Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Attachment Plan Round #2


But first, our Natalie Attachment Plan!

Bahahah I tricked you into opening this post! But don't worry, airport details will follow at the bottom. ;)

This post is very similar to the one I wrote for Levi and Z's homecoming, but of course, it is now tailored to Natalie. 

Now you may be thinking: an attachment plan? What???? What does that even mean? Why would they need one? Aren't they getting an older child? 

An attachment plan is just what it sounds like. We have to figure out how to make Natalie trust us, bond with us, depend on us, and realize that we will NEVER leave her and that we will ALWAYS care for her. 

Natalie has a personal history that we will not be sharing or discussing. Adopted children often experience multiple traumas, including possibly been abandoned, abused, or moving multiple times with no warning or explanation. They often have had numerous adults in their life (none of them permanent) and communication barriers (or no communication) with their care-givers for years. Considering these and many other possible scenarios that may or may not have been part of Natalie's experiences, it can only be expected that she will have attachment issues. We want her to learn that WE are her parents forever and we want her to know that it is safe to attach to us. We do not want her trying to attach to others.

Therefore: attachment-plan-a-la-Ruper. :)

So here is what we have decided. On our "airport day", the day when we finally come home with the Natalie (July 5th, *wink wink*) anyone and everyone is welcome to come to the airport. We WANT as many people there as want to come, to celebrate one of the happiest moments and greatest victories of our lives. :)

On the "airport day", you can bring balloons and signs and cameras. Basically, it's a party, except that we ask you do not GIVE Natalie anything, and also that you do not TOUCH her. No hugs or kisses. Remember, you have seen pictures of her, but she does not know who most of you are. Imagine being taken from everything and everyone you know, leaving with two people you can only superficially communicate with, and not in your wildest imagination be able to envision where you are going. Imagine leaving a courtyard with small wooden buildings where you sleep and then coming to America. Imagine being surrounded on the trip home by thousands of people you don't know, who do not speak your language and being exhausted and given unfamiliar food and being forced through airport security and customs. Imagine FINALLY landing after 30+ hours of traveling and being greeted by a large group of unknown white people (when you are used to seeing brown skin) and all of them want to touch and hug and kiss you. They are all staring at you. Some are crying, some are grinning. And you can't ask what's going on, who they are, or what's happening. Completely overwhelming. So we've decided that we cannot allow anyone to touch Natalie. NO ONE. Period. Thank you for your understanding and please feel free to hug me and Abe! ;)

Also, no presents, no snacks, etc. Thank you so much for your generosity but she needs to learn that everything she need comes from us. This will do wonders in helping her attach to us and learn to trust and love us. (PS, if you want to SEND presents, or give them to me and Abe to give to her at our discretion, that is fine with us. :))

After the "airport day", we will be staying home as a family to work on our new "normal" and to start bonding as a family. We will not be allowing visitors at all for about 5-8 weeks. During this time we will work on teaching her to trust us. Eight weeks may seem like a long time, but it really isn't. If we happen to make a trip as a family and you see us, feel free to say hello and chat but please do not touch Natalie or give her anything. You CAN talk to her though; I'm sure she would love it. :)

After eight weeks, we will allow family and close friends to visit us if they want. During these visits, you are welcome to play with and communicate with Natalie! :) We would love that. And we are sure she will too. You are extremely important in her life. The only clause is: (say it with me!) that you may not touch her (no hugs or kisses) and you may not give her anything. No presents. No giving her a drink if she is thirsty. No feeding her. No helping her complete a task. Abe and I will be taking care of that to ensure she knows WE are her caretakers, even in the presence of other adults. 

After ten-twelve weeks, we will evaluate how we feel Natalie is doing and figure out how we will proceed from there.

Now lots of people have been asking, "But last time, you didn't have any other kids. You can't put Levi's and Z's lives on hold for 8-12 weeks! They can't stay home that long. And what about their activities? What about church? What about ___________ (fill in the blank)????

Actually, we've decided to make Levi and Z become shut-ins and heathens. We don't want them to have fun, and we'd like to end their social lives. 

Or not. :)

Don't worry!!!! :) Levi and Z COMPLETELY understand (and agree with, having experienced it themselves) our attachment plan. And they are DYING to spend extended time with Natalie. And it's summer. Levi will still of course be participating in soccer, Crossfit, swim, track, and basketball. I will still be driving him. And if I can't drive him for whatever reason, I have people who can. Z will still be doing swim, and gymnastics 3 days a week. They will go to church with me and Abe alternately. We will be doing activities as a family. Basically, they are going to be FINE! :) No worries. We are living our lives as normal, we are just focusing on bonding as a family at the same time. :)

Thank you for your understanding! We love you all, are so glad to have you in our lives, and can't wait to introduce you to our precious Natalie! :)

Now for the coveted flight details!!! We are flying into our home city, of course. We will be coming in from Dulles, on a United flight, on Saturday, July 5th. Scheduled to land at 1:45pm. Basically, go to the airport and go up the escalator. Go all the way left. That's it! If anything changes, I will post it to my Facebook. 

Hope to see you there! LOVE YOU!!!!

Micah Jackson

Yesterday we didn't have any set plans. We have things on our to-do list this week; well, two things. See Micah/fight for Micah. And visit someone dear to us. Neither of those had been confirmed for Tuesday, so I told the kids we would just be chilling. We went downstairs armed with coloring books, the pot-holder loom, and hidden picture searches. 

We hadn't been down there five minutes when our guide showed up and told me we were going to go see Micah. Best. Surprise. Ever. We ran upstairs and grabbed his gifts and then piled into the van. 

When we got to the orphanage, we were all freaking out. On our court trip, I had been describing Micah to Natalie and she had said she knew him from school. On the drive to the orphanage, Nat told me that she had been hanging with Micah ever since I'd told her about him and that they were pals now. She said, "I always play with my brother." 

I freaking love my kids. 

We walked through the gate, and there he was, tiny as ever, in the jacket that Levi had given him, his face unsmiling, but his eyes registering recognition.....and maybe even surprised happiness? When he saw Nat, his face lit up and he SMILED. They locked hands and did a shoulder bump (I almost died, it was so precious: my toughest baby and my most gentle baby) and then he walked slowly to me. He held up his hand to grab mine in greeting and I started to give him the should bump but I had to hug him. He didn't seem to mind. Z and Levi hugged him and he didn't shy away. He did avert his eyes and basically ignore us, but he didn't walk away. I couldn't stop staring at him. He is SO. BEAUTIFUL. Like, I can't even handle it. 

We went upstairs to the office and the kids sat around him in a semi circle. We gave him his presents; a camo hat (courtesy of Levi), hidden picture books, word searches, lego car building sets, a giant sticker-matching book and a soccer puzzle. 

While I spoke with some people and pushed Micah's case, the kids played together. Seeing them huddled on the floor, heads close, signing and gesturing and helping each other......I thought my heart would explode. They were SO good together and Levi, Z, and Nat were so careful and encouraging to Micah. He was smiling. Even grinning. The whole time. He was surrounded by a family who loved him and who understood where he was coming from. He was with people who could communicate (on some level) with him. And he was HAPPY. The head person even commented (I wasn't supposed to overhear, but Z interpreted for me) that they hadn't seen him so happy, and that I would be a good mother because I kept coming back and fighting for him, and because I wouldn't stop crying. (Yes, I broke down multiple times when I was trying to convince them to help me push his paperwork). They said they couldn't believe how much Levi and Z have grown and changed and have become such awesome, happy, well-educated kids. I was super happy when Z interpreted this into ASL from Amharic for me; at least I know they are on my side. 

We talked/negotiated/politely argued for about an hour. Then the person called someone else who is familiar with Micah's regions. The said they would drive over, to talk so I was able to play with Micah while we waited for them. We worked on the sticker book and when he came across a lime sticker, I showed him the video of Natalie eating a lime and gagging on it and then spitting it out. He started silently laughing---just the smallest shake of his tiny body, while his eyes danced. He picked up a wolf sticker and I asked him what he sign was. He showed me his sign. I asked him the sign for the goat sticker. He showed me. 

He is SO smart. He would line the stickers up so carefully, making sure they covered the outline exactly. He got them all right. When we started doing the hidden picture search, I didn't have to explain it him; he knew immediately what to do and he ripped through about fifteen pages, getting EVERY single hidden item in seconds. He never hesitated; he just spotted them instantly and finished half the book in under ten minutes. 

The person arrived and he was really nice. We discussed everything again for another hour and half and they would tell me something and I would counter it. They were really trying to help me, but the options were not satisfactory and I don't think anything would have gotten done without me there to push it. They basically wanted me to just wait and I said no, because Micah and I have been waiting for four years and nothing has happened. I told them what I wanted to do. I think they were impressed, but they thought my plan might make things worse. A white (caramel, thank you very much ;)) foreign woman showing up at the official office could be disrespectful. I told them I understood that, but it could also show commitment, perseverance, and that I truly cared. And no one else will go for him, so who is left? They agreed it could work and that if the officials saw my other kids and how great they are, that might sway them. But they were still worried because they told me they need a letter from ANOTHER region, where it would be disastrous for me to go. We finally came to an agreement on how to proceed. Obviously I am keeping everything vague but they told me a letter is required from another region before making a trip to the original region. I can't go to this other region because of multiple factors while could damage the process instead of help it; however, once the letter is in hand, it will go to the first region. If the letter does not help me, then I will fly back and go to the first region. And visit every official. And do a stakeout. Or whatever it takes. This is our plan. I wanted the letter from this second region this week but it won't happen so the case will start on Monday. I'm hoping we get the letter and it works; if not, I'm already looking at tickets to come back. 

I wanted to pause and tell you what Micah Jackson's name means. Micah was chosen just because we love it, and Jackson is to honor my grandparents, who are the most supportive and loving people and who always love me no matter what. 

Micah means "Who is like God" and Jackson means "God is gracious." Two meanings that fit so perfectly here. 

I keep making God all these ridiculous promises and then apologizing because I know I can't keep them. Like, "God, I'll never ask for anything again. Please just help me get Micah home!!!" "God, I won't ever beg you for another child; I'll stop going after kids who are labelled un-adoptable, just PLEASE!!" "God, please, I'll never drink Starbucks again or waste another dollar; I'll give it all to the babies, just please help me!!!"

I have to keep reminding myself that God loves Micah more than I do. That God doesn't want him alone and desolate either. That I didn't find him four years ago by accident. That God loves children beyond measure. That Micah is special and cherished by God, and no later how much I hurt for him, God hurts more. That God would not give me this love for this child if something were not to come of it. Levi (Tamirat, which means "miracle") is home and that was the most incredible proof of God's power so I have no doubt that He can and WILL do it again. I just hate waiting. Hate seeing Micah suffer. Hate not understanding. Hate that the world has sin and my child is dying inside because of it. 

October 2010: we learned Micah existed and where he was. 
October 2012: we met Micah. 
August 2013: we told our agency we wanted to pursue him again. 
February 2014: I tried to see him, but was not allowed. 
June 2014: we saw him again.
July 2014: All of us except Abe were together. 

Micah Jackson, you are loved beyond measure by your family. And we will not leave you. I promise. 

Natalie update: we went to the traditional restaurant last night where we had a great time, but Natalie had another nosebleed while we were there. Luckily it was not as bad. This morning we went to the doctors (she was NOT pleased, but she was very good about it) and they basically put a tube up her nose and suctioned it with a vacuum. They removed a LOT of blood and clots. I think it must have been about 3/4 cup of blood? Obviously Nat felt crappy after so we went back to the guesthouse to rest and play in our room. When we got back her nose started bleeding again. I'm frustrated for her (and tired of washing all the bloody clothes in the sink) because I can't help her and she's constantly in pain. She also had nightmares all night and yelled and flailed and was in pain and it was another tough night. 

Thank you so much for all your prayers! You guys are amazing and I am so blessed to have you. We are doing good; just ready to come home and also to take her to an ENT at home. I'll post homecoming details later but it will be Saturday at 1:45pm at our airport. 

I love you all. So much. You guys mean so much to me. <3