One Significant Moment
Our first moments together
I woke up that morning to the Muslim call to prayer. We only slept for 4, maybe 5 hours, so it took a few moments to remember where I was. The musty smell of the mosquito net draped over the bed tickled my nose. I looked across the tiny room and tried to remember what time the driver said he'd pick us up, and wondered if my phone clock was accurate. It wasn't. We were late. I grabbed some clean clothes and ran to the public shower down the hall. I could smell eggs cooking and hear men's voices in the dining room. I desperately wanted a shower after our long flight and short night's sleep and I hoped nobody would see me in my pajamas. Our driver waits patiently for us. I grab a piece of toast and some coffee while my husband pays for our room. The driver explains he wants to leave Kampala as soon as possible, before traffic gets bad.
We meet our attorney in the jeep. She wants to ride with us to Masaka to brief us on what to expect the next few days. She explains that we will meet the boys today. Tomorrow, she will return to Masaka and meet us all at the courthouse. She explains that the judge may, or may not, appear. "She's reportedly ill." We may, or may not, need to answer questions directly from the judge. The boys' biological father may, or may not, show up. The only thing we know to do, at this point, is go with the flow.
Go with the flow is what we've been doing the previous three years of the adoption process. Be flexible. Don't hold on to anything too tightly. Be open, yet cautious. There are no certainties. We learned this lesson early on. We had accepted a referral to adopt a young boy two years before this point. We planned for 4 months to bring him home before we got a phone call telling us everything fell through. He wasn't going to be our son. We decided to continue moving forward and wait for the next referral. Six months later, we got our second referral. It's a boy! But, again, we received a phone call. Another lost referral. A third time, we waited. And it came unexpectedly. Four months before our trip to Uganda we accepted our third referral. Again, it's a boy...and a boy, and another boy. Three beautiful brothers needed a forever family and we were ready and eager to invite them into ours.
So many children need loving, safe and stable homes. Our boys needed to know what it's like to have (and expect) three meals a day. They needed the opportunity to go to school. But mostly, they needed to experience what love is in the context of family. They can't live out their days in an orphanage. The adoption process is so complex. Every adoption story is a story of loss. Ours is no exception.
I think I heard most of what our attorney and driver were saying to us on the trip to Masaka. But, in reality, all I can remember are the questions running through my mind that they couldn't answer. How will the brothers react to meeting us? Do they know anything about us? Will we recognize their faces when we first see them? Will they understand anything we say? Will we understand anything they say? I stared out the window and watched the scenery become clearer as the sun rose. Red dirt, plantain (or, matoke) trees, barefoot children, shacks, people on bikes, fruit stands, more shacks. My husband grabs my hand and I knew the same thoughts and questions were running through his mind, too.
When we arrived in Masaka were greeted by the director of the babies home. "You're early!" The attorney discusses some details about our upcoming court hearing, and then leaves. Our hostess shows us to our one-room guest house and then invites us to her home for coffee. I couldn't be happier for that second cup of coffee. We enter her home and meet her kids and husband as they're coming out of their rooms, still sleepy, still in their pajamas. She tells us they go to church every Sunday, and the older kids from the babies home attend with them. She invites us to attend church with her and her family. She tells us not to approach the boys when we see them. She made plans for a translator to join us for lunch after church and she wants to introduce us properly, in a quieter environment. We can't believe we are just a couple hours away from meeting these three kids. We can't wait to see the faces we have only seen in pictures.
We pile into a van and head to the church. The kids were already there. As we walk into the church, the first person we see is G. He smiles as he runs past us. He clearly has no idea who we are. We sit in chairs in the back of the room and we watch. I don't hear a word the preacher says, because I'm scanning faces and trying not to stare at the three we recognize. We try to inconspicuously watch them. We notice that W is clingy and loves attention from his caregivers. We see that E is quick to jump up and help when necessary. He wants to plug cords in, move sound equipment, test the drum set. G is always right behind him doing the same things. This entire experience is surreal. I don't know how to describe what it feels like to first observe children who will some day be boarding a plane with you to travel halfway around the globe. It's hard to picture them attending American schools, while they're in a Ugandan church. It's hard to imagine them sitting at our dining room table at home with their new brother and sisters.
After the church service, we wait for the orphanage director to gather up the boys and invite them to lunch. We meet our translator and make small talk. We all squeeze back into the van, and head to the café. The boys are with us, but they don't say a word. They're just as nervous as we are. We are just better at hiding our nerves. We order our lunch and get down to business.
"As you know, we have been trying to find a family for you. I know you want a mom and dad. These people are here from America and they want to be your new mom and dad."
Now it's our turn to tell them about ourselves. I don't remember what we said. I only remember their reaction. Shy and polite smiles, stares, head nodding, nervous gestures, more silence.
"How do you feel about that?"
"Do you want to go to America and live with them?"
The food arrives. We try to ask questions of the boys, but they are eating and don't want to be disturbed. More silence.
Oh wow. I immediately start overthinking the situation. It's one of the things I'm good at. What are we doing? How could these boys possibly be able to say yes to us? They only just found out about us. Are they going to resent us for this? Are they going to accept us?
After lunch, we have an opportunity to hang out. Playtime doesn't require a translator. Play is universal. Legos, toy cars, silly glasses, selfies...endless selfies. The giggles start. W cautiously climbs into my lap. We spend a few hours with them before driving them back to the babies home. They show us where they sleep, where they play, where they eat. We hang out for a little bit longer before it's time to go. We say our goodbyes and tell them we'll be picking them up in the morning.
I slept hard that night. An exhaustive few days, my anxiety subsided. Court is tomorrow, but I'm too exhausted to think about that. Sleep came quickly.