I dreaded even getting up that morning, because going to see him meant saying 'goodbye' for the next several months. But it also meant one more visit with this amazing little boy who, even when he was just a picture and especially now that he was real, had stolen a piece of my heart, and that was worth a few more months of waiting.
We drove to the orphanage, no sign of the cars that forbid us to drive the day before, and waited in the corridor while our translator went to have documents signed by the director. A few moments later, and we wove our way back to the playroom to see Denny.
I walked in, scanning the room for my sweet boy, and didn't see him. Another scan of the room, and he had turned his face toward us, and no wonder I didn't see him, his hair had been cut! He had ears!!! (You think I'm kidding, but his hair stood UP a good 4" on the top of his head, and was long enough that you couldn't see his ears.) I rushed over and scooped him up, and he leaned in for the kisses he knew were coming. A smart boy, that one, knowing that mommy loves to smooch on those cheeks!
I asked our translator, and she confirmed that they had cut his hair for his visa picture. Which meant that we got to leave the orphanage with him. His physical therapist joined us, and the five of us drove down to the city, Denny sitting between Scott and me, his hands resting in mine. In that short time, I imagined what it would feel like in a few months, knowing he was out for good, and I had to stop thinking, because I was getting emotional. (They call it a "paper pregnancy" for a reason.)
I carried Denny from the car to a small shop tucked away in a corner of several buildings, and I had a moment where I thought, "I wonder how far I'd get if I just started running now." I'm not in jail in a foreign country, so obviously logic won over insanity, but I get to be honest here, and it was a real thought.
Getting a 5 year old boy, who is cognitively and developmentally about a year old, to sit up with his head at just the right angle with his eyes looking straight at the camera and not irritating him in the process was no small task, but finally it happened. I wish I had a picture of the scene, me practically laying on the stool, with Denny sideways on my lap, my arm hiding behind his body to push him into sitting up straight and move his head to the right position. There were no less than 10 pictures taken, and I was so happy when the photographer finally looked pleased with a picture!
We waited for the photo to be cropped and printed, then we started back up the mountain to the orphanage. The orphanage is not like most other places you go, where they fade into the scenery and you have a hard time picking them out from any of the other places around them. No, this building was visible from the highway as we came into the city, and at almost every turn up the mountain, you get a view of it. Every time I saw it on the drive back, it was silently pointing out that Denny was still stuck there, that I couldn't have him yet.
Back in the playroom, we were left alone with Denny, and I wanted only to snuggle with him. Our translator was in and out of the room, but she stayed on the far side of the room so Denny wouldn't notice her there. I hadn't forgotten my goal of getting him to go down the stairs on his own, so when he seemed like he was ready to go, we made our way over to the stairs, and up he went. At the top, he grabbed the railing again, knowing what I wanted him to do next. I helped him bend one knee while stepping down with the other foot and cheered when his muscles didn't fight me to do it.
Once down, we circled around to do it again. This time, at the top, he watched my face as he took a step down on his own, and I cheered so excitedly that Scott shushed me (oops)! Denny is smart, capable, and loves to be praised! He has just been trapped in a place where he has not been given more opportunities to grow and develop.
We sat back down with Scott to spend our last bit of time just being together and, even without a watch, I knew it was time to go. More time passed, and no one came in to announce that our time was up. I was thankful, but Denny was starting to get restless. I didn't want our last visit to end like the day before, so I asked if it was time for him to eat and take a nap. Our translator said the other children were already eating, and that we would need to leave soon so he could eat.
I stood Denny up, and he started walking with me, and I let him lead where he wanted to go. Not surprising to me, he went straight for the door leading out of the playroom, knowing it was time to eat. I picked him up and held him close once more, taking in my last moments with him as we walked back to the door that led to his bed.
When the door opened, he leaned into me, not wanting to be handed back, but thankfully he didn't scream. I don't know that my heart could've handled leaving like that again. I don't know if he expected us to be back again after his nap, but I prayed for him to know we'd be back as soon as we possibly could.
We saw his physical therapist, and remembered that we never took the picture that I wanted of him with her. She brought him back out and we sat together, getting a quick picture before leaving again. Denny went back to his bed, and the physical therapist walked out with us.
I tried so hard not to cry as we left, and again I failed. I can't even type without crying. Leaving is hard. It was, to date, the hardest part of the adoption. It doesn't matter how much you tell yourself that it's the next step to bringing them home, or that in only a few months you'll have the rest of their lives, it's hard in the present, and in each day that passes. I am so, so thankful that we took lots of pictures, because I look at them all the time.
As hard as leaving was, it was bittersweet. As our translator said, leaving meant we got to meet our daughter. And she was only a picture for nine long months.