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Sunday, July 3, 2016

Trip One

It's official: three little boys across the ocean have our hearts. 

On June 18th we left from Chicago to make the trip overseas to meet our precious sons. Total travel time from Chicago to the capital city in their country was about 12-13 hours. The flights were smooth and uneventful - exactly the way they should be. We were relieved to have our own little personal televisions on the long flights, which helped pass the time as we watched movies and dozed off on the long leg of the flight (about 9 hours). This was a blessing as it was a major source of anxiety for me (Mary), but the time we boarded the flights my mind was at ease. Praise God for that!

Here we go!

We arrived on June 19th in country and were picked up at the airport by our agency representative and translator. He took us to our apartment, then helped us exchange money and showed us around the pedestrian district so we knew where we could find the grocery store and a restaurant to eat dinner. He left us then, confirming plans to pick us up the following morning. After being up for over 24 hours and eating only airplane food, we were tired and hungry so enjoyed an early dinner and went to bed around 6:30 pm local time. While we were so excited and anxious in anticipation of meeting our sons the next day, the travel had left us so exhausted that we had no trouble falling asleep. We ended up waking up at about 2:30 in the morning and laid there chatting about the reality that we would be meeting our kids that day! Good news is that the only real "jet lag" issue we had was the early bed time/wake time our first day; we adjusted quickly overall and didn't have any problems with the 7 hour time difference. 

On June 20th, our guide picked us up around 7:30 am and off we went to the boys' home town. It was about 3 hours from the capital and we chatted with our translator the whole time - talking about the process, the country, the traditions, etc. We arrived to the social services office just before 11:00 am and met the social worker, who told us the boys were on their way! We anxiously waited and soon saw them through the doors. It happened very fast - Scott said, "oh, there they are!" and next thing we knew we were looking our kids in the eyes. The first meeting was sweet. The two older boys shyly gave us hugs, while the youngest clung to his caregiver and checked us out from afar. It was a moment we will certainly never forget as we were finally able to hold them in our arms. Our hearts melted as we left the office and began walking to the park - the boys immediately took our hands and were looking up at us, anxious to check out their Mom and Dad. 

From there, we went to a park and played with them for an hour or two, then had lunch together. The boys were excited to interact with us and we loved watching them play. It was so fun to witness their relationship as brothers. The love they have for each other is very apparent and we are so thankful for the bond they share. Their caregivers have done an incredible job of keeping them close. After lunch, they went home and we headed to the hotel to check in; we spent the afternoon getting settled, then had dinner with our guide. We were thankful to have such a comfortable and nice hotel, with a restaurant right on the property that we could enjoy.  

The next two days, we met the boys in the morning, took them to a park and to lunch, then got to play some more before they returned home and us to our hotel. We got to spent 5 hours with them each day and loved playing with them (despite the 90+ degree weather!). On the way back to the meeting place every day, we would stop and get ice cream or slushies for the kids and it was fun to take our time exploring the city, parks, and the pedestrian district in their home town. As the week went on, the boys continued to get more and more comfortable with us and we loved learning their personalities. It is amazing how much you can learn about people, even when you do not speak the same language. Our translator/guide was wonderful and truly helped us to foster those bonds and break through the language barrier to do so. It was also fun to share photo books with them that we had made - photos of us, their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, along with photos of the house, church, school, nearby pool and playground, etc. As the translator read the books to them, the boys were intently listening and excited to see their new home (especially their dog and the nearby playground). We spent the evenings having dinner with our guide - we talked a lot about the country and their history/traditions, had him outline some key phrases for us in the boys' language, and were introduced to some of the foods their country is known for. We loved this time with our guide and the information he shared with us was invaluable.  

The final day with the boys (Thursday) was heartbreaking, as we expected. We got to spend three hours with them that day and followed a similar routine - took them to the park and to get slushies after playing. We were able to give them their quilts that day that Grandma Eckert had made with lots of love. The quilts were beautiful and Grandma had even personalized them with their names before we left. They were excited to receive those and it was such a special gift to be able to give them to keep during the wait between trips. We hugged them extra tight and told them how much we love them and would miss them the next few months. We said tearful goodbyes to the social worker and their caregivers as we felt immediately attached to them as well; it is undeniably apparent how well they care for our children. 

We left their city and headed back to the capital. The ride home was somber and quiet as we were slowly processing the events of the past 4 days. We got back to the capital city and enjoyed dinner just the two of us, including some ice cream to drown our sorrows :). On Friday, we had one appointment to sign some legal paperwork, then spent the rest of the day touring the capital city and packing everything up to head home. A two hour free walking tour of the city was very interesting and we loved learning more about the history of the country. We walked up and down their pedestrian district several times and soaked up the time talking about our sons and the plans we have to prepare for their homecoming. Despite the heartbreak of leaving our boys, we enjoyed Friday to regroup and reconnect after such an emotional and life-changing week. 


On Saturday, our guide picked us up and took us to the airport. We said another tearful goodbye to him as we got very attached to him throughout the week - it isn't every day someone assists you with meeting your children and walks with you through such an eventful time! We had about 12-13 hours travel time on the way home and again had uneventful flights. A very tired drive home from Chicago included multiple driver changes and some intense singing to Beyonce' to stay awake, haha! We arrived safely home around 2 am on Sunday morning. 

We've spent the last week watching and re-watching the videos we took, looking at the photos over and over, and sharing the events of the week with family and friends. 

We cannot praise God enough for the incredible blessings of the week. Our children are safe and healthy. The boys were open to meeting us and began to attach to us as the week progressed. Their caregivers are absolutely amazing and have prepared/will continue to prepare our sons for adoption and the transition. Their caregivers happily answered our countless questions about the boys and their personalities/health/etc. Our travel was unbelievably smooth. Accommodations were nice and safe. Our guide was helpful, kind, and very easy to talk to. The financing came together for the trip. We could go on and on about the ways we have been blessed and as we have leaned on faith through our entire adoption journey (and fertility journey that preceded it), there is no question about God's hand in this adventure. We met our boys and in that instant, the ups and downs of the last 4+ years immediately came into focus. We knew that it had all led up to these three precious boys and we feel that our greatest blessing is that He has chosen us to be their parents. 

The next few months will be full of preparation for them to come home as the legal process takes its course. We are completing the additional paperwork on our end as our agency represents us in country to complete the adoption. We anticipate the process taking 4-5 months and we look forward to returning this fall to bring the boys home. 

We appreciate all of your prayers through this journey. Our prayer requests for the next few months are that the boys' hearts would be prepared for the transition to come home. There will be so much for them to process and understand as we transition home and we pray for them to begin that processing now. We pray for their caregivers as we anticipate this transition will not be easy for them either. We pray for the legal process to go smoothly and without delay, and for our hearts and home to begin preparing to officially become a family of five. We pray that we can all move through this wait time and stay focused as we feel our hearts are halfway across the world. 

Thank you for being on this adventure with us. It is such an awesome feeling to be sharing this post with you - we have finally met our children!! Thank you for your continued prayers for our sons and our family and we will continue to keep you updated on the process as it unfolds. 

Scott and Mary

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