December 7, 2011

3 Days

Wow! What an incredible three days. I’ll try to recap as best I can without writing a 300 page novel.  We pay for internet by the hour here, so my time is limited.  We’ve been able to email family each night so in order to save time I’m stealing bits and pieces of those emails below:

Day 1

“Today was amazing. First let me say that Abiella is more beautiful than we could have ever imagined and her spirit is absolutely amazing. Our meeting was so divine and as you'll eventually see in the pictures it was just perfect. The whole time I was hoping for just one smile. We got about a half-dozen in five minutes. It was so, so amazing.

Now, let me tell you more about the day and how we got to spend time with her. We were picked up from our hotel by our social worker, "K". K took us to the government buildings where our hope was to meet the man who could give us clearance to take Abiella to the hotel. Unfortunately, he was not there. (K has gone every day last week to get this arranged and he has always been "very busy.") While we were there folks looked over our paperwork and asked us questions. "Why do you want to adopt from Ghana?, What do you like about the country?, Why do you want to adopt a special needs child?" Every time we answered, "We love the country, it's so beautiful, you have a rich and wonderful heritage, we have an amazing support system at home, a wonderful hospital specializing in special needs, great schools for children with special needs, unique opportunties, strong family and friends, much, much love,.... we love her already, etc." Everyone was nice but stern.

Next, we were taken to the orphanage. Traffic here is intense. Motorcycles driving through lanes of traffic, people walking in the streets selling items from baskets on their heads, we stopped at one street vendor to pick up office supplies for K. It was a shelter with roosters walking all around and a man chopping coconuts outside. So interesting. We finally made it to the orphanage. Sean and I had a wonderful peace. We met one woman who worked there. She spoke only to K. We did not understand their language. Eventually a woman walked in with a tiny baby covered in blankets. I couldn't see the baby's face. I asked, "Is this her?" and they nodded yes. I stood up and they handed her to me. It was beautiful. She is the most amazing bundle of joy. My biggest prayer has been that she would be joyful. She is. She appeared to be just waking up, but she came to and her eyes would roll around pretty lucidly but she would focus in and then make a connection. She would listen to me talk and then glance over at Sean and listen to him. We told her how much we love her, how beautiful and perfect she is. She smiled really big 3 or 4 times. I handed her to Sean. She loved looking up at him and listening. She smiled very big at Sean. She seemed very okay going back and forth between us.

We asked permission to take pictures. K asked on our behalf and they agreed. We were able to get about 6 photos. So special. They did not let us take her to the hotel, as we didn't have a signature from the person we were looking for earlier.

Eventually K said we couldn't take her and that we would come back tomorrow and the woman came back and took Abiella. We told her we'd be back and how much we love her and then she walked away with her.

After we left, we had a few more stops to make with K.  Eventually K said, "I'm sooo hungry. I have to get something to eat." So Sean and I followed him. We walked across town and then back through this alley where there were women with huge pots and business men eating under a tent. We followed K down this hallway. He asked if wanted anything to eat but Sean and I had been eating granola bars all day and weren't hungry so we declined. Seemed like he didn't plan on us eating this food anyways. He told us to wait outside. We didn't know where to go, we were directed out of the small hallway back into the courtyard. We stood. A group of business men told us to go sit in a chair. They were very friendly. (Everyone has been so nice.) K came back out and ate his food. As he ate he taught us the Ghanaian way to eat the dish. Wash right hand with the bowl of water and soap on the table, eat with clean hand, pick off piece that you can swallow (not chew). He ate a massive bowl in about 5 minutes. Good thing we didn't order b/c I would have NEVER been able to eat all of it and we were in a hurry to get back to a certain office. After the meal, I asked if there was anywhere I could use the bathroom. He pointed to an alley behind the cooking area. (Blocked off only by cinder blocks.) He smiled, "You may not find a WC there. Just a trough. You just go." I said, "Okay. No problem. Is it for men and women?" He said, yes... So off we went . Sure enough, just a public trough in the ground. We did as we were told.  Wow. Interesting.  Before he dropped us off at our hotel K showed us how to walk from our hotel to an art center. We may do that another day. We were too exhausted today.

That was our day. Very, very good.

Bottom Line: our meeting with Abiella was heavenly and wonderful and special and overwhelming and peaceful and joyful and more than we could have ever hoped for. We are so thankful.

She is so beautiful.

Oh and she also has pierced ears."


(I’ll spare you the email here, b/c it’s a bit emotional and VERY long.)

Basically, we weren’t able to get clearance to bring Abi to hotel b/c the man whose approval we needed was still out of the office.  We learned that he would be out of town until next week.  We were sad but still grateful to be able to visit her in the orphanage.  So, K took us to Abiella and for the rest of the afternoon we held her and rocked her under the shade of a tree near the orphanage.  She was not as cheerful as our first meeting. Although she wasn’t crying she wasn’t beaming with smiles as she had the previous day.  I soon realized why.  She had a deep cough.  She was teething.  She didn’t feel well.  This concerned me and when we called K he said he would help us get her to a nurse the next day.  We were grateful.

Day 3

(Portion of email to family.)

"Praise God!! Thank you so much for your prayers! Today was a miracle.  I don’t even know where to begin.  First, Abiella seemed much, much better today.  She still has a wicked cough but she wasn’t coughing nearly as often as yesterday.  When I took Abi from her caregiver’s arms today, she immediately started smiling.  Her smiles continued on and off for about 3 hours. Her cough was noticeably less…

She LOVES being held.  This is huge as we know that some babies who aren’t held much don’t like the feeling.  She smiles and snuggles close to you.  The wheezing in her lungs was less today.  Her tongue is very often coming in and out of her mouth… I’m not sure if this is b/c she’s hungry, she’s teething (she has 3 new teeth with more on the way) or if it’s just a thing she does.  At one point Sean kissed her cheek and she smiled so big all 3 teeth were showing.

She’s an incredibly resilient, kind spirit.  At one point another child ran over and tried to climb over Abi to get to Sean’s glasses… Abi was bumped a little but Abi just closed her eyes and smiled. 

We held her and rocked her and sang to her all afternoon.  After two hours our social worker showed up.  (Per our request due to her cough.)  He got the orphanage’s nurse to come out.  She explained to us that the babies are always lying in their cribs, and so when they sit up they just cough a lot.  This does make sense to me as her spit-up is always just SPIT… not mucus.  However, while she was standing there Abi coughed and perhaps it sounded worse than she expected.  Because they spoke in another language for a while and then K told us that, all five of us would go to the doctor’s office before we leave Friday night.  I hope this happens.  If she’s completely better tomorrow there’s a chance it won’t happen.  Who knows.    I would be thrilled to get her medicine! 

We sang to her a lot today and she’d occasionally talk back, her voice is so cute…

She’s so resilient and so strong. She’s got the most gentle spirit… she’s an angel and we’re so in love. She’s an absolute angel. AWESOME DAY.  We finished the day by taking a taxi to a restaurant that specializes in American food.  The Ghanaian food is amazing but it was nice to have something familiar.  Grilled chicken and French fries.  The chicken had a Ghanaian flavor that was just awesome.  I ate a TON. This was only our third meal since we arrived.  Geez.  The food was much needed.  (We’ve been so busy we just keep eating the granola bars and fruit strips we packed.)

We are so, so, so thankful for a very good happy day with Abiella.  Please pray for us tomorrow as we start the adventure again and Friday as we venture to the hospital to see about her cough / head back home."
That's all for now.  Can't wait until I can share photos!!  She's BEAUTIFUL and I'M TOTALLY SMITTEN!!
Much Love from Across the Globe,

Mae Mae

December 4, 2011

It is 3 am

It is 3 am.  I have been awake for an hour.  I'm typing this under my mosquito net.  I can hear the sound of a constant drip of a leak in our bathroom, the low roar of our ac, and the occasional loud crash of waves outside. Today is the day.  My alarm will go off in 4 hours and we will plan to go meet Abiella.  My mind is racing with what to bring, what to ask, where to go to get more formula, how long we will be able to visit, and a million more questions.

Tonight we fell asleep at sundown (by accident) and then rallied again to go have dinner.  I'm so glad we did. Dinner was amazing.  We went to the restaurant here on the hotel grounds again. Yesterday, we went when we arrived.  It was late afternoon.  Tonight it was a little after 8:00 pm.  It was so different going later.

As we approached I heard the voices of Americans.  An accent I haven't heard since we said farewell to our flight attendant.  It was strangely comforting.  As we entered the outdoor restaurant, there was beautiful music, the crashing of the waves, and a candle at each occupied table.  The waiter seated us, positioned a fan to blow on us and brought us a candle.  It was a very nice dinner.  I had beans and fish and fried plantains.  Absolutely delicious.  I also had a coca cola, served to me in a glass bottle.  It was awesome.

There were 5 occupied tables.  An older couple sat beside us drinking water, eating nothing, reading the Bible by candle light... interesting.  Another couple looked like they could be on some sort of romantic getaway, another group looked like they were seasoned travelers and here for fun, two other men sat by themselves... one on his laptop.  For a second, I thought I spotted Anthony Bourdain walk in and when I mentioned this to Sean he about spit his drink out he was so excited.  But alas, no Anthony... just an impressive look alike. 

Our waiter heard our accents and asked us if we were American.  The language barrier is a bit more difficult than I had anticipated, but nevertheless I think we all understood each other.  He told us that America was his "dream" country and that he had friends in Florida and he hoped to visit one day.  He said he had studied so much about America he felt he knew more about the country than some Americans.  He asked us about Florida, New York, and New Jersey.  Seeing his eyes light up at the word "America" was amazing.  It reminded me that YES, we are from a great country with unbelievable opportunities. How much I've taken for granted... access to education, clean water, food, shelter, the list goes on.
Something just howled outside....hmmm....

On that note, I better try to get some rest :)
It's now 3:30.  Will I ever fall asleep again?? So excited!!
Please pray for us :)  This journey is unique and unlike anything I've ever, EVER experienced.

Mary Susan

We are Here

We are in Ghana! The flights were great. (Love the screens above each tray table that have movies, tv shows, and music, and a map of where you are and how much time you have left in flight. So, so cool.) We landed in Accra mid-afternoon, early Saturday morning Nashville time. We made it through immigration, exchanged some currency, and then waited for our luggage. After watching about 350 bags roll around the baggage claim, all 4 of our bags finally showed up. I was so relieved. Good thing our agency had told us to take good care of the baggage tickets they gave us in Nashville b/c everyone had to show that the numbers on their bags matched the numbers on their tickets to get out of the airport. As we were exiting the airport we were greeted by a sign with “McConnell’s” on it. Such a nice feeling.

Our social worker’s brother and his wife were there to greet us. They helped us get a phone and some water and then took us to our hotel. The hotel is incredible. The AC works wonderfully, we have a view of the ocean, there is a mosquito net already attached to the ceiling over the bed, and there is a restaurant on site. Dinner there last night was AMAZING. It was friend plantains mixed with a spicy sauce. So, so good.

From our view of the beach, we see hundreds of people walking, running, playing... I literally just saw 2 men racing horses on the beach. Quite the active stretch of sand here. Many women walk with loads of goods on their heads... fruits, meals, etc. It's very impressive.

Today is Sunday and since most things shut down on Sunday we weren't able to go to the orphanage today.  We will definitely go tomorrow.  In the meantime, we’ve enjoyed a Fanta Lemon (so, so good) under a hut by the beach and we've enjoyed reading on our deck. We'll probably start putting the baby swing and tummy time set we brought together soon. (We hope to leave those here with her) Hoping to meet Baby Abiella soon!!