August 13, 2016 – The Empty Chair
August 13, 2016
We are home, and we have an empty chair at our table. It makes my heart ache with every meal we eat together, movie we watch, or our time together.
Where do I start to tell you about this last week?
Let me start with the really good, really awesome stuff…Our Pickles could not have been more lovely of a human being. She was ours by the end of that first day together and our love for each other grew over our 19 days together. She was sick a good 7 days of our time together with Malaria and Bill really thinks that helped us bond. We held her, bathed her, rocked her, comforted her, sang to her when she was getting shots. It was scary but the reality of it all was pretty accurate in parenting. It was just the abridged version – we got some of the hard stuff in early!
Here is what I can tell you about my daughter. She has a kind heart, she shares, she loves, she has such a big personality and I loved getting to know her more and more each day. She also loves the Wonder Woman undies I brought! (she also has REALLY good taste!)
She has such a great sense of humor and loves to tease. One of my favorite days, started snuggled up to her, and her trying to open my eye lids to see if I was awake. We giggled over that one. She really fit perfectly into the spot that had been saved for her in my heart.
She loves the song “Try Everything” from the movie Zootopia. We played it over and over, she sang, she danced, she made us laugh. We watched her first movie on our tablet and she squealed in delight.
She picked up on English quickly (I told you she was a baby genius) and corrected her Maama when I mixed up the words for water and feces. She also laughed and covered up my mouth.
Mabel also is not quick to give you a smile, she has this little thing she does where she smirks and then the smile grows across her beautiful face. It’s the most endearing thing. She teases us and, she makes this cute “eh?” sound that raises at the end.
Our girly also gained 5 lbs .over the course of the 19 days, which is pretty good with her being sick. Her skin glowed, her legs and arms started to have a shape to them, her poor extended belly (common when a child is malnourished) went down. She looked so healthy!
When her birth mother came to say goodbye to us, the translator asked my girl who was Mommy, and my sweetheart came right over to me, I was her mommy. When asked about her Birth Mom, she said she didn’t know her. What a bittersweet moment that was. I’m sure that must have broken her heart, but she laughed it off.
She and Bill came to have their special connection – they liked to dance while he was holding her, and when he dipped her the laughing was contagious. She would respond to him saying “I love you” with the same phrase. It was amazing! They made a connection right away and she would only let him hold her the first few hours. (Again, she has really good taste!)
She and Liam discovered a love of blowing bubbles, doing crafts, playing in the rain and spinning in circles. They didn’t make the connection I hoped they would, but a fondness for each other was at least there.
She and I… oh she became my baby rather quickly. The first few hours she wouldn’t look me in the eye, but after a few hours she thought I was ok. After she was sick, she only wanted me to take her to the bathroom, (the flush toilet was a new thing and she wasn’t sure about it), get her dressed and play puzzles and match cards with her. She discovered my jewelry and covered herself in it every day – earrings included! She was snuggly, and silly and made up a song consisting only of the words “Mommy” and I can’t stop watching the video because it’s just so precious. I wish I could post it, but I can’t show her face until we finalize.
We had two housemates who really were our lifelines…
When we arrived at the house we met Savannah, a vibrant young lady from Texas who just graduated with her engineering degree who is here teaching at the orphanage. She was staying in the room across from us and we just loved our time with her. She became part of our family right away. She felt familiar and both the kids loved spending time with her. She played cards with us, we ate all our meals together, we watched movies, took adventures into Jinja and so much more. She is forever a special friend to us now, because she was such an important person in this chapter of our lives.
Kris arrived about 4 days before the end of our time at the house. She is no nonsense girl from Oklahoma, and stood up for the rest of us when we weren’t sure we could. She works in marketing but also has her own non-profit. She came in and was buying rice, soap, salt to give away to the folks in the area we were staying. Most of the food these people ate, they grew, but some of the things like salt, sugar, etc were luxuries and she was lovingly purchasing them to disperse. I was really impressed with her servant heart and the confidence she had about what she was doing there.
These two wonderful women stayed with us our last morning with Pickles, and I just can’t tell you how much that support meant to me. And when it was time to take Mabel back, they came with us. They hugged us, loved us, and cried along with us. I was so thankful for the love and friendship they showed our family. I’m not sure how we would have faired without either of them.
We got Mabel back to her room at the orphanage, settled in, brought in all the goodies she was keeping with her and then we cried and cried as we drove away. Mabel was so sad, I just hope to never see that look on her face again. It was ultimate betrayal at its best and the worst moment I have ever had in my life. I am determined to make her ours, despite some of the evil we encountered.
One really great thing that happened, but was hard, was seeing our family pull together. I was the cheerleader for the boys for a good portion of the trip, but when I became so beat down about the hurdles that kept popping up, they became my cheerleaders. Actually, Mabel did too. I had a day when I was so upset about how we’d been taken advantage of, that both my sweet children did things to make me laugh, patted me on the back and gave me extra hugs and kisses and made funny faces at me.
Liam experienced how it feels to be different, not something he had felt so closely before. Being fair skinned meant that natives stopped and looked at us. Ok, STARED at us. It was hard to stomach as an adult and many times Liam burst into tears after a bit. I think it was good for him to realize we don’t treat folks differently, we are all children of God.
Liam also made a really lovely friend named Marvin. He attended the school and was also 10. He sought Liam out each time we were at the orphanage. He was a bright boy, who was so curious about us and offered to teach us the Lugandan language. On the last day we saw him, he gave Liam a friendship bracelet with his name on it. The next day Liam wrote him a thank you note and gave him a bracelet that he had just received as a gift with his own name on it. I was really touched that the thought to do that.
We got to experience the beauty of Uganda on several different days, but mostly on the last day there in country. We stayed at a hotel at the top of a hill in Kampala that overlooked Lake Victoria. It was a day to really appreciate the handiwork of God.
We were also able to meet another American family who are adopting two precious siblings. They were such a beautiful family. They made us feel normal for those few hours. We could compare war stories (we had each been financially taken advantage of in different ways.) and were just trying to do what was best for our kids to get them home. They had been to court 3 times, after waiting 6 hours each time the judge refused to see them. How my heart sank when they told me of what they had been through. We are praying for the Bradford family and ask that you add them to your prayers as well.
So let me tell you about some of the things that weren’t so great…
Her birth mother has not signed off on her rights. Let me tell you, this terrifies me! We could go through this entire process and have her change her mind and Mabel is gone. We started this trip thinking that her BM had passed away. It turns out that she is not only alive but in contact with the man who runs the orphanage. He told us we needed to pray on buying this woman a house and land, also a passport. This birth mother also wanted gifts of money.
A lot of other things I can’t share, but made us feel very uncomfortable. We have to do this for Mabel, and not look back. When I think of how hard this is, I think again about the song Mabel sang in the bath on our second day together (Read Under our Mosquito Net). If she can be that joyful about warm water, I CAN DO THIS!
Kris wrote us a letter to read at a later time, and it was just what we needed. She said that we shouldn’t think of this trip as a loss if Mabel doesn’t become ours. And that we showed her unconditional love like our Heavenly Father does. We loved our girl to pieces, and if nothing else, I got to have a daughter for 19 days.