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...