The Great Pursuit

Hey Everyone! Sorry it’s taken me a few days to post since returning home. Trust me when I say it was literally impossible for me to carve out time to do it earlier! So, so many of you have reached out to say how valuable the blog has been to you for various reasons. Thank you for the encouragement, and I’m so happy it might be helping others!

The last time I posted it was Thursday the 25th, the day before we began our 2 day journey home, and we’ve been home for 3 days now. So let me try to summarize the past 5 days for y’all without going into much lengthy detail…..crying. That’s pretty much the gist of it. If you’d like a little more detail than that, read on!

On Friday, the girls woke up at 3:30 in the morning and didn’t go back to sleep-not a good start to travel day. Blake picked up the girls’ visas from the embassy mid-morning, and I was wrangling the goobers in the hotel room. Our flight wasn’t until 7 pm so we had ALL DAY to just wait. The girls knew something was going on that day, or something had disrupted them, because they had the WORST behavior day FULL of meltdown. Of course, we had to drive to the airport right at naptime so the girl really didn’t get a great nap either. We got to the Nairobi airport really early so we had some time to kill. Mercy decided the best way to kill a few hours would be to scream and cry the whole time. In total, one or both of the girls was crying for 7 hours straight on Friday BEFORE we even got on a plane.

The biggest development that occurred on Friday was the regression they had in their attachment to Blake. They woke up that morning and for no reason at all, had decided they were afraid of him. They had been fine interacting with him all week, but as attachments were formed, that relationship with a male figure is scary for them. This new fear of Blake meant that the caregiving duties fell to me. If anyone needed to be held, carried, fed, changed, etc., they wouldn’t allow Blake to do it, so I had to meet all the needs for both girls as best I could.

When we finally boarded for our evening flight, the girls actually did great on the flight from Nairobi to Addis (about 2 hours). Then we made our super quick layover, which I had been nervous about, so praise God for that! Then came the big flight from Addis to DC. We gave the girls some Benadryl to help them sleep and regulate their lil bio clocks. Noella drank hers and was out cold for 6 hours. Mercy, however, spit out her Benadryl and then screamed for nearly 2 hours before finally falling asleep. The girls did so-so after that, sometimes playing quietly, sometimes crying. The people seated around us were all SO sweet, understanding, and helpful (and they were Auburn fans). We made it to DC and had to go through pretty extensive processing for immigration with the girls, but no big deal. After DC we went to Charlotte and then Birmingham. All in all, the girls had to travel for nearly 35 hours, after being awake all day with no nap on Friday and waking up at 3:30 am. It was a long, long, hard, trying, exhausting day for all of us. But, by the grace of God, WE MADE IT HOME!

At the airport, many sweet friends and family gathered to welcome our new little family, and it was so wonderful. The girls were actually ASLEEP, so they didn’t get overwhelmed, which was truly the best possible scenario. We made it home ready to start cocooning the next day!

(Definition Side note: “Cocooning” is when you’ve got a newly adopted family member so you isolate yourself from everyone else to help him/ her feel more secure and build attachment. Many kids in institutions have multiple caregivers and little to no affection or freedom, so teaching the child(ren) that they can consistently rely on their parents to meet their needs is a crucial foundation for parent/child relationship! So Blake and I will be “cocooning” with the girls at home for several weeks).

We’ve now spent 3 days in the cocoon with the girls. They are still not allowing Blake to care for them at all. This is obviously emotionally difficult for Blake who is being rejected by the daughters he loves, and there’s really nothing he can do about it. It’s also physically difficult for me, because I’m still left with all the caregiving duties for not one, but two, toddlers. So carrying the girls up and down the stairs, rocking to sleep, consoling, etc. is all that consumes my waking hours now. One kid would be difficult, but two kids has got me worn out beyond what I even thought possible.

As the girls are attaching more each day, we are having more and more struggles. I know that sounds counter to what you’d think. More attachment should mean more sweet snuggles and smiles and rainbows and unicorns, right? Well, we hope it will eventually. But right now, more attachment means a deeper, visceral fear of LOSING that attachment. In the beginning, the girls were pretty apathetic towards us. But now that we’re forming relationships, they have an instinctive, almost primal fear of losing that relationship and reliving the trauma they’ve already experienced. This fear represents itself in many ways, but it’s most notable in how they sleep and in their behavior. They FIGHT sleep with all they have. When we go into their bedroom after bath time, they already begin freaking out. Whether it’s naptime or bedtime, it is an all-out battle to get them to sleep. This afternoon, they screamed (at the TOP of their lungs) for 2 hours before finally crying themselves to sleep, and then cried for another hour post nap. My ears are actually still ringing.

Our family counselor says “sleep is a parting, and that is terrifying to these girls!”. They also wake up a lot at night. Last night, I only slept from 10 to 12:30, and then I was up with one or both of the girls the rest of the night. The lack of sleep has made me more irritable during the day and less patient with their pushing boundaries and crying. The girls are also doing a “push and pull” as their fear impacts their attachment. They want to be held, then push away, they ask for food then refuse it, they offer affection and then hit…it’s pretty exhausting trying to always acquiesce to their needs.

Blake has been great about helping where he can–cooking dinner, cleaning dishes and the kitchen, keeping us constantly supplied with juice and snacks, and more. He obviously wants the girls to attach to him and trust him. But for now, their fear is too great. It reminds me of our own relationship with the Lord. He loves us and desires to know us, care for us, and bless us beyond our imaginations. But we are so afraid of giving up our own control that we reject his love and affection, settling instead for the worthless things the world has to offer. But just as Blake isn’t giving up on breaking through to the girls, staying near to them and speaking to them, even when they don’t want to listen, Yahweh pursues his children, speaking to us, loving us, and blessing us with snacks and juice day after day :-). I can’t wait for the girls to know their daddy and their Heavenly Father!

I ain’t gonna lie y’all, the last 3 days have been exhausting, and their behaviors and refusal to allow Blake to help has honestly eroded my own attachment to the girls. But we are relying on the Spirit to break through the walls they’ve placed around their hearts and ours. We are praying our hearts are knit together as a family of four.

And because I feel like the tone of this post has focused on the exhausting, trying parts of our transition phase, I also want to mention a few positive things that have been highlights of our cocoon time thus far:

The girls (especially Mercy) are now great at giving kisses, which is so sweet. They’ve learned to say “I love you” which is also pretty adorable. Bath time is their happiest time of the day. We had a blast playing with bubbles in the yard!. I’m feeling more confident in parenting with connection. Last week, it was clear the girls had never seen a book and had NO idea how to use it (they just threw them and wouldn’t even look when we read them). Now, they are figuring out how to turn the pages, point at pictures, and actually listen. The girls are starting to pick up a few words in English (though they mostly still speak Kirundi to each other all the time), and we cannot WAIT until we can communicate better

Prayer Requests
Please pray the girls attach to Blake SOON. Please pray that God will give me supernatural strength to bear the brunt of caregiving responsibilities for two toddlers in the meantime. Please pray that the girls will learn to calm themselves and regulate themselves when they start to spiral and melt down. Please pray that we enjoy one another, in spite of the fatigue, the push/pull behaviors, and the seemingly nonstop crying. Please pray the girls will SLEEP at naptime and bedtime each night and not be afraid of falling asleep, and that we can sleep too! Please pray for us to take note of and celebrate the positives and the progress, even when they seem small. Please pray for me to be healthy. I developed a sinus infection in Africa, and now I have a pretty bad cough (which is really infuriating when I’m rocking a baby to sleep and then cough and wake them up) and just all around feel terrible – probably from not sleeping at all.