Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Penny In My Arms - Part II

As the girls finished up their singing and our first hour with our baby girl came to a close, the orphanage director asked us to come down to the cafeteria.  It was time for all the children to eat lunch.  I held Penny as we followed the older girls down the hallway from their bedroom and down the stairs back to the main foyer where we had first seen Penny through the glass.  There was joyful noise all through the halls.  Shoes squeeking and clicking, children laughing and talking ... we were led into a large cafeteria-style room off of the main hallway.  Long folding tables were set up with child sized chairs for the older children.  Older boys sat at one table (approx. 10-12 boys) and another table of girls (approx. 10-12 of them too).  The younger elementary aged children sat at two more tables.  The caregivers directed us to set Penny down in a kidney shaped table that had bucket seat spots cut out of the tabletop so that the children could be set inside to use the tabletop: 2 tables of 8 toddlers each.  Crazy!  The children sat still waiting for their lunch to be served (for the most part - there were a few near casualties from the daredevils in the group who tried to get up - no highchair straps here!).  A caregiver showed me which seat was Penny's and I sat her in her chair.  I asked if I could feed Penny and she nodded her head "Yes" and then handed me a bowl of stewed tomato pieces mixed with bits of rice and injera (an Ethiopian flat bread - think of a sourdough flavored pancake).  I moved the bowl so that I could begin feeding Penny and the caregiver shook her head... "No.  That not for her.  Here."  as she pointed to another child two seats over.   My heart dropped.  They asked me to feed 3 other children at the table while Penny just looked at me like, "Hey, what's going on here?  That's my friend!" and then began to whimper.  The three children I was assigned to feed opened their mouths like baby birds each time I came toward them with a spoonful - and then chewed and sat very still until I came back around to them again.  I looked over again at Penny and she continued to watch me as the other children finished their entire bowls and were handed 2nd bowls - she still hadn't been fed.  I asked the caregiver, "Where is her food?"  and she said, "It is coming.  One minute."   Ugh... it was painful to see her wait and wonder why this woman who had just cuddled and kissed her and whispered "I love you" was now watching her wait and wait while feeding other children a 2nd bowl of food.  FINALLY, her bowl of food arrived and I was grateful that I had finished feeding her little friends.  She ate as quickly as I could scoop, opening her mouth so wide I could have fit an apple in her mouth!  I wish I could have taken pictures of it - all those little mouths and little smiles and little spoons... Penny's eyes never left me as I scooped and smiled and oogled over how awesome she was - she wasn't all that interested after about half the bowl and after a few minutes of baby bird style, she simply had decided she had had enough.  Mind you, none of the other children did this - they all would have kept opening their mouths all day I think if I had kept offering food.  But Penny decided when she was done and when I went to give her more food, she shook her head quickly back and forth and put her hands in front of her face... It's funny how much I relished any tiny reaction from her as we interacted - getting a glimpse into her personality when we only had such a short time to spend together.

Dustin had offered to help feed also and was handed a bowl of food while being directed to a little boy at the end of the table.  He reached the spoon out to the little guy and  "Wwaaaaaahh!!!!!" - Dustin scared the sweet guy so badly that he screamed like it was his last breath.  The caregivers tried to calm him but he was not interested in their consoling.   Dustin backed up into a far corner of the room to give the poor little guy some space from the scary, bearded man and that boy cried himself to sleep - he literally fell asleep with his face planted in his bowl in front of him.  Needless to say, Dustin didn't offer to feed anyone after that ;)

Because Penny hadn't eaten her whole bowl of food, I thought I might as well ask the caregivers if they would allow me to feed her a bottle (toddlers up through age 2 drink 3-4 bottles a day at the orphanage - I am quite grateful for that because it means they are getting some vitamins and nutrition that is predictable each day).  To my delight, one caregiver asked me to follow her up the stairs to Penny's room where she prepared a bottle for me to feed our baby girl.  Most of the children were still downstairs, drinking out of "big kid" cups of water and playing chase in the big cafeteria until nap time.  Because no one was around, I could watch the caregiver prepare the bottle.  4 ounces of water, 2 scoops of formula: shaken and then the mystery ingredient - a grey thick, syrupy substance that I assume was some sort of rice cereal - was poured into the bottle... plop, plop, plop... the cereal additive did not break up at all in the formula.  I could see large blobs floating in the bottle.  Good thing they cut those nipples nice and wide to get that mixture through!  Her sweet caregiver smiled and handed me the bottle.  Penny saw it and reached out for it and took it to her mouth and sucked hard.  That girl can drink a bottle!  I sat down on the linoleum floor right in front of her crib while Dustin came and sat in front of me so he could look into Penny's eyes.  I held on to the bottle along with Penny as she drank.  I rocked from side to side and hummed a tune that I sing to my other kids at home.  After a minute she let go of the bottle completely, placing her hands on my chest and closing her eyes and letting her mama rock her and feed her.  I looked up at Dustin with tears in my eyes - he was grinning and couldn't take his eyes off of his baby girl.  I am so glad for that moment.  I am glad that the room was quiet and the other children had not arrived in the room yet to take their naps so we were able to relish every second.

Within seconds of her finishing her bottle, little feet started to prance down the hallway and into the room ... 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 - each sweet cherub knew straight where to go.  Each child went straight for their crib where they were picked up by 1 of the 2 caregivers, laid down in their cribs, covered with a blanket and were asleep (or atleast still and quiet - which to me, constitutes sleep!) within seconds.  I think I was witness to a miracle!  It was unbelievable - geez, louise, I can't get 1 child to sleep for a solid nap, let alone 8 toddlers in one room!

I laid Penny down as her friends were crawling into bed and she laid on her back, head turned to the side, closed her eyes and was asleep before we could say goodbye.

7,000 + miles was well worth those 2 hours we were with our sweet girl!

The orphanage director led us back down the hall, down the stairs and out the main foyer to our adoption agency's van waiting to take us back to our guest home.  We couldn't wait to come back the following day but I had mixed emotions about the following day as well because I knew it would be the day we said goodbye to our beloved for several months.

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