Thursday, March 22, 2012

So close but so far away

After all the embassy appointments and all the medical appointment and the months of waiting and visiting and missing my kids, we were finally done.

I recruited a new American friend who lives and works with orphans in Kiev to accompany me on the second and final visit to the embassy. She is again one of the steady stream of guardian angels that the Lord provided for me. My friend Jennifer, another adoptive mom who was in Ukraine the same time as us, found Karen through her blog and connected me with her. Being an American citizen, Karen could accompany me all the way into the embassy and provide an extra pair of hands with Jacob. We had to pick up his visa, which was his ticket into America. We had about an hour wait and before we knew it we were done. Eugene dropped us off at our apartment and then I just looked around and thought "Now what?" I had been in full frenzy planning mode for so long and now were were done. I had Jacob's documents all in order, I had packed our bags the night before. It felt like we were all dressed up with no place to go!

I was beyond restless. I just wanted to get on a plane right that second, but had to wait until the next morning. I could tell that Jacob was really stressed out, so I decided to give him a warm bath to help him calm down. Man, did that backfire on me! I ran the water in the tub and used my sheet of Russian phrases to tell Jacob that it was bath time. No sooner did I say "bath" than Jacob's little face just crumpled into buckets and buckets of tears. No amount of reassurance or warm water or toys could convince him that I wasn't trying to kill him. In hindsight I should have just put his clothes back on and said forget the bath! I finished as quick as I could and wrapped him in a towel. Unfortunately, with all the hysterical crying, along with a VERY congested nose from a chronic sinus infection, Jacob started gagging and vomited all over himself. I felt so horrible. I had to bath him again. More hysterical crying. Followed by more vomiting. Followed by (you guessed it) another bath and more hysterical crying. Third time was the charm and I managed to get him dressed and warm without needing another bath. I sure needed a bath though!

Jacob and I could both barely sleep that night. He was really used to being confined in a crib, so the wide open bed was really hard for him. He was very anxious and restless the entire night. I used sofa cushions to fashion a more confined space for him to sleep in and that helped him some. We both were up at 2am even though we didn't really need to wake up for another hour. I got us both ready, made certain I had all of Jacob's adoption and embassy documents in order and waited for out driver. My backpack was crammed full of changes of clothes, diapers and snacks. I left everything I could possibly live without in Kiev so ensure that I could pack everything in one checked duffel bag and one backpack.

I didn't even care that I had to be up so early with so little sleep. I was on my way home and I was so focused on that that nothing else mattered to me. Eugene loaded us in the car and drove us through the dark and silent streets of Kiev for the last time. Jacob was very calm in the car. It was almost as if he sensed that something big was about to happen. I had this feeling of deep sadness for him. This was the last time he would see him birth country for a very long time.

Before I knew it we were there and checked in and Eugene was saying goodbye to me at security. I had Eugene kneel down and tell Jacob in Russian to not be afraid and that we were going to get on a plane and fly to see his daddy. I am not certain he had any idea at all what we were talking about, but I wanted to a least try to explain things to him. I will miss Eugene. He is a good man and has such a good heart.

We made it through security and headed over to the immigration line that is the last big hurdle for Jacob to leave the country. I have dealt with a lot of grumpy immigration workers over the years, so I was not too worried. They seem to like to give adoptive families a little bit of a hard time just to make a point. I had to prove that I had in fact legally adopted Jacob and that he really is an orphan. Jacob helped me out here by deciding that he had had enough of sitting in the stroller without moving and began to protest loudly. That seemed to get the ball rolling a little faster and we were out of there in about 20 minutes.

I had about an hour to wait before my plane boarded, so I bought a water and fed Jacob a banana. At this point, he started to tantrum. Brad called me and I asked him to pray that I would be empathetic, calm and long suffering with Jacob. I realized that I couldn't control whether or not Jacob screamed the entire way to America, but I could ask God to help me control my attitude about it. I didn't really blame Jacob for being upset. I can't imagine what Jacob thought was going on. It had to be so scary and so confusing to him.

It was finally time to board and I handed the lady my boarding pass and turned the corner to see 2 flights of stairs down to the tarmac and another set of rolling stairs to board the plane. I kind of stared at it like "now what" and a young German man asked me in perfect English if I needed help.

I heard the Lord's voice saying to me "I know where you are. I know what you need."

Of course He does. I felt a deep sense of peace that God had hand selected guardian angels all along the way for me.

The young man insisted on carrying everything for me down the stairs and up onto the plane. Jacob was stimming a lot and I briefly explained that this was his first time outside of the orphanage and that I was taking him home to America. You will not believe what happened next. The young man told me that he used to work with orphans in Romania. he knew exactly what Jacob was going though. He took a whole new interest in Jacob and made sure we were settled in our seats before returning to his own seat. Jacob did pretty well on the first part of our journey. It was only a 2 hour flight to Munich. He rocked on his knees the entire time, but we were blessed with a seatmate who apparently can sleep through anything! :) After we landed in Munich for our layover, the young man then waited for me and carried everything off the plane for me! Such a blessing!

My travel agent had arranged for assistance for Jacob and I at every airport, so we were greeted with an assistant who carried everything for me and was my personal tour guide to the correct gate. Jacob again began to tantrum the moment I put him in his stroller. I have to admit that I was completely okay with this system. Quiet in the airplane...scream your head off at the airport. The other way around would have made us a lot of enemies.

I had a two hour layover, so I looked around for a place to get breakfast. I found a quiet restaurant with large open booths and not very many people. Perfect for Jacob. He needed the peace and quiet and a break from the anxiety that the crowds were causing him. I ordered the largest breakfast on the menu and paid $27 dollars for it. It was enough for Jacob and I both. He was so happy that I was feeding him and he giggled when I put the first bite of scrambled egg in his mouth. I even got him to say egg. :)

I felt like a new woman after my first real meal in days. I had been so busy with Jacob that I had not eaten much more than bread and cheese and yogurt since we got off the train in Kiev.

I went to our gate to wait for time to board the plane. It was a huge open space that I could let Jacob explore and play to his hearts content. He loved seeing his reflection in the shiny floors. I could just imagine him yelling "FREEDOM" inside his little head.

I was so happy when they finally called our name to board. We got to board first and get settled. I can not say enough good things about the flight crew for Lufthansa. I explained a little bit of Jacob's history and explained that while I was thankful that they reserved the bulkhead seat for me, I really needed to be in one of the groups of three seats by the window. Jacob needed the security of feeling like he was safe and away from everyone. His rocking was also very disruptive. It shook the entire seat. I thought in a group of 3 seats all by ourselves that we would all be happier.

My next guardian angel was a lovely middle aged lady who lived in NYC but was originally from Eastern Europe. She heard part of Jacob's story and offered to sit with me to help. I was so touched by her offer. I felt that Jacob would do better with just the two of us and thanked her profusely. She kept an eye on me for the rest of the flight though. She even got up from her seat once when I took Jacob to the bathroom to make sure I was okay and asked if I needed anything. Just her encouragement and knowing that someone was there if I needed them gave me such peace of mind. She was a Christian lady and kept telling me that God would bless me. I wanted to tell her that He already had blessed me by sending me her!

Jacob fell asleep for about 45 minutes and it was a wonderful break for both of us. I think he would have slept longer except we took off and his sinus infection made his ears hurt with the pressure change. He sure was cute while he slept though!

The flights attendants were so gracious and sweet. They took turns coming to us and checking to see if I needed anything. More water, more snacks, anything I needed. The flight really went way better than I had expected. Jacob rocked on his knees for 8 hours straight, which was a little unnerving. I was afraid he would hurt himself. It was really sad to see him so anxious and unable to accept any comfort from me yet. He rocked in a desperate attempt to sooth himself. The passengers around me were very gracious. I am certain that the constant seat rocking was unsettling for the lady behind Jacob. About 2 hours before we landed, Jacob became a little agitated. We had eaten macaroni and cheese for one of the meals that had a very strong garlic taste. Jacob only took a few bites, but it must have upset his stomach. He finally projectile vomited against the window of the plane. I know that sounds awful, and it was, but the miraculous part is that he vomited a LOT, but still managed to keep my clothes, his own clothes (except for one little spot), our back pack, and everyone around us, perfectly clean! Man was I thankful!! I only had to pick him up, change his clothes and move to another seat. All the ladies around me swung into action. The lady behind me ran to get the stewardess, the lady beside me passed me blankets and the lady who originally offered to help, ran up to tell me she was moving to another seat so that we would have enough room in our original bulkhead seats.

I realized that Jacob would be calmer if I sang to him, so I sang silly made up songs for the next hour and a half. "Jacob Aaron, I love you. I love you oh yes I do!" I invented every possible silly variation to the tune of the kids song, wheels on the bus. My throat was pretty sore when I landed, but Jacob was happy and quiet and that was all that mattered.

We landed and the stewardess asked me to wait for an escort who would help me through baggage and immigration. We were the last to leave and the group of stewardesses wished us well and our escort (a really nice lady who was originally from Greece) grabbed my backpack and purse and told me to follow her. She wanted to know all about and kept telling me "God bless you!" she was just so sweet and cheerful. It was a nice greeting to receive after being away from home for so long.

I didn't realize, but my friendly little Greek helper was my ticket to the head of every line. Immigration and customs had lines a mile long, but she took me to the head of each one. Praise the Lord. My stomach dropped when I saw the length of that first line!

Before I knew it, Jacob was a brand new American citizen. Welcome home Jacob!!

Now to go find daddy and to meet all his new family.


Anthony & Sharon said...

Oh Sara! You are such a good story-teller! "I know where you are. I know what you need." How amazing our God is and I praise Him for being such a comfort to you and Jacob on your journey home. You have more empathy than any person I think I've ever met and I'm convinced God gave you that gift because he planned for you to be Jacob's Mama and that he'd need a Mama like you.

Can't wait for the next installment of your journey home. I've been waiting for a family photo of 5. Is there one yet? It's ok if you're ALL stimming a bit in it, I just can't wait to see you all together!

ywilbur said...

Ok I didn't make it all the way through yet but the quiet on plane, scream head off in airport was my son's 'method' too! It got me boarded early and on longest flight from Germany to US got me moved to Business class (for more leg room according to agent).

I had 3 helpers at German airport: a Russian lady who took time to talk to my son and allow me to not have total meltdown of my own in security line where he kept darting all over place before standing calmly with her, the boarding pass lady who upgraded us and gave me special attention, and a US soldier my son kept going up to hug who the only thing I managed to say despite him being in uniform was an inane 'so, are you American?'