Thursday, October 3, 2013

Happy Gotcha Day!- Or not so happy....

I am not sure why we celebrate Gotcha Day. Looking back, I have to say it was one of the worst days of my little girls' life-and maybe one of my worst days as well. I guess we are celebrating this year because we can testify of all the great things God has done in our family over the past year. He truly has brought us through the difficult transition and woven us together as a family! I am so thankful to Him for seeing us through!

October 5, 2012

Today was the day we would pick up Joy and she would be with us forever. It was supposed to be a happy day. It started off rough. We were supposed to meet at the orphanage at 10:00 AM. Our driver was late-due to traffic (imagine that!) She didn't arrive until just a few minutes before 10:00- and remember, it takes over an hour to get to the orphanage from the hotel.  I wanted to call and let them know we would be late, but I was informed that in the Philippines you do not need to do that. It is almost expected that you will be late-how can you not be late, with that kind of intense traffic!

By the time we arrived at the orphanage, I was a nervous wreck. I HATE being late and I felt terrible about it! I felt even more terrible when we were met by the orphanage director who said the babies had been waiting for the "going away" party, so we would do the party part first before going over all the paperwork. I think Joy was anxious too. I think she thought we were not coming for her. I felt so bad!

They had a nice little celebration for us, with chips of various kinds. Chips were Joy's request for the party food! They decorated and sat all the babies in a circle outside on their back patio.  We sang songs and then Joy went around and hugged everyone and said goodbye. It was heartbreaking. She was saying "goodbye" to the only home she had ever known. And it was a good home. A loving home. She had her needs met-and she loved her caregivers.

We went over the paperwork with the orphanage directors and the social workers-and then it was time to leave.

Joy wanted to ride in our van. She came very willingly and didn't cry one bit. All the caregivers had tears in their eyes. They were sad and happy at the same time. Joy sat between me and Natalie. In the van, she sat rigid and didn't want me to touch her, and then she clung to Natalie. She wouldn't look at me or let me touch her at all. And that's how it began. She was terrified. She was confused. And she wanted Mama Tine, the only Momma she had ever known-but she didn't know how to tell us what she was feeling. Instead, she clung to Natalie and rejected me.

At the hotel, things got worse. She stuck her tongue out at me if I tried to smile at her. She pinched me if I tried to touch her. She spit in my face if I tried to help her in any way. I felt like she hated me. I think she was trying to get us to take her back to the orphanage, the only home she had ever known. I will be absolutely honest.  I had several moments when I wanted to take her back. She was doing her best to act her worst.  I knew she was scared and hurting, but I didn't understand how she could act that way. It doesn't matter how much you study this kind of thing in adoption books-there is no way to prepare yourself for this type of rejection.

We had no honeymoon period. Not even one day. Not even one hour. And she took out all her fear and her anger on me. In turn, I had trouble even liking the little girl we had gone half way across the world to adopt. Judge me if you want, but unless you have been there, you cannot understand. I wanted to love her. I wanted to take care of her. I wanted to be her Mommy. She wouldn't let me. She pushed me and pinched me and spit at me. She didn't want me. She wanted what was comfortable. She wanted her bed. She wanted the only momma she ever knew. Isn't this the way we treat God sometimes? He's trying to give us something better than what we had, but we kick and we scream and we push it away, wanting only what is comfortable to us. We have to remember He sees the big picture and we can always trust Him even if it seems painful at times.

It is not true that God does not give you more than you can handle. He gave me way more than I could handle those first several weeks with Joy-but He was right there with me. Without God, I would have given up the first day, but His strength upheld me during those very difficult days.

And so, gotcha day was NOT a happy day. Joy didn't want to be there with us, and the way she was acting, I didn't want her there with us either. This was not the way I had imagined how our first day together would go.

I am so glad that today, one year later, we can celebrate what God has done. I can look back and I am so grateful for the missionaries and caregivers who took such good care of our little Joy. Her complete rejection of me was partially because she was so well loved and she didn't want to leave. I can look back and I can see how far God has brought us. Today, Joy loves her Mommy and Mommy loves her to pieces. Joy is happy now, even though she still misses her first "family" at times. So, Happy Gotcha Day, Joy! Remember on this day that God always loves you and He will always take care of you, even if you are scared or angry or confused. God's hand is upon your life and He can see the big picture, even when you only see the pain.

Philippines Day 1-Meeting Joy

The next morning, we made the arrangements to meet the I.C.A.B. social worker and our driver at the hotel so we could go to the orphanage to meet Joy. This was our first "real" glimpse of the city of Manila.

When we booked our hotel, we purposely booked it in the closest "safe" area of town to the orphanage. We thought we were only about 10 minutes away from the orphanage-but we had no idea how to account for Manila traffic! What would have taken 10 minutes in our city, took well over an hour in Manila. Traffic was insane. Cars honking, people walking in middle of the traffic selling goods, street children begging, Jeepenys, and buses. I felt terribly claustrophobic.

Joy's orphanage was in a "gated" community with a guard outside of it. That sounds nice-but it really wasn't. The streets leading up to the orphanage had little homes made out of cardboard and maybe tin roofs where people lived. The poverty was overwhelming.

When we pulled up to the orphanage, I was surprised at how nice it was. It was surrounded by a cement wall and a large guard dog named Trigger greeted us at the gate. We were warmly welcomed by Ate J who was the social worker at the orphanage and ushered into a large front room that was the office. After a few minutes of "chit chat" Ate J asked us if we wanted to meet Joy. A few minutes later I heard what sounded like a scream/cry and I was told that was Joy. I asked if she was crying or scared and I was told she was excited.

It was quite a surreal experience to meet Joy for the first time. I could tell that Joy was nervous when she entered the room. I could also tell that she was well loved and taken care of. Her hair was fixed in a pretty French braid with barrettes and she was holding the Ate's hand. She looked at Natalie right away and basically clung to her the rest of the time. She did give me a small hug and sat on my lap for a minute at the urging of one of the Ate's-but that didn't last long.

At one point while we were there, Joy touched Darren's nose and said something in Tagalog. All those in the room that understood what she said, laughed! She had told Darren he had a big nose!

We got a tour of the orphanage. It was very nice and the Ate's were so kind. I could tell that the babies were well loved. There were so many adorable babies. I wanted to hold them, but I knew it was more important for me to focus on Joy. I did not want her to think we were there for the babies. She had seen all of her friends be adopted, and now it was her turn. She was chosen. Even though she was loved in the orphanage, there was a hole in her heart. She wanted a family, and we were there to be that family.

The missionaries who run the orphanage arrived while we were getting the tour. They had cut their vacation short to come see Joy off to her new family. They were kind and I could tell they loved Joy so very much.

We only stayed about an hour or so before heading back to the hotel. We would come back the following day to pick Joy up and take her with us.

Our journey had only just begun!

The Flight

Over the next several posts, I am going to share in detail about our adoption journey to the Philippines to bring our daughter home. There are several reasons I did not do this a year ago. For one, the journey was intense and I was absolutely exhausted. A second reason, I struggled for a long while, both while there in the Philippines and for several months after coming home and I honestly didn't want to share publically, especially since Joy's adoption wasn't finalized.

Why am I sharing now? I want other adoptive families to know it is ok to struggle. Maybe even normal. I want to share my experiences so I can hopefully help someone else on their journey. Joy's adoption should be final in the next couple weeks, so I feel it is a good time to share the details.

The Flight

October 2nd, 2012

Not many children can say their parents flew through a typhoon to bring them home-but Joy can! I think our flight was our first indication of how difficult this journey would be.  The day started out great! I got more sleep than I imagined I would and woke up refreshed and ready for our 24 hours of travel to the Philippines. I felt a little anxious, but more excited than anything.

We arrived at the Louisville airport, feeling relaxed and ready to go. We made it through security with no issues and had time to get Starbucks. Our first flight was a piece of cake. Just a hop, skip and a jump and we were in Detroit. In Detroit, we had a significant layover before our 14 hour flight to Tokyo. 

The flight to Tokyo is where it got rough. I was too excited or anxious to read or sleep, so I put a movie on. The kids were settled in. The first 10 or 12 hours were smooth, and I even snoozed a bit. By about 12 hours into our flight, we started going through some intense turbulence. The plane dropped like an elevator falling-or maybe the Tower of Terror ride at Disney World and people screamed. For almost 2 hours the plane dropped and bumped and shook. Babies cried and kids got sick. One of them was my kid. Micah, who was sitting next to me got sick all over himself. The little did no good. I tried to page the stewardess, but she was not any help. There were people getting sick all over the plane. I tried to clean him up with one of the airline "blankets", but he had to sit that way for over 1/2 hour.

Finally, after a very bumpy decent, we landed almost an hour behind schedule at the Tokyo airport. We were late for our connecting flight to Manila. Running through the airport, Natalie got sick. Thankfully, the airport employees were very kind and helped us find the restrooms and jump to the head of the line so we would not miss our flights.

The take off again was very bumpy. Flying through a typhoon was absolutely TERRIBLE!!!  We arrived in Manila, absolutely exhausted. The airport was crowded and it was tiring trying to maneuver through all the people. Thankfully, our friend, who was our tour guide and driver while we were there, met us at the airport and took us safely through the traffic to our hotel.

Our hotel was beautiful and very westernized. I did not get much sleep that night, even though I was exhausted! I knew the next day I would meet our little girl!