Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ethiopia 2nd Trip - Day Six/"Plane Ride Home"!

Friday, September 6 - Saturday, September 7, 2013
"The Plane Ride Home"

So we made it back to the Addis Ababa airport around 6:30 that night, and our flight was not scheduled to leave until 10:15 pm.  We were really hoping to get a bassinet seat on the plane for Caroline Faith, and we had heard that it was pretty much "first come, first served".  Well, not in our case, unfortunately. :(

We went through the first security checkpoint to just get to the the ticketing area, and that went fine.  I was carrying Caroline Faith in the Ergo baby carrier for the very first time, and she seemed to be doing okay in it.  I think she liked the security of being close to my chest, and she pretty much just kept her head buried close to me.  She was very quiet and still.  We knew that she was pretty scared and overwhelmed, but thankfully, she was very calm.  

We finally made it to the front of the long line to get our boarding passes and check our bags.  We very sweetly asked the Ethiopian Air guy checking us in if there were any bassinet seats still available.  And we were extremely disappointed when he said that there were not.  We couldn't believe it!  Especially since we had gotten there almost 4 hours before our flight!  Well, we checked our bags, got our boarding passes and waited on Chris and Emma as they were checking in at the spot next to us.  They didn't even request a bassinet seat since they heard the guy tell us there were none available.

Then, we all went through the customs line to go back to the gates, and the airport terminal.  We had lots of time so we found a little place to "camp out" for awhile.  We didn't want to go on to our gate because once you get back to the gates you are stuck back there with no restrooms or shops or anything!

 We found a spot on a few of the reclining chairs, and decided to just hang out some before our flight.  Caroline Faith was still doing okay, just very quiet and still.  She just laid on Jody's lap while I did a little shopping, went the bathroom, got some bottled water, etc.  We made sure to save our bottled water receipt or they won't let you take it back to your gate.  We learned that lesson on our first trip!

Finally it was getting close to boarding time, so we went through another security...there are lots of security checkpoints in this airport!  Then we had to wait in one final line to check in at our gate.  We finally sat down to wait, as it seemed that our flight was going to be a little late leaving.  It was already 10:15 pm, and they hadn't even started the boarding process.  They board the flight by "colors", and they had given us the color that could board early since we had an infant with us.

After what seemed like forever, they finally flashed our color to begin boarding.  I was a little nervous about where our seats would be, who would be around us, etc.  And of course, we had decided to still ask the stewardesses if there was anyway we could get a bassinet seat for Caroline Faith.

Our seats ended up being on the far left side of the plane, just a few rows from the very back, and we had the middle seat and the aisle.  Thankfully, there was a very sweet Ethiopian lady sitting next to us.  We were pretty surprised to find out that Emma and Chris had gotten a bassinet seat up at the front of the plane.  We couldn't believe it because our check in guy had told us there were none available!  But obviously, that was not true because Emma and Chris had checked in after us.  Oh well...we were pretty disappointed, but glad for them.

We asked the stewardesses if there were any other bassinet seats available and they said no.  And then the sweet lady sitting next to us volunteered to move to an empty seat on the plane so that we could at least have the whole row and an extra seat for Caroline Faith.  So unbelievable, but there was not one empty seat on the entire huge plane!!!  And to make matters even worse, the arm rest in between my seat and Jody's seat was broken and would not raise up.  So we couldn't even let Caroline Faith lay across our laps.

Reality was beginning to sink in.  Our sweet baby was about to literally be on one of us for the next 17 hours nonstop.  This was going to be a long flight.  I was already beginning to feel a little claustrophobic, and we had not even taken off yet.

Honestly, the only way to describe that flight was...nightmare.  It really was just awful.  But not because of the baby!  Actually, she did great!!!  She hardly ever even fussed!  She pretty much just slept and drank lots of bottles.  The problem was me.

About 2 hours into the 17 hour flight, as Caroline Faith was sleeping on my chest, all of a sudden, I began to feel extremely nauseous.  It was miserable. I finally handed her off to Jody (waking her up), as I said, "I am about to throw up."  I don't remember anything after that.

The next thing I knew, I was coming to and I had no idea where I was.  Jody said that I had said, "I am about to pass out", but I don't remember that at all.  It took me a few minutes to recover and "come to", and then I just laid there feeling awful.  Whenever I pass out, the only thing that makes me feel better is to elevate my legs above my heart, but that is obviously very hard to do in a tight middle plane seat.  But I ended up finding a way to prop my legs up on the seat in front of me.  Not fun or comfortable, but I had to in order not to pass out again.  I was just feeling so weak and nauseous.  The miracle is that I never actually got sick, even though I had the bag right next to me.  Felt I could be sick at any moment.  I just wanted to lay down, but I couldn't.

About 4 hours into the flight, you have to land in Rome to re-fuel, but they don't let you off the plane or out of your seat, for that matter.  Jody kept saying that we needed to try to get off the plane in Rome since I was so sick.  But I knew they would never let us, and what would we do in Rome at 2:00 am???  I just wanted to get HOME!!!

Poor Jody, aka "Super Dad", had baby duty for at least the next 8-10 hours of the plane ride, while I just laid there pretty much sick and out of it.  He did everything...bottle feedings, airplane bathroom diaper changes, walking her up and down the aisles, getting her to sleep, etc.  And all the while, checking on me to make sure I was okay.  He never got any sleep, and he just kept on going taking care of both of us.  He was amazing!!!

Oh, and there were lots of other "fun" moments of the plane ride...multiple people throwing up around us, the bathroom behind our seats having to be barracaded because someone got sick in there, various bad smells, Jody accidentally walked in on a lady in the bathroom (she had not locked the door!), and a luggage compartment above us opening up and a suitcase falling on Jody's head!  It was just like were living a nightmare, and I just wanted to wake up!  And get OFF that plane!  :)  The hours seemed to go by so slowly, and I felt the trip would never end!

I finally felt well enough to try to sit up and take some medicine, the Cipro I had brought with us again.  I forced myself to eat 2 peanut butter crackers when I took the medicine so I would not get sick.  But I could barely get them down because I still felt so nauseous.  I later found out that Emma was up at the front of the plane feeling very sick too.  No fun! :(

The medicine started to help, and I finally felt well enough to start trying to hold Caroline Faith again.  I cannot even express how thankful we are that the Lord kept her so calm on that flight!  And we finally even got a big...

SMILE!!! :)

This is the only picture I have from that long plane ride!  Thankful it is of her smiling! :)

After what seemed like forever, the plane finally landed in Washington, DC!!!  We all cheered and clapped as the plane hit the runway!  Thank You, Jesus!  We survived!!!

We went to get in line at customs in the Dulles airport, and I lost it!  I just broke down and cried like a baby!  I know everyone around us thought I was crazy!  I was just so overcome with emotion to finally have landed on US soil with our daughter, and to have made it through that awful plane ride.  It was pure joy and relief!  Never have I been so thankful to be off a plane!!!

In line at customs!  Looking so rough, but so happy!!!  Still can't believe that Jody took this picture!  Haha!  Poor Caroline Faith was a little scared to be back in the Ergo with all these strange people around, but she just buried her head and stayed really calm and quiet.  Bless her heart!

We went through the customs line, and gave the guy at the counter our "super secret" manilla pack of paperwork for Caroline Faith that we had gotten at the US Embassy back in Ethiopia.  They had told us to not open it until the USCIS official opened it on US soil.   We made it through that, and in that moment on Saturday, September 7th, 2013, Caroline Faith officially became a US citizen!  Praise God!!!

Then we got our bags, and had them re-checked for our domestic flights.  We had a long layover, and so did Chris and Emma.  So we walked down to the terminal and found an empty gate and sat down to feed the babies, change their clothes, and let them play!  And all the adults got some Starbucks!  YAY!!!  We called home and talked to the kids, and told them how excited we were to see them!  My Dad had emailed me a new picture of the kids from that morning, and when I showed it to Caroline Faith on my phone she started kissing their picture!  So precious!!!

Sweet girl finally getting some baby food after that long plane ride!!!  And in fresh, clean clothes too!  YAY!

And then this is when the miracle turn around happened!  For the first time, Caroline Faith began to play and laugh with us!  She was so interactive and happy and engaging!  Her sweet, fun, loud personality was finally coming out with us, and we were so excited!!!  We now realize that God used that long plane ride as a complete bonding experience for us!  Since we did not have a bassinet seat, she was forced to lay in our laps the entire time.  That was exactly what she needed!  Now we can see the blessing in that awful situation!  God truly does work everything for our good!!!

Happy girl playing in Mommy's lap!

There's that big smile that we love!!!

Big kiss from Daddy!!!

After a while, we were all hungry so we took the babies down to a little restaurant in the terminal to get some lunch.  It was so great to eat American food again, and the babies did really well!  I think this was Caroline Faith's very first restaurant experience!  Our sweet waitress was Ethiopian, and she loved seeing the babies!  Then, Jody and I took turns going to the bathroom to change clothes, brush teeth and freshen up.  We did not want to land in Jackson looking and smelling like we did!  Haha!

Then, it was time to go get ready to board our flight to Charlotte!  It was really tough to tell Chris and Emma and their son good-bye.  Of course, we are all bonded for life after traveling to Ethiopia twice together.  We hugged them one last time, and then headed to our departing gate.

On the plane about to leave for Charlotte!!!

Caroline Faith had so much fun on this flight just playing and smiling! :)  She was such a great traveler!  Truly such a gift from the Lord!!!

It was short flight to Charlotte, and then we got off the plane to go meet up with Jody's sister, aka "Aunt Laura", so that she could meet Caroline Faith for the first time!

So happy to finally meet her Aunt Laura!!!

It was so good for us to see Laura and introduce Caroline Faith to a family member for the first time!  Laura brought her lots of sweet baby gifts, and we had so much fun visiting and playing with her for a little bit!

Then, it was time to go board our final flight HOME!!!  We were so excited and just couldn't wait to see our family and friends and introduce Caroline Faith to her big brother and sisters!!!

It was almost time for her "Welcome Home Airport Party"!!!  A moment we had dreamed of for years!!!

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose."
Romans 8:28

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