Last I left you it was our first day in the Philippines and I promised to update you each day of our trip. Here we are two weeks later and a perfect storm of bad internet connections, sleep deprivation, and inconsistent access to my afternoon lattes has made it all but impossible to get anything posted.
Now that we are home and finally settling in and finding a routine, I wanted to take a little time to tell you about Merritt’s Gotcha Day before I forget all about it. But, wait, if you don’t follow me on Instagram or Snapchat (jessicanwood) you might not even know that our little boy is in our arms!
Allow me to introduce you to our treasure: Merritt Jhon Wood.
Merritt is 2 years old and he was born in the Philippines. On April 10, 2016 he was placed in our arms for the first time and on April 15, 2016 he spent his first night in his new home in North Carolina!
Y’all. We love him. Garrett and I have both remarked over and over how it feels like he has always been here. He’s the perfect fit for our family and we are delighting in seeing his funny little personality revealed as he grows more comfortable with us.
Let’s rewind to April 10th and I’ll tell you a little about the day we met our son for the very first time.
We woke up that Sunday knowing we would leave for the orphanage around 12:15 and meet our son at 1:00. Traffic in Manila is notoriously bad, so even though the orphanage was just a few miles away, we wanted to leave with plenty of time to spare. But we still had about 5 hours before it was time to go.
Friends. There has never been a morning that passed more slowly than that one. We spent time unpacking and organizing our hotel room. We took a nap. We walked to Starbucks for coffee and breakfast. We packed bags for the orphanage (our church family donated two huge duffel bags of supplies!). We went to lunch. AND IT STILL WASN’T TIME TO GO.
I think I changed my outfit three times – what does one wear to meet their child for the first time? And I told Garrett over and over and over how strange it felt to countdown to the time we would first lay eyes on the little boy we had prayed for and longed for so much.
12:10 let’s just go!!! Y’all, remember what I said about the traffic being bad in Manila? We were so prepared and so organized and it took 5 MINUTES to get to the orphanage. This might be a good time to tell you that I like to be exactly on time to things. I do not like to be even a few minutes early.
The orphanage where M lived is on a tiny island on a river running through Manila. It’s the only thing on the island, which means once you find a taxi driver who knows where it is, they drop you off on the island (there’s a bridge) and there’s nowhere to be except at the orphanage.
Oh hi, here we are embarrassingly early and loaded down with donations and gifts and shaking a bit with nerves. And it is so hot and humid. Oh and you aren’t expecting us? We walk into the front lobby where a lady is sitting at the desk, clearly confused about why we are there, so Garrett tells her “we have an appointment with… adoption.”
Please remember we are 35 minutes early and super awkwardly loaded down with bags. Finally a very sweet lady came to get us – we had clearly interrupted lunchtime – and moved us to another room where she asked us to wait until she could find someone who knew why we were there and get more details about what was going on.
Side note: “The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace.” – Psalm 29:11. Before we left I had read that verse during my quiet time and it was my prayer throughout the trip.
As we waited at that table with the fans blowing (praise Jesus) and the seconds slowly ticking by, I kept repeating in my head “peace and strength, peace and strength.” We waited about an hour and I asked Garrett multiple times – are we going to meet our son today? We had no idea what was going on or if he was going to come walking through the door at any minute.
Peace and strength, peace and strength.
Finally the orphanage social worker came to get us and took us to the room where Merritt was – turns out we were waiting for naptime to be over. It was probably 1:45 or 2:00 at this point. Remember we got there around 12:25.
We walked into the nursery, hearts pounding, and I quickly scanned the room trying to figure out which child was mine. There were children lined up in high chairs waiting for their snack and none of them really looked like our child, but we were working from pictures that were 7 months old, so I wasn’t sure. I had a few seconds of panic that I wouldn’t even recognize my own child.
I’m not sure what emotions are typical when you meet your child for the first time, but when my eyes finally landed on a little boy in the back of the room just finishing having his diaper changed, it just felt surreal. Here this picture I had stared at for months was finally coming to life and I had no idea what to do. We walked over to the little table where he sat with all his nurses telling him we were his mom and dad.
I bent over to say hello and…. he slapped me.
Y’all. Far from picture perfect, but absolutely what we needed in that moment to break the ice and burst the bubble of anxiety that had wrapped itself around my heart. He began crying and we quickly reached for a snack from our backpack. Of course we chose the one snack that I now know our son refuses to eat – fruit snacks.
The nurses gave us the cookies that he loves and we all moved into a room lined with cribs filled with adorable children. We spent about two hours on the floor of that orphanage room trying to convince him to come near us and he spent a solid two hours doing his best to take the toys or cookies we offered without looking at us. I wish I had more pictures from that time, but we really didn’t stop to take pictures. We just stared at him and silently prayed that he would warm up to us enough for us to take him home that night.
He got closer and closer over those two hours and, at one point, in a quiet corner where everyone wasn’t watching him, sat in my lap while we played with a ball. I sang Jesus Loves Me to him and for the first time he made eye contact with me. At that moment I thought, okay, we can do this thing. It’s going to be okay.
Peace and strength.
He took my hand and led me out of the nursery room and we took that as our sign it was time to go. The nurses bathed him and got him dressed in an adorable new outfit. They had a diaper bag full of clothes and cookies and formula and toys for him and a new backpack for him to wear.
I am so incredibly grateful for how much they loved our son while he was in their care. Everyone was crying when it was time to go and, in a strange way, it was completely heartwarming. For months we stared at pictures and prayed he had enough to eat, that he was safe, that he was loved. He was absolutely cherished by his caregivers.
Once we left the orphanage, we came back to our hotel where he had so much fun feeling the carpet on his feet, looking in the mirrors, running up and down the hall, playing with an apple and orange, and watching the boats in the bay out the window. We facetimed our families back home so they could meet him and tried to settle in for the evening.
And we got no sleep! All the advice we received before we went was that he would probably be most comfortable in our bed between us. No. False. What we know now about our little monkey is he likes to have ALL THE SPACE and he really likes to sleep sideways in the bed. There were lots of tears that night (and Merritt cried a little too) and I still have a few bruises from all the kicking. I was praying for daylight and also thanking the Lord that my son was finally close enough to kick me!
That’s day 2 of our adoption trip! I will share more photos from our Entrustment Ceremony and the rest of our trip in another post.