Monday, December 3, 2012

Bonding days at the orphanage.

I'm so sorry... I miss keeping up my blog, but the truth is that I am just so darn busy, I literally collapse at the end of the end of the night. My husband has been gone for 2.5 weeks, back to Canada to wrap up some business, so I have been single parenting here without the luxuries back home like hot water, reliable electricity or a car, or corner store. I also find the task of 'catching up' very daunting... so I am going to just get it done in one post.

Day Two

We walked through the iron security gate and rounded the corner into the main room where the older children were sitting at the table, drawing. She turned to look at me, then quickly turned the other direction, pretending I wasn't there or perhaps hoping I would leave. "Zahra, look your Mum is here!" one of the Carers said. She remained steadfast, holding her gaze at the adjacent wall.

I said 'Hi' to the other children and came to her side, squating down to her level. I stroked her hand as she stared off. I began to pull some gifts out of my bag, and the other children swarmed me. I pulled out a couple books, some snacks and the bubbles. She turned her head to see what the commotion was all about... and reached for me. I took her onto my knee and asked her if she wanted to go outside. She loves to walk and be outside, and to be outside the property gates, is a treat for her.

We took the children outside the gates of the orphanage compound to look for Chameleons. Muffin and Mister held a couple little ones they found. The children were afraid to touch them as Kenyans are really afraid of them for some reason. In fact, some women walking up the lane, wouldn't even pass when they us holding them.

We spent the rest of the day playing outside with her and the other older children until she became sleepy and fell asleep in my arms. I put her down in her crib and kissed her cute chubby cheek.

Z looking out the iron gates.

Day Three

We rounded the same corner into the room where Z was being held by one of the Carers. "Look Zahra, your Mum!"... as she tried to hand her to me. She whined, giving a warning that she was close to tears. The Carer tried to force her to come to me. "Please don't." I asked. "She will come to me when she was ready."

Today she was very resilient, nothing in my bags of tricks were working. Was she mad at me because I wasn't there when she awoke yesterday? Is she tired? Is she not feeling well?

After 15 minutes, when she realized that I was going to take the other children outside, she slowly sauntered over to me... reaching up for my hand.

A woman from up the road came over and asked us if we wanted to show the kids some sheep and cows, so we walked with them all up the lane way - that was supposed to be 'just up there'... but turned into a 2 km walk. We never made it all the way, as all the children started to get tired. so we had to return. 

When we returned, I gave Z a quick bath while she stood in a baby bath basin. One of the older boys helped by pouring water over her back. It was very sweet. I dressed her and brought her into her room, shared with 5 other cribs. Laid her down, gave her a kiss, covered her up and said, "La la".

Day 4

We decided that it would be best for me to go to the orphanage alone today to encourage more bonding, and less stimulation for Z. Not to mention, Dan had to start to furnish our apartment so we could bring her home.

When I arrived, she was sleeping. I held some of the babies for a little while, checking in on her every few minutes. I wanted to be the first face she saw when she woke up.
20 minutes later, I noticed her stirring. I quietly entered her room and softly stroked her back. Startled, she glanced up... smiled, pointed at me and said 'Wewe, wewe!" in Swahili. Meaning 'You, you.'

She was happy to see me! I think she realized that I wasn't going to be just a visitor that she couldn't rely on seeing tomorrow. I was here again, and today I seemed to have won her trust. She reached up her arms and I hugged her tight... kissing her sweet lips and cheeks.

The remainder of the day was wonderful. She turned to me for everything she needed or wanted. This shift caused her to drift away from some of the Carers, refusing to go to them or look at them. I could tell that this bothered them as they repeatedly tried to capture her attention.

Z sharing her apple with the other children. This made me so proud! :)

Day 5

I went alone to the orphanage again today, and Zahra came running to me as soon as I walked into the room.

Today would be our last full day of bonding at the orphanage. I was not prepared to take her at the end required 5 day bonding period, as I didn't think she would be ready - but after yesterday and how well she received this morning, I knew she was ready.

The 3 other older children started to really act out today. They have seen this before, and they knew what was happening. I was there for Z, not for them. Instead of their usual frequent requests to be held... or trying to grab at least one of my fingers to hold on to while we walked, or their efforts to attract my attention any way possible, they were hitting me, yelling at me, pushing Zahra, spitting on one another and ripping books.

They were sad. Heart broken. Crushed. They felt so rejected! My heart broke for them all... all they wanted was to be loved and the few days that we had to spend with them, shedding love and attention on them all, was now making the rejection so much more unbearable for them.

Why not them? What was wrong with them? Why does everyone get a Mom and Dad to love them and not them?

These children are all 3... and all deserve a family. While they are too young to understand the logistics of why they are not 'freed' for adoption, they understood that many of their other friends have been taken by families that loved them and they have been left behind.


If possible, I highly recommend seeking an opportunity to bond with your child outside the proximity of the other children. Not only it is so much more difficult to bond with your child when you have 3+ other little ones demanding your attention, but it is too hard on them as well. In our situation, the orphanage was very small (14 children), and so were the grounds. It was extremely difficult to achieve any one on one time, without the other children.

The director spoke with us briefly about today and suggested that she would take the older children out of the orphanage the following day when we were to take Zahra home. We were very grateful for this.

Day 6

My only son's birthday. There is no greater gift than that of getting a new sibling! He was so excited to be able to bring her home on his day.... a birthday we will always remember.

We arrived just as Z was waking up from her nap. I changed her diaper (which was towels in a over sized plastic covering - thank you to those that donated cloth diapers, we have left a bag full here.) and cleaned her up as best I could considered the mess that was in that diaper. Off came the 2 layers of onesies and blue, boy overalls.

Good bye layered, shared, gender neutral/ boy clothes - Hello pink and frilly! She was now mine... and dressing her in a pink frills, leotards and white leather sandals and a cute little flower head band, felt like my writ of passage.

All the staff members sadly said good bye to her. Some more than once. She will clearly be missed. She was the very first girl to be taken in at this orphanage, and I think they all had a soft spot for her.

Zahra got in her car seat with no hesitation. Her eyes as big as the moon, watching out the window... as we backed out the driveway. She remained quiet, taking in all the sights of the country side as we drove along. She likely had only been in a car a handful of times. I wonder what was going on in her head during this drive. So much to see... so much wonder.

After a long day, we undressed Z of her pink frills and put on the cutest sleeper I had. I laid down with her on the bed and she quietly fell asleep on my chest. I stroked her hair softly, observing all the little details in her hands, face, ears etc... Mourning the loss that her first Mother had in not being able to keep her. Feeling so grateful that she was so well cared for, fed and loved for her first 2 years.

All my prayers had truly been answered. 
Door decorated by two of Z's little Kenyan - soon to be Canadian (BC local!) friends.

1 comment:

Denise said...

I know how hard it is to find the time to write about the first few days - even in normal life, never mind what you are going through right now. Thank you so much for taking the time to share... it makes me think I really need to go back and do the same. She is beautiful, and the love you have for her really shines through your words.