This morning as we left our hotel to head for the meeting place, I was actually pretty calm. I was confident this was going to be a great day. I knew it would be great to meet this girl. She knew we were coming, although I am certain she didn't really know what that meant.
I mean, let's face it. She's never met a guy like me. I'm not talking about my personality, my size, my goatee or my my sense of style (or lack thereof): I'm talking about the fact that I'm a dad- or as she says it, "Baba." This thought just tears me up to even think about it: she has never met Baba.
Until today. Oh, this girl. I'm telling you. From the moment I laid eyes on her, I knew I was in big trouble. There are only 3 people I have ever felt this way about: my sons- Luke, Noah and Adam. I have often described the love you feel when your children are born as an "explosion of love." It is a love that can't be manufactured. It is not a love you learn. It is a gift from God. And that same gift was given to me today yet again.
From the moment I first heard her call me "Baba," I was hooked completely. I mean "all-in." I'm talking "I'd sell the Toyota Sienna mini-van and buy her a Mercedes if she asked me to" kind of all-in. I was hooked on her, but she definitely wasn't hooked on me. She only said "Baba" because the worker at the orphanage told her to repeat the word after her. She was, however, hooked on "Mama."
We returned to our hotel and spent the afternoon with Elliana. She wouldn't have much to do with me. When I would try to hold her, she only wanted Mama. When I would try to help her, she turned away. We knew this was normal for a kid who has lived her entire life at an orphanage primarily under the care of female workers. However, it was still hard to love someone that much only to not be trusted in return.
For about an hour this afternoon Leslie and I had Elli all to ourselves. Uncle Wes (who made the trip with us and has been such a help) took the boys swimming and it got really quiet in the hotel room. All was going well. Elli was coloring and seemed to be kind of settling in for the day. We did notice that Elli wouldn't allow us to change her clothes- but especially her shoes. Perhaps these shoes are a reminder of "home." Perhaps these shoes were a gift from a caretaker that meant a lot to her. We don't know, but the shoes had to stay on as she colored her pictures, played with dolls and watched Frozen. Her shoes gave her a sense of security- so they stayed on.
At some point, the enormity of the day hit her. The only "family" Elli has ever known was gone and we were left standing in their place. She began to cry- that heartbreaking "daddy hold me" kind of cry I had heard from my boys so many times. But she didn't want Baba. It was tough to be in the same room with someone you love so much only to know she couldn't yet receive your love.
She did want Mama. Leslie rocked her. She held her. She tried to reassure her and comfort her, but it wasn't enough. Then, in this God-filled moment I will NEVER forget, she got down from Leslie's arms, crawled across the bed toward me, let out another cry and reached up and put her arm around my neck. I immediately wrapped mine around her and held her close. The tears flowed as I held her. I was becoming Baba to her and the feeling was unbelievable.
We have along way to go. Tonight, as Elli was getting ready for bed she finally allowed us to change her clothes. We put her in some princess pajamas with pink socks...but she had to have her shoes on. So Baba helped her put on her shoes and climb into bed with Mama. Leslie read books to her, gently rocked her to sleep and sang to her as she has done with every one of our children.
Daddy's girl went down without much of a fight. As everyone in the family lay fast asleep I knelt beside her bed to pray over her. I just knelt and cried for her. I know today was tough for her. I know it doesn't all make sense to her. But I want her to one day know there is a Father in heaven who loves her because this Baba loves her so well. So I leaned over, gently kissed her forehead, took off her shoes and prayed.
Sleep well my child. Baba loves you.
So yeah...I met this girl today.