Thursday, June 2, 2011

want to know how much you love someone? leave them for a month.

written while out of the country finalizing the adoption of our son.

The hotel has been very noisy today, which is odd, since it is a Monday and the weekend crowds have packed up and gone back to work. I suspect there are a lot of little ones inhabiting the little studio type suites, creating that noise that just follows children around. Vibrations of television sets turned to cartoons, which apparently are good in any language, combined with hair dryers, microwave ovens, crying babies. The babies have been crying a lot today, including my own. But right now it is very quiet in our little room. I can hear the birds singing in the beautiful purple flowering tree outside the window. I can hear the slow rhythmic breathing of my son sleeping in his crib ten feet away. It is peaceful. Soon my little guy will wake up, yawn and stretch and roll around in his crib for a moment before popping up and lifting his arms in that universal "pick me up" sign. He will immediately find his shoes and take my finger, leading me to the door and demanding that we leave the room. He doesn't like to be trapped in this room any more than I do. We'll walk the hallways up and down, and then maybe walk outside, looking for the birds or cats that my guy loves. He will point at them and yell "da!" in his sweet baby voice. He will test his independence as he lets go of my finger, determined to walk on his own. Which he will be successful at, until he reaches a step, where he will stop and start to whine, softly, a threat of the tears to come if I don't hurry and pick him up and help him down the step. Then he will be off again, pointing at the birds and occasionally reaching up to grab my finger.

Soon I will have to put on my tennis shoes and coat and head outside. I am tired today because I didn't sleep well last night. My new son, he slept fine. But I don't do so well when my husband is not with me, and he went home a few days ago, leaving me alone with the baby. The baby I can handle. It's the night noises, the hushed whispers in a foreign language, and the late night footsteps in the hall outside my door I do not like. Last night was especially bad thanks to a mysterious stranger banging on my door at three a.m. while yelling loudly. I have not idea who it was or what he was yelling, but by the time I got to the door he was gone, apparently having figured out that the 41 year old American woman in room 113 was not who he was looking for. Which is good. I doubt I would have been very good company. I couldn't have even offered him a drink, unless he was in the mood for purified water or a bottle of toddler formula.

I went back to bed angry and sad. Earlier that night I had talked briefly to my four year old son, who had been staying with Grandma and Grandpa while his parents were off in a foreign land adopting another baby. My husband had arrived home and picked him up, and even though I had spoken to him nearly daily since we left, I still felt as though he was very sad last night. He seemed to understand that I was not coming home yet, but he sounded disappointed anyways. I hit the disconnect button on the Skype screen and pulled off the headset with tears in my eyes. I picked up my newest son and lay down with him on the bed, outright crying now. He looked at me somewhat confused and began to play peek a boo with the pillow. Such a tiny little guy and already uncomfortable with a woman's tears, doing everything he could to turn them off and make me smile. Which he did.

Even though this trip has been wonderful- after all, the sole purpose of this adventure was to bring home our son, which is exactly what is happening. Everything has gone according to plan, and while it hasn't been easy, it has been exactly what we expected. Even with all that though, I am homesick. You want to know how much you love someone? Leave them behind for three and half weeks and you'll find out. I miss my son more than words can express. I am terrified that he will be grown up when I return, the result of too much time away from me. I worry that he will no longer need to be glued to my side, or always sitting on my lap. I worry that he suddenly won't care if I need to run an errand alone or if Daddy picks him up from day care. I worry that I am missing something big, or somehow doing harm to his little psyche by leaving him for this long. Four days short of a month without him, by the time I make the three day trek home.

This morning I got to see him for the first time since I left him in Cleveland. With Brad home we can now video chat, and so I could see for myself that he was fine. He no longer sounded sad. He seemed interested in what his new brother was doing and he signed "I love you" to me. He even asked  if we could touch our "I love you" signs together, like we do at home, so I made the sign and touched the screen. By the end of the call he had already wandered off to another room, satisfied with his mommy fix. Me? Not so much. I could have stared at his beautiful little face all day.

I know people who have more than one child will all say that it is hard on the older one when the new baby comes home, and of course I know that this is true. But this, this leaving your home and your life and your child, to travel to a foreign country, where your delivery room is a hallway, where nothing is private, where you often feel judged and misunderstood, where your most cherished moments of becoming a family are lived out loud for all the world to see and comment on; this is different. This is not easy. Worth it, yes. But easy? No way.

update: my husband and son were waiting for us in Columbus when we got off the plane. There was my sweet little boy, holding his Grammy Trish's old stuffed cat to give to his new brother because he knew that he loves cats. He was also holding a giant welcome home sign that his daycare class made, complete with a hand drawn picture of me and Alex. In the picture my hair was a little wild and my eyes were a bit bulgy, which, truth be told, is exactly how I felt after all that travel. And most of my worries about leaving my son for so long were, of course, unfounded. But I have to say, he is taller. He is harder to pick up. I swear his face looks different, older. Even his hair seems more grown up. Sounds crazy, I know. But when I left the country he had that baby hair, all fine and wispy. When I returned he had little boy hair, sturdier. Even now, a week after returning home, I am still taken by the difference in him. Maybe I wouldn't have noticed the change if I had been here to see it happen slowly, but now I can't stop seeing it. My little boy grew up a little while I was away.

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