Hubris and Grief

I jinxed us, y’all. Yesterday, our tribe kicked butt: girls were brave, attachments were forming, we had a solid routine all day, felt prepared, and got everyone to sleep within minutes for nap time and bedtime. Blake and I were commenting all day about how awesome our little family really is, and how we felt like we were getting the hang of things. We even did a victory jig after everyone was asleep for the night.

That was yesterday. Today was supposed to be the EASIEST DAY OF THE WEEK since we had no appointments today. I was so looking forward to seeing the elephants and giraffes, taking cute pictures with them, and just spending a relaxing day with our kiddos as we continue to peel back their layers of defenses and coping mechanisms and see more of their beautiful true selves. But as we were patting ourselves on the back for how great yesterday went, Satan was all like, “oh did you guys not realize that pride comes before the fall, cuz that’s exactly what’s about to happen.”

First, after I posted yesterday’s blog last night, Mercy had THREE massive diarrhea blowouts. And these diapers we bought in Kenya SUCK, so poop got everywhere. Blake and I had to tag team each one cuz it was just so. much. poop. And poor Mercy was writhing in pain and holding her stomach all night long. Thank goodness last night was the night we did the Benadryl test run, because otherwise she wouldn’t have slept at all. Unfortunately, this momma did not get much sleep though.

Today, problems started pretty much right from the start. At breakfast, we are trying to limit what Mercy eats because of the previously mentioned poop explosions. But Noella is healthy now, so she can eat solids. It’s incredibly difficult to keep them separated in a hotel room while one gets food and the other doesn’t. Blake was feeding Noella while I was trying to distract Mercy. Mercy was having none of it. She was hungry and she wanted their food. Thankfully, she never got super upset, but it was really difficult for me to actively prevent my hungry, malnourished daughter from eating.

We eventually got everyone dressed and headed out to the elephant orphanage. It’s only a few miles away, but with traffic, it was about an hour drive. Thankfully, the girls usually do pretty well in the car. Most of the time, they get drowsy and just hang out in our laps, and sometimes they like looking out the window or playing with toys. Sitting still in traffic is not the same as riding and moving though, so they were much more bored and fidgety, and they didn’t want to be held for that long (which is kind of a necessity since there are no car seats).

We finally made it to the elephant orphanage, and it was a pretty cool place. They take in baby elephants that are injured or deformed and wouldn’t survive in the wilderness. They are brought into a ring made out of one strand of rope, and all the tourists stand around the rope and watch as they feed them milk from bottles and they walk around and play. I got to pet an elephant, which was pretty awesome. However, Mercy and Noella didn’t really care about it. Mercy was pretty afraid as soon as she saw them come out and just started whining a little bit and clinging to us. Noella didn’t seem scared but she also didn’t seem interested. She looked at the elephants the same way she looks at us pressing the elevator buttons.

Then we went to the giraffes, which was even cooler! You can pet and hand feed them, and it was just really neat. One giraffe sniffed my hair up his nose. Again, Mercy and Noella were not that interested. They were both pretty nervous and didn’t want to get close. Mercy also tried to eat one of the pellets that you feed the giraffes, but thankfully I intercepted her hand. It was kinda funny but also made me feel bad again about how hungry she is, and I just once again had to bat “food” out of her hand.

So then, around 11:45 we started to head back to the hotel. After our awesome day yesterday, I felt like I knew what their bodies needed in terms of scheduling lunch and nap time. We’d eat lunch at 12:45, then nap at 1:30. Well…traffic in Nairobi is infuriating. I thought the hour it took to drive a few miles to get to the animals was bad, but I chalked it up to morning rush hour. Nah uh. The ride home took us TWO HOURS, and we were sitting still for about 1.5 of those hours (just inhaling diesel fumes cuz there’s no AC and the windows are open). Obviously, that threw off my grand plans for scheduling lunch and nap time. We packed snacks, so we just tried to “lunch” on our snacks in the car. Our hope was that they would doze off in the car, because that’s what normally happens when we ride. But riding and sitting still inhaling diesel fumes are not the same.

About 30 minutes into our 2 hour drive, Mercy started getting weepy. Then weepy turned to full blown meltdown. For the next 1.5 hours of sitting in the car, she was SCREAMING crying at the top of her lungs. She didn’t want to be held or touched, she refused snacks, refused water and juice, refused toys. She just laid on the floorboard, rolling in her slobber and snot, and tried to crawl under the driver’s seat. We of course tried to comfort her, but there was absolutely nothing we could do. If we tried to hold her she would thrash and scream louder. It was awful. So awful. In the last week, neither of them has cried like that. The very first day, they cried, but it only lasted about 30-40 minutes, and they were at least willing to be held then. This was a whole other level. This was grief.

As we peel back their defenses and build attachments, they begin to feel more vulnerable, and that scares them. It also has started to sink in to them that the reality they knew is really gone and things really are different. This was the type of crying that other adoptive families, social workers, and family counselors had told us about. Where they would be totally inconsolable, and all you can do is sit and just be near them as they process their grief. But knowing about it did not make experiencing it any easier. Especially in that setting of the filthy floorboard of a car.

I started blaming myself for wanting to go to see the animals today. Clearly the girls did not care about it at all, and it was absolutely not worth the 3 hours of sitting in traffic with toddlers and throwing off their eating and sleeping schedules. Blake reminded me that I couldn’t have known they wouldn’t care about the animals, and I certainly couldn’t have predicted the traffic. But still.

We finally made it to the hotel, Mercy still all screams and thrashing, and I took her up to the room while Blake handled Noella (who was being super sweet) and the stroller. I tried putting her in a warm bath. Nope. I tried more toys. Nope. I tried more snacks. Nope. I tried her bottle. Nope. I tried her sippy cup. I tried holding her. BIG nope. I tried singing to her. I tried brushing her with the sensory brush. And then I FREAKED OUT because I realized I had brushed over her TB test spot on her arm, and the doc had said not to disturb it or it could create an irritation and a false positive. So then of course I played out the worst case scenario where my dumb mistake of brushing her arm could cause us to stay in Kenya longer. I just sat by her as she continued to roll and scream on the ground and cried with her. I cried because I know she’s so hungry. I know her stomach still hurts as she deals with this virus. I know she is grieving losses that are beyond my comprehension. In a last ditch effort, I thought I’d try giving her some pudding (even though I KNOW it will make her have diarrhea, but desperate times call for desperate measures). And praise the Lord God Almighty, the pudding did the trick.

Once Mercy stopped crying, they were both able to go down for a nap. We talked about canceling our dinner plans with another adoptive family tonight because of how rough the day had been. But the girls were still getting a good 2 hour nap in, and we’d have to eat dinner anyways, so we might as well eat with them.

We loved meeting the Ward family, including their two newly adopted kiddos. They were supposed to go home a week ago, but their kids both had reactions to the TB test and were not able to get their visa. They are pressing onward, but it is taking MUCH longer than it should, and we are praying they get home soon!

Dinner with these new friends and fellow sojourners in the adoption journey was wonderful, but once again we found ourselves sitting in traffic for an hour to get back to the hotel. The traffic alone has made me pretty much despise this city. So once again, we were off schedule, as we didn’t get to the hotel until an hour after bedtime. Then getting into bed was BY FAR the worst behavior the girls have exhibited to this point. They’ve always been great about sitting still during diaper changes, but tonight they were grabbing and snatching everything and running around. We also give them a little sip of water with some melatonin to help them sleep. Noella spit the water out everywhere. We put lotion on them every night because their skin needs it, and it’s a nice massage to help them get ready to sleep. They normally love lotion time, but tonight it was a battle. I usually rock Noella to sleep, but tonight she started doing an alligator roll where she could not be held unless I squeezed her and then she screamed. They also started hitting us and one another for the first time tonight.

Today was hard. I feel like we are making progress with attachment, but today was the first time they’ve resisted so strongly. I know it’s a response they’ve developed out of trauma, fear, and great loss. I pray the Lord continues to guide us in knowing how to handle more hard days in a way that brings healing to their little hearts and draws them nearer to Christ.

By the grace of God, and His miracle gift of melatonin (which took 3 attempts for Noella to take), they finally went to sleep. I’m hoping they get a night of deep rest before having to wake up super early again tomorrow for our Day 2 of Medical appointments.

At tomorrow’s medical appointment, the girls will get a full physical exam. Other families have said that this day is even more traumatic for the kids than the TB shot, as they get poked and prodded, and investigated by scary “white coats” which they’ve come to associate with pain. We are not looking forward to it, but we cannot wait to be one day closer to home.

We’d appreciate if you’d join us in praying for the following:

Please pray for the medical visit to go smoothly tomorrow. Pray that Mercy and Noella will be brave and will tolerate the exam well. Please pray for negative TB test results. Please pray for Mercy’s health, that she beats this stomach virus once and for all and can finally eat more! Please pray for my health, as I’m starting to feel under the weather as well. Please pray for the medicals to be done in less than 2 hours (they typically take 3) so we can come back to the hotel and have a restful afternoon. Please pray for continued bonding and attachment, and for the Lord to remove Mercy and Noella’s fear of connecting with us.