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Monday, August 23, 2010

September 1, 2008 {part II}

Day 3 {Part II}
Ho Chi Minh City, VietNam, Thủ Đức Youth Village

In the above image, notice the red topiary letters spelling the name of the orphanage, and large topiary animals behind that!
A basketball court for the older children.

We pulled up to the Thu Duc Youth Village (read-orphanage) around 2:00pm.  I was surprised how "un-orphanage" it looked.  It was in the middle of a bustling city on a busy road, big iron gates guarding the entrance.  Were those gates keeping folks out or in?  Weren't orphanages suppose to be in rural areas?

We were escorted out of the van and into a very hot room.  A large green curtain hung from a back wall and there was a bust of Ho Chi Minh in a place of honor.  There were only 4 of us in that room.  A nice lady spoke a few words in Vietnamese which we understood none of.  She offered us some hot tea with a tea pot and cups ready.  It was 95 degrees and 95% humidity outside and even hotter in that little room.  I was nervous.  Sweating bullets.  My stomach was in knots.  I really didn't want hot tea.  I could see the stream coming off it.  But of course we had tea.  Then she left.  And there we sat in that hot hot room.  Wondering what we were suppose to do.

I think 10 minutes passed, and then it was the most surreal moment.  They just rounded the corner with our son and our daughter.  They simply handed them over to us.  Children.  Not flowers or food or clothing.  Human beings.  Handed so simply and so quickly from one person to the next.  And that was that.
One of the directors orphanage, that brought Tess in
The director was so very sad at Jude's leaving.  I see the love he had for him.  This is one of my favorite images of our adoption.

I noticed these things first.  Bruises all over Jude's legs... the size of fingertips.  Where was his brace he was suppose to be wearing 23 1/2 hours a day?  Tess was so so much smaller than I had imagined.  Jude seemed to have far less hair than I thought.  And he was wearing lavender soft-shoes.  Tess didn't cry at all, didn't even hesitate or look back.  She was simply transfered from one set of arms to the next with out any emotion.    There was a scratch on her face and several on her legs.  The orphanage director seemed to almost be crying with concern over Jude.   Where was Jude's brace?  He wasn't wearing it.  His feet looked far from corrected.  They looked deformed.  They were deformed.  Tess was interested in the zipper on Papa's shirt.  Fingering it over and over and over and over.  It was odd.  Jude screamed instantly.
My mama bear kicked in.  I scooped up Jude and tried to console him.  Screaming.  Screaming.  In my ear.  We walked out into the courtyard.  I thought being out of sight of his main caregivers would help.  I wispered all the prayers and hopes and plans I'd had for him.  He seemed to calm down a bit.  Maybe only out of fear.  Certainly out of fear.  He quieted down for a moment.  And then the director came out to check on him.  Jude saw him and the screaming resumed.  Nothing I did or said worked to soothe him.  Eventually I handed him back to his nanny, and he calmed except for the little gasps.
Livy took this photograph.  It speaks a thousand words about how adoption feels to the child.

We asked for a quick tour of the orphanage.  Anything, pictures, information for my children to have when they grew and grasped at nothingness to learn who they are.  We took pictures carefully remembering we still only had 24 frames due to the forgotten memory card.
Notice that not a bed is empty, except for the two in the back, Tess and Jude's beds we assume.  
They probably wouldn't be empty for long.  
This little boy was adopted a few months later by another family from our agency.
I LOVE this image of a classroom we stumbled across on our tour.  
It reminds me not to forget about the older ones still there.  
It was time to go.  We were given 2 zip-lock baggies and two warm bottles wrapped in a washcloth.  The baggies contained the remnants of 2 care packages I had sent.  The first year of a baby's life condensed down to a zip-lock bag.
Wait, someone translate, please.  Where is Jude's brace?  
No, he doesn't wear it any more.  
We'd still like to have it. 
No, it makes him very sick. 
Can we still have it?  (Our pediatric orthopedic surgeon back home, was very clear that he needed to be wearing that brace 23 1/2 hours a day.)
Hustle, rustle, bustle, and the nanny comes back with it, giving it to us but with the warning that when he wears the brace he gets very sick, a high fever.  Could that be translated correctly?  Sick from a brace?  We took a final group picture and were wisked to the taxi.
We look like giants!

And then another surreal thing happened.  We got back in the taxi, the driver had been waiting for us because things like this don't take too long, and we drove away... with these babies... now our babies.  No longer orphans.  A son and a daughter.  A family.
The van ride back to the hotel.  The fear in Jude's face was so obvious.
Jude fell asleep on my shoulder.  Again, out of fear.  Tess fondled the zipper still.

15 minutes later, the van stopped, and we all went into a tiny little photo shop to have passport pictures of the babes taken.  They'd be ready in 5 minutes.
Again, Jude was so scared of not just us, but everything happen all around him  
His eyes break my heart int his picture.

Almost back to the hotel, we told our caseworkers that we didn't have diapers or formula yet, seeing as how we got the babes 2 days early.  We quickly stopped at what was literally an alley full of merchants selling so many things.  Papa handed me Tess, hopped out, and came back 5 minutes later with the supplies.  During those 5 minutes, for the first of many many times, my hands were literally full.  Manna.

While we were in the van, I looked at Papa, he looked at me.  We looked at Tess, together.  It was obvious.  I think I mumbled something like, She's gonna need some help.  That would be an understatement.  Despite the fact that she was no doubt traumatized by the transition, something just wasn't right.  I know many of you adoption mamas will say that it was too early to tell.  And I hung onto that hope for at least 6 months, hoping that it was just an "adjustment" thing.  But it was just so obvious for the very first moments.  Some "connection" was just missing and it wasn't just me that noticed it.  She showed no emotion.  It wasn't just that she avoided eye contact, it was that she had absolutely no connection with people.  She just fiddled with that zipper, Papa's glasses, the whiskers on his face, or the seams on Papa's shirt.  Or the cording on the seats.  It was obviuos that she craved the "input" that she missed in the orphanage.  But all that input was being transmitted through her fingertips and none through human contact.  Truth be told, I couldn't think about it too much.  There was work to be done.  A son to behold too.
Arriving at the hotel, we went to our room.

To be honest  the next few hours were a blur.  We tried to feed them bottles of formula and Jude, still so upset and shocked, would not take a sip for over a day.  Eventually we tried cereal and discovered Jude still had a gag reflex, likely due to the fact that he had never had any solid food before.   Contrastingly, Tess was a world champion formula speed drinker.  Scared of scabies even though they didn't show any signs of it, we decided to error on the side of caution, and we treated them anyway, slathering them head to toe with a prescription salve.

We were all exhausted.  We had dinner in our room.  Tess's screaming started.  It was an hour of the most intense screaming, that frequently made Jude upset.  After about an hour, Tess simply collapsed and slept.  She slept through the night.  Twice in the middle of the night, Jude woke with an instant piercing scream, the same scream from the orphanage, in what would be my first experience with my boy's on-going night terrors.

I woke that morning a mama of 4 and went to bed a mama of 6.  I was overwhelmed with joy and fear and relief and love and prayer.

There would be more discoveries.

To be continued...


  1. How time has passed and your family has worked hard to help the little ones adjust. Happy family day!

  2. i can't read these without my chest tightening and contracting in sobs.

    so intense.

  3. Wow, that first picture of Tess & Jude brought tears to my eyes..and then some more as I read further down. I've just discovered your blog and am backtracking - so wonderful that you have discovered His purpose for you and that you are willing and able to follow.


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