I have hesitant to share this post, so it is a bit late. Yet I feel it is good for me to write these things. I desire to be true to the story and to you, to share the whole of it. I also feel it will be good for our children to hear these things; it is part of their story. And for those of you who are preparing to bring home children, your story will be different, yet you will have challenges. Hopefully, this part of the story will help you prepare for your challenges and remind you to set your mind not on the hope that we gain by bringing home more children but the hope we have in Jesus Christ.
After we were greeted by our family and after we introduced the children to everyone, the big group of us wandered off to the luggage carousels where we were crazy-thankful to get all of our luggage! That meant that not only did we get all of our clothes back, but we also had coffee to share with friends and family, souvenirs to decorate our house (so the kids will at least have something familiar to look at here and there), and Christmas gifts!
As we headed out to the cars, it dawned on me for the first time that we would have to get in our van, the six of us, alone. No one was riding home with us, so it was just us – for the first time ever. It was exilarating and terrifying all at once. I was also exhausted which is probably why I was having to work really hard to hold back tears at the thought of caring for all of these children at once!
It took a bit of adjusting to get all of the car seats in the correct places, but once we did we drove out of the parking garage and started our long drive home. We normally don’t think of the drive from the airport as “long,” but after so many hours on planes that drive was indeed looooooooooooooooong.
As we sped along the highway, there was one point when I looked back and was shocked at the view. Y and Dimples were positioned in their five-point harness car seats for the first time. (Y uses a booster now, but we put her in the five-point harness because it is more comfortable for sleeping and not nearly as escapable as a booster. We were afraid that she wouldn’t understand the concept of having to STAY buckled in.) Their eyes were huge! In Addis the children just rode wherever; there is no such thing as car seat safety. Being strapped in and unable to move around was new…and threatening. At least for the last year of their lives, they had also probably not ridden in a car for a long period of time or at such a speed as we were cruising; every bit of that was written on their face and in their stiff body posture. I could barely reach them, so I couldn’t effectively comfort them. It was absolutely heart breaking, and worse, I began to sense that this was the end of our honeymoon. I began to have a sense that this thing we were doing was only going to get harder.
To make matters worse, when I couldn’t look at Y and Dimples anymore, because my heart hurt to see them scared, I looked back and Bubba and Little Man. Previously their seats had been in the middle row, but that night they were all the way in the back of the van. We had been so far away in Addis; now I had them back with me, yet they seemed so far away…and my mommy’s heart just broke into a million tired pieces.
Unbelievably we made it home. Handsome’s parents were staying with us, so they helped us drag all of the luggage in, unload the most important stuff, and unload our brains a bit. It was good to tell someone a bit about our trip, and they were polite to listen to all of our tales – they even did a great job of seeming interested, though we must have been fairly incoherent by that point in time.
When bedtime came, we got everyone changed and dressed, and miracle of miracles, they slept! All four children went to sleep at just the right time. We followed not too long after. Sleeping in my own bed was pure bliss!
Over the next days and weeks, we began to re-learn how to be a family and adjust to our new normal. We have never for a moment wondered if we did the wrong thing, yet I can only attribute that to God’s steady, guiding hand. There have been many, many times that Handsome and I have shaken our heads in wonder as we just couldn’t figure out what to do next. I have held my children through tantrums and screaming fits, a desperate attempt to express what they couldn’t tell me in words. I have watched as Y’s eyes filled with tears, because she wanted so badly to tell me something but didn’t know the words. I have cried as I so badly wanted to tell her something, but I just didn’t know the words. I have watched Dimples struggle with being two, which I had previously decided was terribly hard, and unfamiliarity all at once – it seems a burden that is too heavy for such a small child. I have watched somewhat helplessly as these children work to find their way in the world; while I can ease much for them, I cannot take away the wounds that they have incurred in their past or take away the sense of newness of this place.
They are making huge strides, as you all know from reading here, and we are so proud of them. The new normal seems more and more normal every day, yet I am still very aware that this new normal is hard fought and not easily won.