Friday, August 26, 2011

let's try this again ... Pt 2

okay.... to begin where we had left off.  to say that there was this fear that we would have the terror of our first trip x 2 was, well ... true.

however, what we found was that ....

where our daughter would writhe away from me and wouldn't let her dad touch her .... our sons were curious and engaging.  they wanted to know who these strangers were that they were being brought up to meet and were eager to sit and play with us.  while i am sure the orphanage staff were great in explaining and telling the boys who we were.... there is only so much that a 2 1/2 and 4 year old can truly understand.  i honestly believe that a big part of their comfort levels was our own comfort with the process and experience as parents.

Raymie, at 4 1/2, playing with a toy we had
brought for them.

this trip we intended to spent two nights at the home, and two full days.  as this was a return trip for Lea, it was important in allowing her to re-engage and experience this precious place in her memory.  but right now, right here .... it was all about the boys.

we spent the afternoon up the guest apartment playing with the boys and generally getting to know each other.  it was hard not to be amazed at one thing .... these were OUR boys .... they were bonding with us .... and there one dad who was very happy to have HIS boys in HIS life.  and you could see it in his face.

scott's gentle nature and sensitivity to both Raymie and JJ was a joy to behold.  they took to him like ants to sugar, like a moth to a flame.  even then, after just an hour or so, you could see that this was THEIR DAD, and they knew it.

... one more installment and then the re-telling
of our journey to family completeness is done...

Friday, August 19, 2011

let's try this again! ... pt 1

if our adventure to our daughter was full of first time parent angst and fragile doses of bonding, our experience bringing our boys home could not have been more different with it's fond familiarity and down right fun!

but .... let's back up just a bit.

to say we had been to hell and back again with our second traverse of the beaurocratic, systematic destruction of our trust in the "powers that be" was an understatement.  our department strove to rewrite the book between what they said and what they did in more ways that i care to elicit.  and yet, guess what?  we have our boys and have no regrets.

we were literally on the other side of the country when we were called by our dept. .... the first words out of my mouth were "what's gone wrong now?" ... and a gentle laugh and then .... "well, actuallly .... can we ask you a few questions?"  my heart leapt in my throat at this point.  could it be really happening?  FINALLY?  the simple answer .... yes .... God had given us two, gorgeous sons, also from Rehoboth Children's Home.

this trip was to be so very different.  we planned it as a bit more of a holiday ... a chance to see a few more sights and sounds of the Philippines along with picking up our boys.  and too, my best mate and life-time "should be" sister  came along .... all the way from Canada to the Philippines!  she was coming along not just to share the experience, but to also give Lea some focus time to allow us to be with the boys and begin that bonding time with them.  as an adult adoptee and a social worker to boot, she was all too aware of the path we were navigating and was happy to play this role.  something for which we will always be grateful.

lea enjoying her childhood
at Disney HK
after a brief sojourn in Hong Kong to see Disney Hong Kong (a last hurrah for the three of us) .... we arrived late on a Friday night in Manila.  my mate from Canada had already arrived.  and what else do you do when you are in Manila?  go out to dinner at Pizza Hut!  egad!  i was a bit disappointed in myself (i love cross cultural stuff and filipino food is at the top of the list!) .... but we were all tired, a taxi that didn't show at the airport, having to find a new one and a ride to the hotel that was longer than our plane trip from HK to Manila .... so i gave myself some grace.  Lea was having fun with Ninang (tagalog for Godmother) ... and it was good to be together.

normally, when you are going out to meet your child, a caseworker from ICAB joins you to make introductions with the orphanage / foster agency, etc.  but because we had been to the home before, once we had travel authority, ICAB was happy for us to make our own arrangements.  woohoo!  in this circumstance, the home contacted us and said, "when do you want us to pick you up???"  saturday morning please!  <g>

bright and early saturday morning we began our trek up through the hills to the little town of sampaloc .... where Rehoboth Children's Home is.  you feel like you are going into another world .... getting out of the lung jarring pollution and sensory overload of Manila traffic (trust me .... if you haven't experienced it, you can't appreciate it!).  fresh air!  ahhhhhh ....

entering the home for the first time in three years was amazing.  everything was the same .... but we were different.  going through the green gates it was the same sanctuary and haven that we remembered.  where kids were loved and nurtured until their parents would come for them.  but we were different ... more settled as parents, and certainly more prepared to engage with "whatever" might befall us.  we were ushered up to the guest apartment .... Lea relishing the memories and fun and us with baited breathe as we waited for our boys.

what would this be like? 
how would they take to us? 
would we have another repeat of what happened with Lea?

our boys being brought up to the guest house .....

hello boys!  

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

spare a thot for dad's

spare a thot for adoptive dad's.

sometimes, if we are lucky, our children will come to dad's easily.  but most times not.  it's a natural reaction, albiet one that is frustrating to work through.  most of these children were raised in orphanages where their primary, if not only contact is with women.  so to see a man, let alone a man who is a different colour and speaks funny, is often a difficult path for our kids.

i know it isn't that way for all, but it is for a lot of families, and it was for us.

i really felt for scott.  if my presence was tolerated, his was not.  Lea would cower from him, scream if he picked her up and just generally wasn't afraid to let him know in any shape form or fashion that his presence was not appreciate or wanted.

this shot is from our time in Manila. it is important to us because it is the reminder of how he was forced to experience the first few months with Lea .... from a distance, behind a camera (or video).

walking through the streets, or just in the hotel ... she would not allow him to do anything for her ... to help her, to hold her.  nothing.

he would sit and watch as she would allow me to do her hair or help her get dressed.  you could see a sad happiness in his eyes.  so happy to have his daughter .... so sad to not be able to show her his love with touch and play ... or to even be able to give her a hug!  having to bide his time ... till????  who knew at that point.

but he was a good dad, a patient dad.  and knew that biding his time was probably the best thing that he could do.  he did what he could to help me (he was on extended leave when we got home) ... because i had this leech attachment to my legs.  so where and when he could, he would do what he could.

but one day, about two weeks after getting home .... i was sick.  i was run down and i just needed to rest.  i told Scott .... you're just gonna have to find a way to deal with her.  i have no energy and i feel like death warmed over.  he understood.

i went and layed down in bed .... quietly shutting the door
no more had i shut my eyes than i heard a blood curdling scream
Scott's, not Lea's
she got scared
he tried to comfort her
she bit him .... hard

ah look..... we laugh now.  even threaten to tell the story at her 21st b-day party and embarrass her infront of all her friends.  but at that moment .... at that time.  i can't imagine how gut wrenching that was for him.  she was so terrified that she bit him .... and bloody hard at that!

so we went back to routine.  there were little progressions.  conversations that were safe from across the table, or she would sit next to him .... but not too close.  all little signs of a growing comfort factor.  but time still dragged on.

one day i was in the kitchen trying to cook dinner.  Lea was excitedly saying something at me jumping up and down .... "ilaw, ilaw".  i had no idea what she was saying and she was so emphatic about wanting me to pick her up and "ilaw, ilaw" ..... huh???  i asked Scott if he knew what she was talking about or could he try and figure it out.  he quickly saw that she was pointing at the light switch and before she could say anything he scooped her up and took her over to the light switch and showed her how to turn it off and on.

eyes got really big  
looked at the light switch
looked at him
decided that the magic of turning a light switch on and off 
was more important than her fear of him

for the next 30 minutes they went all around the house turning lights on and off.  wow ... did we waste a lot of energy that day!  but oh so worth it.  there was no turning back now .... he got to hold her in his arms for 30 minutes easy .... i quietly put dinner in the oven to keep warm until they were done with their game.  that was a good moment .... and i'm pretty sure he even got a good night kiss that night.

these are pictures from a road trip we took about 4 months after getting home.  the look on both their faces sais it all!

so spare a thot for dad's.  their road, i suspect, is at times much harder than ours as mum's.  we have to work hard.  they want to show their child how much they love them .... but often initially it is rejected.  dad .... thy name is perseverance.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Where It Began -- Pt 2

so here we were, out in the middle of the province .... with a child who didn't like us. period.  full stop.  i reckon that this was just about every first time adoptive parents worst nightmare.  oh man!  would we ever be able to bond with this child!?!?!?

we spent a restless night in the guest house. scott slept in the second of the two bedrooms and Lea and i shared a king size bed in the other... but she was as far away from me as she could be.  well, the screaming had stopped .... so that was a good thing at least.

but she wouldn't eat. and while she didn't resist my touch, she certainly wasn't bounding into my arms by any stretch of the imagination.  we were grateful for the orphanage leaderships insight the next day ... that the best thing was probably just to get us back to Manila where we could be away from what was her stomping grounds and start building our own relationship with her.  so we gave her the last little while to run around and play with her friends .... watching and talking to the carers.  but i'll never forget the look she shot at me as she was having her hair done.  i am one who thinks that most kids are quite cluey, and i truly think she knew even then that her world was turning upside down and inside out ... that all those things that were security for her were being ripped and stripped away ... and it was our fault.

both Mama Fe, and another social worker for the home road with us in the van back down to Manila.  lea was, of course, attached to them at the hip and refusing to engage with us.  quick goodbyes at the ICAB offices and then off to our hotel.  lea was summarily popped in my arms.  we waved the van off and then walked into the hotel as a family of three.
we had several days in manila that were punctuated by break through's and set backs.  we had a second trundle bed set up in our bedroom for her to sleep in.  i remember the first night when we were trying to establish a routine, she dove under the sheets and just put her face down in the pillow and said nothing.  my heart was aching.  but we let her be, prayed with her and let her sleep ... sensing that she needed a little cocoon of space that was her's to own and find security in.  the next morning, very early (ugh!), i rolled over to see her peaking at me from under her covers.  i smiled at her and patted the bed and called her over with a silent hand movement -- hoping and praying she would respond.  she shot out of bed in a flash, dove under the sheets and became an instant leech as she wrapped herself around my neck and buried her head into my chest.  i smiled and cried silently.  we stayed like that for quite a while and this became (and often still is!) a ritual for us.

that was it.  done.  she had decided to accept me and move towards trusting me.  relief.

i wish i could say it was clear sailing from there.  we had our moments .... water was a terrifying thing.  the screams returned when i would try to bath her in a real bath (remember:  filipino's out in the province often have and prefer bucket baths).  woops!  that phobia would take a while to overcome.  she would not go to scott (i will post on this separately).  so we would take the good with the bad.  and there was still this look of loss in her eyes that haunted us.  but we also knew that it would just take time, and love and patience.

we found glimpses of our highly exuberant and engaging daughter in that first week too. i remember going down for our first breakfast together.  butter.  who would've thot?  i went to butter a piece of toast for her, using some of the pre-packaged patty's that they had.  she looked at the bread.  licked the butter.  put the toast down and picked up the patty with the butter left on it, gave us a cheeky smile and then proceeded to lick the butter off and laugh.

ice cream.  chocolates.  lollies.  i am not beyond bribing.  should've done it more and earlier on.  while i want my kids to be healthy eaters ... if giving them treats gets them to see me as their source of all things good and wonderful .... <g>  well .... i was in a position of "beggars can't be choosers" .... so i took every opportunity possible.  filipino style orea cookies and hugs were a constant exchange in those early days!

and it was on our next to last day .... having afternoon tea in the pancake house on level 4 of the Galleria that my ice cream bribe paid off .... BIG TIME.  she was having ice cream ... and enjoying her world in a way that only children can.

laughter, silliness .... and my first kiss.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Where It Began -- Pt 1

thinking this morning about all that our kids are going through with this move we are making and was compelled to reflect on the first big move they did .... towards us and away from their lives in the orphanage.  so i started thinking about Lea, and the first few days with her at the home (the boys will come later!).

arrived manila ... New Year's eve.  wow.  watched the fireworks and had a blast.  as instructed by DoCS ...

  1. contacted ICAB on the monday morning after arrival.  
  2. ICAB has no record of our impending arrival, and the caseworker that had been assigned to us, was in fact, away on their honeymoon.  
  3. ICAB advise they will  call us back in a few hours to discuss the matter.  oh man!  what a way to start this journey!  
  4. ICAB calls back.  orphanage had been told to expect us and, as they had been preparing the child to meet us, they were happy to continue.  
  5. please come to the ICAB offices at noon where we would meet the administrator of the orphanage and they would take us out to the home to meet our child.  sure!  we'll be there, lickety split!
  6. go to ICAB offices, contemplate navel

so there we were, the door opens and this woman, who we would come to affectionately know as Mama Fe, walks through the door .... and in her arms.  our daughter.  terrified.  scared.  confused.

would we like to come out and spend the night at the orphanage?  sure (my gut had told me this might happen, which is why i told scott to put his tooth brush and tooth paste in my purse).  we depart ICAB offices in orphanage van ....for a two + hour ride out of Manila and up into the province .... into the mountains.  we tried to engage our daughter, but she would not come to either of us, rather staying firmly planted in Mama Fe's arms.  secure ... safe.  that's ok .... for now.  little did i know that it was our first sign of what was to come.

at the home, after chasing her around and getting the grand tour of the home for an hour or two, Mama Fe wisely said, let's go up to the guest house so you can get to know each other in a quiet environment.  she stayed with us for a little while, where our daughter refused to have anything to do with us.  Mama Fe decided to leave us alone.

Lea ran to the door and started screaming.  not just a kid at the top of their lungs scream .... but a "you are the scariest thing in the world and i don't know what else to do" sort of scream.  the look of horror on her face said it all.  her body went limp and she slid down the door ... and then started banging her head, quiet hard, against the door ... all the while, the screaming continued.

the next two hours were some of the most rewarding and painful of my entire relationship with my daughter.  i immediately got on the floor and scooped her into my arms.  she pushed away, screaming (of course!).  i refused to let go.

and so began the dance of bonding.

her:  back arched away from me and pushing as hard as she could ... screaming.
me:  soothing words, firm arms.  refusal to let go.

my leg was wedged under me ... starting to ache.  i couldn't move ... to do so would give her the ability to get away.  ouch maggs .... deal with it.  on and on .... back and forth, swaying in this bizarre bonding ritual.  and after about 30 minutes, i felt her go limp and just lay her head on my shoulder in exhaustion.  so there i sat ... just letting her feel the warmth of my body near hers as she got used to me.  it was a start.  i had won that round at least.

and the dance continued, albiet in a much less invasive manner.  i was in a bit of a euphoric state .... knowing that i had successfully navigated one incident on my parental path.  lea was, on the other hand  ... well, catatonic at best.  she looked at toys vaguely, stared at us with fear and concern and refused to eat or drink anything.

she was not a happy child and certainly didn't get why she had to be locked away with us.  i mean honestly .... we were the wrong colour and didn't speak her language.  yeah ... if i were in her shoes i'd probably feel the same way!

to be continued ....

Monday, August 1, 2011

changes and resillience

we're moving.

it's a dream that has been a while coming ... but seems to finally be happening.  we have wanted to go bush ... to live a more sustainable life off the land.  hubby has secured this great job ... and we know without a doubt that this will be a better lifestyle for our kids.

but how do you get that thru the heads of a 4, 6 and 8 year old?  when you think of everything our kids have already experienced in their lives ... the loss, the anger.  and here we go, doing it all over again.  ... at least in their precious little minds eye.

especially the 8 year old.  i am assuming that part of it that she is a girl and she is older and "gets" some of it better than her brothers.  the dreams, the fears ... the need to know every minuscule detail of what we are doing .. these have already started.  teaching that you can go through this stuff and be stronger on the other side.  as adoptive parents that is so much a part of what our job is ... teaching strength and hope in this ever changing world.

the difference?  we aren't abandoning them.  we will be there on the flip side of all this.  mum and dad ... we aren't going anywhere.  and they can find strength in that.

say it again please ... so i can know it's true
cuddle me now please ... so i can know you will always be there
be patient with me please ... because i am scared and afraid
i know you said you'll be there ... but will you really?

yes we will.  the proof is in the pudding ... and in the meantime, we have to live it out. take the up days with the down days.  include them in decisions, keep the process transparent and inform them all along the way.  no surprises here ... on the table.  promise!