On March 20th, we flew across the ocean to meet our precious little boy for the very first time, and to file our I600 paperwork. This begins the orphan investigation phase for our process. Next comes the visa issuance, and then the exit letter is required for the child to leave the country with their new parents. Since last September, the foreign immigration authorities have suspended the issuance of these letters to adopted children. With no idea as to when the suspension of letters would be lifted, we knew this trip would not be the one that brought him home. We knew that it would be hard to leave him after the 10 days we had planned, but for right now, we were just overjoyed to meet our boy! It would be at LEAST September 2014 before we could bring him home.
After about 26+ hours of travel, we landed in Africa! My emotions were all over the map. I remember when the plane landed, the jolt of the wheels gripping the landing strip on the same continent that our son was born... what an incredible feeling. To know that the next morning, he would be in our arms! The moment you step onto the tarmac in this country, you know you are in a place like none you have ever been before. The air is thick and hot. Chaos and confusion abound, but there is no time to stop and get your bearings. This white knuckled introduction to a world so unlike ours back home in many ways was reflective of our adoption journey this past year. Long, bumpy, nauseating, unpredictable, terrifying at times, but there would be no turning back, because the destination is worth it. Eventually, our friendly driver delivered us safely to our hotel, and the first leg of our journey to Jerome was over. Tomorrow was THE DAY. Like a kid on the most epic of Christmas Eve's, the adrenaline and anticipation of the next morning kept my awake well into the night... and the morning!
Finally, after not sleeping and not eating, and pacing the hotel grounds for hours... the moment had finally arrived. A car pulled into the gates, and out came a very sleepy, lethargic, and inquisitive little boy. He was wearing the Christmas pajamas that we sent him back in November. How sweet! He didn't seem afraid, but he studied us. He was very weak, and smaller than we expected. He weighed about 17 pounds. He turned one 12 days before we met. After checking Daddy and I out, he put his head on my shoulder and just melted into me. I sang Amazing Grace, the only song whose lyrics I could recall in this moment. I had heard that he loved singing and music, and he really does! Within the hour, Jerome's precious personality began to emerge. He sang to us, and "preached" to us. He does this adorable lecture type of babble, its the cutest thing! He babbles in the classic toddler way while his hand are raised in the air, or outstretched in front of him. Arms waving, and "talking" with such conviction! Whatever he was selling, we were buying it. It was love at first sight if there ever was such a thing. My entire being let out a sigh of relief. "Oh, there you are, dear baby. I knew this moment would come, and that it would be this amazing. You are everything my dreams have been the last year, and so much more." Jerome wasn't eating much, but we guessed that the newness of everything was just too much for him, so we didn't worry. He snuggled in with us on either side and drifted to sleep without much effort.