It's hard to believe I'm writing this because we have been praying about adoption for 11 years. Eleven years of tear-filled prayers, waiting on the Lord, His timing, His provision, His will. He delivered and we could not be happier. Ryan is adjusting so well to his new life. He's come so far in just a few weeks and he amazes us with new things every single day. It is such an honor that God has chosen us to be Ryan's parents. I know many people say Ryan is "lucky" to be our son but as I've said before (HERE), WE are the lucky ones, lucky that we have been entrusted to be his parents.
December 12, 2013
We left from Atlanta, Georgia, and boarded a plane for Pondicherry, India! It was terribly emotional leaving our kids for 12 days, not knowing if we'd be delayed in India since Ryan's passport hadn't been issued yet. It was a HUGE leap of faith going and believing God would fill in all the gaps. While we waited to depart from Atlanta, I met my friend Trisha and her family at the airport. She and I met via her blog several months ago. I found we were using the same agency and we both live in Alabama. It has been amazing to share this journey with her. She's been a shoulder to cry on and vent with via text messages for months on end and I am so thankful for her! Trisha's little one didn't live in the same province as Ryan so we didn't see each other again until our medical and embassy appointments in Delhi the following week.
December 13, 2013
Our first layover was in Frankfurt, Germany, where we met my other sweet friend, Kelly and her husband. She contacted me on Facebook over the summer when she found our babies were at the same orphanage. It was comforting to know our children shared the same home half way around the world. Our cases moved along at the same pace which meant we traveled at the same time. This was one of many answers to many prayers that had been said during our adoption journey. I remember telling Kelly we could at least be clueless together in India. I couldn't think of any other couple I'd rather be in India with - such a blessing!
December 14, 2013
At the Chennai airport - up almost 48 hours, WAY too excited to sleep!
The ride to our hotel was interesting. We saw tons of construction happening at 2am, lots of people out and about, horns beeping, cars swerving. We arrived at our hotel and fell asleep around 4am then we were up at 6 to FaceTime the kids and eat breakfast then we headed out for the 3 hour drive to Pondicherry. Again, the ride there was such an adventure. Cows in the grassy median, a huge herd passed right in front of us on the highway, a few of the cows were leashed but most just wandered, family of three or four on mopeds or motorcycles none of them wearing helmets, trucks with sacks of vegetables and grain 8 feet tall with people sitting on top of those stacks, men urinating on the side of the road, construction and rubble everywhere, car horns were honking constantly, buses filled with people going to school and work. We finally arrived in Pondicherry and Kelly and I squealed! Our driver didn't know where the orphanage was so he made many stops and called THE Sister , who was the social worker for Ryan's orphanage. Finally we saw the street where Ryan's orphanage was located. That name has been permanently etched on my heart. This is where our son had lived since birth. We had driven too far down the street so Sister met us and walked down to show the driver where to go.
We pulled into the hospital where the orphanage is located. There were people and children everywhere. The is also a convent located there for the nuns.
Sister brought us up to our rooms and told us to get cleaned up, we would have lunch and THEN we could meet our babies! We were so thankful to be able to stay at the orphanage. I don't think this is typical procedure for adoptive families but the sisters were very accommodating. They told us we could stay as long as we wanted. Our room was actually a hospital room complete with tiny twin beds, a shower/toilet room combined and A/C! I didn't see much air conditioning at the compound so they gave us one of their best rooms. She told us how to get hot water from the water heater with bucket for a shower. This was surely a first for us but we embraced this adventure knowing this is exactly how Ryan lives and what better way to really get a feel for his first home.
The Church of our Lady of the Angels (Eglise de notre Dame des Anges) was right across the street from Cluny. I didn't see the significance of that church's name until later.
At lunch we were served some interesting food while the nuns sat in a table across from us smiling and chatting away with us. I was entirely too excited and anxious to eat and the sisters were very concerned about that! :) Kelly and I went back and forth discussing how we wanted to meet our babies, wishing to photograph this anticipated event for each other but eventually went with Sister's suggestion of meeting them with the entire group of kids. I am so glad we did it this way. Ryan was able to warm up to us as we played with all the kids. It wasn't an intimidating experience for him and he got to enjoy hanging out with us for hours over a two day span. Sister brought us to the children's home after lunch.
We walked into a big room that was used for playing, eating, and some sort of schooling, we think. We were greeted by 15-20 of the most gorgeous children with jet black hair and big brown eyes. The kids were so hungry for attention that they surrounded us with huge smiles and open arms. I started scanning the group for Ryan while waving and smiling at the others. At first I saw him and then thought...nope, not him, he's too tall. Looked again, and THEN I saw him toddling around in a little Angry Birds t-shirt. He saw us, glanced at us for a few seconds and then went back to the TV.
He was real apprehensive of us for obvious reasons. We were SO EXCITED to finally meet him and he was just like, Meh. I've noticed he does this lip biting thing when he's nervous. :(
The workers had to go back to him several times and steer him in our direction. By this point, Scott and I were on the floor covered in kids. They were chatting away with us in Tamil (which we didn't speak a lick of), hugging us, kissing us, taking off my shoes and putting them on their own feet, gazing at my iPhone while I snapped their pictures, reprogramming Scott's watch, in awe of his hairy arms.
You know you've met a friend for life when they will pick pretend lice out of your hair with such vigilance. I felt truly loved. :)
One of the sisters brought Ryan over to Scott, to shake his hand and meet his "Papa". Heart melted.
At some point, I scooped Ryan up in my arms and took a few pictures. I had waited 338 days for this moment.
He ran off for a few minutes and I scooped him up again and placed him back in my arms. He gazed into my eyes for about ten seconds and at that moment I knew HE knew I was his Mama! That sealed the deal for me. I tickled him for what seemed like forever. I had waited 11 years to be his Mama.
A few other times he would toddle back and plop down in our laps on his own. He warmed right up to both of us. This day was definitely on my list of the 4 most amazing days ever!
After playing with all the kids for over two hours, we left the children's home and went back to our room and crashed at 6pm. The sounds of car horns blaring didn't stop until about 10pm.
December 15, 2013
I woke at 3am and grabbed my phone and flipped through all my photos waiting for Scott to wake up. When he did, I crawled into his tiny twin bed and we looked at all of the photos together. Our hearts were so full! At 5:30am the church bells rang from the Catholic church across the street from Cluny's. Children were singing in the choir and it was such a heavenly sound.
We got showered (with our bucket of hot water and a pair of socks used for washcloths) and did some sight seeing around the beach side of Pondicherry before we headed back to the children's home.
Right before lunch we headed back to the children's home and played with all of those beautiful children for several hours. Again, it was magical, hearing them laugh, feeling their arms squeeze my neck, my legs, my arms and beg to be held. My heart was shattered when one sweet little girl, about 5 years old, would shout out, "Mama!! Papa!!" over and over again. She didn't have a Mama or Papa and that little one clung to me for two days. She didn't want to leave my side for a second. This sweet precious girl wanted a family and it hurt knowing we had to leave without her - and a dozen others we would have loved to tuck into our suitcases. I kept telling her Jesus loves her. I love her. Another precious one brought me a matchbox car and pointed to me, Scott, herself and the car. She wanted us to take her! Oh how I wish we could have walked out with that feisty little miss! Many times I have thought about what must have gone on in the minds of the little ones left behind. We got to shower them with love and little gifts but their heart's desire is to be loved and cherished by a family. Sadly, this is just one of thousands of orphanages in India. Millions of children in India alone need homes. I find myself thinking of those babies daily and praying big prayers for them to know they are loved, cherished and wonderfully made by God.
We wore Ryan out and he fell asleep in my arms that morning. I had asked Sister to show me which bed Ryan slept in. She said he liked to rock so he slept in the cradle. I thought she meant he slept there when he was younger. Nope. He still slept in that tiny cradle as a toddler.
We checked into our hotel after we left the orphanage, then got something to eat. We headed back to see the kids for the last time that evening. They had just had baths and were playing in the court yard area. They didn't have any playground area that we saw, no grass to run and play in, no swings or slides, not a sandbox to dig around in. Kelly brought some bubbles which turned out to be a huge hit! The kids LOVED those bubbles!
I can't get over how different Ryan looks here.
We left the kids with tears in our eyes knowing we wouldn't see them ever again.
That was the last night our son slept in an orphanage.
December 16, 2013
The next day we met Sister and the a few of the other nuns in the chapel for prayer before we took Ryan to the hotel. When we saw Ryan, he leaped into my arms. I held him as we sat in the quiet chapel and Sister prayed the most eloquent prayer over Ryan and "M". It was just beautiful and very emotional because I knew how difficult this day was for the sweet sisters as well. They had loved these children their entire lives and they were handing them over to us, never to see them again this side of heaven. We were told to leave the compound and not to bring them back for obvious reasons. Ryan didn't seem to mind walking out in my arms. The hotel was two blocks from Cluny and he just took it all in as we walked the streets of Pondicherry. I don't think he had ever left the orphanage before because he was taking in all the sights and sounds with wide eyes and a look of wonder.
When we got to the hotel, it was tough. The tears came. For a very long time. He was scared but SO SO brave. He slept twice but the tears didn't stop until I started walking and rocking him. Because we were waiting to hear if Ryan's Indian passport was ready for us to pick up, we couldn't leave the hotel. Rocking and holding Ryan close to the door was all that made him happy. Through the sniffles and tears he clung to me. My heart was breaking for him. It was way more difficult than either of us had imagined it would be. As I rocked and swayed him, Scott was video taping and taking photos of us. What he captured was unbelievable.
There are angels dancing over us and then they dissipate. I was speechless yet comforted knowing God was reminding us that He was there with us in this devastating moment, when our son lost everything he had ever known. God was there as He always is.
The Lord your God will be with you. He will neither fail you nor forsake you.
After that moment, Ryan turned a corner. He ate Teddy Grahams, drew pictures on little pieces of paper, played football with Papa, he sang the ABC song whenever he would see letters. He perked up and seemed happy with lots of laughter and smiles. He would cling to me because he was still so fearful but he didn't grieve again with tears. Those angels were sent to comfort all of us, no doubt. Their presence calmed our precious boy in his most fearful moment. It was a tremendous comfort and reminder to me as well.
p.s. remember the name of the church across the street from the compound?
The Church of our Lady of the Angels
Right before 5pm Sister called to let us know Ryan's passport was ready!! We had come half way around the world praying and believing it would arrive right on time. Dozens of people told us it was too risky but we put our trust in God and we knew He was telling us to GO. We had faith when it seemed absolutely foolish but God made it happen! In the past few weeks I have recounted of all the times my fear was greater than my faith. I have pondered the times I trusted myself more than I trust God. There have been times I have believed man and his word over God's word. Our entire adoption journey has been filed with several faith building experiences and I am grateful to God for that. Apparently my faith needed some exercise. We went downstairs expecting the passport to be there. Instead we found a jeep-type ambulance full of nuns awaiting us. They told us to get in and as usual we were confused but we did so anyway. Within a few minutes we realized they were taking us to the post office to get our kiddos passports. Once we arrived, I immediately thought I'd never complain about US post offices again. It was a crazy mess of a place. After waiting for good bit, Ryan "signed" for his passport with his thumbprint and we were set!
December 17, 2013
At breakfast the next morning an Indian lady tried to hug Ryan and take him from my arms. He quickly shook his head No and clung to my neck. In less than 10 hours he was already beginning to bond with us which I found amazing. We discovered over the rest of our time in India, Ryan would not go to any strangers not even the ones that looked like him. This was an excellent sign and another answer to prayer! God went before us to prepare Ryan's heart and we were watching it all unfold. We spent the day shopping in Pondicherry and enjoying our last day in our son's birth city. We found a Dominos pizza and it was terribly disappointing. Since I am such a picky eater, it was hard to find food that lived up to my expectations. I wanted everything to taste like home but of course I wasn't home and nothing did. I tried to make the best of it but curry for breakfast, lunch and dinner got old really fast. Thankfully I packed lots of Luna and Kashi bars to hold me over on days when I was starving!
We went to a Hindu temple located just a few blocks from our hotel. I really just wanted to see Lakshmi, the elephant, because obviously we aren't Hindu. People would give her rupees and she would tap them on the head, giving them a blessing. Lakshmi didn't bless us but that was ok since God had already covered us with so many of HIS blessings.
I'm going to end this post here and add the rest of our trip to Delhi and home in another post.