Friday, December 21, 2012

Zeke's Journey Home

Well, it's been a long time since we've written and I feel bad about that.  Not because I think you are sitting there on the edge of your seats waiting to hear from us, but because we basically left it at how hard things were.  For those of you reading this blog because you are in the adoption process yourselves, I feel a sense of obligation to keep you updated and I'm sorry I dropped the ball.  The good news is, the reason we haven't been writing is because we haven't felt a need to use it as a therapy tool. So much of the previous writing was cathartic for us, as we've mentioned, and with things going well, there isn't a real need for it.


I do want to write more about bonding and the troubles we had with that, but there never seems to be enough time to really get into it.  I hope to start back up on that topic after the new year.  In the meantime, we leave you with this video.  We wish you a safe and happy holiday season!
 


Friday, August 3, 2012

kisses and laughs

Today was a mini breakthrough with Zeke.  It was a clear sign, to me, that he is learning to trust me more.  While he loves affection, he always became overwhelmed when I kiss him all over his face (different reaction than he gives Dad).  I do this with all of the kids.  When I put them in bed or say goodbye or just because - I grab their little faces and go to town!  Well, Zeke would always get kinda angry about it.  He clearly felt out of control.  He seemed not to be too sure whether I was being nice or mean.  It always bothered me.  With the rough year we have had, the times when I felt like being affectionate in this way with him weren't as often as I would have liked.  So, when I would actually feel the desire to bond with him and he would essentially push me away, it was hard...just another reason to be irritated with him.  Well, today, I was "nuggling" (snuggling) him before nap time and I whispered in his ear "I'm going to kiss you" in an "I'm gonna getcha" kind of way and then I proceeded to kiss him all over his little face.  He loved it!  I was so happy.  I felt like it was a sign of him trusting me.  It made me reflect on the "journey" of him becoming ticklish.  When we picked him up, he wouldn't even smirk if we tickled him.  He wanted nothing to do with us and especially not with us touching him.  I was super bummed.  If I can't even get him to laugh with a tickle, how were we ever going to be able to play and bond?  This went on for a couple of weeks and then, all of a sudden, he laughed!  I couldn't believe it!  He WAS ticklish...he had just been hiding it because he didn't trust us!  Zeke has the absolute best laugh in the world.  You can't listen to him laugh without laughing yourself.  Now, if you come even within 6 inches of his body (specifically his belly and neck), he falls apart with laughter.  It's a deep, guttural, out of control laugh that just makes me smile.  Only a happy kid can laugh like that.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Who's Zeke?

For those of you who don't know our family personally and have been reading from the beginning, you may be wondering, "who is Zeke?"  We mention him in the first post, but then only talk about Ella, Owen, Cate and Obsa after that.  The short of it is that Obsa is Zeke.  For whatever reason, I felt it made more sense to speak of him as Obsa when he was Obsa and Zeke when he was Zeke, but have realized that it may have been confusing to readers.  We didn't expect to change Obsa's name.  We never want him to feel like we are trying to "take the Ethiopia out of him".  We thought it would be important for his identity to keep the name his birth father gave him.  In fact, to be perfectly honest, I was a tad judgmental of those who had decided to give their child a new name.  Weeelllllll, that all changed after we got home. Here's the story of how Obsa became Zeke...

I was very much prepared for the possibility of Obsa having a difficult time bonding to us and that we may have to do things to encourage a bond.  What I didn't expect was that I would have a hard time bonding to him.  When I looked at his pictures, I felt like he was my son, so I would obviously love him right away...right?  Wrong.  My favorite way to explain this is that my biological kids were born with a pair of rose colored glasses.  Yes, I knew they could be highly annoying at times, but just look at them...they're so stinking cute, how could I stay mad at them for long?  (The first problem with this statement is that they actually weren't as cute as I thought they were at the time.  I look back at some old pictures and think, "ouch.  that's a face only a mama can love"- but I digress)  For me, Obsa did not come with a pair of these magical glasses.  In fact, it seemed he came with a pair of magnifying glasses instead.  Everything he did was much more annoying to me than it would have been if one of the other kids did it.  I was holding on to so much resentment from our experience in Ethiopia that the poor kid didn't stand a chance.  Granted, he has a tough personality, so it's not like he was sitting there like a little angel and I was just mad and him for no reason.  I was beginning to fear that the bond would never come.  Everyone else could look at him and talk about how cute he is, but I wasn't seeing it.

Luckily, I'm not one to keep my feelings inside and I immediately started acknowledging my feelings to anyone who would listen - anyone that could offer some support - and even to those who couldn't and just stared at me like a deer in headlights.  Hey, I always tell people, don't ask me how things are going unless you really want to know!  I think I was just short of telling the pizza delivery boy all about it just because it made me feel so much better to talk about it!  Becky  from YWAM (the adoption agency) called a couple of days after we got home to see how things were going - and boy did she get an earful.  I just started sobbing, "I am worried we made a mistake", "I don't feel a bond to him", "I feel like I have post-adoption depression".  Luckily for me, Becky was extremely supportive and told me that how I was feeling was normal for someone who has adopted a child Obsa's age and with his personality - not to say everyone experiences it - but it's not uncommon.  She set me up with another YWAM family who had gone through similar things.  It was helpful to hear someone else say they once felt the way I was feeling.  They were only 4 months ahead of us in the process, so they were still doing work on this too, but at least they were able to tell me it gets better.

I started feeling like I needed to do something that would make this process familiar to me.  Something that would make him feel like mine and not just some kid I was babysitting.  The only thing I could think of was for David and I to chose a name.  David was reluctant at first, but he could tell it was something important to me, so he opened up to the idea.  For me, the name Ezekiel was perfect.  I was just drawn to it right away, but then when we found out that it means "God strengthens", I knew it had to be his name because boy did I need some of God's strength now.  Once David was onboard, it was time to tell everyone else.  I thought they were going to kill us because they spent so much time trying to figure out how to pronounce Obsa and now we were changing it on them!  Although, I think people have come to expect the unexpected out of us.  Everyone was very understanding and agreed that it made sense.  The kids were pretty confused for a few days - except for Zeke.  He immediately answered to his new name, even better than he ever answered to Obsa (at least for us).  We didn't want to completely get rid of his Ethiopian names, though, so we added Obsa and Birhanu (his birth father's name) as middle names.  So, now the poor kid has the very long name of Ezekiel David Obsa Birhanu.  I thought that it might be important for him someday to know that his Ethiopian names were still a part of who he is.  I think of them like rings on a tree - a storyline of "becoming Zeke".  First, he was Obsa Birhanu.  Then, once the adoption was final, the Ethiopian government changed his name to Obsa David (every child, boy or girl, gets their adoptive father's first name as their middle name).  Then we added the Ezekiel.  I didn't want to lose any of that story, so we just added it all in there.

There's so much more to say about the bonding issues...too much for one post.  I can tell you that one year later, things are sooooooo much better and I feel bonded to him, but it was a long road.  I have a lot to say about it, but not tonight.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Trip 2 - The Aftermath (part 2 from DP)

Here is the third e-mail I sent while in Ethiopia . . .


A view from our window . . . a very middle class type area. 
It's been a few days since I last wrote to you and I have all kinds of excuses why.  Other than a full schedule, we've also been without power for most of the visit. The rainy season is beginning here and the infrastructure just doesn't hold up well.  Most days have begun slightly overcast followed by thunderstorms that dry up in the evening and then return over night. Anytime it is dry it seems most folks spend their time cleaning up from the rains.  With only the main roads paved and dirt, debris, rubble, poor drainage etc. everywhere else, it is a very muddy place to be. It's funny though, because it's easy to paint a miserable existence among all the challenges here but it is very much just a way of life.  The people here are wonderful - warm, helpful, courteous and respectful.  They are quite resilient in their daily challenges for things like water, power, and cleanliness. Even more so, I often feel that we are looked at as a little soft in our "needs" for daily comfort.  I feel like Jillian and I can adapt pretty well to most situations - but I guess I see that as the difference in
our cultures. While quite clearly they have adapted as a culture over time, our culture is always looking for something bigger and better - a solution.

There is something peaceful and refreshing about their approach. They are quite content.  I certainly appreciate all the comfort, structure and opportunity that America offers, but put in perspective - the Ethiopian people are not as needy as some may believe.

The days have begun to run together as we try to help Obsa wrap his little head around what's going on. In the last few months he's had to move from caregiver to caregiver too many times and he is showing the signs that it's just all too much for him. We continue to have momentary glimpses of his potential personality. In the meantime, he's doing his very best to let us know he's not a happy fella. I'd love to tell you all about what a wonderful bonding experience we've had - and perhaps someday, we'll be able to look back and say we did - but right now we are battling to let this little boy know he is loved, safe, and secure. Our family is his last stop! 

Because of his transitions we've learned that when he's upset he cries - a lot. The good news is that Obsa has been in a very caring environment and has received plenty of love and attention. The challenge is that he has gotten everything he wants - on his terms.  It is a very difficult balance to make sure he knows we are the ones who will love and care for him  but that you don't get to whine and get everything you want. The other night we had dinner at a traditional Ethiopian restaurant and Obsa thought it was fun to throw his food on the floor when he was finished eating.  Now at home we are fans of putting the proverbial smack down, so we simply took his plate away.  Right away we were chastised for taking food from a baby. When we explained the situation we were told to give him his plate back. In respect of our hosts we did just that.  A little example, but indicative of the cultural sensitivity we are trying to balance while we are still guests in Ethiopia.

Lastly, the aftermath we feared from the birthday party arrived. Jillian started antibiotics this evening due to a fever, achy joints and all kinds of other stuff I'm just sure you don't want to hear about.  I'm not as bad,but my body is telling me it's time to return as well.  Obsa still thinks I'm rather scary and needs Jillian to be his safety net.  So it was a very tough day but then we got one of those glimpses that helps us to see that this will all work out okay.  We had a really nice evening with him where he just played for a little while - all I could do was just look up and say thank you.  

By now you've figured out that the power came back on so I was able to get a little work done this evening. Sorry I'm so long winded, but I promise you that this was the abridged version of the last few days. What an experience - loved coming here, but can't wait to get home! 

Trip 2 - Thought I'd share a little

Below is an e-mail I sent to some family and close friends while we were still in Ethiopia.  This was the second day of our trip and I thought I would share a little bit of our experience.  It's funny to look back at what I wrote and compare to  what was really happening.  I seem to minimize his "preferences" and I'm not sure if it was to protect me or everbody else.  Regardless here's my take while we were there . . .


Mommy and Obsa
So Jillian didn't realize I was taking their picture - day 2 has been a little tough. Obsa just wants to be held by Jillian -definitely not me - and he is very sad. While things are going well, the emotion in our little corner of Ethiopia is palpable. Obsa seems sad, scared, confused, uncertain, distant, tired and more.  It's so hard to see such a little guy struggling to understand such a big change in his life. Jillian and I came here thinking that we would be picking him up on Monday - as it turns out we got a phone call two hours after we arrived Saturday at our guest house notifying us that our ride was waiting for us. We had just spent 24 hours traveling here and couldn't wait to just lay down, rest and prepare both mentally and physically for what was to come. But it was "game time;" so we gathered our stuff and hopped in the van to go get our new son! 


We ended up going to the orphanage with two other families.  When we arrived, we were greeted by the children holding small bouquets of flowers looking very excited and confused.  As we exited the van it was a bit chaotic as each of the kids scurried to figure out who their new mommy was.

One little boy came up to me with a hesitant pause and hugged my leg wondering if I was his new daddy.  After I showed him who his new parents were, he went running over and again stopped just short with hesitation - this time his dad picked him up and told him that he was so excited to be back to see him again.  He and his wife were there to pick up two little boys (3 & 4 year old cousins) and as he continued to tell the little boy named "J" that they were there to take him home he was interrupted with a giant hug. I'm telling you about their experience because it was a way better story than ours!  Obsa cried and did his best to wiggle away with hopes that this was just a bad dream!  Some of the older kids from the orphanage were comforting him and trying to tell him that it would be okay - Obsa was just sure they were wrong but would take a hug from anyone he knew, including the security guard!  After a couple of hours at the orphanage we all piled into the van again and returned to our guest homes for the night.

We ordered some traditional Ethiopian food for dinner and all fell asleep watching a movie on the iPad (oh yeah, we were without power since we arrived). 

This morning we awoke to the rooster crows after a smooth night and the power was back on.  Obsa slept all night and even ate some breakfast. He's very cautious about taking any food from us, even though he insists on taking something to eat and holding on to it like a Linus blanket - yesterday it was a cracker, today a piece of toast. He refuses most things to drink but was willing to allow Jillian to spoon feed some corn flakes and mango.  For the most part he's just been very quiet and demands Jillian hold him close (preferably standing and rocking). The good news is that this is exactly what we expected and were prepared for . . . the hard part is that it is tough. Jillian is a wonderful mom and Obsa is requiring every bit of effort she has. But already, we can see subtle changes in his demeanor.  He would really prefer if I wouldn't look at him but Jillian is quickly becoming his source of comfort. As I'm writing this she just got him to giggle a little bit - just a little, but it's a start.


An hour after my last e-mail, here's what I wrote . . .

While I was writing my last e-mail Jillian decided to go outside to get a change of scenery. Right after I hit send the power went out again and I went out to catch up with Jillian and Obsa and i couldn't find them. Then it started to rain really hard and they were still nowhere to be seen. A few minutes later they came running up to the guest house in the rain. They were at a birthday party for a 3 year old behind our guest house! We went back and had an awesome time! Obsa was a completely different child there - smiling laughing, having fun! We ate a bunch of stuff we shouldn't have (including sheep's liver) and have returned and are awaiting the aftermath!


But at least Obsa had fun! It was a much needed light of encouragement!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Trip 2

Well, it's time to buckle up, cause it's about to get very real, very fast.  Warning...a whole lotta truth awaits  you from here on out.  Just know that my truthfulness is both therapeutic for me and also helpful to others, so truthful I must be.  There's no way to adequately express the emotions of the experience via blog posting, but I will try my best to give a general picture.   The experience David and I had on this second trip were so different, we thought it would be nice if we each wrote our own account.  Here's mine...

After we returned home from our court appointment, all I could think about was getting ready for our son to come home.  I couldn't wait to get his room ready and get clothes in his dresser drawers.  I waited anxiously for our paperwork to be submitted to the embassy and then, once it was, checked my email like a crazy person waiting for news.  With Ethiopia being 7 hours ahead of us, I knew I would likely receive the big news (of an embassy appointment) during the middle of the night.  Every time I even rolled over, I would check my phone.  Finally, one night around 2am, there it was...an email from the embassy with our appointment date.  The next day we were setting up sitters for the kids and buying plane tickets.

On Saturday, June 25th, 2011 we arrived in Addis Ababa once again.  This time we stayed at a guest house, which is like a bed and breakfast. Our plan was to arrive on Saturday and pick Obsa up on Monday.  They do not do pick ups at the orphanage on Sundays and it was recommended that we take Saturday as a day to adjust to the time change and get some rest.  However, shortly after arriving, as we were both passed out from the pure exhaustion of prolonged travel, our phone rings.  It's the front desk telling us that our ride was there.  Our ride? For what?  Well, it turns out we were picking up our son that day, at that moment, no matter what we had planned!  We quickly pulled ourselves together, gathered our things and ran out the door.  A slue of mixed emotions were running through me.  Excitement that we were picking up our son; Frustration that we weren't prepared for this change of plans;  Disappointment that our plan to sleep was now no longer part of the equation.  But, I kinda like things that happen chaotically and without preplanning...it brings adventure!

After picking up another family, we arrived at the Thomas Center.  The kids were all waiting outside to welcome us.  The children being picked up that day were dressed nicely and had flowers to offer us.  Obsa had a look on his face like "not these people again"!  He appeared to be very happy there and did not want to hear anything about leaving.  He would scream at the top of his lungs if forced to be in our arms.  Again, this is what we expected, so no cause for alarm.  We spent some time at the orphanage and then headed back to the guest house for our first night as Obsa's sole caretakers.  Even though we had three other children, it felt like a new experience.  Birthing children I know how to do.  Adopting a child?  Well, I was quickly finding out that I had no clue.

No activities/events were planned for us again until Monday.  We were encouraged to stay at our guest house unless escorted by an orphanage staff member, so we couldn't even really go walk around.  Let me tell you that those were probably two of the longest days of my life.  Obsa wanted to be ANYWHERE else.  He did a whole lot of screaming.  Honestly, that time is such a blur to me because it was so intense.  He decided that if he had to be there with us, then he was going to be glued to me every waking moment.  I had to hold him and I couldn't just hold him any old way.  He rarely let me sit down.  If I did, the screaming would start.  Oh and I couldn't just stand either...I had to stand AND rock.  If I stopped rocking, the screaming would start.  Now, this child was no light weight.  He was round and solid!  It was literally like holding a bowling ball.  I think I lost somewhere around 10 pounds during the few days we were there just because of the amount of calories I was being forced to burn throughout the day.  Even at night, he needed to be well within my personal space.  If he happened to toss and turn and make his way near David, he would wake up panic stricken and quickly dive back onto me.

It was a very strange dynamic that Obsa and I shared during the trip.  He wanted nothing to do with me, yet I was his only source of comfort.  I began feeling trapped and overwhelmed.  This kid just yells at me all day, but then wants to be in my personal space ALL THE TIME.  I was beginning to feel a little violated.  I know this may be difficult for some people to understand.  How can I feel this way? Don't I know all that this little boy as been through?  Well, simply put, you just don't get it until you experience it.  Plain and simple.  I fully recognize that it sounds harsh.  If I were to hear someone tell me they felt that way, I would probably think not very nice things about them.  This is the point were I remind you about my previous statement regarding truthfulness.  Anyway, it was during this time that I started to wonder, "did we make a mistake"?  I had post partum depression after the birth of our oldest, Ella, and this was feeling very much the same.  I was emotional and feeling guilty.  These feelings just got stronger as the days went by.  Being in a foreign country doesn't help.  I just wanted to be home where things were familiar and comfortable.  I missed my babies so bad.  I longed to hold them - I actually ached to hold them.  I just cried and cried.  Obsa cried too.  At one point, I was sitting with him in my lap on the couch when Dave and I noticed that we was just sitting there silently crying...just tears rolling down his face without a sound.  That broke our hearts.  We knew he was hurting and scared.  It made (and still makes) me feel horrible for not being able to put my feelings aside and just focus on his.  Again, the only thing I can say is you just don't know.    You don't know what it's like or how you'll respond unless you live it.  David is constantly telling me that I'm empathetic to a fault.  Why, then, can't I have enough empathy for my son to get me through this?  There's so much more to say on this and I'll get to it in later posts.  For now, I'll move on to the rest of the trip.

I know we were supposed to stay in our guest house room, but I couldn't take it anymore.  I needed out.  I decided to take Obsa down for some fresh air.  We watched donkeys go by and people go by.  The doorman played with Obsa, which he very much liked.  For a minute, I thought I found the magic pill...take him outside were he can see other Ethiopians and he'll be happy!  Well, the magic soon wore off and he realized that I was still following him around.  While we were out in front of our building, a family that lived next door walked by and started talking to me.  I've mentioned before how kind and inviting Ethiopian people are, so it didn't really come as a shock that they invited Obsa and me to their house.  They were celebrating the birthday of their 3 year old niece and wanted us to join in on the fun.  Yes, I know it isn't the smartest idea to go to a home of a person you just met on the street, no matter where on Earth you are - but, I just couldn't say no.  I didn't want to offend them.  I could see the doorman look at me like, "I'm not sure you should be doing this", but he let me go without a word.  I thought, "I'll just stop by for a few minutes".  They immediately offered me food and laughed at me for now knowing the proper way to wash my hands using a bowl and pitcher.  Before I even took a bite of the food, I knew I was putting myself at risk of getting sick.  American stomachs aren't immune to the same things as Ethiopians stomachs.  Again, I didn't want to offend them.  Plus, I thought "what the hell...you only live once...might as well take some chances".  The food was good and I was having a nice time experiencing an Ethiopian birthday party.  After awhile I realized I better let David know where I am.  I walked outside and he was already out there looking for me.  I guess when your wife disappears in an unfamiliar country, it causes a bit of alarm.  He ended up coming back to the party with me and he too tried the food.  I was a little relieved that he did because I thought, "well, at least I won't be alone with the travelers diarrhea".  Sorry honey, but it made me feel better that you would be suffering right along with me.  We continued the celebration, took pictures and prayed with the family.  They were really wonderful.  We were so glad we went!  A day or so went by and we felt fine, so we thought we had been worrying about the food for no reason...we were wrong.  Let's just say that we left the party with extra special parting gifts...gifts that kept giving and giving.  Don't worry...we started antibiotics and began to feel better literally just in time for the flight home.  I'm not exaggerating when I say literally just in time - I became pretty familiar with the airport restrooms.  Even after all of that, we were still happy for the experience of the birthday party.  It gave us a taste of the culture and a much needed break from the tension in our room.  I'd do it again for sure.

Besides the US Embassy appointment, where they cleared him to enter the country, there were a couple of other activities planned for us during the trip.  They had a very nice going away ceremony where all of the children dressed in traditional ceremonial clothing and sang songs to us.  We didn't understand the words, but the songs were so powerful.  It was very touching.  The other families there had their newly adopted children sitting with them to watch the performance.  Our child was going to ruin the whole ceremony if he had to sit with us.  He had gotten a little more comfortable with us in the days we were there, but the second he stepped foot back into the orphanage, all he wanted was the nannies.  So, during the ceremony, he stayed in the arms of a staff member, on the other side of the room, trying to pretend we weren't there.

A 17 hour flight isn't something I'd want to do with any kid, let alone a kid who I hardly know.  The flight left at 10pm, so I was hoping he would sleep for most of the trip.  Yeah right...that was stupid of me to even consider.  He was perfectly behaved for the first 15 minutes of the flight.  He even feel asleep for maybe an hour at that point.  Once he woke up, though, it was a whole different ball game.  He insisted we go back to the standing and rocking thing.  I was stuck.  I couldn't deny him anything because I couldn't let these people on the plane deal with his incessant screaming.  So, that basically equates to me standing in the aisle and rocking him for maybe about 13 hours.  At one point, I couldn't do it anymore.  I no longer cared about the people around me who were trying to watch their movies and sleep...my body couldn't stand any more.  I sat for about an hour and just let him wail.  After which time, I got back up and continued rocking him for pretty much the remainder of the flight.  I managed to get him to fall asleep for maybe another hour at one point, but that was it.  Even when I had to go to the bathroom, I had to take him with me.  Not a pretty picture, but imagine having to hold a screaming bowling ball in a super tiny bathroom while pulling down and up your pants all while trying not to touch anything because you're a total germaphobe when it comes to public bathrooms.  Makes me laugh to think of now, but believe me when I say I wasn't laughing then.  My body felt broken.  My spirit felt broken.  I sobbed thinking "What have we done? Have we ruined the lives of our other three children?"  The thought made me sick to my stomach.  The last thing I wanted to do was ruin lives, but I was beginning to fear that is exactly what I had done.

Our flight from Washington, Dulles, took us to Pittsburgh, where we would then make the long drive back home.  A long car drive after a long flight wasn't our favorite idea, but since Pittsburgh is where God likes to meet me (see "Our Journey to Africa" post), I was actually happy when the travel agent told me we would have to fly in and out of Pittsburgh in order to travel on our desired dates.  While we were at the baggage claim, a woman came over to me and asked if we had just adopted Obsa.  She was on the same flight from Ethiopia to Dulles and then from Dulles to Pitt.  I answered yes and she went on to tell me about the two boys she and her husband adopted from Ethiopia.  I tried to seem happy about the whole thing, but I could see in her eyes she knew how I was feeling.  She said to me "it's hard...it will get better, but it's hard for awhile."  Finally, someone who could relate to how I was feeling.  She gave me a hug and we both cried.  It helped me feel some relief.  She was a blessing to me.  See...I told you God likes to meet me in Pittsburgh.

We finally arrived home.  Nobody but us.  The kids were still with Grammy and Pop and the dogs were at the kennel.  We thought it would be better for him to get briefly familiar with his new home without the distractions.  After a short time, we called to request the kids be brought back home.  I couldn't wait.  I stood in the window, holding Obsa, watching like I was looking for Santa.  They ran in that door and immediately accepted Obsa as their brother.  They loved him already.  Well, Ella and Owen loved him already...Cate was still deciding.  She loved the idea of him, but then quickly realized he was competition for mom's attention.  The kids coming home was the best thing that could have happened for Obsa's transition to America.  When he saw them, he immediately relaxed.  A room full of kids...that, he was used to.  Yes, they were white, but they were little and that made him happy.  Plus, when he saw how much the other kids loved and trusted us, he began to see that he could do the same.

Thus starts the beginning of our journey through transition.  More to come...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Trip 1, Part 2

To be honest, I've been dreading this post.  I have certainly enjoyed the process of reliving this experience, but it's overwhelming at the same time.  To start the story of our time in Ethiopia begins some of the heavy stuff.  Sometimes it's difficult to get into that "serious" place when I've had a crazy busy day and all I want to do is veg out and watch TV before going to bed (David calls it his time to decompress and he REALLY needs that time these days).  And trip 1 is the easy one!! Trip 2...THAT's where the heavy stuff really starts. Having said that, writing this blog has been very cathartic for us.  It's provided us with an opportunity to process our journey and put it into perspective.  Soooo, here we go...

Addis Ababa - the capital of Ethiopia
I know we ended "part 1" with arriving at the Sheraton, but I'd like to back up just a bit and talk about the drive from the airport to the hotel.  The images you see of Ethiopia are not typically of the capital city of Addis Ababa.  They are typically of rural areas.   I didn't know what to expect.  In fact, just a week or so before we were to leave for Africa, we received some pictures of Obsa's biological father from his trip to court (he had a court date to officially relinquish his parental rights).  The pictures were of a man in a suit sitting at a bistro style table at a restaurant patio.  He was drinking coffee and having lunch.  There were tall buildings and cars all around.  Dave and I laughed at ourselves as we looked at these pictures because the clothes we packed for the trip looked like we were going on safari, not to an industrialized city.  We were clearly clueless.  During our drive to the hotel, we saw much of the same from the pictures.  There were billboard advertisements, tall office buildings, banks, a mall, and little shops on every corner.  There were nicely dressed business people all around.  It felt very much like a big city you would see in the states...except for it isn't at all.  Scattered all around this "big city" environment, is unbelievable poverty.  Yes, in American big cities, you see homelessness.  Trust me when I say it's not the same.   There is no doubt that the people begging are in real need.  When you see a mom nursing a baby and begging for anything to sustain her, it's heart wrenching.  I thought of myself and what I wouldn't give to protect my children from such pain.  We are not any different - but our set of circumstance certainly are.

The orphanage in Adama is on this street.
After a night of relaxing in our hotel, we woke up to go meet our son.  We were told we would just be driving out to his remote orphanage in Adama, but would be leaving him there.  It was simply an opportunity to meet him.  The plans changed, however, and it was decided we would take him from that orphanage and move him to the orphanage in Addis.  This was a necessary move because he would need to have several things done in the capital before we could come bring him home.  We just didn't think we would be the ones bringing him there.  There were two reasons for the decision to leave him in Adama - 1. there wasn't much room at the orphanage in Addis Ababa and 2. he had grown fond of the people in Adama and we didn't want to be the ones to take him away from them.  Even in those little minds, they can hold on to stuff like that.  He already had a dislike for strangers and white people in general - we didn't need anything else working against us.  But, it was what it was and we went into it very excited to spend the day with our boy.

The drive there was so interesting.  To get outside of the capital and see the rural areas was an experience we'll never forget.  We both wanted to be taking pictures and video all along the way, but we were very cautious not to offend anyone.  The last thing we wanted was for anyone to feel like they were being treated like animals at the zoo - like they were there for our viewing or entertainment.  Can you imagine living in the poorest of conditions and just doing your best to get by and then having "tourists" drive by constantly taking pictures of you?  The grace with which they approach their challenges shouldn't be hampered by a lack of dignity.  After a little while, however, our driver asked "aren't you going to take any pictures?"  He was concerned that we weren't interested enough in the land that our son was from.  It was important to him that we document these things so that we can properly educate Obsa on his homeland.  We agreed wholeheartedly and began to get it all on film.  The one thing we both noticed was that we didn't see much self pity.  Even in their dire circumstances, you find kindness and pride.  Whatever they do have, they want to share with you.
Very tentative at first

When we arrived at the newly constructed orphanage (construction not completed due to a need for funding) we were taken into a quiet room with two simple chairs.  Then . . . they brought Obsa to meet us.  He wasn't as horrified as we expected.  He let me hold him, but not Dave.  He didn't cry...just kinda tried to pretend we weren't there.  I followed him around while he wandered the grounds.  We tried giving him cookies (yes, we were trying to bribe our son with treats), but he wouldn't eat them.  He would hold one in his hands until it became mush.  At one point, we literally had him backed into a corner as we knelt down, trying to interact with him.  He wasn't mad about it, but didn't seem to love it either.  He was just indifferent.  Then it was time to go.  He wasn't thrilled about getting in the car with us, but he did without too much commotion.  He quickly fell asleep and stayed that way for most of the drive.  It is our understanding that kids will often fall asleep as a defense mechanism - so in short, he was trying to sleep us away.  When he was awake, he was quiet and reserved.
The orphanage in Adama - under construction

Upon arrival in Addis Ababa, we walked him up to the room where he would be staying and handed him over.  He couldn't have been more happy to get into the arms of another African person.  Now, he has never set eyes on these nannies before and didn't even understand the dialect they spoke, but he didn't care.  They looked familiar and that was enough for him!  He basically said "see ya suckas" to us.  Once they had him, he wanted little to do with us.  He would accommodate my advances in a shy manner, but David was to keep his distance!  We totally understood and didn't have any hard feelings about it.  We were glad he was so comfortable there already, this would be his home until we could return to bring him back to the States. 

The Thomas Center - orphanage in Addis Ababa

When we arrived back at the hotel, we took a chance to relax in the lounge with some snacks and an internet connection.  I was sitting on a couch talking to David when I looked down and saw something shiny on the bottom of my foot.  I looked closer and it was a "Footprints In the Sand" pin - a little golden pair of feet stuck in the sole of my shoe.  I pointed it out to David and he said "yeah, I saw that when we were at the orphanage and forgot to say something to you."  I was so happy - feeling touched, yet again, by God. He was with us during this journey and was making it clear.  "It was then that I carried you"...soooooo well suited for what was to come.  I'm presently looking for a place on my body to put those very words in the form of a tattoo (every time I think I have the perfect spot, I think of how saggy my skin will be when I'm old and how the letters will start to look smeared - that's hot, right?).

The next day was our court appointment.  We arrived at court with one other couple and filed into a small room on the third floor.  There were armed guards and we were told to remain silent.  The room was packed with parents there to adopt and parents there to relinqush.  Shoulder to shoulder - quiet - door closed, waiting with the other couple and our attorney.  It got hot rather quickly and the anxiety of the day didn't help!  Finally, we were called into the room were the judge sat looking at our case file.  She asked a couple very quick questions and then declared "the child is yours".  Crazy.

It was official.  Obsa was legally our child.  After court we were allowed to go back to the orphanage for a short visit.  Once again, Obsa just went about his business like we weren't there. Very little interaction with us.  When he was forced to acknowledge our presence, he would scream and cry.  I told him "sorry, buddy, but it's official!  You're ours - like it or not".  He was going with "or not".  I could see the empathy in the other parents' eyes as well as the eyes of the nannies.  I reassured them that we were up for the challenge and we expected nothing less.  That's what you get when you pick "the screamer"!  They then said "I'm glad it's you then and not a first time parent picking him up". We had to agree.  Can you imagine waiting so long to be a parent and then going to meet your child just for him/her to hate you??  I too was thankful that it was us.  I wasn't scared.  I wasn't feeling like our son would always hate us.  I knew it would take time and that was ok.  We are patient and understanding parents (stay tuned for the story of us realizing that's not actually true ;).

It didn't take much time with Zeke to realize that his personality is much like his sister, Cate's. Hard headed and determined.  Not a super great combination (well, at least not a fun combination when dealing with a toddler).  Now we're going to have two of them??! They are exactly one year apart in age, so we knew we were in for some "fun" times - and boy were we.  Our little "Ethiopian Twins!"

The hotel at night
Back at the hotel, we had one more day to enjoy our stay in Ethiopia and we did just that.  We hung out on the patio near the pool and reflected on our time there.  I was in love.  I really loved being there and couldn't wait to come back.  Because Obsa was legally ours, we could take him out of the orphanage if we were to stay there.  The only reason he couldn't come with us now was because of the American Embassy and their process.  If we weren't going to America, we could be with him.  I tried and tried to convince David that we should go home, pick up the other kids and then head back to stay in Ethiopia for the 6-8 weeks before the Embassy approved our case.  "You can Skype with your clients. The kids can enjoy their summer break abroad.  They can eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches the whole time if they are too wimpy to try the food", I would explain to him.  It could be business as usual, right?  Ok, so maybe I had indulged in a little too much Chardonnay at that point, but it was making perfect sense to me.  Dave, who we all know is more practical, made me realize that it really would be a difficult thing to pull off.  That night we hung out at the hotel bar and listened to a live band.  It was so much fun.  So beautiful.  I was loving me some Ethiopia!

The next day...back on a plane to America.
Bole International Airport in Ethiopia