This post is dedicated to Dawn, who is checking the blog "several times a day" in anticipation of the Tuesday in Ethiopia post. I've always wanted a fan (just not a crazy one) and I've always said that if I got one, I wouldn't take her for granted. Plus, I understand the pain of checking blogs and wondering where in hell the author is and what she could possibly be doing that could be more important than providing an update for me to read. I don't want to inflict that sort of pain on anyone. So Dawn, this one's for you!!
First, I interviewed cleaning crews this week. Still not happy about paying for that. But at this point, let's get real.
Second, I must mention that Little Miss Fantastic is 4 months old today! Truly, she is an absolute angel who spreads sunshine wherever she goes. Her personality is really starting to come out. She smiles her huge, dimply smile and she kicks her legs like crazy while making these hysterical noises when anyone talks to her. She's also really filling out --- even in the 2 1/2 weeks since she's come home we notice such a difference. And her hair; it's still growing! $43 worth of Carol's Daughter products later (which only makes up half of our supply of products for her hair) and I think I'm prepared to nurture it.
I remember when our other kids were born and I was frantically paging through the umpteenth parenting book on not sleeping or constantly screaming or giving me the finger when I wasn't looking or whatever unpleasant thing we were enduring 24/7 in an attempt to figure out what on earth the baby (or babies) could possibly still be mad about and how to fix it. Most authors brilliantly discussed the fact that all babies would operate perfectly provided they were put on the proper schedule, talked to the right way, held the right way, dressed in proper couture attire, breastfed by a mother subsisting on soybeans and wheat berries, blah blah blah. And of course, I was doing ALL of those things!
I didn't understand. "Based on what study of what baby (from what planet) did this person come up with these conclusions?" I wondered. "Because it can't be a human baby. That's simply not possible. At least, not when they come out of my body. Because my children were seemingly put here to push me to the absolute brink of insanity within the first six months and five days."
Folks, I've figured out the solution to all that nonsense (at least in our case). Apparently, one must simply go to Africa. You have to go only that far to find a child who follows the rules!
Now, before everyone hates my guts for posting, let alone living with, this angelic experience we're having, let me mention a few things:
1. This is completely abnormal and probably shouldn't be expected. I've concluded that we were blessed by two things: her age and her innate disposition. Being only 3 1/2 months old when she came home was huge, I think, because she hadn't really developed any strong attachments to anything in Ethiopia. Almaz did tell me that for the first 8 weeks of her life, she was such a challenge (crying constantly, sleeping for only 15 minutes at a time) that the special mother at HH after whom she was named wanted to change her name! Honestly, I'm okay with having missed out on that little segment of her life. I also think she's just a happy kid, likely to become a nightmare adolescent. Because that's how it works, right? There's no such thing as a child who never has a challenging spell as far as I understand. So all of you who presently hate my guts can focus on how hard life will be when she turns 13. Feel better?
2. Her personality is absolutely coming out now. So I think that if I'd gone to get her at 5 or 6 (or more) months of age and disrupted her routine, it's highly likely that we'd be in adjustment hell right now.
3. Let's remember that I birthed twin boys --- after 20 days of in-hospital bedrest, not allowed out of bed even to go to the bathroom and during which time I endured (and barely survived, as I don't tolerate even getting my eyebrows plucked) the insertion of eleven IVs, two of which blew up the veins into which they were inserted. And, let's remember that those babies were on two-hour opposing schedules for 6 months. One ate every single hour. Each feeding took 30 minutes. Plus a diaper change. You do the math. Oh, and there was a newly turned 2-year-old running around at the time. Hard times. Very, very hard times.
3. After the twins, we produced another son who cried from the moment he took his first breath until 5 minutes ago. He'll likely start again in 30 seconds. We haven't had a full night's sleep in seven years. And a well-balanced meal? What is that exactly? Cheerios and cous-cous anyone?
So, at this point, I think we were destined to be blessed by a child who, at least temporarily, is relatively content. Because with 4 others running around, 3 of whom are rarely content (the 4-year-old of whom I spoke earlier is yelling at me right this very minute because he cannot get Mario on top of some planet on the Wii. 'Cause, somehow, that's my fault), the good Lord knew I couldn't handle much more.
I also think this is God's way of saying, "You two are DONE!" After this, I would be terrified to bring another child into this house. It can't get much easier than this, so I think we'll go out on a good note.
And, to be clear, this isn't easy by any stretch of the definition. The juggling act is mind-boggling at times. But it's nothing compared to every-hour feeding, 24-hour screaming, and zero sleeping, all of which I've unfortunately experienced...simultaneously.
Okay, I admit it. I have help. But it comes in the form of a 4-year-old.
George: "Dear God, can someone else please help?"
I woke up after a good night's sleep and felt much better and was SO thrilled because this was to be the day many of us would meet the birthmothers. I mean, the idea of barfing on Almaz was mortifying, and the thought of barfing on the birthmother? Well, that is just horrifying beyond belief and I don't even want to go there so let's just move on. We were told to come to HH before our scheduled time slot. Mine was at 10:30 - I was the second meeting.
I went down and had some funnel cakes --- I mean pancakes, but they were JUST like funnel cakes --- and coffee. Finally, food was good again. Because when food is good, life is good.
I was so anxious to see my Nina that I headed over to HH around 9:30 or so with some other families. The special mothers were just bringing the babies downstairs for the day and I asked someone where Rahel was. They said she was coming down. One of the special mothers handed her to me and when Nina saw me, she smiled. Coincidence? Probably. But it was the first time I'd seen her smile and it made me so happy! I pretended it was her way of forgiving me for deserting her for that first 24 hours while I recovered from being dead.
Nina's birthmother showed up right on time. Understandably, I'm sure, I won't dive too deep into the details of that meeting. The thing is, Nina has so little that's her own private story to share (or not) when and how she chooses. And this part of her life, this person in her life, I hope will be so special to her. And I want her to know that this person is a special angel, and that the details of her life are hers to share how and with whom she chooses.
I will simply say that I was in absolute awe of her mother. Her beauty, her poise, her grace, her maturity. I loved her. And that was what I most wished for. I prayed that she would show up because, sometimes, the birthmothers are notified but don't show. Or show up late causing anxiety that they may not show at all. And I prayed that I'd like her. That may sound silly because, in the end, no matter what I thought, I'd tell Nina wonderful things about her. But I really wanted to feel those things. And I did.
All adoptive parents feel differently on this issue. Some want to meet the birthmother and even have an open long-term relationship with her, some want to know nothing about her and dread the day their child begins to ask questions. This choice is personal for each woman. For me, I see this as a journey her birthmother and I were meant to walk together. Two people meant to be brought together for the benefit of this little girl. She gave her life, and I will give her a life. Without both of us, she could have neither. So this woman, Nina's birthmother, is very, very important to me.
After the meeting, several of us hung out at HH for a time before heading back to the hotel for lunch. We learned that while our schedule said that the cultural dinner would be Wednesday night, it was actually Tuesday night. Again, I was thrilled to be feeling better so I could attend and enjoy it!
We had lunch at the hotel which was hilarious to me because it again proved that whenever a parent sits down to eat, a child needs to be fed. Seriously, almost every time my food was served in Ethiopia, Nina got hungry! The first few times with this were a bit challenging. I mean, we all have our way of feeding babies. Nina wasn't real used to my way. She was used to being swaddled in a blanket with part of the blanket over her head to block out all other stimulation. Oh, and she had to be bounced around all the while. So, there I was, a bit like Tigger with an invisible pig in a blanket trying to get 1 1/2 ounces into her so I could eat! It's still amazing to me that only 3 weeks ago she took 1 1/2 ounces at a time and now she takes 7 ounces at a time --- and not only doesn't need to be swaddled and hidden from the world but refuses to be!
We headed back to HH from our hotel around 6:30 so that we could meet the night special mothers. This was really important to me because Nina was named after one of these women. I so wanted her photo as well as for her to have a chance to say goodbye to Nina.
Those of us with infants went upstairs to see these women because they were in the midst of putting the babies down for the night. Holy crap - it's HOT up there! Honestly, as an American, with all we hear about overheating and SIDS and etc. you want to go through and pull all the blankets off these babies. It's amazing. They have space heaters in each room and then the babies are in warm PJs and also have blankets around the tops of their heads and heavy comforters on them (and they have little pillows!). It's sort of funny - I kept stripping layers so as not to pass out!
We headed out from HH around 7:15 for the cultural dinner. It took about 30 minutes to arrive. The restaurant was pretty crowded. There were a few other families with their new children, some business men, some families. It was a good mix.
Almaz ordered the food and the dancing began. The food, which I ate only a bit of just in case, was phenomenal. Karen was kind enough to find the non-spicy stuff for me and pretty much hand-feed me all night since I had my hands full with Nina (literally).
Nina got pretty cranky and at one point I had to hand her over to Almaz. I was like, "Uh, no clue. Work your magic." It was really loud and I think maybe that got to her.
We got back to the hotel around 10:00 and headed up for bed. This would be my first night with Nina and I wasn't sure what to expect. Almaz had given me a little Moses Basket to put her in, but she seemed really uncomfortable in it so I just lay her in bed with me. She doesn't roll yet, so I figured she'd be fine. And she was. She only woke up every 4 hours or so to eat and then went right back to sleep. No problem.
I kept thinking, "Okay - start screaming now. Because that's what my kids do: scream for no reason for hours on end rendering me completely exhausted and crabby. So, don't hold out on me. Anytime now. Ready...Set...." But nothing. It was amazing.
Only two days left! And Wednesday was shopping day! That was quite an experience...to be documented next...