Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Ethiopia - Court


What a busy day it has been!  Now it is my first opportunity to journal!

We had court this morning.  We were a bit delayed in getting there because the agency van was out taking some infants to the clinic for vaccinations.  I find sometimes that it's just best not to look at the time.  I figure we'll get there when we get there.  One great thing about a later start was that we were able to stop by the transition home before going to court.

When we arrived at the transition home, we were told we could go upstairs and see Feven!  We wasted no time in climbing the stairs and making our way to her room.  Her crib is right next to the door, and so I like to peek in on her before she can see us just to see what she's doing on a normal day.

We had maybe 10 or 15 minutes with her, but in that time we were able to see her army crawl and roll over.  What a treat!  Yesterday we learned that she could, in fact, smile.  Now today, two more things we had been wondering about have been confirmed.

Soon the babies were back from the clinic, so we hopped in the trusty van with our entourage and made our way to the courthouse.  Upon arrival, we took the elevator to the 3rd floor and entered a waiting room filled with people.  There were more people than chairs, so we stood in the middle of the room for awhile until more seats opened up.

In the waiting room, we were supposed to be silent.  The judge's chambers are directly off of the waiting room, and I heard one story that the waiting room got so loud once and she was so fed up that she sent everyone away for the day and saw no other cases!  Today in the waiting room it was not silent, but most people were talking quietly.  At one point I guess it did get too noisy, because the secretary came out and pounded on the door.  We all hushed like school kids!

One by one, different families were called - both Ethiopian and American.  The place began to empty out, and soon it was just us and about 6 others.  Finally they called our orphanage's name and it was our turn!

We stepped into the judge's office with our translator.  The judge spoke to us in English and asked us about 5 questions, things like, "Do you have any other children?"  "Have you learned about Ethiopian culture?  "Do you have connections to other adoptive parents?" "Have you met Feven?"  I smiled really big when she asked us that question, thinking of our wonderful daughter.

The judge then said that adoption is irreversible and will be forever.  Do we understand that? (Yes) And we still want to proceed with adopting Feven? I smiled even bigger and was so excited to say yes!  We are thrilled to be Feven's parents forever!

After the questions, she informed us that not all of our paperwork was there.  Because of that, we couldn't hear those sweet words, "She's yours."  Our file is still waiting on a letter from the regional court and a letter from the Ministry of Women's Affairs.  The judge told us that our paperwork should arrive by Tuesday, and if so, then the case will be approved.

We were dismissed and rejoined our group in the waiting room.  I felt a little let down; I would have liked to have everything taken care of at that court appointment and be able to walk out with some sort of finality or closure.  However, that wasn't the case, and there wasn't anything I could do about it.  Thankfully our agency's in-country staff will be handling the case and appearing on our behalf on Tuesday.  We don't have to reschedule flights or anything like that.  Our part was to appear today and answer the judge's questions.  That, we did.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Ethiopia - The First Smile


Dear Feven,
You laughed for us today!  We were hoping for one smile and we got so many smiles and a laugh!  It was more than we could imagine.  What made you laugh the most was going up to you with one hand and saying, "hey hey hey" while tickling your tummy.  Also, Daddy would hold you and I would start on one side of the room and creep toward you and tickle your tummy.  You would smile in anticipation as I got closer and closer.  It was simply delightful to see you smile so much.  What a gift!

Also, both morning and afternoon, you fell asleep in my arms.  It was so special.  I love when you do that.  We had so much fun with you today.  I wish you could come home with us now.  I pray that our time away is short and we can come back again quickly to get you.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Ethiopia - Meeting my Daughter's Mother

This post was difficult for me to begin because I want to convey to you in words what happened on a grand emotional and spiritual level.  It doesn't work!  Please read the following with grace, and I hope that my words give you a glimpse of what happened when we got to meet Feven's mother.  I pray that this post is honoring to both my daughter and her mother.  Additionally, I am withholding some information because this story isn't all mine to tell.  This story is an intimate piece of my daughter's life, and when she has words and the desire to share, she can tell you more.

From events on 1/24/12, the first day we met our daughter.

Shortly after our first time feeding Feven, and just after we rocked her to sleep, the director of the Ethiopia program from the states (who happened to be visiting Ethiopia at the time) came into the room, followed by our translator, and maybe the Ethiopian director too.  Our American director said, "We have a unique opportunity for you.  Feven's mom is in town for her court date, and she wants to stop by and see Feven.  Would you like to meet her?"

Zac and I didn't even look at each other, we just both spoke from the heart immediately and said, "Yes, of course!  As long as she's comfortable with it, we would love to meet her."

When we asked when she would arrive, they said, "10 minutes."  WHAT?  10 minutes?  In 10 minutes the stars would align and Zac and I would be sitting in the same room with our daughter and her biological mother?  I still have food sprayed all over me from feeding Feven her lunch!  Feven's dress has food on it - will her mom think that I am not capable for caring for her?  We're supposed to be back at the guest house for lunch - we're going to be late and it's our first day there!  I haven't made my list of 100 questions for her mom yet - will I remember to ask her everything that I wanted to?

Zac got me the cell phone so I could call our guest house and explain that we would be arriving late for lunch.  I was on the phone with them, trying to explain the situation, when I saw a woman walk by the windows of our room.  Within moments, she walked in the door and there she was, Feven's mom.

As for me?  I was still on the cell phone.  Great first impression!

I quickly handed off the phone to Zac.  I don't remember what I said to the person on the line or to Zac, but I handed off the phone.  I stood up with sleeping Feven and placed her in her mother's arms.  It was instinct.  I didn't make a conscious decision to do it, and looking back, I'm so glad I gave her to her mom right away.  We have years to hold Feven; this was her mom's time to hold her.

When I envisioned meeting Feven's mom, my imagination painted a picture so different than what actually was!  Instead of a more traditional dress, her mom wore jeans and a denim jacket.  Instead of wearing a scarf on her head, her hair was pulled into a high ponytail.  She was thin and tall - as tall as me or a little taller.  Her smile was shy and she had a quiet peace about her.  She was young, not yet 20 years old.

I was mesmerized by her - I wanted to stare at her and see if I could see similarities in Feven's features and hers.  I wanted to ask her a million question and have her tell me all about her life.  I wanted to hold her hand and acknowledge the hurt and pain that she has seen in her life.  I wanted to express to her the deep gratitude I have for the opportunity to raise this child.

Feven, on the other hand, was not mesmerized by her mother.  She was not a happy camper because she had not been feeling well, and then I stirred her from her nap in the hand-off to her mom.  She began to cry, and her mom stood with her and bounced her as she paced.  I watched her mom pat Feven's back to comfort her.  The motion was familiar and comfortable.

Our translator was with us, and so we began asking questions.  One of my favorite questions we asked was what her mom was like when she was little.  A smile spread across her face and she said she liked to play with dolls and play soccer.  She looks to me like an athlete, so I bet she was really good at soccer!

We asked her what her dreams were for Feven, and she said she wanted her to go as far as she could in her education.  We looked at her and promised we would help to carry out that dream.  Feven's education is important to her mom, and important to us too.

Her mom also said she wants Feven to know that she was born in Ethiopia, and she asked us if we planned to bring her back to Ethiopia.  Now, Zac and I had talked about returning with her someday to show her where she was born, but let me tell you - when your daughter's biological mom is sitting in front of you, asking if you will bring her daughter back to her birth country, you say yes and you MEAN it!  Now we will start saving for our first trip back to Ethiopia!  :)

One thing that was nagging at me was that I wondered if her mom knew that Feven would be taken so far away when she was adopted.  What if she thought that she would remain in Ethiopia, or go to a neighboring country?  I asked the translator to ask her, and we learned that her mom knew that if she brought Feven to this particular orphanage that she would go to the states, and that's specifically why she chose that place.  She wanted Feven to have many opportunities in life and felt the US could provide that.  Also, Feven's mom saw a photograph of a boy who had been adopted by somebody in the states and he looked so happy.  She wanted that for her daughter.

I am humbled by the love that Feven's mom has for her.  Life hasn't dealt her an easy hand - at a young age she became a single mom.  She has to work, but has no mother of her own to watch Feven while she works.  There are not a lot of options for her, but she has such a great love for her daughter that she has chosen to say a hard goodbye in order to give her daughter a better chance at life.  Wow.  That is a selfless love.  That is a sacrificial love.

I can't wait to tell Feven of the love that has surrounded her since birth.  Her mom loves her very much and raised her for her first few months of life.  Feven was then placed into the care of wonderful nannies who cared deeply for her.  They played with her, cooed to her, sang to her, and rocked her.  Feven has been surrounded by love in both the orphanage and transition home.

And now Feven is coming to us.  We love her so much already, and have loved her ever since the first day we saw her picture and heard her name.  Feven has a large extended family awaiting her, ready to cherish her and teach her.  Also, she has numerous future friends and playmates who anxiously await her arrival from "eefiopia," as one of the little boys says.  This is a very lucky, very blessed little girl.

I am so grateful for the love Feven's mom has modeled to me.  I hope that I too have that sacrificial, selfless love for Feven.  It was an incredible privilege to meet her mother, and we will likely see her again on our return trip.

And yes, in case you're wondering, I HAVE started my list of questions so that I'm prepared the next time!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ethiopia - Waiting and Watching


I am sitting in the alley, waiting for the van to come and pick us up to see Feven.  It is another beautiful day.  The people who pass by in the alley are friendly and if I wave they usually smile or wave too.  Some of the kids that walk by have maroon pants, dresses, or skirts.  These are their school uniforms.  They are heading to class.

I feel less tired today.  Both Zac and I were up at 3am again and we laid awake for a few hours before finally (yay!) falling back asleep.

I have more mental energy to learn the language and am ready to try new things today.  It is amazing to see what sleep can do.  :)

Zac and I came up with a few more ideas of things to do with Feven today.  I think we were all getting a little bored with the room we were in for so many hours yesterday.  We hope to walk around the complex more today, and maybe play a little bit with the older kids with Feven.

From where I sit, I see some palm trees.  Not tall, maybe just 1 story tall.  There are also what look like pine trees, but they are much skinnier than by our home and a little more sparse.  The mornings are cool, and it's pants and sweatshirt weather.  Midday brings with it t-shirt weather, and then back to a sweatshirt in the evening.  It couldn't be more perfect.

Van is here - off to see Feven!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Ethiopia - First Lunch


Dear Feven,
As I write, you are asleep on Daddy's chest.  As he breathes, your little body moves with his chest.  Your arms are hanging at your sides - you are sleeping heavily!

I don't think you are feeling well today.  Your nose has been running and running, and you are coughing a lot.  You are drooling a lot and fussing too, so maybe you are getting teeth.  Who knows!  All I know is that this is the 2nd time I've seen you today and the third time you've fallen asleep on us!  I'm glad you feel safe enough with us to sleep.  I'm glad your little body is getting some rest.  I'm glad you're sleeping.

While you are sleeping, I thought I would write down the story of our first time feeding you.  We all had a lot of laughs!

This morning when our translator walked into the room near the end of our visit with you, she said it was going to be lunchtime soon and we could feed you if we wanted.  We of course said yes!  She brought a container of mashed-up potatoes and carrots in a broth with garlic and onions.  It smelled so good, and you were HUNGRY!

We tried to take off your pretty outfit before we fed you, but you would not have it!  You wanted to eat - NOW!  I held you on my lap and tried to hold you with your arms pinned so you would not grab for the bowl and tip it over.  You did not like this much, either.

You began to cry, and our translator suggested that maybe I was feeding you too slowly.  I tried to speed it up a little, and you liked that better.  However, soon you began coughing and the food shot all over!  We all started laughing and I was laughing so hard I had tears in my eyes!  I could hardly see to keep feeding you, but we couldn't stop or else you would get mad!

You coughed food onto your pretty outfit, my pretty outfit, my face, and Daddy's face.  It was everywhere! Even later that night I still found food in my hair and on my face!  I will always remember that first time feeding you!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Ethiopia - Meeting HER


The taxi came for us at 9am.  Looking back, I can't remember if I was nervous or not.  I think I was just excited and ready to hold our daughter in our arms.

As we bumped through alleys and sailed down smooth paved roads we passed children in school uniforms, walking with books in hand.  I thought about our daughter Feven, and how she could be any of the faces we were passing.

I stared out the windows hungrily, trying to take in every sight of this new place; after all, this was really our first time out and about since we arrived!  All the homes had large gates and walls around them, and it reminded me so much of my time in Peru and Bolivia.

Many people were walking along the streets.  Some were the children going to school, some were vendors carrying their wares, others were people just running errands to the corner market or walking to catch a taxi van to work.  I drank it all in.

We soon left the more residential area and moved toward the city.  Now wide sidewalks ran along each side of the street, and instead of homes lining the road, there were small shops with narrow doors, or long walls behind which were schools or perhaps businesses.

Before I knew it, we were turning off into an alley again.  As we bumped along slowly, we passed a few repair shops where men in blue overalls sat on overturned buckets or curbs, chatting with one another and waiting to begin work.  We passed a few children who were playing jump rope and tag in the alley.  They stopped and stared at us when we passed by.

Our driver slowed and honked at one point, and the gate beside us opened up.  As more and more of the courtyard and building behind the gate became visible, I recognized it from the pictures I had seen of the House of Hope - we were there!

Clotheslines with little onesies and socks crossed over the courtyard like garland.  A slightly-rusted, colorful merry-go-round hid itself under all the clothes.  A few older children were playing hopscotch under the hanging clothes, and a couple nannies moved about on the second floor balcony. 

The Family Room where we would meet Feven was not ready for us, so we were brought into the infant playroom to wait until the Family Room was ready.  The infant playroom is a bedroom where most of the floor is covered by thin, green gymnasium mats.  Here the infants can roll, crawl, or walk around without the danger of falling and hurting themselves on a hard floor.  Brilliant.  I think I need to find a way to have one of these in our house.

Zac and I spent a few minutes watching the other little ones and interacting with the nannies.  Soon our translator was back to retrieve us, but instead of telling us the Family Room was ready, she was lowering a baby into our arms.  She was saying as she did so, "Here she is..." 

WHOA!  This is Feven!  This is it!  This is the moment!  Here is our daughter!!!

No camera was rolling to capture the moment; I didn't have time to think about exactly how I wanted it to go, we didn't even have time to think about what to say!  Our daughter was placed into my arms as I sat on a green gymnasium mat!

In that split second, what happened within me was amazing.  I didn't take time to process that I was meeting my daughter, instead, all thoughts went to her.  I wanted to do everything I could to make her feel comfortable and safe with us.  I chose to keep her sitting a small distance away from me so she wouldn't feel overwhelmed or scared.  We checked each other out for awhile, and I found myself rubbing her back and arms, trying to soothe her and let her know she was loved.

Please ignore how exhausted I look here!  Yikes!  
That's what 5 hours of sleep in 43 hours does to me!

I think the biggest miracle was that none of us cried.  She was placed in the arms of someone with much lighter skin than she was used to, and she was also starting the "stranger danger" developmental stage, but she didn't cry.  I - one of the most emotional people I have ever met in both sad and happy times - did not shed a tear.  I cried before we left thinking about the enormity of the journey we were on, but that first time seeing her?  Not a tear.  I think I was just in awe of this wonderful little girl.

As silly as it sounds, I was kind of afraid to speak to her.  I knew the words I would use were unfamiliar ones to her.  I had only a handful of Amharic phrases to speak to her and after I used those up (5 seconds into our visit), I didn't know what else to do.  I think Zac saved me by saying, "Do you think you've held her long enough?" 

Ah, yes.  I should probably share Feven.

We had so much fun just staring in awe at this wonderful little girl and thinking about all the amazing moments that lie ahead of us.  After a few long years and an arduous process, we were holding her in our arms.  The many months we had waited and times we doubted melted away like spring snow.  She was in our arms.  We were finally with our daughter.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ethiopia - Bright and Early


It is now 5am and morning cannot come soon enough!  Zac and I have been awake since 3:45/4:00.  Our bodies, despite having been through nearly 32 hours without sleep, think they have just taken a long nap and should get up for supper back home.  We were so hungry that we turned on the lights and had some granola bars for a snack!

Since being up, we have also had a wonderful discussion about names and naming, and anything else that came to mind.  Zac's now playing games on the iPod and I had to write some more thoughts down before they left me.

Last night in the car ride to the guest house, we were talking with our translator and asked about the rain.  We wanted to know if the rain was typical for this time of year.  He said no, that this is the first time that it has rained since the rainy season ended over 3 months ago.  This was not typical at all.  However, he said that rain is a sign of good luck and he suggested that maybe it was a sign that all would go well with our adoption.

I don't want to forget what it was like last night to fly into Addis.  We flew for so long in the dark with no city lights below and suddenly there was Addis.  You could see the lights from the sky.  The roads were illuminated, snaking this way and that.  It was beautiful!  The city seemed so big, and I think it is.  Perhaps 4 million people is the most recent count.

It was pure torture to fly in at night and not be able to see anything!  I'm still anxious for daylight to be able to take in all the sites.  Right now as I peer at the small square of sky visible above the tiny courtyard outside our room, I only see stars.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Ethiopia - We Have Arrived


We have landed after a long day of travel, and tonight we are in our daughter's birth country.  Walking out of the airport a sprinkle of rain was falling and it brought out the dusty smell of the pavement.  There were tropical trees and shrubs and the temperature was wonderful.

All around us people were carrying luggage and drivers were searching for passengers and people were waiting in a very long line.  Although there were many people, it didn't feel as stressful as back home.

We rode with our driver and translator through the night air, navigating streets and curves.  We finally pulled into a smaller, narrow gravel alley and soon we stopped in what seemed to be a neighborhood where everyone was already in bed.

A man opened the gate and we were escorted into a beautiful home.  We were greeted by 4 women who told us about our room and the guesthouse, and the details after that are a blur.  We have not slept in 32 hours.  Time. For. Bed.  That is, if we can even sleep tonight knowing that tomorrow we meet our daughter!!!

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Next Chapter

12Now it is like looking in a looking-glass which does not make things clear. We cannot see and understand things plainly. But when things become perfect, then we shall fully know and understand everything, just as God knows.
-Worldwide English, 1 Corinthians 13:12

 12We don't yet see things clearly. We're squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won't be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We'll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us...
-The Message, 1 Corinthians 13:12

Thank you, Lord, for the wait.
Thank you for Your bigger plan.
Thank you for our beautiful daughter Feven.