Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

The Good - It's been a month since we've been back on American soil - time has flown by!!

The Bad - there's never good news when you get an 8-1/2 x 11 envelope from your insurance company...met our deductible after the 1st ER visit. 36 days into the year.

The Ugly - I'm fairly certain Bailey and Abby are competing to see who can poop themselves more frequently. Yesterday I changed more of Abby's poopy diapers than Bailey's. Yes, Abby is a dog. That wears diapers. And pooped herself THREE times yesterday. Twice in the span of less than an hour. And went twice outside in that same hour. Get the picture?

80. I have MUCH more patience changing Bailey's messy diapers than I do Abby's.  

81. I talk about poop a lot, don't I? Weirdo.

82. In other news, Bailey's got some sweet dance moves. 

Every time she stops dancing, just think "SQUIRREL!!".

Sunday, February 24, 2013


It's been snowing here so we thought we'd give sledding (in our driveway) a try...

The following picture and video of Bailey's ride on the sled tell the story from her perspective...

We'll call that LL #72 - Bailey's not a big fan of snow. Yet.

73. Evidently any clothing that has "dad" or "daddy" on them serve as natural fast-acting laxatives for Bailey. I'm doing my best not to take it personally. YIKES.

74. Bailey LOVES this song/video and it always gets her dancing. Enjoy the flashback to the early 2000s...

75. Abby doesn't want us to forget about her - the groomer cut her on the neck and required an emergency visit to the vet to get it all fixed up. Never a dull moment...

76. Let the limit-testing begin...enough said.

77. Bailey's not too fond of socks nor headbands.

78. Like her mother, Bailey will happily sleep late on snowy days.

79. I'll never understand the combinations these baby food companies come up with - spinach, peas & pear; bananas, beet & blueberry; green bean, pear & greek yogurt...

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

One Month Ago Today...

We were finally united with our sweet Bailey!  We can't believe that it's already been a month, yet we can't believe it's only been a month.  A lot has happened in a month since we've met: 

  • 8 days in Kinshasa, mostly confined to a hotel room
  • 20+ hours in a plane
  • 1 very unforgettable airplane lavatory experience
  • 3 ER visits
  • 4 pediatrician visits
  • More attempts at drawing blood from Bailey than I care to count
  • A whole bunch of "firsts"
  • The Ravens (really???) won the Super Bowl
  • 4 medicines - seems like Bailey has had more medicine than formula...

Jenny and I both feel like we have had Bailey home with us so much longer than a month!! Those days of waiting are such distant memories. 

We had our first post-placement visit today - it was great to see our social worker and reminisce about the journey. We were blessed to know that a family she recently met with for their home study mentioned our blog and so we'll have another connection to make!  It is so cool to see how these different connections are being made that are further growing our community of adoptive families and those that have adopted from DRC or other African countries.  We're thankful that we'll be able to connect Bailey with some children from similar beginnings, including some of the older children that were in the transition home with her.  

Cliffhanger - the nursery is done and in the shape we hoped it would be in before we left...but that was before we knew we'd have less than one day's advance notice that we'd be traveling. Better late than coming soon!

Oh, and Jenny entered a picture of me and Bailey into a contest our neighborhood HOA is having.  Please view the picture and "like" it so we have a chance to win!!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Healthy! (LL 61-71)

We've been getting a lot of questions about how we're doing, and for some reason, requests for more posts! Last week was the first week that I was back to work full time, making the days seem even crazier and the "spare time" minimal. Real life... :-)

Thanks again to all of you for your prayers and encouragement. Last week was a great one and Bailey seems to be getting healthier and happier with each new day.

We think that we are developing a strong, solid bond with Bailey. The recurring ER visits could have had the opposite impact on her relationship with us but it seems to have accelerated some of the attachment we've been praying for. Being able to care for her and helping restore her health have certainly helped!

As she has started to feel better, we've been able to experience a number of "firsts" with her:

- first trip to the library

- first trip to Target & the grocery store

- first lunch date with Mom and Dad - yep, we're THAT exciting.

- first Valentine's dinner date with Mom and Dad

- first lunch with Grandma & Grandpa

- first night at home alone with Dad (GULP)
- first grocery store outing alone with Dad (GULP)

I can honestly say Bailey made it through these (especially the last two) unscathed!

One fun story about the library...Bailey was sitting in a rocking chair and a boy a little older than her pulled up a rocking chair right next to hers, gave Bailey a book to read and picked out one for himself and started rocking and "reading" away.  They were so cute!

It's so much fun to watch her experience these things for the first time.

We seem to be working into a nice routine as a family and are LOVING all the time we get to spend with Bailey, continuing to get to know her and fall more and more in love with her.

61. The mimicking is starting to pick up speed - we've got a number of things we do that she is mimicking. One of my favorites is blowing kisses - so cute!

62. My worst nightmare is already being realized - Bailey is boy crazy! Every little boy she sees, she just stares. And stares. And now blows kisses. We're not even safe at the library!  Ugh.

63. Bailey is slowly taking more interesting in books, besides just biting and ripping them.

64. She is mesmerized by lights.

65. More teeth are coming in! I've never seen so much drool make its way out of a person's mouth!  Sit on our couch at your own risk!

66. Her nails grow ridiculously fast and they are sharp!

67. She loves watching basketball. Breaks my heart. :-)

68. It's very obvious that she was never restrained or forced to be in an enclosed space like a crib or play pen. It's been a process but she seems to be getting more used to being in the carseat, high chair, crib, etc. and doesn't cry on approach anymore.

69. It's amazing the things we'll do to try and get a smile or giggle out of her. So worth it when it works!

70. Jenny and I make a darn good team. Just sayin'...

71. BREAKING NEWS!! Bailey stood up completely on her own for the first time. Video evidence below.  I love how proud she is of the accomplishment!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Lessons from ER visit #3 (LL 53-60)

We didn't blog about ER visit #3 on Saturday because we've both been trying to focusing on taking care of Bailey and ourselves.  Here's the summary - around 4pm on Saturday, Bailey's temperature spiked to ~105 degrees and her heart rate was at 96 beats a minute. The pediatrician's on-call doctor advised us to go to the ER immediately, so off we went to the third ER in five days, this time to the Children's Hospital of Colorado's main campus in Aurora. Bailey and I had been there just 5 hours earlier for her blood work...

We spent the better part of the next 8 or so hours at the ER, mostly waiting and wondering when this whole episode was going to come to an end and we would have some answers.  More poking and prodding...actually no more poking (shots) but a lot of prodding...after these additional tests (and a lot of hours of waiting) the doctor provided some more info: the flu strand she has is H1N1, she also has an adenovirus infection, and a urinary tract infection. With another prescription for antibiotics and much more clarity, we headed home around 12:30 a.m.  

Some pictures from the various pediatrician & ER visits last week

Since then, Bailey's health has been improving. Two days without a visit to an ER - woot woot!! :-)  

Her fever has since come down to just under 100, her sleep patterns seem to be normalizing, her cough and congestion somewhat improving, and her breathing seems to be slowing. Hopefully within a couple days, these illnesses will be just memories.

Jenny and I are running on empty but slowly catching up on sleep, life, etc.

Some lessons and I'll try to stay off the soapbox tonight :-) :

53. All ER's are not created equal - medical professionals, what say you: Is it OK/appropriate to judge a hospital by its ER???

54. That poop face I was talking about in #45...yeah, that could just be her in pain from the UTI. Worst. dad. ever.

55. Single parents, I don't know how you do it.

56. Collecting stool samples...where to begin? I promise to keep it clean-ish. So we're handed 3 bottles in "biohazard" bags. That should've been my first, we get home from the ER (ER visit #2) and within a couple hours Bailey needed a diaper change. Since Jenny was asleep and not feeling well, I figured I might as well prepare sample number 1.  I change the diaper, get Bailey back down and get started.  Now, it's one thing to collect a solid or semi-solid stool. It's a completely different story trying to collect a tablespoon of liquidy stool being absorbed by the diaper with every passing second.  I open the bottle and bless their hearts, there's a little spork attached to the bottom of the cap.  

Now there isn't anything in the picture to put the size of this spork in context.  If you look at the nail on your pinky finger, it's just slightly larger than that. And I need a tablespoon at least. I snap on the rubber gloves and begin scraping.  Slowly but surely, I start filling the vial but I'm quickly losing the sample to those diaper fibers that are doing their job...oh, and the netting of the diaper and the blades of the spork don't make a great combination. Cue a mental picture...enjoy. Alas, I collected all I could and called it a night.

57. I know that our Facebook friends are VERY interested (read: not even the slightest bit) in what I had for dinner or my stance on gun control, but there is no greater value in Facebook then being able to celebrate the joys and share the burdens that will mark our journey with our community of friends and to be a part of theirs - family, friends, friends from elementary/high school/college, friends that have dealt with children with illnesses much more severe than what Bailey has dealt with, other adoptive families, etc. That, Zuckerberg, is why I appreciate Facebook. 

58. Girls scout cookies and frozen yogurt can make a hard week a little bit easier...thanks, friends!

59. Laundry - my goodness, it never ends. Throw up, drool, snot, explosions, spit up, other random spots that mysteriously appear after being in close proximity to Bailey...

60. Despite the surprises that await me each time, I much prefer changing Bailey's diapers over Abby's.  Not having to cut a tail hole every time makes it so easy and takes much less time!!

Friday, February 8, 2013

ER Visit #2...yep, already

I'm writing from the Children's Hospital of Colorado's ER in Parker, where we've been since 1:30. Our appointment this AM with the pediatrician did not go well for Bailey (or Jenny's clothes, but I'll spare you the details...) and the doctor recommended that we come here for them to further evaluate her symptoms since her fever and heart rate both spiked to frightening levels.

Lesson 50 - I'm learning that getting a call from your wife that a doctor is recommending we take our child to the hospital is another one of those "most terrible feelings in the world.

So we're here at the ER again (I was really hoping we'd space visit 1 & 2 out a bit more than 3 days!), having to go through the torture of watching Bailey get poked and prodded again...

Thankfully the meds seem to have reduced her fever and heart rate, and the nurses were successful in drawing some blood for some of the tests she needs. Unfortunately her blood was clotting so fast that some was untestable. So they decided to try going in to an artery and drawing it that way. So here we are, in an exam room without our Bailey, trying not to worry why it is taking so long!! Thank goodness for iPhones... What did people do to pass the time in yester year?? :-)

Thanks everyone for praying for Bailey, and for me and Jenny. This has been a rough week. I hate being helpless and I hate watching her suffer. Thanks for praying for healing, for wisdom for the doctors, and for peace for me and Jenny.

This week has resulted in a couple thoughts that continue to marinate in my mind. I may come off as being far too open about my innermost thoughts, but I don't really care. I want to share this journey from the perspective of an adoptive father - you know what, I need to stop referring to myself as that. I'm a father. A father to a beautiful little girl.

Lesson 51 - Watching Bailey suffer (with the flu and with the shots and other invasive tests), how can it not conjure up visions of how much pain Our Heavenly Father must've endured as he watched his innocent, flawless Son endure a punishment he didn't deserve. There is no greater love. What a sacrifice, for us. What anguish God must've overcome to allow for the cross. I can barely make it through Bailey receiving a shot.

Lesson 52 - My tears, my aches for our daughter are just as real as those of any biological father. I am so thankful that God has stitched a bond between me and Bailey already, dada and daughter. I will need a lot of strength to respectfully address "ignorant guy" that will someday inevitably say something about her not being a "real" daughter. You know what, I've been falling in love with her since we she was 2 weeks old, the day we first saw her. I've been learning about her as she grew for her first 11 months. Let's just call it a long distance relationship, ok? Bailey is ours and we are hers. End of discussion. Ok, off my soapbox.

Bailey's back now and we're waiting for test to the main health campus tomorrow for more tests...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

ER visit #1... (LL # 48 & 49)

103.4. That was the thermometer reading yesterday afternoon that prompted our first ER visit with Bailey.  Not bad - only took us 8 days!

In all seriousness, the last 36 hours haven't been easy, especially for Bailey. Since we met her in DRC, she's been severely congested and sounds like she's purring when she breathes. We have been trying to address the congestion but the last 36 hours other symptoms emerged - vomiting, diarrhea, etc.  The temperature reading of 103.4 was the final straw that we needed to take action. Our pediatrician recommended we go to the ER considering her high fever and the area of DRC she is from so we jumped in the car and drove 4 minutes to the ER (we LOVE that a new ER/hospital is so close to our home!!). 

Within minutes, the nursing staff was checking Bailey out. The doctor came in and let us know that she would be testing Bailey for the flu and she ordered an IV and other tests. Bailey, already exhausted from the symptoms and the initial tests, proceeded to provide an unsolicited stool sample. :-) She got a souvenir because of it - a Bailey-sized hospital gown!

The IV unfortunately was a complete disaster - the nurses were 0 for 4 in their attempts to find a vein!! They said this is common with young children, especially those as tiny as Bailey. That doesn't make it any less painful for her nor any easier as a father to watch your daughter get stuck 4 times for nothing!  It was awful!  So, after 4 failed attempts the nurses decided to give up on the IV for fluids.  They gave her Advil, Tylenol, and then ordered a chest x-ray to check for pneumonia.  The test results showed she had Influenza A and was given a prescription for Tamiflu.  

So she's been pretty lethargic over the last couple days.  It is so hard to see her in pain and be so helpless. We're praying that she's able to keep some food down and return to her normal, happy self.  ER visit #1 done & I'm sure there are many more to come, though hopefully not anytime soon.

LL # 48. I'm learning that watching your child suffer is one of the worst feelings in the world.  Right up there with watching your wife suffer or making your wife cry (not that I have EVER done that...).

LL #49. Once we get the bill for the ER visit, I'll learn why my Dad always groaned (he did a good job of hiding it from me at the time) when I broke bones or did other well-thought-through things to myself that required urgent medical attention. Thanks Pops for being so patient with me/my brothers...

Monday, February 4, 2013

Lessons Learning 47: The Nose Frida

47. I learned how to use my first torture device today - the Nose Frida. I never thought "suck Bailey's snot out of her nose" would be on today's To Do List but she's been fighting this cold and her nose got a lot runnier today.

To make matters worse, I kept thinking about what I was doing, which would make me laugh. When you laugh while using the Nose Frida, yep, it blows the snot right back from where it came. Worst. Father. Ever.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Lessons Learning 33-46

33. She hasn't found anything (yet) that she's unwilling to put in her mouth at least once.

34. The fact that her second blowout (the first being the infamous lavatory adventure) happened while she was wearing her "I Love Daddy" onesie is purely coincidental. Right? :-)

35. In the last 48 hours two old friends have communicated that they're in the early stages of the adoption process. It is so encouraging to see the growing momentum adoption seems to be having, and that perhaps the Church is waking up to this priority. Please read this book if you want to be challenged about getting involved in orphan care and/or adoption.

36. For some reason, every time Jenny asks me something and refers to "her", I keep asking "who?" if we care that much how Abby is doing or if Abby is sleeping??  What is wrong with me???

37. There will ALWAYS be something else to clean...her body, the high chair, bottles, spoons, sippy cups, etc.

38. She HATES having her nose wiped, and she's rockin' some serious boogies as she fights a cold.  And her nose is so tiny that we're having little success. Any tricks?

39. Our video baby monitor has turned me into a stalker. Oh, and the battery life is ROUGH. Original iPhone bad. If you are looking at the Motorola wireless video monitor, beware. That charger will be going with you to other rooms in the house.

40. I'm pretty sure she's terrified of the stroller.  Or maybe just my "driving" of it...

41. When she's waiting for the next bite (when she's really hungry or really likes the food) she'll "air bite" - so cute!

42. Mood swings! Need I say more?

43. There are way too many little things that remind me of scenes from Friends and other shows. Although quite different, I couldn't help but think of this when I tested the heat of a bottle of formula:

44. She is FEARLESS.

45. She's got a poop face!! Well, it's more of a position, grunt, and face. But she has a tell!! THANK YOU BAILEY FOR SHOWING YOUR HAND!!

46. She fell asleep 15 minutes before the Super Bowl. I guess she's not a football fan. Yet.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Lessons Learning...

Among other things, our adoption (and the 14-month wait) has revealed to me that 1. I like to write! and 2. I process better by writing.

So now that the adoption is "over" and life as a family begins, our blog will shift to the story of our family's journey and our reflections on parenting. And, should the Lord lead, adoption #s 2, 3(?), 4(?)... 

We know that we don't have it all figured out, so this is our little way of sharing our story - our successes and failures, our triumphs and tragedies, our laughs and our cries, our prayers and our praises -  so that others may (hopefully) be blessed by it, and as our way of asking you for prayer, help, wisdom, and counsel as we learn how to parent our Bailey in a God-honoring way.

On the first flight home last Sunday/Monday, a red eye from Kinshasa to Brussels, I was reflecting on the previous week and how much life had already changed! I'm not great at sleeping on planes so I had a lot of time to think. What emerged was the beginning of a list of "learnings" - things I'm learning about parenting, about Bailey, about myself. I don't want to call them "lessons learned" but "lessons learning" because I've only barely scratched the surface of understanding and comprehending the depth of many of these new realities. I will never fully have these things "learned"and that's what this journey is all about.

January 29th, 5am
We made it. Well, not yet, but we made it out of DRC. All things considered, it was a pretty uneventful exit. Thank you Lord!

One leg almost in the books. It started out a little hairy, as Bailey had absolutely NO desire to get any sleep. She was a little fussy and generally disinterested in all of our futile attempts to get her to fall asleep. As you'd expect (or WOULDN'T), the flight attendants served a meal on a flight that left at 11:30pm - it took them a least 90 minutes to finally turn the cabin lights off. And they had the AC BLASTING.

What followed was a series of failed sleeping arrangements by me and Jenny until we finally found one that stuck for Bailey, which of course ended up being the scenario where Bailey gets a seat and a half, and I'm left squirming for 8 hours trying to make sure I don't get in her way and wake her up.

I can hear all the parents out there collectively saying "welcome to parenthood". 

So, here I am. Hour 6 of an 8 hour flight. It's 5:15 am and I've got maybe 90 minutes of "sleep" under my belt and 14 hours of flights ahead. 

Enough whining. I'm exactly where I want to be, doing what I've been waiting to do for over a year. I have my amazing wife dozing a few feet from me and our beautiful daughter between us. The most precious gift from God sleeping so peacefully on my lap. 

This week has been a whirlwind. It feels like we've had Bailey with us for much longer than a week. I'm already learning so much about her, about myself, about life. And I've confirmed some that I thought I knew as I memorized the pictures of her over the last 11 months.

I'm learning that...

1. Her eyes are as captivating (if not more) in person as they are in the pictures. 

2. Her nubbin (if you haven't heard the "sixth finger scare" story, let me know) is hardly the size of a teenager's zit, or that wart the scariest teacher in school always seemed to have. 

3. She loves being tickled.

4. She loves sucking her thumb, but only her right one.

5. She loves sticking out her tongue. 

6. She sleeps like a rock and will join Jenny (and Abby) as those sleeping in on the weekends. BUT, only on her schedule and when she darn well feels like sleeping...

7. She (so far) will eat just about anything, and A LOT of it. 

8. For being so tiny, she has some crazy strength. Kung fu grip is an understatement and my glasses have paid the price more than once. This is probably the last pair of nice frames I will ever own. Walmart here I come.

9. She has 4 little teeth growing in, and they don't feel too good clamped down on my finger. But I'll let her do it again, and again.

10. She has the cutest little laugh, the most beautiful sound to a parent.

11. I have no clue what I'm going to do if I ever have to do her hair. That's going to be some amazing video footage. Poor kid.

12. It was confirmed (time and again) that Jenny is an amazing woman, wife, and mother. I know that this week has been far from real life, but she is already a pro, and Bailey is so privileged to have Jenny as a mother. And I'm so privileged to be able to partner with her and hopefully not screw it up too much. God was/is smiling down on me to consider me worthy of such a woman.  I'd be a hot mess without Jenny. She ran this whole process, ran this trip, and I just tried to keep up. THANK YOU, my love, for all that you continue to do for me and our family. I love you more and more each day.

13. Bailey's not yet sure what to make of water - specifically the pool and the bath. Their Facebook relationship status would currently be "It's complicated". 

14. I LOVE the feeling when I walk back in the room and Bailey recognizes me with a smile.

15. Bailey can stand up on her own, and she shines when she does it - I love the confidence she already has!!

16. She likes to cuddle, when she's in the mood.

17. When she's tired she'll rub her ear and do this weird thing where she'll be sucking her thumb (always the right one) and she'll hold her left elbow with the arm extended upward. I'll try to get a picture...

18. She's a very active sleeper. Going from a king bed to a crib should be an interesting adjustment!

19. Parenting is going to stretch me more than anything I've faced in a long time. 

20. This little girl puts a lot of other "things" and "priorities" in my life into perspective. Lord please keep me focused on the right priorities. Please help me appropriately steward my time and this little girl you've entrusted to me as Jenny. Friends, family - I expect you to hold me accountable to this. I've been known to work a little too much, always. That needs to stop.

21. Parenting requires creativity, wisdom, and not giving a rip what others think of you.

22. I learned or experienced a taste of what life is like being a tiny minority. It's a different feeling when the stares are at me. I'm grateful for that experience and the perspective it has given me. 

23. We have the best family and friends (and dog!) any family could ever hope for. Thank you for your encouraging words, kind comments, and all of the prayers. These have sustained us not just this week but through this process. It has been such a blessing to receive unending support from family and friends around the world. Thank you, each and every one of you. You all have been used to unite us with our daughter.

24. I'm learning (and regularly being reminded) that I don't have a clue what I'm doing, but I'm giving it all I've got.

So, I've got a week of parenting experience. I know there is so much more to learn, and I'll continue to post those new things I learn, about Bailey, about us, about parenting, etc.  

I know that a week in a hotel room is far from reality. The fun will really begin as we get home and into our own rhythm. The memories that await us!


25. Airplane lavatories will never look the same to me.

26. "Me time"comes in much smaller, bite-size chunks now, and I best make the most of them.

27. I can replace "baby" with "Bailey" in just about any song and sing to Bailey.  Could get REALLY interesting as I dive into the music honest, how many of you went straight to "Baby Got Back"??

28. Birthday cupcake on 1st birthday = Heaviest. Diaper. Ever. the next morning...

29. Bailey eats like my brother in law - Put on loose fitting clothes (preferably those you can part with, or just a bib will do), proceed to fill your mouth with more food than could possibly fit, not giving a second thought to the fall out!

30. Cupcake frosting and her hair are a lethal combination.

31. Abby's finally starting to pull her weight around here as a garbage disposal. It's hilarious watching her circle the high chair at meal time, waiting for the fall out mentioned in #29.

32. She already has an "oh my gosh, my dad is such a goober" face.

Friday, February 1, 2013

And now the fun begins!

There's probably no better day to introduce our daughter to the world then on her birthday!

Bailey Aimerance Cramer
Born: February 1, 2012
Forever in our arms: January 19, 2013

First things first:

Our first picture together as a family!

I am so overjoyed to finally be able to say that I'm writing a post in the midst of trying to figure this whole fatherhood thing out!! So, you'll understand why it might be somewhat brief for a recap of the last 2 weeks, and why I probably missed some of the auto-incorrects my iPad decided to make. :-)

The last 2 weeks have been a whirlwind! On January 15th our daughter's visa was issued, giving us the green light to travel to DRC to meet and bring her home. Once we received the news we started planning and figuring out when we'd be able to leave. Since I was in Texas for some meetings, we assumed we'd fly Saturday, Sunday, or maybe Monday.  Thankfully I was able to cut my time in Texas short and got home late morning on Wednesday. I was working with our travel agent (Thanks Tabitha from Adoption Airfares!!) to identify good (read: affordable!) itineraries and were having trouble. Except if we flew Thursday. AM. Of course...

So with 16 hours to spare before having to make our way to DIA to catch our AM flight, we booked our tickets and began our packing.  Thankfully for me my wife is SO FAR AHEAD OF ME ON JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING, she had already prepared much of what needed to be packed, especially for our daughter.  

Those 16 hours flew by but we got everything packed and ready to go. We even managed about 3 hours of sleep!  

The flights to Kinshasa (Denver-Newark-Brussels-Kinshasa) were uneventful. LONG, but uneventful. We were able to spread out a little and get some rest.  Thanks to my frequent business travel we had access to a lounge in Brussels that had showers.  A shower sure does make back to back 8-hour flights a little more tolerable, and we landed in Kinshasa not smelling too much like a locker room! 

Upon arriving in Kinshasa and getting off the plane, we were immediately hit with a new understanding of HOT AND HUMID. I'm sweating just remembering it! On average the temperature was in the mid 80s but with humidity at 70-80% it felt more like mid-90s.

We arrived around 7pm on the 18th, finally making it through passport control and collecting our bags by 9 or so. After waiting another 45 minutes for our agency's in-country coordinator to meet us, we were on our way to the hotel.

Quick note about luggage - I'm guessing that people travel out to Brussels from DRC to buy just about anything because its cheaper (or actually available) elsewhere.  I saw TVs and appliances coming off the conveyor. Even a toilet!! Most people had 6-8 pieces, so we felt right at home with our luggage! :-)

I mentioned on our private Facebook page that I have never experienced roads and driving conditions like those in Kinshasa. It was a little better when we were out during the day time, but not much.  Maybe it was the jet lag, but that trip from the airport to the hotel will stay with me. Any description will fail to capture it, but I'll try.

Paved roads turning into dirt roads, and then back to paved. And then back to dirt.  Massive potholes litter the roads, some disguised as puddles so there's no telling how deep they really are.  No light - no street lights, no signals, only the headlights of those cars with them on.  Microbuses, everywhere. Jammed with people, some hanging out of open doors.  People, everywhere. On the side of the road, in the road, dodging traffic.  Our coordinator said driving is like playing a video game, and that is probably the best comparison. At one point we were forced to get around a bus stopped in the middle of the road, its driver nowhere to be found.  As traffic slows down, we don't stop and wait for it to get going again. No, we dart out into oncoming traffic! To avoid them, we get back onto our side of the road, right? WRONG! We head further outside to the unofficial dirt road (shoulder?) further left of oncoming traffic.  I'd say it was our driver that was crazy, but a bunch of drivers were doing this! Chaos of people and cars wanting to get to their destination without any guidelines, rules, or restrictions. Achieve your goal at all costs, as quickly as possible. That's a scary mindset behind the wheel of a car!

We were quite relieved when we made it to our hotel for a good night's sleep before our big day on Saturday, the 19th: GOTCHA DAY!! 

Our last "Waiting for you" pic!

Gotcha Day
The day we've been praying for/dreaming about/anxiously awaiting finally arrived! We learned from others before us not to get our hopes up for some magical, beautiful experience.  We also learned not to expect to go get her very early, so we slept until we got a call early afternoon that it was time to go to the transition home to meet her!  We are so glad that another adoptive couple (with the same agency) was staying at the hotel, so we met up and made our way together to the transition home. They met their little boy the previous day but wanted to go back and spend time with the other kids at the home.  

After another "interesting" drive (not nearly as bad as the previous night) we made it to the transition home and were greeted by the 20+ kids currently there. Before we know it, one of the ladies is "crowd surfing" our daughter over the heads of the children on the steps to the house, delivers her to Jenny with a not-so-heartfelt "here's yours". 

Despite the lack of pomp and circumstance, we finally have our daughter in our arms!! We spent the better part of 4 hours at the home, primarily with our daughter.  It was fun to get to know her a little and to see how much the nannies and workers really love these kids. We're grateful for the love they gave to our daughter as we waited.  

After we picked her up we all returned to the hotel where we spent the next 8 days. 

The first night she fell asleep at around 7:30, with the lights on, and was out cold until 8am the next morning!

Unfortunately those sleep patterns haven't stayed the same.  More on that later...

Although we spent most of the 8 days locked away in the hotel room, we were able to get out a little.  

Let me stop and say that the workers at Hotel Royal took great care of us, especially Wilson the doorman and a couple of the receptionists. Christian & Callexte. The wait staff was also extremely kind and helpful!

One day a missionary in Kinshasa took a group of us out shopping to buy some local arts and crafts.  We bought a few things to incorporate some of the culture into our home so Bailey can enjoy a connection to where she was born.

We also took a trip outside of Kinshasa to a Bonobo sanctuary and had a private tour of the sanctuary and watched the Bonobos for a couple hours.  

We also spent a couple hours at a private rec club with a pool - Bailey's first pool experience! 

She was not a big fan of the water at first but slowly got used to it and started enjoying it. By the end of our time there she was comfortable swimming in our arms in the big pool!

Here are some more of our favorites from those days in the hotel:

Our departure day finally arrived, and it will go down as one of the longest days of my life.  Our flight out from Kinshasa to Brussels wasn't until 11pm, so we had all day to watch the clock, and it couldn't have gone by slower!

Our in-country coordinator picked us up from the hotel at 2:30pm and took us to Brussels Airlines' city office where we were able to check in and drop off our luggage. I've never heard of such an option, but it saved us from having to deal with checking our bags at the airport.

Once we were done with check-in we went straight to the airport and had to wait around for 4 hours or so until we could begin the exit process. A little after 7:30 one of the in-country workers guided us through a series of steps that I still don't quite know the purpose behind. The Kinshasa airport is a big, disorganized mess. I've never seen an airport so void of signs and instruction.  If we had been required to check in, get through passport control and get to the boarding area on our own, we'd probably still be there trying to figure it all out! 

Eventually we made it through all of the steps and were dropped off at the VIP lounge where we awaited the announcement that it was time to board.  

Thus began the first of three long flights home...

Bailey was a CHAMP throughout the brutal travel home. She was rarely fussy on the first 2 flights, or for 16 of the 21 hours we were in the air. She didn't have any serious meltdowns, no "blowouts", slept for a chunk of each flight, and made some friends around us, whether they were interested or not!  

The last flight from Newark to Denver...well, that was a different story. 

We were all running on empty, but she had had enough of being confined to a seat on a plane.  From the moment the plane took off she was never quite settled.  We managed to get her to fall asleep but she would wake up frequently and immediately start crying loudly.  We hadn't seen much (any) of this type of crying over the previous 8 days so it took us by surprise. Finally it exploded into a complete meltdown, so I took her to the lavatory in the back of the plane to change her and hopefully settle her down.

Now, I forgot to mention that this aircraft (thanks a lot, United...) was one that should be on the verge of retirement - falling apart, old school computer monitor-style TVs hanging from the ceiling, etc.  OF COURSE, this aircraft didn't have changing tables in their lavatories. Of course they didn't. 

So, I am faced with the task of getting a wailing, thrashing child to lay still on a toilet seat so I can change her. Not only does she wiggle around so much that her head falls off of the toilet seat and bumps the side of the seat, I find in her diaper the largest "collection" I've EVER seen in a diaper. (Mind you, I hadn't changed a diaper before Saturday/gotcha day!) 

Oh, and she wasn't done.  

Another OF COURSE - of course I forgot the changing pad at my seat, so I was relying on Bailey not providing any follow-up (maybe aftershock is a better description) once I had taken off her diaper. Bad move. Next thing I know, her onesie is FILLED, the floor is covered, and I'm pretty sure my shoe had some new accessories. Panic. 

Bailey is melting down and completely hysterical, the captain is telling me and all the other passengers to return to our seats because there's some turbulence coming, and I've got to figure out how to clean up a child and a bathroom.  I finally get the new diaper on Bailey, throw away the onesie and clean up the bathroom, but Bailey is still a mess. She has worked herself up so much that she throws up a little. After a couple more minutes she calms down and we make our way back to our seats, sans her clothing. I'm not sure there's a worse feeling than watching your child in pain and not being able to quickly make it go away.

Once we landed and got her changed into a new outfit she seemed to be in a better mood.  We had a nice welcoming party of family and friends, and a snow storm that I was hoping would hold off for a few more hours.  That added some additional "fun" to the drive home.  

Day one has come and gone, and I'd be lying if I said it was a great day for any of us. Jet lag, a pediatrician appointment that included Bailey receiving 5 immunization shots, new surroundings, first time in a crib, and on and on. But we're learning, we're adjusting, and we'll get into a rhythm that works for us.

Day two and three have been much better, and Bailey seems to be warming to our home, to her room, even to Abby! More stories to come in the days ahead!