The day started beautifully. We awoke to sunshine and blue skies, ate a delicious breakfast, and then headed back up to our room to get ready. I was already anxious. My heart was racing and my hands were shaking. It was such a big day! But I had already packed a bag with toys and gifts, laid out our clothes, and showered. I was planning to spend the next 4 hours posting a blog, journaling, and getting dressed. Imagine my concern when we walked into our room and had no power!
Our room on the 11th floor started to get hot quickly, and I tried not to panic. I wanted so badly to have my hair and makeup fixed for the very first time we met Kate. Newborn babies do not remember what their parents looked like the first time they met them... but an almost 4 year old will! The last thing I wanted to be was a sweaty mess the first time she saw me! Luckily - after 2 hours without power, the outage was fixed. I had just enough time to curl my hair, put on my makeup and get dressed before the orphanage director was set to arrive at our hotel.
Moments before we were ready to walk downstairs, Rusty looked out the window and gasped. There was the BIGGEST rainstorm rolling in! Within seconds, it was raining so hard we could not see anything out our window. Normally I would be upset - but on this day the rain made me smile.
"And like the rain that falls into the sea,
in a moment what has been is lost in what will be..."
- When Love Takes You In, Steven Curtis Chapman
I've shared our daughter's name before - Kate (the name we chose for her) Suwichada (the name her birthmother chose for her) - but I've not shared her nickname. In Thailand, most people answer to a nickname. Our daughter's is Namfon - which translates to "rainwater". So it seemed pretty special to watch the rain roll in, just moments before we were set to meet our little "raindrop"!
As the storm rolled over, we picked up our things and headed downstairs. Rusty picked out three yellow roses from the Royal Project as a gift for our little girl. (Yellow is the color of the Thai King, and it was my grandmother's favorite color too!) I brought along the very first dolly I ever bought for Kate - a Baby Belle. We waited nervously at the front door of the hotel for Khun Toy (the orphanage director) to arrive. I am not early very often friends, but I was a full 15 minutes early for this appointment!
The orphanage is less than 3 miles from our hotel, so it didn't take long until we were there! We were greeted by a volunteer from Germany named Christian (Kate's English Teacher) who agreed to video our meeting for us. Khun Toy told us that Kate had been asking for months when her Mama and Papa would come (bless her sweet little heart!) and that today she was waiting to meet us in the playroom.
We held hands, walked through the grounds, turned a corner and there she was.
The first glimpse we got of our little girl, she was sitting in the middle of the huge playroom with Lam (one of her caregivers), holding a bouquet of tulips, and a cellphone with our photo on it. With Lam's prodding she got up, silently walked to the door, and handed Mama the flowers. Daddy gave her the yellow roses, and I snuck a quick hug and whispered "I love you" in Thai before we all came inside and sat down together.
The first four and half minutes were not at all what I expected. I thought Kate might be shy, or that she might cry... but I was not prepared for a child who seemed so very shut down. We couldn't get any eye contact, and she didn't respond to our touches, questions, smiles - or seem interested at all the doll I brought her. We told her we loved her, and gave her hugs - but nothing seemed to break through.
I have seen a hundred different photos and videos of parents meeting their adopted children for the first time... and every single time I'm a crying mess. I anticipated this moment for our family for so long - and I expected to cry tears of joy! But the truth is - the day you actually meet YOUR child, is much more complicated than watching a video of someone else meeting theirs. As happy as I was to hold her, I was so concerned with how scared and overwhelmed she seemed. She was being so brave by not crying - but it broke my heart to see the fear and uncertainty in her eyes! My emotions quickly took a backseat as I worked to figure out how to get through to our little girl.
Point one goes to Daddy - he got the first smile! (above)
Before we knew it, she was giggling as the bunny puppet stole kisses on her cheeks, and reaching for the little frog to wear on her own!
Then the next thing we knew, we were taking the most adorable "first family photo" with a happy, smiling little girl signing "I love you"!
We went from playing puppet show, to having the puppets "stolen" by Kate - and thrown for Daddy to catch. (We've been told she likes to "tease" in play, and this was our first glimpse of that!) She let me hold her in my lap, and we got the best giggles when I tickled her! She'd laugh when Daddy threw her the puppets, catch them all, then throw them away for him to retrieve. This went on for a few minutes, and then the staff decided she had warmed up to us enough for a little tour.
We went to see her classroom, and got a folder full of her school work (so sweet!) I especially loved the Winnie-the-Pooh coloring page (and I know my Aunt Tammy will too!) We found out she's been learning some basic English - including numbers, letters, and colors.
While we were in her preschool class, she reached for my phone. (I think she's used to playing with cell phones from visitors! It's a good thing we got her an iPad for the trip home!) Her face lit up when she saw her photo as my screen saver. I showed her a few more pictures of herself, and then some of her with her friends from the orphanage. Each new shot got an even bigger smile. Then, on a whim, I pulled up the album of me dressed up as Belle from my "Party Princess" days. She gasped and smiled - wide eyed! She LOVED seeing Mama as a princess! When I showed the photo to Lam, she explained that Kate loves "cartoon princesses". We are going to get along so well! ;)
By the time we left her preschool classroom, she felt brave enough to reach for Daddy to pick her up and carry her. It was so special to see Rusty finally holding our little girl!
We stopped by the front entrance of the orphanage for a family photo with the King's portrait, Lam, and Khun Toy. This is a photo we will treasure! We are so thankful for these two women - who have played such a big part in our daughter's life! And seeing Kate looking so content in her Daddy's lap was a special sight too!
Our last stop before our visit ended was to meet Kate's legal guardian. She gave us some important paperwork, including Kate's Thai passport. It was awesome to meet her, and to thank her for helping care for our little girl!
Before we said goodbye, we each got one last hug from Kate. After all these years, it was completely surreal to finally feel the weight of her in my arms. I have to say that the 1,748 days we waited were completely worth it to get to hold, and hug, and kiss this beautiful baby girl! Looking into her big brown eyes and hearing her sweet giggle was a dream come true. This is definitely a Thanksgiving we will always remember!
It was hard to say goodbye. As soon as Kate realized we were leaving - she went right back to the way she was when we met. Quiet, expressionless, and avoiding eye contact. It was so heartbreaking to see.... but I know it's going to take time for her to realize that we are coming back. This transition isn't going to be easy for her.
And honestly, it isn't easy for us either. I really felt like I would feel a sense of relief the day we finally met our little girl... but unfortunately, our fingerprint refresh still hasn't come through. That means - we still don't know when we can take custody of Kate. As happy as this day was, our joy was still thinly veiled by a lot of unknowns - as we still have obstacles standing in the way of her being in our arms FOREVER. Things have gotten more complicated in our case thanks to another error by a government agency. We'll share more of those details in the coming days, but for now we're asking for your continued prayers. We are thrilled to have met our daughter... but we are technically still "waiting for Kate"! We are so grateful for the prayers, love, and support you've all shown throughout our journey. Please pray for us tomorrow as we travel to Bangkok to deal with the newest challenge in our case. Pray for protection, favor, and expeditious approvals - so that custody is no longer delayed!