Friday, August 7, 2009

We made it home!!!

A very bittersweet time. Saying thank you and goodbye. Finally, we get to go home with our baby girl.

Gracie's first night sleeping with us.

Zonked out on our flight to Narita, Japan.

Hanging out during our layover in Narita, Japan during on our way home.

Some of our welcome home decorations.

Both families together.

Well, I am sitting here at 12:30am on Friday evening, with everyone in my family sleeping far. I think I may still be on "Korea time" because I feel pretty wide awake.

On Thursday, the day we were to get Gracie, John and I made it back to the Guest House at 3:50 from our morning/afternoon at the "Korean Folk Village"..... to meet with the foster family and get Gracie at 4pm. Needless to say we were a bit stressed out on our subway ride home about making it on time. We were riding back in disbelief at ourselves that the most important meeting of our trip we were going to walk in, hopefully, just on time. I would definitely attribute that kind of behavior to being third time parents. We really wanted to get one last sightseeing adventure in before we had Gracie for the whole evening Thursday. We did make it just on time, thank goodness. As we walked up the steps of the building our social worker was walking out of her office to go upstairs and meet with us, Gracie and the foster family for the last time. We quickly dropped off our things and went to the meeting room.

In the meeting room, Gracie's whole "first family" was there Omma, Appa, and their three biological children (ages 8,14, and 15). We took a final picture of Ye Jin with her first family and then a picture of both families together. We said our last thank yous and goodbyes. Gracie was actually quite calm and unaware of all that was going on around her. Of course, everyone else was crying. I started getting teary when I was given the "care package" the foster mother put together for Gracie for the trip home. She gave us her three favorite toys, a beautiful necklace from the family, some clothes, her barretts, pajamas and all kinds of food for her to eat; mandarin oranges, sticky rice, korean soft bread, "corn puffs", and baby cheese. She put everything together with such love and thoughtfulness. I was so touched by how much she loves my little girl. John and I both really lost it when we saw Gracie's "siblings" crying. The three of them were sitting on the couch like three little sad ducks in a row, red faced and heartbroken. To see their love for Gracie and how heartbroken they were letting her go, was too much for me. I was heartbroken, to see their hearts breaking. I think it is something that will forever bring me to tears when I think about it. It is wonderful to know how deeply our Gracie was cherished. Omma and Appa were heartbroken as well, but they held their composure much better then the children. We gave our last hugs and then they left the room. Both John and I sat there with this beautiful little girl, who had no idea how her life had just drastically changed. Of course, we know it is a good thing and all for the best in the end but it didn't make it any less difficult. We both tried to smile through our tears, so we wouldn't freak out Gracie. We played with her for a while and she remained pretty content and calm. She amazingly, did not cry at all. After playing with us for about 15 minutes, she crawled down off the platform and over to the door. The door was ajar, so she swung it open and crawled out into the hallway to look for her first family, and they were gone. She crawled down the hall a little ways toward where she would come in for her monthly checkups. I went over and picked her up and walked with her down the hall to show her that they were not there. She was looking for them. When she realized they were not there, she still did not cry at all.

At that point we decided to bring her up to our room and play with her there, get some dinner and pack to leave for our flight in the morning. She was amazingly doing "fine". We took her down the block and ate some fried chicken for dinner (we had our fill of Korean food by that point, which is pretty much all we ate the whole time we were in Korea, no fast food chains for us). Gracie slept in the baby carrier while we ate our dinner. We then took her to Dunkin Donuts and got smoothies to cool us down and she ate some out of the straw and thought it was fabulous. Who can't win a baby over with sweets? We then walked back to our room and played with her.

She was so cute, smiley and engaging. We just sat half dazed in amazement that she was really with us, for good. We played your typically one-year old games...."pick up and throw things" and "put things up and knock them down". She started exploring, crawling around the room and pulling herself up to standing, but she would not get more than a few feet from me with out getting stressed. For as entertaining as John was during the meetings, and as funny as she thought he was, she did not want him to hold her. If John tried to hold her she would fuss immediately and she actually became this way more so during our travel home. As we were playing with her, we started to realize she was playing a game. It is a common "game" played with babies in Korea. It involves saying "jahk jahk goong" (which means clap your hands), then you say "dori, dori, dori" (which means shake your head), and then "jam, jam, jam" (which means open and close your hands). When we started playing the game with her she "lit up" with pleasure that we knew "her game" and that we were praising her "brilliance". I think she decided we were ok after that. We hung out and tried to pack for a while longer and then Gracie started to get tired. She goes to sleep so far. When she is tired she just lays on the floor and starts to bury her face in her special blanket and sticks her little behind in the air (so cute). I put her in her pajamas and rocked her with a bottle. She drank it and fell asleep immediately. I laid her down in the bed with me and she slept throughout the night. She did fuss a bit, like she was having a bad dream but never woke up. I could tell when she wanted a bottle because would start to suck loudly in her sleep and grunt a little bit. She didn't even cry for the bottle, which I believe is a testament to the foster mother meeting her needs so readily.

Oops... gotta go, I hear her fussing. She's waking up...I spoke too soon.

Ok, I'm back, two nights later....

She is really a good sleeper she has just been waking up a few times in the evening for a bottle and also to play. Yes, I said play. Her body is still on Seoul time, especially her digestive system. Last night I took some video of her very actively playing at 12:30 am.
Anyway, back to our trip home:

We woke up the next morning and she was fine when she saw me in the morning instead of her Omma. She was actually quite happy, smiley and playful... as long as I didn't leave her sight.

We got ready and brought the bags down to the van. That morning, the President of the agency, Mrs. Dr. Kim was there to meet us and say a goodbye prayer for Gracie and another little boy that was leaving with his family that morning as well. We tearily, watched that foster mother separate from her little boy and drove off in the van to the airport. Both babies fell asleep in the van on the way. It was a very quiet ride to the airport, no crying. We were amazed.

We checked our bags and got on our flight. Gracie did very, very well on the flights home. No crying or screaming. She was actually quite a happy, content and active baby. She slept in my arms a good 6-7 hours of the trip. She had a pretty active couple of hours during dinner service where she was wanting to climb all over and grab things, so I took her to the back of the plane so John could eat without her grabbing and pulling the food in his lap. When he was done he came to get me and we switched so I could eat. At that point, Gracie did start crying because she was not with me. These were the first tears we had seen from her. From then on, Gracie did get upset and cry if John would hold her, like when I went to the bathroom on the airplane. So unless I had to go to the bathroom, I was holding her the whole trip, which was fine. I actually slept when she slept so I did get some "decent" sleep...if that's possible on a plane. Overall, the flight home went amazingly smooth, it was dragging all our luggage that stunk.

Grandma Kathleen picked us up from the airport. Gracie did not enjoy the car ride home from the airport at first because it was her first time in a car seat and she was not happy being restrained. I sat next to her and held her hand. She wanted outta that thing. but she did end up falling asleep on the way home.

Once we arrived home, we were greeted by two elated boys (with Grandma Kathy and Grandpa Bill) waiting outside with balloons and a huge welcome home sign that they made. They were soooo excited for us to be home and to meet their sister. They looked at her sleeping, then we took her out of the carseat and woke her up. We brought her inside the house to a kitchen decorated with streamers, stars and butterflies, decorated by Will and Leo, welcoming their sister. The welcome home celebration was all sweet Will's idea. He commissioned his two grandmas to help. They went to the dollar store, Michael's and Cub Foods to get flowers and all the other supplies they needed to decorate the house. Grandma Kathleen had a fabulous time bringing them to get everything and both grandma's helped them decorate the kitchen.

We showed Gracie around the house. Leo wanted to show her his big boy bunk beds. We sat in Gracie's room and Leo started reading Gracie Mae stories right away, making up the story as he turned the pages.
It was a wonderful homecoming.

So this is where our magnificent and mundane story of a family of five begins.......

I want to say thank you soo much to everyone who sent us well wishes, warm thoughts, your prayers and holding us in your hearts. Your warm and generous support and excitement worked magic. Our homecoming, was as perfect as I could've ever hoped for. I tried to prepare for and accept the possibility of a difficult homecoming, and am deeply grateful that it didn't happen.
Your positive energy made a difference.

It has been wonderful sharing our story with so many of you.

I will continue to add more posts about how our transition is going and how everyone is adjusting.

That's all for now.

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