Saturday, July 19, 2008 was no ordinary day as it was the day that I met my daughter for the very first time at the airport, my delivery room - the place where I first held my son over two years ago. I woke up early to "It's daytime, Mommy! It's daytime!!!" Over breakfast and other morning routines the conversation was centered around our trip to the airport to see Daddy and our newest family member. The plane was scheduled to land at 1:00 p.m. so we left the house at 11:00 a.m.
We got on the highway and drove until we saw a "parking lot" before us and I realized that we would never get to the airport in time if we tried to make it through the "weekend paving project" and did what many others drivers did -- made a U-turn to the only exit before the point of no return while frantically calling my father-in-law who gave this directionally challenged chick very clear (and embarassingly obvious and simple) instructions which got us to the airport at 12:20 p.m.
After we entered the atrium, I took little brother over to get a cookie and something to drink. I was calm, relaxed even (for me, anyway). Even still, I did not taste the cookie which I normally would do as my stomach was all a flutter with anticipation. The plane landed on time and I eagerly positioned us front and center of the ropes waiting to greet our family and dear friends shortly thereafter ... and then it dawned on me: CUSTOMS! I did not account for that in my "perfect timing" scenario, nor did I factor in waiting in an airport with a child who is potty-training AND wearing underwear (i.e., no safety net). So, about 20 trips to the bathroom later I had gone from cool and calm to frazzled and tired.
... then I heard the sirens and like everyone else my eyes turned toward the noise only to see my son standing just a few inches behind me with his hand on the fire alarm and a look of shock and horror on his face that could not match my own. I turned toward the approaching security with a contrite look and many mouthed "I'm so sorry's" - thankfully they felt my pain and smiled in a way that revealed they too must have toddler boys.
We waited some more... and some more... and some more... and, then, finally the phone rang. I think it was now 3:30 p.m. It was my husband announcing they were through customs. We waited another 15 minutes and then... I saw my dear amazing friend Heidi appear, her face obscured by a videocamera. She hugged me and asked how I felt. I have not yet looked at the footage but I know that I felt overwhelmed by the last 3+ hours and probably said something awkward as I tried to mentally cleanse myself from the challenging wait and stared ahead at the escalator waiting and holding my breath until ...
... she was before me and my beautiful sweet daughter took my breath away. I did not approach her with a hug or a kiss as to not overwhelm her more than she was already. I just stared. I don't even think I cried, and I'm a crier. I just was stunned by having this little person in my life, my heart and our home - her home. Truthfully, she was not very interested in any of us. She was obviously tired, emotional, exhausted and confused. After a few photos and some time to say hello to everyone we gathered the 15,000 pieces of luggage (only one of which was my husband's, as only a (crazy) man can go to India for 11 days with a carry-on bag) and we went home.
I did not yet know how easy this would ultimately be, how naturally she just fits with us. I had no crystal ball at the start to see just how willing she is to accept love and give love. How funny she is, even though we don't quite know what she is saying yet. How sweet she is with her brother or how she enjoys calling the dogs and sending them out after they eat their food. I did not know that she would be happy with us as Mommy and Daddy or with her little brother.
All I knew was that I would do anything for her, die for her and live to protect her, keep her safe and make her know she is loved. It was instant, as it was for our son. When I first laid eyes on her I did not know that it would not be difficult and, in fact, I had been preparing for the worst case scenario of older child adoptions. Going in I knew only this: we were going to make it because family always does, without fail. Where there is love and commitment there is a way through any challenge. It has been just 6 days since she joined her family and she has already gone from:
- not looking me in the eye to grabbing my face and kissing my nose.
- wanting nothing to do with her little brother to being an instant playmate and kind/helpful big sister to him.
- standing before us with no betrayal of an emotion and void of expression to having the biggest smile that starts in her eyes and is not forced but borne from real joy and excitement, happiness and enjoyment.
- not responding to me to having playful conversations using gestures and words that she knows.
- breaking down in hysterics at the very sound of the dogs behind a locked door to petting them and laughing at them laying about.
- not saying a word AT ALL to saying things like "baseball" (yup, fits RIGHT in!) "octopus" (??), "thank you" and our personal faves "Mommy" and Daddy."
- crying the first time I took her in the car (probably thinking "where will I go now?") to loving the car rides, asking to come with and always exclaiming "Thank you Mommy" when we return home.
- being afraid to sleep alone and having to sleep with her to feeling comfortable sleeping by herself through the night.
Here's the bottom line: Our daughter came to us on a one-way ticket. That is first a fact but it is also a symbolic statement. This is her life. This is her home. This is her family. No preset notions. No expectations. No conditions. I love her with all my life. I am so glad she was hand-picked by God to be my daughter. I have so much more to say but that's the story of how it all began. And now, some pictures: