Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Doctors and Relatives and Social Workers, Oh My!

When we last left our hero, he was developing a cough that daddy thought was no big deal. Daddy was wrong! Turns out he had (has) a pretty bad ear infection. We discovered it on our first visit to see Dr Taylor, our pediatrician who helped us with Manu's pre-adoption screening. We were really impressed with her knowledge of foreign adoption and issues specific to foreign and institutionalized children, and we wanted her as Manu's primary physician. Manu began the trip to the doctor in good spirits, probably because he didn't know what was about to happen. Dr. Taylor poked, prodded and otherwise irritated the little guy as she carried out her examination. She was pleased with his development and overall condition, but wanted to run a series of tests to ensure he was in good health. We were warned that the lab was going to take a lot of blood from the little guy, and boy did they. After leaving Dr. Taylor with a prescription for Amoxil for his ears, we headed down to the lab, where a couple of gentle young ladies proceeded to take about 17 vials of Manu's precious blood. As you might imagine he was not at all impressed with the whole ordeal, though I believe he was crying more from being held down than any pain the needle might have caused (guess who had to hold him.) After we finished he had one more stop in radiology for a chest x-ray. Mommy and Daddy had to hold him still while they took the pictures. If he wasn't in a bad mood before, after being stripped down and bent into all kinds of positions, he was now! Poor guy had streams of tears flowing down his face. Finally through we stopped at a Starbucks kiosk to grab a quick cup of coffee before heading out. As usual Manu drew a crowd of admirers, as most of the employees and several passing customers comment on how cute he is (they didn't have to hold him down a few minutes ago, LOL.) After leaving the clinic we treated Manu to lunch at Mellow Mushroom, a local gourmet pizza place in Lexington. Manu really enjoyed the hummus with pita, and chewing on some of our pizza crust. Finally he was all smiles again!

That weekend we headed back to Whitesburg, Leslie's home town, for a welcome home party for Manu. There he was introduced to many extended family members and friends. There was lots of food, and Manu especially seemed to enjoy the mini quiche. Everyone that came was very generous, showering Manu with new toys, outfits and lots of diapers! Manu began the party very clingy and fussy, probably because he still wasn't feeling too good, plus being surrounded by "strangers", but after a bit he opened up as he was passed all around the room. We awoke Sunday to several inches of snow that made the mountains quite beautiful, but we headed back home early to give us plenty of time to deal with any bad roads. We made it back with no problems.

A few days later we had our first post-placement visit with our social worker Amy. She was very nice as we discussed our transition as a family and Manu's health, sleep and eating habits. This was much less stressful for Leslie and myself compared our initial home study a year ago. Not because that one was bad, but this time we already had the baby! We also learned that Amy was only a week away from flying to Ethiopia to adopt twin 3yo girls! They are so adorable and we are very excited for them! We will have another visit with Amy in two months and again three months after that.

The next day it was back to Dr. Taylor to have his ears checked in advance of a hearing test. Turns out his ears were still full of fluid, so no hearing test that day. This also explains the last few sleepless nights for Leslie and me! She checked him over again and gave us some really good news about his litany of tests: He's a healthy normal little boy; on the small side, but catching up. Unfortunately for Manu, it was time for some immunizations; three to be exact. We decided to give him a flu shot in addition to those, as Dr. Taylor informed us that Lexington is just now beginning to see the flu appear. We held him down as nurse Ratchet, Elizabeth, administer the shots. He cried, but recovered pretty quick. We left with an appointment for next month for more shots, and a new Rx for Augmentin.

Since then Manu has received his "green card" (which isn't green), making him a legal resident of the US for the next ten years. Of course he will become a citizen long before that card expires. Yesterday we took a trip to Shelbyville to see his Nana, his Momaw and to meet his Uncle Matt, Aunt Tara and "Older Cousin" Maddie. She's four years old and happy not to be the youngest any more! As usual his curiosity compelled him to explore every shelf within reach, as he attempted to put anything and everything in his mouth. Again, bad weather was upon us and our trip home took longer than usual, but we got back to Lexington safe and sound.

Tomorrow is a big day for Manu: his first day at Day Care. Neither of us can believe that it has been six weeks already. It's going to be hard to let him go off on his own, especially for Leslie, as she has been with him almost every moment since we got him, but we have heard really good things about this place, and our two prior visits were very reassuring. Stay tuned for more on this monumental occasion!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

What free time?

Where did all of our time go? What did we do with ourselves before Manu? These are the deep philosophical questions we're asking ourselves these days. That, and why did our grocery bill nearly double, and why does health insurance cost so much more, and is it legal to charge that much for day care? LOL. I've been trying to get an update posted for several days now, but Manu isn't ready for daddy to have any free time yet. I've managed to convince Leslie that I'm researching information on Manu's recent cough (he's fine) so I've got a couple of minutes to sum up our first few weeks back in KY:

Manu seems to be adjusting well to his new home. He likes his room, his animals and his parents, in that order. He likes us most at 5:00am in the morning, just before the alarm goes off, and least immediately after a bath, when he won't look at daddy for about 15 minutes. Actually we've had a breakthrough recently. Although his first few baths at home were as bad or worse than those in Delhi, he's recently started coming around. First Leslie got in the tub and held him in her lap for a sponge bath. He seemed to handle that OK, and then a few days later when he and daddy were home alone, he let me put him in the tub and, while he wasn't enthusiastic, he played with his ducky quietly while daddy got him all nice and clean.

Manu was also not impressed by the children's menu at Chez Jeff. Unfortunately, we've had to alter his diet several times in the last few weeks out of necessity. At Ashraya he was on 2 bottles of Cow's milk a day, plus a porridge of rice, lentils, greens, butter, sweetened milk and Indian spices; a hard act to follow while living out of suitcases. We had to switch him to formula and cereal while in India, and of course those brands aren't available here, so we had to switch him again. All of this played havoc on his little system for a few days. He's now tolerating a mixture of Enfamil and Lactogen and seems to enjoy it well enough. As for cereal, he let us know pretty quick that the brands available here we not up to his high standards. After tasting some of them I don't blame him. This boy likes spice, especially curry powder. We've taken to spicing up just about everything he eats. Lately we've just been blenderizing a little of whatever we're eating and he seems to really like most of it. He'll be a gourmet for sure; he's even fascinated watching us cook dinner every night.

One of our biggest obstacles to overcome has been Manu's dislike of being strapped into anything: car seats, high chairs, grocery carts; you name it. I guess most little ones get used to it gradually without knowing anything different. We didn't see a single car seat being used in either Bangalore or Delhi, and we simply held him in our laps when traveling by car. At first this was a little bothersome, until we saw a child about Manu's age being held by the arm hanging off the side of a small motorcycle with three other passengers. Suddenly we felt much safer! For the first week or so he would cry every time we put him in the car seat. He literally screamed the whole trip home from the airport. Gradually he has gotten better, to the point that he doesn't fight us when we're strapping him in. He seems to have discovered that there is usually something interesting to see/do if we're taking him for a ride; same for the buggies and the high chair.

The bonding process is going well. After the newness of mommy and daddy wore off a bit, he seemed to be in a funk. He was still a pleasant little kid, but not quite as enthusiastic as before. We think it was probably a little bit of mourning for his aunties and the other children he left behind. But the last week has seen a return to his playful self most of the time. He's now constantly wanting to be held, and reaches for us when he's in his crib or playpen. He's becoming a momma's boy, as there are times when daddy cannot console him, but momma has just the right touch.

He has developed a dry cough lately that comes on every 30 minutes or so. Last night he woke us several times with what sounded like a dieing goose hacking in the bed with us, but it didn't seem to wake him. Otherwise he seems fine and has no fever. We have our first doctors appointment on Wednesday, so if he doesn't get any worse, we'll wait 'till then to check it out.

While the hardest part of the adoption process is now over, namely the waiting, we're far from finished. We'll have three post-placement visits with our adoption worker and then we'll go to court in Fayette County to complete the adoption, at which point Manu becomes a US Citizen. Right now he is a legal resident and we're expecting his green-card to arrive any day. Although we are looking forward to completing the formal adoption, to us it is simply a formality, as we are already an inseparable family.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Home at Last

Sorry for the delay, but as you might imagine, there has been a flurry of activity around our house since our return. Suffice to say that we're home safe, and Manu is adjusting to his new home and schedule just fine. Nevertheless, here is a little recap of our long trip home:

Our flight was to take off at 3am, and we were told that we needed to be at the airport at least 3 hours in advance, plus 40 minutes to get there, so we decided to stay up Friday evening and try to get some sleep on the plane. I thought that this sounded like a lot of time, but we had no idea what was in store for us. We had a fairly quiet evening of room-service and a last-chance viewing of Indian television; "Indian Idol" was particularly interesting. At 11:30 we headed downstairs to check out and meet our driver for the trip to the airport. After a fairly uneventful ride on unusually quiet Delhi streets we hit gridlock near the airport. When we finally reached the terminal, we were amazed to find thousands of people, in no particular sense of order, awaiting entry into the main building.

After finding our gate we noticed that everyone seemed to have an itinerary that they were presenting to the security guard to gain entrance. Well, our tickets were e-tickets and we didn't have a printout. The security guard didn't care for our explanation and sent us to a different gate, where we found a similar reception from the guard there. He said we would have to find the Lufthansa office to get our itinerary and pointed to a staircase to the left. We were starting to get a little nervous thinking we were going to get this far and then not make our flight. Leslie stayed behind with the baby as I went in search of the golden ticket. What I found was a long, dark hallway with non-descript, unlabeled doors. After walk-running for what seemed like an eternity, I found an open door with three sleepy looking men wearing Lufthansa name badges. They seemed to know why I was there (why else would I be there) and printed our itinerary. I ran back to Leslie and Manu, and we were finally admitted to the terminal. Baggage check took forever, as well as the security line, and by the time we were at our gate, it was only 20 minutes until boarding, so three hours was about right. This had to be the craziest, most disorganized airport I have ever flown through in my life. Bangalore was a breeze compared to this.

We finally board our flight where this time we are in the bulkhead row where they will attach a bassinet after takeoff. We were in the center row, with other small children in the left and right rows. There were a couple of single seats to the right and left of us, and we could see the deflated faces of the men who took those seats, as they realized the hopelessness of their situation! That would have been me a short time ago, LOL. This was an 8 1/2 hour flight, but seemed much shorter, as we all managed to sleep through the first half of it. Manu was very well-behaved, and only needed to be calmed down a couple of times. Landing in Germany we had a 3 hour layover before our next flight. For the first time since we got him, we were asked to prove that he was our's at the security checkpoint. While we had plenty of proof, it was still a little unnerving. Thankfully we are listed as his parents on the last sheet of his passport, and the questioning stopped there. This flight seemed much longer, for although Manu managed to sleep much of the flight, Leslie and I didn't get much rest. These bassinets are wonderful, because even though Manu wouldn't stay in it while he was awake, when he fell asleep it really gave mommy and daddy a break. On this flight we were seated next to an Indian couple with a small girl. It turns out they were also flying to Lexington. The difference between boys and girls could not be more apparent when we noticed that she would lay calmly in her mother's lap and play, while Manu was squirmy and always wanted to be on the move. But as it turned out, she became very fussy and cried continuously for the last hour or so of the flight, while Manu slept through the whole thing. After a very rough landing, through which Manu also slept, we were officially back in the states. We headed through Immigration with our still-sealed envelope. The immigration officer for our line was giving a foreign couple a really hard time for not filling out some form prior to entering the US, but when we got up to him, his demeanor changed completely and he was as friendly a person as we had met the whole trip. He pointed us to a different section of the immigration department where we handed over the envelope and Manu got his final clearance to enter the country. After another uneventful trip through customs, we re-checked our bags to Lexington and headed out into the main airport terminal.

In Chicago we had a 5 1/2 layover. This was particularly brutal considering how far we had come, and what a short flight we had remaining. We found a Chili's restaurant and sat down for a bite to eat. Afterward we headed to our gate where we found out that once again we would be taking a small jet and boarding from the outside. We took turns nodding off while waiting for our plane to arrive. After a slight delay due to our plane needing service, we headed outside where Manu was rudely introduced to the United States with 15 degree weather. Daddy was also a little cold, as he was wearing was a short-sleeve shirt and sandals. On the plane we slept through most of the 50 minute flight before finally arriving in Lexington, nearly 27 hours after leaving our hotel.

We were met at the top of the escalator by Leslie's brother Brian. Then we headed down where we were met by the rest of the family and friends. This was really special for us to have the people we love help us share Manu's first few moments home. After some tears and congratulations we loaded the bags into the cars and headed for home. Before we left the airport we ran into an airport employee who had checked us in 2 weeks earlier. We had told her that we were traveling to India to adopt, and she was so excited for us, and she hoped that she would be around when we returned. Well she was, so we introduced her to Manu, and she was very happy for us. That was a nice finish to all of our airport adventures. Back home the family stayed with us for a bit so that they could pass-around Manu. After a few hours they left for the evening and it was just us again. We were all wired from the excitement of the last few hours, so we unpacked our bags and played with Manu until he finally fell asleep soundly. I think we got to bed around 2:30am.

Since then we are adjusting well to being home again, jet lag not withstanding. We've made the rounds to introduce Manu to our friends and co-workers, and have taken a trip or two shopping. I'll go back to work next week, and Leslie will stay home for several more. Every day brings us closer together, as Manu gets more comfortable that we will always be there for him. It's hard to believe that our little adventure is over, but the fun is just beginning. I'm not sure how this blog will proceed from here; I'll try and post regularly Manu's exploits as the world's cutest baby! And while I have done all of the writing, the thoughts and feelings conveyed here belong to both Leslie and myself. And to her I would like to close out this chapter by saying, I can't believe this has really happened to us. All of the highs and lows of the last year have been worth it, and I'd do it all over again. I have never loved you more than I do right now. From now on and forever, it will always be me, you and Manu.