home

What a difference a month makes!

We've actually been home for a month and four days today. These pictures were taken on the four-week anniversary, by my talented sister Kelsey.

We've heard that the first month home is the hardest, and I think that's likely true. When we were handed this sweet little girl, we loved her...but we didn't know her. A very clear example: for the first few nights, we had a terrible time getting her to go to sleep at night. She clearly wanted to, but was unhappy whether we laid her down and left her alone, laid her down and patted her back, rocked her, bounced her, whatever. Our next door neighbors in Rwanda, the Bowers, could certainly attest to that: at least an hour of screaming every night for probably a week and a half. In Ethiopia, we finally figured her out. I fed her a bottle, then put her on my chest while she fell peacefully to sleep. Then I laid her down on her tummy. What an easy solution. But you have to know.

I didn't much like the getting-to-know-you part. I wanted to skip that part, with all its mystery, confusion, fussing, and aha moments. I wanted to get to the part where I knew how to get her to sleep, what foods she liked, when she was getting overwhelmed, and how she liked to be held. I wanted to know her as well as I know my other kids.

We're finally starting to get there. When Laina is tired or worried, she holds her hands together in front of her, like she's praying. When she doesn't get enough eye contact or attention when she's in the ergo, she makes funny faces and noises until I notice. She likes bananas, but not pears. She doesn't mind anymore if her bottle is room temperature (she used to want it HOT!). She likes playing with the tags on her stuffed animals, and she does not like her car seat. We're getting this baby girl figured out, I am glad and relieved to say.

So, with an idea taken from a fellow Rwanda family, I leave you with the amazing then and now. It's amazing what good nutrition, love, and a family can do for a child. When an orphan gets a family, she blossoms.

Then: When we met Laina, she weighed fourteen pounds.
Now: At her check-up (three weeks home), she was 16 pounds, 15 oz.
Then: Laina could not sit up alone, put weight on her legs, or crawl.
Now: She jumps in the jumpy and stands with help, she sits alone and even pushes herself from her tummy to a sitting position, and she army-crawls wherever she wants to go.
Then: She had absolutely no pincer grip.
Now: She picks up tiny things all the time and puts them in her mouth (!!).
Then: She smiled at everyone.
Now: She hides her face in my chest and plays shy sometimes (this is a good sign! It means she's learning that I'm her mama, and that everyone she meets is not her mama.).

One month in, life is still crazy and we're still adjusting. But we're getting there. We are beyond blessed to have Laina Kate in our family. She's lovely, funny, animated, silly, sweet, and beautiful.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rwanda Rewind: Day Two and the Weekend, Part II

That post was just getting way too huge. Go here for Part I. On with the show.

We spent most of Sunday at the orphanage as well.
(the first four families to arrive)

(See her mohawk? When we went to the hospital on Friday, they had shaved the sides of her hair in order to try to put in an iv. Later, the nuns shaved the back, leaving a little fluff of hair on top.)

(from the courtyard)

(I love this picture because it's taken from INSIDE the blue gates, the place we so wanted to be all those long months.)

And made another visit to the hospital (not for Laina). There, we waited outside and played a little soccer with these handsome fellows.

The weekend was long, because we knew that while we had already been gone for five days, we weren't even supposed to be there yet. Meaning for all intents and purposes, we hadn't even started the trip yet. We couldn't wait for Monday, not only so we could welcome the rest of the team to Kigali, but so we could finally start on the mountains of paperwork we had to get through in order to bring Laina home.

Other weekend pictures:
(At Nakumatt, the grocery store/everything store.)

(the road leading to the orphanage)

(Rwanda is beautiful.)

(lovely little restaurant above, with the tree below in the courtyard)

(also the restaurant where Jeremy got his first taste of goat, the dining adventure mentioned at the end of this post.)

So the retelling of the weekend is done! Laina woke up once in the middle of me writing this post, and I went into our room at the beach cottage to hold her. As I sat in the chair with her falling back to sleep on my chest, and the boys sprawled all over the floor, I was able to think for just a minute about why we took this trip. Looking at these pictures and remembering the details brings back a lot of memories--some good and some not-so-good. While it was a beautiful, amazing trip, it was also a very difficult, overwhelming, stressful trip. But we look back on it with awe in what God did, bringing us through the final leg of the journey to bring Laina home, with us and her brothers, where she belongs.