Chapter 7: The First 24 Hours


Thanh Minh is now with us and is our son... "irrevocably," as Mr. V., our Holt Agency contact person and translator, put it. Minh spent last night with us here in the hotel room, and we've now just passed the 24-hour mark of our lives together.

Yesterday (Monday) was about the most emotionally draining days I can recall... since the death of my mother. We arrived at the orphanage bright and early for the "farewell party," which was a fairly brief and ceremonial affair. We had to distribute the customary gifts to everyone involved at the Child Welfare Center and speak eloquently about our happiness. Then (I thought) we would be able to take Minh back with us until the government ceremony at the Dept. of Justice (DOJ), which is next door to our hotel. However, it turned out that we could not take him... so we ended up hanging out at the CWC with Minh and the other kids. To complicate matters, though, as we were all sort of moping around in the courtyard, an older couple came up to the fence by the street and got my attention. I was carrying Minh and walked toward them, and they were clearly saying something about Minh. Suddenly, Minh started wailing and shrieking. At that moment, a woman from the CWC (who seems to be in charge of childcare) rushed over and pulled us back inside, while also shooing away the couple at the gate. Minh was inconsolable for quite a while, and we slowly realized that the couple at the fence must have been Minh's foster parents.

We had very briefly met the foster parents when we first arrived at the CWC. We had just arrived Friday morning after many airplane flights, and they (we think) were just dropping minh off at the CWC. Over the weekend, while we were visiting with Minh and other children at the CWC, Minh was living there. The confusion of having been dropped off at the CWC by the foster parents with whom he had been living for over a year, followed by meeting the new "American mother" ("me My") and "American father" ("ba My"), followed by suddenly seeing his foster parents through the fence must have been terribly confusing. For the rest of the morning, Minh was a wreck. And even more so when we had to leave at 11:30 (naptime). We went back to the hotel room and paced until 2:45.

Then at 3:00pm, we were back to the CWC for a hurried meeting with Minh's birthmother, which was emotional. She lives out in a rural area, and works in a cement making factory. She and her two older sons live in significant poverty, and she worked in a neighbor woman's rice fields for two days in exchange for a motorbike ride to Danang for yesterday's meetings.

Then we rushed to the DOJ with the birthmother, the director of the CWC, Mr. V., Minh, etc. for the official giving and receiving ceremony and paper signing. This took place in a small meeting room which held a long table and about 12 chairs and a large sign board on which were spelled out our names and Minh's name and the date, etc. Against one wall was a red curtain and a large bust of Ho Chi Minh gazing down at us benevolently. Minh was pretty wigged out by this time, and he nearly wrecked the place. He spilled water, shoved chairs, screamed, partially broke the large signboard, spilling the letters of his name onto the floor, and he shorted out the air conditioner by grabbing the circuit breaker over my shoulder as I tried to hold him out of trouble. I was afraid he was going to knock the pillar and bust of Ho Chi Minh right over onto the table, possibly injuring the government official who stopped in briefly to make it all official. That would have not looked so good.

After we staggered out of the DOJ, we made it back to the hotel room, wanting to collapse. But first, we gave Minh a bath so we could change him into a new outfit. However, we were about to enter the battle of the underpants.

In his young life thus far, Minh has not been used to wearing underpants, apparently. I'm not sure whether he associates them with babies, or whether there is some other philosophical objection to them, but when we tried to put him in a nice pair of Spiderman briefs, he rebelled. This turned into an extended screaming, flailing fit. He and I lay on the bed for what felt like a couple of days, until he had exhausted himself. Eventually, we reached calmness, and we were able to go upstairs to the restaurant for dinner. -- Fortunately, at the other end of the spectrum, Minh slept solidly last night from about 9:00pm to 7:00am. It was much easier to face today having slept.

In general, things are going as well as we can hope. There have been a couple more tantrums today. Minh seems much more willing to respond to me than to E. He shows pretty recognizable signs of attachment avoidance with E., and so she is making a point of holding him more and feeding him. As a result, he didn't eat much lunch today, since he refused to take food from E. However, he is now napping in E.'s arms. There are enough moments of peace to balance the minutes of rage and grief of our poor bewildered son.

As a last note, at every turn we discover how bright this little boy is. There is nothing that he can't figure out. Unfortunately, he has the self-control of someone a lot younger... which is a bad combination. He can be sweet and he can be devilish. Pray for us... all three of us.


Christina said…
WOW. I don't think there can be 24 more emotional hours than that. Thank you for taking the time to blog it... as we wait (and wait...) for our turn to go meet Dai it helps me to adjust my expectations a bit. Praying for all 3 of you.

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