Thursday, February 26, 2015

Leaving on a Jet Plane

On February 5, 2015 we began the long, arduous journey to get back home to the United States.  It would take us thirty hours from the time we left the hotel to the time we touched down in Lexington and I was a mixed bag of emotions.  I simply could not wait to be home, couldn't wait to see the kids, couldn't wait to be in my own bed and not living out of suitcases and have access to my full kitchen.  Yet at the same time I did NOT want to get on that plane.  It was a hard flight for just Chris and I.  I knew it would simply be misery with Hannah.  And we had only a lap ticket for her.  I just knew it was going to be torture for all of us and all our fellow passengers.  Hannah's grief came in the form of fighting and she had certainly not given up the battle at this point.  I just never knew what she would do or when she would do it or if we'd be able to calm her down or contain her.  Thirty hours of traveling....I knew we were in for some major meltdowns.

The bellboy came to collect our bags at 5:40AM and we had to be ready to get on the van for the airport in the lobby by 6:15.  We had a really fast breakfast (the buffet opened at 6) and headed out.  I will not lie.  I cried and got frustrated more than once before we even left the hotel room.  I sobbed like a psycho crazed woman in the Guangzhou airport more than once before we even boarded our first flight and Hannah threw down more than once in the Guangzhou airport.  I just knew....what a day.  I was terrified and so was she.

The first leg of the journey was an inter-country flight from Guangzhou to Shanghai.  We were on that flight with three other adoptive families, so that brought me some comfort, but it was still worrisome.  We climbed on and Hannah got mad.  No, not just mad.  M-A-D.  The thrashing sort of mad.  I knew she was tired and thankfully the mad lasted just a short time and we were able to shush her to sleep.  She slept almost the whole flight to Shanghai.

Once in Shanghai we had something crazy like a four hour lay over.  Or maybe it was five?  It all blurs at this point.  She was hungry.  And got tired.  But we did NOT want that baby going to sleep in Shanghai!  Not with a 14 hour flight ahead of us.  No ma'am, no sleeping in Shanghai!  We had to claim all our luggage, go through customs, and then recheck our luggage for the flight home.  Great news?  We were too early to check in, so we were stuck, outside the gate area (where the decent food and such is located) with our huge, overflowing cart full of luggage for two full hours.  Yippee.  Hear my sarcasm?  Again, traveling with other adoptive families made it easy to divide and conquer...using the restroom or going off to get food, without having to take the massive luggage cart along too.  Hannah had fun playing with the other kids and we ran her little legs off.  Work it out, girlie!  You are about to be trapped for a longest stretch of time known to man.

When we checked in for our flight, they issued our ticket and seats.  As an after thought I asked the agent if these seats included the bassinet for Hannah.  Our travel guide had said he would request one, but that it wasn't a guarantee.  Again, we had purchased only a lap ticket for Hannah.  We were praying there would be an empty seat in our row to allow us a little bit of wiggle room.  The agent quickly said no, our ticketed seats were not for a bassinet, but she made a call to the gate and they said they would accommodate us.  They changed our seats!  It is a total God thing that I asked.

I had begged many to cover our trip home in prayer.  I knew we couldn't do it on our own.  I will tell you this is one area we saw God come out in a BIG way.  Our journey home couldn't have been more pleasant (unless it only took us a couple hours).  When we got on the plane, we found we were in a bulk head row (so the front of the line for that particular row).  This was great.  Extra leg room and room for Hannah to walk around in front of us, with NO SEATS in front of us for her to kick or pull on (we'd already had that issue on one of our shorter flights).  It was a four seat row and we were assigned two of those seats.  The plane continued to fill and I was certain at least one person would come and sit down with us.  Praise God, no one ever came!  We had a four seat row completely to ourselves, on the bulk head!  God knew just what my shot nerves needed to make that flight home work.  Once we were in flight and certain no one was joining us, our stewardess was happy to tell us to take over the full row.  I sat on one end, Chris on the other, and we were able to lay Hannah completely down on the two seats between us.  She slept for a good four hours at the start of the flight, was awake for a couple, slept another chunk, and was then awake for the final couple hours.  Another blessing was that tailwinds were in our favor and what was a 14.5 hour trip on the way over, was only 12 on the way home.  YES!  Chris and I didn't sleep much, but we were able to at least relax and not have to hold Hannah the whole time.  The people behind us were very friendly and didn't mind her endless game of peek-a-boo for the final 45 minutes or so.  Seriously.  We could not have asked for a better flight than that.  I was able to eat (I didn't think i was going to be able to, since food was such an issue and I was concerned about space), Hannah slept, bathroom trips worked semi-well (try taking at two year old with you to potty on an airplane.  Not a whole lotta' space in there).  I know she cried and fussed a couple times, but nothing that made my face turn red or the sweat start to roll.  I can't really remember a truly horrendous moment on that flight at all.  What a blessing!  God showed up big time.  The seats, her mood, her demeanor, her sleep....all of it.  HIS HAND ya'll.

Once we touched down in Detroit we were again blessed to be ushered to the "special" lane for customs and didn't have to wait in the massively long line with a kid who really didn't want in the ergo and wanted to stretch her air legs ferociously.  We moved through immigration pretty quickly, claimed luggage, went through another round of customs, and had our bags re-checked in record time.  Oh, did I forget to mention?  Hannah became a US citizen in that moment.  Welcome to America, baby girl!  Your life will forever be changed.

 I think I was delirious from all the travel and high on adrenaline and a touch giddy at this point.  We were in DETROIT, y'all!  Hallelujah and we hadn't made any enemies on the long flight there (or at least I don't think we did.....).  Introducing Hannah Ruth Zhen...the newest American citizen.

We had another long....torturous four hour layover in Detroit.  We knew we needed a good size buffer of time to clear immigration and all that, but once all that was done and we still had three hours looming ahead of us, we were so ready to get home.  All we had at that point was a short little 45 minute flight back to Lexington.  Let's get the show on the road folks!  I want to get HOME.

The "rules" in Detroit were much the same as the "rules" in Shanghai.  Run her little legs off and no sleeping in airports!  We sleep on airplanes, but we most certainly do NOT sleep in airports!  We had a small snack and just paced the corridor by our gate till finally we got to board.  She had another big, I'm mad and tired, fit right when we got on and then went to sleep and slept that whole flight too.  When we began approaching Lexington and I could see the lights, the tears started to flow.  Big, giant, silent tears.  Home.  We were home.  With Hannah.  After all the work leading up to it, the long process, the build up, the anticipation....we were home.  With her.  And we were about to see our kids for the first time in two weeks.  I simply could not hold back the tears.  The sight of them, at the bottom of the escalator....I just couldn't get to them fast enough.

Being in China gave us a healthy dose of culture shock (magnified by the amount of stress and pressure an adoptive family experiences as they undergo such a major change to their family).  The culture shock has helped us feel more sensitive to how Hannah would feel in those early days home.  The sights, sounds, tastes, smells, people, language....all different and so foreign.  And the longing for HOME so powerful, even if this home is a better home in the long run.

Home is a beautiful thing.  We are so grateful to be here.  With Hannah.

Welcome home, Hannah.  Welcome home.

Home, in Lexington, with all our kids in the same place--a family of six!  Such a beautiful thing!

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