Day 14: Traveling Home

This morning I woke up before my alarm at 4:35 a.m. ready to go! I am not a morning person, but I couldn’t help but smile knowing that, God willing, I will have my two little boys in my arms in 28 ½ hours. It will surely be a long, long day, but this part of our journey won’t last forever. There is something so peaceful about time. No matter what, it is constant. The clock ticks at the same pace whether we are walking or running.

Ryan and I got ourselves ready, and the bellboy picked up our bags in our room at 5:00 a.m. sharp. I got Noah up five minutes later, got him dressed while he slept standing up, and put on his shoes while he laid back down on the couch. In the meantime, Ryan prepared Tyson’s bottle. We were running like a well-oiled machine! I got Tyson out of his crib, and he sucked on his finger as fast as he could. He drank his bottle and finished with a sweet smile on his face. I put on a long-sleeved white onesie on him and a pair of fleece sweatpants. Airplanes get so cold! He was happy and let me dress him without even a whimper. It is usually like dressing a moving train when I put clothes on him. I sat next to him and put on my shoes. Then, we loaded him into my Ergo carrier, put on my backpack that is filled to the brim with his crackers, and walked out the door. Ryan checked out at the front desk, and just as we saw Aron coming to greet us, our friend Rachel and her daughter came walking up. I was so thankful to see her, as we had spent the entire week in Nanning together. However, her husband had to return home early, and I hadn’t seen her much since being in Guangzhou. We waved goodbye to The Garden Hotel, hopped in the van, and drove off.

Ryan is done checking us out of The Garden Hotel!
The hotel personnel had provided us with boxed breakfast, and each one contained 2 hard-boiled eggs, a couple pastries, a yogurt, a juice, and a banana. We ate our breakfast on the way to the hotel. Tyson happily finished off his banana! They are one of his favorites right now. When we reached the airport, our luggage was put on a cart, and we made our way into the very busy Guangzhou airport. We walked to Rachel’s designated airline, and with tears in my eyes, I hugged her goodbye. We met our babies together on Memorial Day, and our time together in China has created a bond that will never end. That is how the adoption community is – once you take the leap of faith, you have an instant family for life.

Aron walked us to our ticketing counter. We are flying Air China from Guangzhou to Beijing, and then we will switch airlines. Air China is contracted through United for this portion of our trip home. Ryan is currently walking around the terminal with Tyson. At first he wanted to walk by himself and explore, but now that the terminal is getting busier, he wants his daddy to hold him. When we went through security, one of the officers took him from me as they scanned both he and I, and he was not a happy camper! So thankful that he feels safe in my arms!! I know even this will grow in time. I will celebrate the day that he feels secure enough to be more than an arm’s length from us because his trust in us will have deepened. But for now, I will enjoy my sweet snuggles! Being a parent to all of our children is such a privilege, and adoption has really helped me understand that so much more.

Ryan keeping Tyson entertained while waiting to board our first flight
I am going to try to write throughout our trip home, but much of that will depend on Tyson. I am hoping that once we are on our flight to Beijing that he will fall sleep for a tiny bit since we had to wake him up so early. If not, he will sleep eventually. In some ways, I am sad to leave China, sad to take him from his birth country. However, I am very excited to be home, establish our new normal, and have my family all under one roof! I’ll write again soon.

Getting ready to board in Guangzhou
Waiting for take off
The flight from Guangzhou to Beijing was miraculously on time. Tyson and I sat by the window, and Ryan and Noah sat across the isle in the middle seats. I played with Tyson for the entire 3 hour flight. That little guy didn’t even pretend to be sleepy. We played with his spinny toy and a toothbrush holder. We watched out the window and played peek-a-boo. Although we bought him his own seat, Tyson preferred to just sit in my lap. I turned on Doc McStuffins for him, as our plane had private televisions for each seat. He would watch the show off and on while we played. On Tyson’s seat’s television, I played the latest Hunger Games movie, more or less to help pass the time. I listened to the movie while we played together. I was having fun with him and only had to give him 3 crackers before the flight attendants served a breakfast. I love that most domestic flights I have been on in China include a meal. I chose the eggs with a roll, ham, pea pods, potatoes, and oranges and got Tyson congee with a roll, oranges, and a preserved egg. He loved the roll with strawberry jelly and ate about a third of his congee. He liked the oranges but eventually spit out the pulp, and he attempted to eat the preserved egg but spit it out immediately. I gave him each bite slowly, trying to make the meal last for as long as possible.

Here we go again, guys!

By the time he finished eating, we had about 30 minutes left on that flight. Biting his feet and rubbing the spinny toy all over him kept him laughing and having fun. He needed another couple crackers, but I celebrated that we only used 5 for that flight!! I knew we would need many, many crackers for the long flight to Chicago.

I am so sad in this seat belt!!

We made it to Beijing!!!

As soon as we reached the Beijing airport, Ryan and Noah used the restroom. While waiting for them out in the hallway, Tyson slipped into deep sleep without me even noticing. Haha!! He continued to sleep for about 45 minutes while we walked through the airport, rode the train to our terminal, and walked through immigration. He woke up just before we went through security, and it’s a good thing since I had to take him out of the carrier anyway.

Once we made it through security, we had about 3 hours to kill. We walked over to a waiting area and found a grocery cart with a car that Tyson could sit in while we pushed our carry ons above. It was PERFECT!! Seriously, Beijing, you are so smart to have those carts for small children. Thank you!! What was really interesting was that only one child could fit in the cart. In the US our child-friendyl grocery carts have enough room for 2 children to sit in the car, but in China, with One Child Policy, their carts only have room for one. Interesting, huh? We walked and walked around the terminal. Tyson was happily riding in the car below, so we just kept walking. Eventually, Ryan was getting hungry, so we started looking for restaurants. I said to Ryan, “Look, I think I see a cheeseburger sign ahead!” Turns out, it was just a mirage. Who knew this Indiana girl would crave cheeseburgers so badly at the end of this trip. 

Is that a burger sign in the background? 

We almost went into a restaurant that served sandwiches and Chinese food, but Ryan saw Pizza Hut, and the decision was made. Noah and I went inside and ordered the “regular” size stuffed crust pepperoni pizza that serves 2-3 people. This was the largest pizza at that Pizza Hut, and as you can imagine, we gobbled down every single bite. I ordered Tyson fried rice with bacon, and he ate a huge portion, as well! Traveling apparently makes us hungry. He was super cute! He kept signing “more” and “eat” to us. He is such a quick learner, and I think he is relieved to finally have a method of communication other than pointing and making sounds at people. I can’t wait to teach him more!

Noah with the Chinese Pizza Hut menu

Stuffed crust pepperoni pizza...SO DELICIOUS! Again, this is the biggest size they serve.

So proud that he is signing for more already!

After we finished our food, we found a play area for children on the way to our gate. This is another thing I love about the airports in Seoul and Beijing. The play areas are small, and there are several to choose from throughout the airports. Noah was able to climb and be a boy for a bit. I took Tyson inside the train, and he stuck to me like glue. I am amazed at how overwhelming it is for kids, who have resided behind orphanage walls, to have new experiences like that. He was trembling and making his sounds that tell me he is scared, and all the while, we were simply sitting inside a playground train. Poor little guy! 

Unsure about the playground
Ok, Mom, I'll get on the train as long as I can have my back against you.
This is why cocooning will be so important when we come home. Ty will need a consistent schedule, routine, and the familiar faces of our family for quite some time before we introduce new people and experiences. It is just so overwhelming to his senses and his mind. We still are not dealing with indiscriminate affection. He sticks to us like glue, but he is very scared to be separated from us. I would definitely say he is functioning in a state of separation anxiety, and by separation I mean walking a couple feet away from him let alone leaving altogether. This will just take time as his trust and security grows stronger.

My first double decker plane!

Noah found a very comfy chair before boarding the plane.

Last picture in Beijing
At 3:00 p.m. we made our way to our gate. The waiting area was already very full. I looked out the window and noticed our double decker plane! I’ve always wanted to ride on one, and I was excited to do so with Ryan, Noah, and Ty. We boarded on time and got settled in our seats. Ryan said he wanted to take the first shift since I had Tyson on our flight to Beijing. By this time it was 3:45, way past this baby’s nap time, especially with a wake up call at 5:05 a.m. CUE THE SCREAMING! Oh goodness, can this boy scream and thrash like no one I’ve ever known. He was beyond tired and overwhelmed by all of the people. Ryan wrestled in a bit, and eventually, we gave him a cracker when we realized he wasn’t close to sleeping yet.

Unfortunately, we sat on the plane for over an hour before finally taking off. I was able to catch a quick 10 minute power nap while we waited, and Tyson was entertained by Ryan. Once the engines began to roar, and the plane lurched forward, Tyson crawled up Ryan’s body like a monkey. Ryan held him tight, and eventually, he finally gave in and fell to sleep. He is still sleeping across Ryan’s body now. Food is being served, but I will write again in a bit. Thank you for your continued prayers!!

Thankful for a sleeping baby

Our total flight time, including time on the ground before take off and after landing, was around 14 hours. We spent the rest of the flight from Beijing to Chicago watching movies, passing Tyson back and forth, playing with Noah, eating a couple meals, etc. Noah was doing really well, but I wanted him to get some sleep, so I gave him a melatonin, and he passed out in 2 minutes. His body was so tired! He stretched out across our seats for about 4 hours. Ryan got some sleep here and there, though none of it was probably very restful or deep. I slept in increments of 5-10 minutes throughout the flight, maybe for an hour total. Tyson got two huge sleeps, one mostly in Ryan's arms, and one mostly in mine. I was so thankful!! When he was awake, he would let us entertain him with toys, eat some crackers, go on walks around the plane, and eat meals when served. I honestly can't imagine the flight going any better with a 19 month old baby, though it was still a very, very long flight to Chicago. Those of you who have traveled internationally understand! 

The newest US citizen!!!
As soon as the plane landed, Tyson was officially a US citizen!! HOORAY! All the of the paperwork, home visits, milestones achieved throughout the adoption process, plane rides, and time away from Liam and Noah - 100% worth it to have this little guy in our arms and on US soil. We were SO grateful to be back in the midwest. We made our way from our terminal through customs and waited for our adoption paperwork to be processed. That actually went very quickly, and we were rechecking our bags for our domestic flight from Chicago to Indy in no time. Then we took a train to our new terminal and got back in line to go through security again. I mean, at this point, I was started to feel a bit unraveled. We had gone through so many security check points, so many terminals, so many gates, so many planes, and I was just ready to see my little boys. We finally reached the front of the line, and the lady took our boarding passes. She looked over them for a long time and then had to call a supervisor. The boy who checked us in at the Guangzhou airport did not put Chicago as the departure city on our boarding passes to Indy. I started thinking to myself, "If they make us get back in line to reprint our boarding passes to then go through this security line again, the dam will break, and my crazy is going to pour out." I had held it together the entire trip so well, and I could feel my grip slipping. Thankfully, the supervisor had mercy on us after seeing our e-tickets, and she let us continue through security. Once again, all carry ons were processed, Tyson was taken out of the carrier, computers and iPads put in bins...you know the drill. Noah could do it with his eyes closed now! We made it through security and even saw some of our first smiles from airport employees. We started to believe that we really were almost home.

Ty-Ty fell asleep in no time
While I went to freshen up in the restroom, Tyson fell asleep on Ryan's shoulder. It felt SO amazing to put on a fresh shirt, brush my teeth with tap water (had to use bottled water in China), put on some make-up, etc. I emerged feeling a million times better! Tyson woke up by the time I got back, and Ryan went to grab some food for Noah, Ty, and himself. I didn't have an appetite and was just eager to get on our last flight to Indy. I started to crash, and Ryan offered to hold Tyson on our final flight. 

As soon as we boarded, we met so many really nice people on the plane. One woman shared that her daughter had just announced that they were going to adopt from China. Her family had already adopted three children from the Congo, and they also had 3 biological children, I believe. Do you see what adoption does to you? It changes everything, and suddenly, you find yourself surrounded by precious children who were once orphans. Such a beautiful picture of the gospel! Being with these friendly people remained us just how close we were to Indiana. The people here are just so friendly and kind overall! I slept maybe 25 minutes on our final flight to Indy and felt quite a bit better. 

Once we were 20 minutes from landing, I started to feel the tears coming. I was imagining seeing Tucker and Liam for the first time in 2 weeks, and it was all I could do to hold back the tears. The plane landed, and we raced off toward our family and friends who were waiting for us to arrive. Ryan was holding Tyson in one arm, while holding hands with Noah, who was holding hands with me. We walked as fast as we could, smiles on our faces and crocodile tears in my eyes. And then, Allison Mayer captured our homecoming so beautifully, so perfectly through her Red Thread Session (click the link to read about them) for our family! Aliy, I will never be able to thank you enough for your amazing gift to our family! 

I have tears in my eyes, remembering that moment when Liam started to run toward me. I let go of Noah's hand and ran to my son, something we practiced many times before leaving for China. I bawled as I hugged him as tightly as I could, and before I knew it, Tucker was in my arms, too! Once we had a few minutes to visit with the boys, I began making my way around to everyone. I found Danette first and just cried as we embraced. She had taken care of my babies for 2 solid weeks! Not only did she keep them safe and provided so many opportunities for fun and making memories, but she also met their emotional needs from being separated from us for so long. This was especially crucial for Tucker, who needs abundant love and reassurance and security due to his history. Danette, we are FOREVER GRATEFUL for all that you did for our children! We will never even know 95% of how you supported their needs while we were away, but please know that we love you and are so thankful you are part of our family! The boys called Ryan and me "Grandma" many times that first day home. Liam asked, "Will I see Grandma again?" Clearly, they love you very much!! 

I made my way to hug my dad, Ryan's parents, his sister, and our niece and nephew. What a special treat to have them all there and be able to thank each person for helping Tyson come home!! I COULD NOT STOP CRYING! I was so grateful to be home - so much more than words can describe. After greeting those in our family, I was able to go hug some of our most treasured friends. I was still crying as I thanked them for all they had done for not just Tyson's adoption but Tucker's, also. They all had supported us financially, emotionally, physically, etc. for the past 3 years. Noah's friend, Bryson, even came to welcome his buddy home! It was so fun to introduce Tyson to our family and friends, and he ran around us like he owned the place. I'm sure it was nice to finally stretch his legs, but he was so tired, as he stumbled and staggered all over the place. Ryan finally announced that it was time to go home. We walked toward the parking lot together, our prayer warriors and a huge part of our support system all around us. We put Tyson in his car seat, and he cried only for a minute and fell asleep in no time at all. Ryan drove us home. All four of our sons were finally together, sitting side by side. Our family was together. We were home, and you know what? There is absolutely no place like home. 


Fanch said...

Thank you for sharing your precious story! It has been such an encouragement and joy to read!! Congratulations!

Boppy said...

What an incredibly beautiful homecoming! Thank you for sharing your heart and everything we can look forward to when we travel to meet our son. Blessings as you enjoy your first days as a family of six.

Abby Butts said...

Congratulations Abell Family! You and Ryan have created a beautiful family and the love you have for each other and your kids is incredible to see.

Kelleyn Rothaermel said...

He is so precious! Congratulations! So happy for your family!

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