The road to Briley

The road to Briley
Briley Parkway, Nashville TN

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Day 6

Today is our last night in chongqing. Tomorrow we will fly to Guangzhou to complete the US portion of the process. Although the adoption is complete and Briley is legally our daughter this final step will allow us to bring her home with us to the US and she will be an American citizen. We are very happy to be closer to going home with our spicy girl. We are also saddened to leave this city. Tomorrow may be the last time that Briley sets foot in her hometown for many years and she will likely have no memory of being here. We hope and pray that what little time we have spent here will help her years from knowing to appreciate this beautiful city and even her birth family that made the decision to leave her at the gates of the orphanage to make it safely to us.

I have been trying to give a synopsis of everyday we are here, but today I really don't feel like it. Not that we didn't have a great time sight seeing around chongqing, because we really did. It is colder here now and drizzling rain so we didn't stay out as long as we would have if the weather was nicer. We spent a lot of time inside.

Briley is really doing great, but she is terribly clingy with Andy. She goes into a melt down if he leaves the room. While she tolerates me, she would barely lay down to drink her bottle because she was focused on Andy. Whenever we are in the hotel room she wants to be sitting on his lap. She would let me hold her as we walked around the city, but if anything upset her she wanted her Daddy. She does look at me to make sure that i am paying attention. All i have to do is talk to her and she breaks out in a smile. I just better let her Daddy be near her! She also screams when we change her clothes or diapers. Thankfully her anger doesn't last long and as long as she isn't hungry or tired she is all smiles in a short time. She is still a fussy butt at times, but one smile from her and I forget all about her fussiness. Right now she is asleep in her crib and I miss her smile already. One of the sweetest moments of the day was one she was sitting on Andy's lap and she was duck her head away from me and then peer out at me. I would act surprised and she would giggle. We played this game for several minutes. I know my baby girl loves me, but right now she is enthralled with the love of her Daddy! All day I have been thinking about how every little girl needs a Daddy to love her and protect her and my baby girl has only known that type of love for three days. She has been around plenty of women who have met her basic needs, but she has never known the love of a Mommy or Daddy. My heart is broken for her. I would love for her to let me wipe away her tears and comfort her and I know that in time it will come, but for now I love that she loves her Daddy. He is a good strong man and he will protect her. He is also funny and a big teddy bear. I dont know how she couldnt love and trust him. I completely understand her needing him. I need him too.

And mostly I am thankful for our Heavenly Father that loves and protects His children. I praise God that He has called us on this journey. It has not only been a journey to our daughter, but to the very heart of God. I have viewed a glimpse of His love and I too am enthralled in His love. I have been clingy and needed to stay near. I too need to be held and whispered to that He will always love and protect me no matter how fussy I am.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 5

Today was hard on all of us, but it was also good for us too.

Thankfully Briley slept for part of the two hour drive to Fuling where the orphanage is located. Andy and I enjoyed the scenic drive. Chongqing is absolutely beautiful with lush green hills and very modern looking high rises and industrial buildings. Andy and I have both enjoyed Chongqing immensely. It is not at all what i had envisioned China and the city where Briley has spent almost the first year of her life.

I had always heard that the orphanage visit is good for the children and helping them make the connection between their life at the orphanage and their new parents. However I think it could be just as easily said that it helps the new parents make the connection between all the photos you adored of your child in the orphanage and the child that is now in your arms. I wept at the spot where her referral picture was taken and again when I peered out the window where her last pictures to us was taken. We took lots of pictures and we were able to talk to the orphanage workers and find out more information about the 1st 11 months of her life.

Briley was silent through most of the visit. Several of the nannies spoke to her and she got a little fussy and buried her head on her Daddies chest. We brought candy to the orphanage for the older kids. When we entered the preschool room the kids were so excited to see us. One little girl who appeared to have down syndrome kept tugging at us and jabbering away to us in Chinese. Our guide translated what she was saying. She was saying to Andy "Uncle, come on in!". Several of the preschoolersfollowed us around. One little boy was generously giving us a piece of the candy that we had brought. All of them wanted to be loved and picked up. Only one little boy stood back and they told us that he was only "attached" to his nanny. At one point Andy and I each had a kid on our lap and we were choking back tears. Briley was not happy though about sharing her Mommy's lap and gently pushed at the child on my lap. We asked about the older kids and we were told that they all had medical special needs. However the only visible sign that any of them had that they had a medical condition was the adorable little girl with downs. It was hard to walk out the orphanage and leave those sweet kids behind.

Afterwards we went to the notary to get Briley's birth certificate. We met the notary in a beautiful hotel lobby. While we were waiting in the lobby some Chinese man "slyly" took pictures of us on his cell phone. I don't know who was fooling. He had his phone held up in our direction and the camera gave the telltale "click" when the picture flashed. I am not surprised by his actions. We were forewarned that a white American couple with a Chinese baby is a novelty. It makes me wonder though what he did with it? Are we the latest sensation on Chinese social media??

When we got out to the car, I gave Briley a bottle and she was sound asleep in no time. She slept most of the way back and was terribly fussy when we arrived back at the hotel. Andy and I decided to stay in the hotel the rest of the evening. We were all emotionally exhausted. Andy left to go get us something to eat for a late lunch and Briley became very upset. She cried and cried and I couldn't get her to calm down. When Andy returned she quit crying, but she was really sad. We soon learned that the only thing that kept her from crying was holding her. And even then she wasn't happy. She sniffled and was on the verge of tears no matter how we tried to comfort her. Finally I fixed her a bottle and she calmed right down. She took a long time to drink and she allowed us to cuddle with her. At one point she rolled around and looked up at me and just watched me talk to her while she held my hand that was holding her bottle. Andy turned on some Christmas music and she laid contently on my arm slowly drinking her bottle. The moment was absolutely magical. I will always treasure those moments.

When we finished with her bottle our Briley girl reverted to the playful little girl we met on Gotcha day. She was all giggles and smiles. Her laughter is contagious. She was very content playing with some plastic bowls and links. We played with her until 7:30pm when she started rubbing her little eyes. I gave her another bottle and bundled her up in blanket and she went to sleep without any problem. Andy and I feel so blessed to have our little girl. We know that we will have more rough days ahead of us so we ask that you continue to pray for us.

When she finished her bottle she was back to the playful Briley we met on Gotcha day.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Day 3 and 4

It seems so hard to believe that what we have waited for so long has finally happened. Gotcha day was yesterday and went like a dream. Our guide took us to the adoption affairs office ang the whole way there I kept telling myself to breath. When we walked into the office the head nanny handing her to me and all I could keeping saying was "she is so beautiful!" she never cried or fussed at all. She was all wiggles and shy smiles. Since we were the only family adopting this week from Chongqing, the office was very quite. The head nanny answered our questions and gave us a bottle with her formula. She also gave us some rice cereal and formula and a few items we had sent to her in care packages. We signed a paper for harmonious period and we were backing in the car in less than an hour.

Briley was all wiggles in the car. It was hard to keep her in my arms. When we got to the hotel room and really started playing with her she started to giggle and baby talk to us. She took about 1/4 of her bottle and ate some yogurt melts. That night we had a hard time going to sleep. She was so over stimulated that we softened the lights in the room and played classical music. We were finally able to get to go to sleep around 8 even though she was obviously very tired at 7. She woke up once around 2:30 am, but we were able to get her to back to sleep with a fresh diaper and another bottle.

Today has been emotionally overwhelming for all of us. Briley has been more quite and fussy. Although she still smiles, we really have to work to get them. We have seen a little of her temper when we change her clothes. When we pull the shirt over her head she screams bloody murder. She calms down within a few minutes. She loves being held and just sitting with us. It is obvious that she doesn't feel good either. We have started giving her Benadryl to help with her runny noise and she is not any where near as active as she was yesterday. Her little eyes are constantly watching us if one of us is up doing something. She seems to have attached to Andy more than me, but she is fine with me. She loves for Andy to sing to her and rub her back. I think she is already a Daddy's girl.

We have tried as much as possible to stick to her normal schedule, but that hasn't always been possible. Our appointment at the adoption affairs office fell during her nap time so we had to wake her up. She was very quite during the adoption ceremony and didn't like it all getting her fingers put in ink and getting her fingerprints put on the adoption paperwork.

The adoption ceremony was not as emotional as I thought it would be. I just remember holding her as we entered a room with an official looking podium. It suddenly hit me that she was truly becoming our daughter. That is when the tears started flowing. I held our beautiful baby girl who had no idea what was about to take place. The officials placed an American flag on one side of the podium and a Chinese flag on the other. We were then told to turn towards the adoption register and she read to us in English an official statement complete with a vow to always love and care for Fu Le Jie. I struggled to understand the registers softly spoken broken English. What i did understand was that we were now being congratulated as Fu Le Jie's legal parents. It felt very much like a wedding ceremony. We were then handed an adoption certificate and a box that contained a golden plate from Chongqing. I think the experience just seems so surreal to me. I am not sure that it will hit me until we land on American soil with our daughter.

Tomorrow is going to be even more overwhelming for all of us. We will make the 2 hour drive to Fuling district to her orphanage. Even though I know that this is a good thing for all of us, I am dreading going. Briley saw the head nanny again today and she barely acknowledged her. It made us feel good that Briley didn't seem to mind being with us. Please keep us in your prayers as we visit the orphanage.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Day 2

Yesterday was our second full day in China. While we were up and wide awake at 3 am, both of us felt so much better and somewhat acclimated to the time change. We met our guide in the hotel lobby at 8:45 am. Our bags were packed so that we could check out of the hotel that morning for our flight to Chongqing (which we have since learned is pronounced Chong Ching). Our guide and driver in Beijing has been very efficient and work well together to coordinate everything. After checking out of our hotel we headed to Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City for our last sight seeing tour.

The Forbidden city is absolutely beautiful and rich with Chinese history. We learned that we really needed a full day to see all the magnificent buildings and ancient artifacts. I now know why people told us that we needed to visit Beijing and soak in their culture and history. Tiananmen Square was also impressive. The most interesting part though was hearing it from the Chinese prospective of our young tour guide. He was able to lay for us a foundation of deeper understanding of the rich heritage of the Capitol city of China.

We arrived at the airport around 12:30 pm and our guide and driver helped us unload our luggage from the van and translated for us at the ticket counter to ensure that we got our tickets. We then found a KFC to eat lunch. The menu was a lot different from the US KFC, but we managed to order original recipe chicken for me and a chicken sandwich for Andy. We both ordered orange juice and fries, but the orange drink was strong and had ice in it. I decided to forego the orange drink all together. Just the thought of getting sick from consuming ice made from the water made me decide that bottled water was a much better option. However Andy drank it without any problems.

Our flights left at 2:30pm, just under 24 hours from our scheduled time to meet Briley. Our flight was uneventful except for the stares from our fellow passengers who seemed puzzled at what two white Americans were doing boarding this flight. We did have one funny moment when the stewardess passed out sandwiches. Andy asked what they were and she told him "chicken, the Chinese hamburger." It tasted more like fish than chicken to us.

We arrived in Chongqing around 5 pm and found our new guide waiting for us just outside baggage claims. There is just something so wonderful about seeing a friendly face holding a card with your name written on it. He helped us with our luggage and we packed it all into his tiny Honda. It seems our guide this time around does not have a driver to escort us around. However, we were instantly put at ease by this very confident and welcoming man. He instantly began telling g us what the plans would be for tomorrow. He cheerfully told us "We will leave the hotel at 1:30 pm to go get a baby." those words were like music to our ears!

After we arrived at our hotel we walked around the plaza area surrounding the hotel. It looks a lot like Vegas with the flashy lights and huge shopping centers. We were surprised to see how people were bundled up in jackets and scarves when we were dying from the extreme humidity. We saw lots of babies and toddlers all bundled up in winter hats and gloves. We located a pizza hut and ordered a super supreme pizza that tasted a lot like our pizza at home except for having pineapple as an extra ingredient. We also found a local grocery store and picked up diapers, wipes, bottled water and some American snack food items.

When we got to the hotel, we unpacked our bags so we would feel more "at home" then living out of our suit cases. It seemed so surreal unpacking Briley's things and getting the hotel room ready for the newest member of the VanBebber family. I almost had a melt down last night when I couldn't find her medications. Thankfully Andy found them in a zippered compartment of one of our suitcases.

It is now 5 am here and I haven't been able to sleep since 3 am. I kept waking up dreaming about what today will bring. I also have a terrible sore throat and no medication we brought seems to take away the pain. It did get a little better during the flight yesterday. I am hoping that it is just a reaction to the smokey smelling air. I don't appear to have any other cold symptoms beyond my normal allergies and runny noise. I worry though that the lack of sleep will eventually catch up with me. For right now I feel like we are running on adrenaline, but I know that Christ is our strength and he will sustain us. And we also know that we are being held up in prayer by our friends and family.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Day 1

We made it to China without any problems on November 25th after a 14 hour flight from Chicago.  God was so gracious to us by allowing us to be bumped up to "business class."  The seats had plenty of leg room and we could recline our seats.  We even got hot towels and I tried to act like I actually knew what I was suppose to be doing with them!  The meals were good and we were much more comfortable than we would have been in the economy seats were we belonged.  Unfortunately even with the extra comforts, we were not able to sleep and we felt like the walking dead when we arrived at our hotel at 6pm China time, 4 am Illinois time.  It is funny how our bodies seem to get use to being on a schedule, because even though we were exhausted we didn't sleep that great once we got to bed.

Today we visited the Great Wall of China, Olympic Village (Beijing summer 2008 Olympics), went to a silk factory, jade store and tea shop.  We ended our day watching a Chinese Acrobat show.  Overall it was a great day and we are glad to see a few of the sites while adjusting to the time change.  Tomorrow we will see Tianmin Square and the Forbidden City in the morning and then catch a 2:30 pm flight to Chongqing.  As much as we have enjoyed seeing Beijing, we are anxious to get to Briley.  In the meantime I thought I would jot down a few observations that Andy and I have made since being here.

1.  Beijing is a physically beautiful and historic city.  The city appears to be well maintained.  We didn't see one piece of trash on the streets.  However, the air is polluted and casts a haze over the whole city. 

2.  Everyone that we spoke to has been very kind and accomodating.  We haven't ran into one obnixous person yet. 

3.  The traffic is crazy.  Our driver snaked his way through the city and got into tight spots I was sure I van wouldn't fit into.  While people honked their horns to let people know they needed through, no one seemed annoyed.  And we haven't seen one car accident.

4.  It is extremely tiring trying to catch what people are saying in broken English.  Last night we sat at the restaurant and noticed that no one around us was speaking English.  It was overwhelming that we were in a part of the country where WE were the minority and WE needed to point and gesture at things to be understood.  It is also very humbling since we often think that our own way of doing things are the only way to do them.

5.  I am not that adventerous yet when it comes to the food, although I am pretty sure that I ate swallow meat tonight.   I think I offended our guide today when I asked if the Peking duck we were talking about eating would still have it's head on the plate.  He said that he could order it for us without it and I was thankful!  He also told a story of taking a family with a young boy to a restaurant and his mother had to quickly take him to the bathroom after the meal arrived.  It seems the boy didn't like his food watching him eat it.  Our guide wanted to know why we were "disgusted" by eating the head of animals and I honestly couldn't tell him why. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Our prayer needs

It has just been amazing to see the power of God when His people join together in prayer. I can not tell you how many people have told us that their church or small group has joined together in prayer for us. Andy went to the dentist in Jacksonville on Monday and our dentist told us that they prayed for us last night at their church. We have been blown away by the praises to our God for his hand moving in such miraculous ways to get us where we are in the adoption process. My cup overflows!!

Since we know that so many of you are praying for us, we wanted to give you some specific prayer needs:

1. Pray for Briley. When we asked the orphanage what made her scared, mad or upset they told us that she is afraid of strangers. It is actually a comfort to know this, because it means that she has attached to her care givers and feels safe with them. It is not always a good sign for orphaned children just to go to anyone. While it may mean that we have a tougher transition, it also means that she will eventually attach to us. We ask that you pray for an overwhelming peace to surround her and she will learn to trust us. Also pray for us that we have patience and compassion toward her.

2. Pray for Andy to not have a meltdown - he really did ask me to have you guys pray for that!! But I think that it is a prayer request for both of us. We know that this trip will be emotionally overwhelming and we will have some tough times. In so many ways I want our hearts to be broken for the fatherless and that God would direct us and show us His will for us in adoption and ministering to orphans. We also know that we will be tired and stressed at times. Please pray that we will depend on God's strength and that He will sustain us through it all.

3. Pray for all of us to not get sick. I feel like we have half the Walmart pharmacy packed in our luggage for every possible illness that you can imagine. Pray that we won't have to use any of it and we can pass off the medications to the next family traveling to adopt from China.

4. Pray for the paperwork to be perfect!! No errors,  typos or anything.

5. Pray for our guides, the other adopting families and everyone we will meet. Pray that we can minister to them and show them the love of Jesus.

6. And just pray for us to have a good time, soak it all in and fall in love with China and the people of China. We really want to walk away and feel like we left part of our hearts behind. We want Briley to grow up loving her Chinese heritage and to be proud of who she is and her first home. We never want her to break that connection. While she will be an American, we want her to embrace being a Chinese American.

7. Pray for all of our travels. We will be staying in 5 different hotels, taking 4 plane rides and one train ride. I am thinking that with our forgetfulness that we are bound to leave something behind! The travel we are dreading the most is our flights to and from China. 14 hours on a plane is a long time! And I hate sitting butt cheek to butt cheek with strangers especially when I have hips that look like saddle bags..... Please pray that the airlines will be accommodating for our travel especially when traveling with Briley.

8. Pray for Andy's back and my legs. We both have pain issues and we know that all the travel, walking and lifting of heavy luggage will aggravate them.

9. Pray however God lays on your heart for you to pray for us. Some of you know us so well. You know our strengths, our weaknesses and our quirks.

10. Rejoice and praise God with us!!! He is so worthy of our praise.

We love you guys so much and we are so appreciate of your prayers, love and support. I want to leave you with my favorite verse.

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm. Plans for a hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

God bless,

Monday, November 21, 2011

To my dearest Briley

My sweet baby girl,
You turned 11 months old today and I wonder if anyone around you took note of another small milestone passing in your young life.  A half a world away I celebrated your life today and how there would be no more milestones that we would miss.  I have dreamt all day of smothering you with kisses and telling you how blessed I am to have the honor of being your mom.  And though I couldn't be with you today, I made a vow to not let one more milestone of your life pass without it being celebrated. I promise you that in one week you will have a family that adores you!  In one week, we will be united with you and what a glorious day it will be.  We know that you will be scared of us at first and it is okay.  We will patiently teach you what it means to be loved and to be precious not only in our eyes, but in the eyes of our creator God.  We will read you bedtime stories and call you our princess.  We will never miss another milestone of your life as long we live.  We will be there to celebrate each one and we will whisper in your ear what a blessing you are to us.  You are our dream come true and we wouldn't pass up those years of heartache if we knew that it meant not having you.  And one month from today you will be home with your family to celebrate your first year.  You will have your very own bedroom that looks like it exploded pink.  A closet full of clothes lovingly given to us by people who can't wait to met you.  You will have a daddy that loves you and will fight to the death for you.  And a mommy that will cry each time you hurt and will be your biggest cheerleader in life.  We love you so much and we wait in anticipation to get to you.  The broken roads of our lives are about merge at the intersections of hope and healing and it is faith in our Lord Jesus Christ that has brought us here. We praise God for orchestrating the miracles that have brought us together as a family.  The roads have been hard for both of us, but they are just a stroke of the brush in the master's hand as he paints the beautiful masterpiece called our family.  I can't wait to see the vibrant colors that you will add to it.