Kinshasa - Day 3
Today, I met my daughter! Yes, I met her yesterday, but that version of Mireille was guarded, afraid, and sullen. She’s asleep now - hopefully for the night. Today we made very good progress, and I am beyond excited!
The morning started out not so well. I slept terribly last night, by that I mean I didn’t really sleep at all. I fell asleep around 10:00, but Mireille fell out of bed at 10:45, and I didn’t sleep after that. I was worried about her, too many things going through my head… Every time she moved a little bit, I was up and on edge. So when 5:30 rolled around, I wasn’t very excited to hear her up, though I wasn’t surprised since she had been asleep since 6:00 the evening before!
When she awoke, she cried a little, then when I got out of bed to comfort her, she just put her thumb in her mouth and laid back down to sleep. I don’t know if she actually slept, but I didn’t care - I was TIRED! So I slept, a little. By 6:30, she was up, up. I got up and forced myself to make some breakfast, which she just picked at. Dry cereal and a scrambled egg. Not too interesting to her, I suppose.
After breakfast we played a little bit. I managed to get her to slap me five, which I thought was progress. Eventually we went outside and visited with the neighbor, Andrew, who is in town visiting his daughter, Blanche, and to file his I600 in country. I will probably write more about his situation in a previous post once I catch up, but it is nice having him around, being an English speaker and in a very similar situation to me. Blanche was up a few times during the night and we could hear her. While we were playing in the room, we heard her again, but this time she sounded happy and was talking! When we went outside, she was being very playful with Andrew, throwing a ball back and forth, teasing him, talking, dancing… None of which Mireille had shown any ability to do. That’s when the dark feelings started to come. We had never really seen Mireille smile, and that hadn’t changed since I got to Congo! Was she autistic? Did she have long standing emotional scarring that would never go away? What are we in for?!!?
We decided to try swimming, which didn’t go very well. It scared her, but we gave it a shot - maybe we’ll try again on Thursday. A brief aside about the weather here, it’s been lovely. I don’t know the temperature, but it’s been very tolerable, and the mosquitoes haven’t been too bad yet at all. We’ll see.
After 10 minutes in the pool, we went back to the room and got Mireille a much needed bath, which she did very well during. I don’t think Elisa is using any lotion on her, because she’s got some very dried skin which seemed to soak up the lotion I applied. I’ll have to make sure I send that with her on Saturday.
After the bath, she was tired! I don’t exactly remember how it transpired, but by 11:00, Mireille was asleep. I wanted badly to call Jenny to tell her that we could maybe get Mireille out of the country for special needs due to psychological trauma or something. It was very difficult seeing the neighbor’s daughter, a full year younger, interacting and playing just like you would expect a kid to behave. But, since it was only 4:00 AM where she was, I opted instead to read and ultimately took a nap myself.
When I awoke, it was 2:00, and Mireille was still asleep. After a couple of minutes, she woke up and we had some lunch. I made grilled cheese sandwiches for us, a banana and sweet potatoes for her, and some grapes for me. She didn’t think much of the sandwich, content to just play with it and make a big mess. She absolutely devoured the banana, though, and eventually ate her way through the sweet potatoes. It was the first measurable amount of food she had eaten since arriving at Sunny Day!
After lunch we found out that Mireille loves books! We read them over and over again, then eventually she started “reading” them herself by paging through them.
At one point she was reading the Cheerio’s book for the 12th time, I decided to give her some Cheerio-like snacks to put in the book. Then I had an inspired idea, I’ll bet she would like fruit snacks. And she did! I think that was the turning point, honestly.
It wasn’t long after that when I started fixing supper, rice and chicken. It was a long-ish process to make, so I started early. While I was cooking, Mireille came over to the cooking area near me and started dancing and singing! I couldn’t believe it! I immediately grabbed my phone, but she had stopped already. It didn’t matter, I saw it, so I immediately texted Jenny, then I cried…
Thinking I had lost the moment, I put my phone away, but she had gotten into a mood and was very happy. She started playing with me, smiling at me, flirting with me, teasing me with her food and kicking my tickling fingers with her feet. It’s like a new kid was there!
I spent the next hour or more with Mireille, a 2 year old who loves to laugh, spin, dance, sing, smile, play with power outlets, stack things from the pantry, empty the garbage can… Oh, I forgot to mention, she annihilated her supper, eating ALL of the rice and ALL of the chicken, much of it with a spoon. She then demanded a cookie from me, which I happily gave to her.
Today was a day of extreme emotions for me. I went from wondering what we were going to do with this poor girl that didn’t seem to have any emotion to getting smiles and playing with the most beautiful little girl I’ve ever met.
I suppose you take the good with the bad - to go to bed tonight, she demanded that I hold her until she was good and asleep, which I happily did!
Tomorrow we see Papa John again and may go to see the Bonobos. Hard to tell what will happen, but in a way it doesn’t matter - I got everything I wanted when I came here today. I saw my daughter smile - she looked happy, and that makes everything else much more bearable.