The day to day, comical happenings and sweet moments from my life as a nanny.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Casa 36: Andrew

I could feel my palms getting sweaty and my blood start pumping. “Will they even accept me, a random college student here for Spanish classes?"
 My purpose for living there seemed so minute and silly compared to why they were standing there.

I scan the group and through the smiles can sense the fear and anxiety in their faces. All holding their babies, but unlike a normal situation when you see a parent holding their child….this was different. They were held, gripped with intensity, the willingness to leave that child in God’s hands, but the earthly fear that tomorrow, or an hour from now…everything could change and that child may not be going home in their arms.   Holding those children brings a much different emotion. It brings a realization that we are not in control.

We know not what the future holds.

I knew at that moment that if I continued forward and took hold of one of those babies for the first time…I was jumping off a cliff, risking my heart, forever tying myself into these stories. “Am I ready for what this house, Casa 36, would hold?”, I thought to myself as I tried to put on my most mature, fearless first impression…

And so began the story…at least my part in the story.
Four families, four stories.
This is simply my version, as an outsider coming in, as the random college girl placed in that house.

Mark, Staci and their journey for Andrew…
First day of moving into Casa 36:

I glance around the living room, still trying to piece together the stories and remember names. Yet at the same time feeling like I’ve known these people my whole life…we are all sharing our stories and how we got here and before we know it, the house is filled with laughter at the culture struggles we’ve faced, the incidents of being a first time mom and the mishaps with language translations. 

My heart is breaking for one of the couples though as I watch them struggle through attachment issues with their new son Andrew.  I see this sweet new dad trying to reach out for his son and the little boy won’t go to him. Only the mom is able to hold him. Any little moment or incident sets him into an ear piercing, screaming fit…enough to make any sane person go a little mad after about 25 min. I’m talking, insane, out of control screaming. I continue to watch as they try feeding him…this ends in food everywhere, two parents hitting a wall of hopelessness and yet another episode of screaming. 

To see the hurt in both parents’ eyes made me ache to help. The dad just wants to support his wife and love on his son, the mom wants to love her child and watch her husband do the same, yet you can see the exhaustion  from the “episodes” and the frustration of not knowing what or if there is a solution…

It’s only been a couple days. 

They have a long unknown road ahead and from my view, it’s not looking very encouraging or hopeful. 

As we begin to exchange stories they share with us that they have struggled with infertility for years and had opened their hearts to adoption.  Then this sweet faced, big brown eyed boy came into their life….they were overjoyed and ready to bring him into their arms.

The hard decision to move down to Guatemala was made…it seemed best so that Andrew could begin to adjust to his new parents. Then they told us about a little curve ball they had been thrown…Staci was pregnant.

We all looked at them, trying not to let our jaws fall to the ground in shock.

They were jumping head first into what were about to be the most painful, terrifying, traumatizing, yet rewarding months of their life.
Talk about scary and traumatic. Moving down as a first time mom, dealing with the physical exhaustion of pregnancy, and then facing attachment issues with Andrew….doing all of this away from her best friend/spouse in a foreign country.  It only took about an hour for me to tell that this was one courageous woman.  And that this was just the very tip of the story that was about to unfold….

We had only known each other for maybe a few hours, but sensing the exhaustion that Staci and Mark were both feeling we pried Andrew from Staci’s arms and pushed her and Mark out the door. Insisting they take a walk…breathe...we could manage the screaming, thrashing baby for a short while. Besides. I’m pretty sure Staci had not even been able to go to the bathroom alone for days…

I stood there with this screaming child, my heart completely broken, wondering what his little mind must be thinking through all of this. What HE was feeling through this new transition. What his story held

Propping him on my hip and gripping tightly to his little waist I reached out to turn the faucet on…letting the sink fill with warm water as the other moms went to gather baby soap and towels.
We were going to conquer giving him a bath if it took all of us and a flooded kitchen. 

I gently went to set him in the sink and the whole house fell silent.  It’s a moment that will forever be burned on my heart and in my mind.  I whispered quietly that he was so handsome, so loved, as I cautiously poured soap on a washcloth and began to wash his little brown body…fearing it would set him into another fit…fearing he would hurt himself.   The silence continued. We kept shooting glances at each other..almost as if to confirm this was real…no one wanted to move for fear of disturbing this one moment of peace.
Mark and Staci walked through the door and in unison we all turned to quickly hush them and show them what was happening. 
That moment…the moment of watching those parents stand in the doorway…looking at their son curiously playing in a sink full of soapy water…that moment was the first of many “small” moments of hope that enabled them to take each baby step through the storms and trials they were facing and about to face.

2 days later:
It was the morning Mark would be leaving to head back home. The morning he would leave his wife and child, knowing he would not be there to protect them, not knowing when they would be coming home. It’s the morning that I’m sure every international/adoptive parent dreads.
I learned that summer that I hated watching those goodbyes. I hated standing in the house, watching one of the moms and their baby/babies wave goodbye, the dad waving out the van window. I'm sure sending up prayers that God would protect the life he was waving goodbye to for the time being.

The days to follow were beyond tough, and yet those tiny little triumphs, moments that most parents wouldn’t think twice about, moments that made an entire house of people rejoice, the moments of Andrew cracking a little smile, the moment Staci could place him next to her on the couch for two seconds without him screaming, the moment she was able to actually stand up without him in her arms for a couple seconds…these were the moments that kept her…kept all of us going.

Baby steps.
Everyone was going to survive.
We just needed to praise in the triumphs, and hold tight to God’s promise that He is in control during the dark moments.

Another curve ball was about to be thrown…
(Aprox. 4 weeks into living in Casa 36)

My head was spinning.
“How could God allow this?”
“Why, after everything they’ve been through?”

Staci had just received the news that her pregnancy had taken a turn and it was possible she would be facing a miscarriage….at the same time they found out that their fingerprints had expired and the fastest way to get new ones would be in the States.
Decisions needed to be made quickly and before any of us were able to process what was happening, Andrew was placed in my care for what was supposed to be the next 48 hours as Staci boarded a plane for home…48 hours turned into 5 days that would bring more heartache and yet another storm to conquer.

48 hours turned into 5 days due to the crushing news that Staci would end up needing a D & C.

It was a couple days in and things were going fairly smoothly…although I was getting an even stronger taste of what Staci must feel and was starting to wonder how she had kept her cool for so long.  My arms were throbbing from carrying around a big baby boy and my personal space had all been stripped away from me.

  I heard the annoying tone of my Guatemalan cell phone and picked it up…
Hey Kelsey, it’s Mark…I don’t want you to worry or freak out, but I need you to listen carefully…” My stomach dropped and I’m pretty sure all the blood immediately drained from my face.

(Side note: Anytime you are in another country watching someone’s baby and you get a call saying…”don’t freak out, but follow my directions carefully” good news is probably not about to follow)

  Somehow I kept myself calm enough to listen to the directions Mark was trying to get across to me over the fuzzy international connection. “Our lawyer/adoption facilitator has threatened to come take Andrew. She knows where the house is. I need you to take Andrew and leave the house early in the morning and do not come back until late,” his calm but firm tone hit hard as I hung up the phone. I knew how corrupt their lawyer was and just how possible this could be.

Thoughts came piling into my head, as I stood there with the phone in my hand, unable to move yet unable to sort my thoughts that came racing in.
 “What would I do if someone came to the door and tried to take this precious child from my arms?”
“How am I supposed to protect him when I can’t even call the police here?”
“I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if something happened to him while he was in my care.”

Then, having the wild imagination I have and having watched way too many episodes of Law and Order...I began playing scenarios out in my head….
“Well if someone comes to the door…I’ll hide Andrew and use one of the dull knives from the Bodegona and just fight for our lives….or….we’ll run and hide all the kids in the upstairs loft and make up some story about how Staci left with Andrew and moved to a different house”……..Andrew's screaming snapped me back to attention.
Yeah, hiding isn’t going to work, not with those lungs” I thought as I began to gather what I would need for a long day out, wandering Antigua.

The lawyer never came, but the tension didn’t leave the rest of the week. Anytime someone looked at me strange or anytime there was a car driving by I jumped and gripped him tighter. Throwing up a prayer that God would bring us peace and we would continue to lay our fears at His feet….knowing in the end…He was in control.
As Staci's returned drew near we all wondered how she would adjust back into life here, wondered if she had even been able to process what she had just walked through...would be walking through...on top of the situation with Andrew...wondered how we would ever be able to support someone who has walked through what she we would show that we grieve alongside her. 

Staci returned and we all watched as she seamlessly jumped back into caring for Andrew, marching forward with determination and adrenaline. All of us knowing that there would be a time, a moment, when it would all hit and the grieving and emotions would pour out.  Realizing that. that time would probably not be allowed to come until she was safe in her home in Alabama. 

The hopeful moments continued though as Andrew finally learned to walk, finally allowed Staci to walk out of the room for a short period, and finally began eating food like a “normal” kid.   The three bottles and back-pain inducing “walking while rocking” to get him to sleep every night continued, but that was seemingly small compared to the big obstacles that had been over-come.  Again, the moments that kept us all hopeful.

I eventually hit the end of summer. School was about to start again.

I had to leave.

Leave behind these families that I had grown so close to, that I had bonded with in a way that only the group of us can explain.  It broke my heart leaving, not knowing when they would be…if they would be following behind me.  It was the hardest goodbye and the hardest transition back into life in the states that I have ever had.
I packed my bags, the kids thinking it was a game, hiding in my suitcase…not aware that it only made it harder and I would have done anything to keep them there and take them all with me
The moms let me put all the kids to bed that night and give them one last hug and kiss…pretending all was normal…

3 am came and I slipped out into the misty morning...taking one last glance at the Volcano I had looked at every morning and every evening. I got into the van with a bunch of strangers. People who had no idea what I was leaving behind...people just on their own agenda, heading back to wherever they had come from. I wanted to scream or cry, or simply get back out, grab my suitcase and refuse to go…but instead I just watched Casa 36 fade out the back window of the rusty van…again being reminded by a gentle whisper..."I AM in control, I AM holding them in my hands"
He would bring them home when the time was right. Until then I had to just trust...and have lots of skype dates.

(five minutes later watch a man get stabbed…another story for another time though.)

None of us knew that for Mark, Staci and Andrew, there was still one more storm to survive…one more terrifying, enough to cause permanent fear and PTSD, large storm…

To be continued…

1 comment:

  1. I started reading this post this morning over my coffee and I cannot wait to hear about God's hand through the rest of it. You are a beautiful writer
    & I love seeing all of your adventures with the kids God has placed in your life! Wish you could come and help me with mine :-)