Monday, July 16, 2012

Ethiopia 2 - Hello Again

While in Ethiopia, we were given the opportunity to visit Feven's hometown.  We went to the orphanage where Feven first lived, and while we were there, we had a meeting with her birth mother.  For some families, this is the first opportunity they have to speak with a birth relative, but for us it was actually the second.  We had a surprise, spur of the moment meeting with her birth mom on our first trip.

Because we had met before, it totally took the pressure off for this second meeting.  All the unknowns were replaced with excitement and anticipation to see her again.  We even made a special book with pictures of Feven, our home, community, and relatives that we were looking forward to giving her. 

When we pulled into the orphanage, I was a little out of it from the long car ride.  We hopped out and began to look around.  The translator was leading us to someone and it took me a moment to realize it, but then I saw that it was Feven's birth mother!  Her hair was different this time and while she had jeans on again, this time she wore a white hoodie.  She had the same soft, dimpled smile as last time - the smile that we see everyday now when we look at Feven. 

I was overflowing with joy upon seeing her again.  We made our way to the orphanage director's office and sat down.  Our translator was taking care of something else and didn't come right away, so we sat with Feven's mother in somewhat awkward silence.  We had so much we wanted to say, but we didn't speak Amharic.  I realized that I could give her the book now, and she could page through while we waited.  I sat beside her and we looked through it together. 

When our translator came in, we paged through the book again and I got to tell her all about the people and places in the pictures.  It was fun to share, and I hope the pictures gave her comfort.  At the end of the book, Zac and I composed a long message to her, trying to convey with words the deep respect and gratitude we have for her.  When asked if she wanted it translated, she said no, that she would read it on her own.  I don't know how much English she knows, but she spent quite a few minutes reading it.  I hope she understood all of it.  We thought long and hard about what we wanted to tell her, and the words we chose were important. 

After looking at the book, we started asking her some questions.  We learned quite a few things!  We learned that she is training as a runner.  To train, she runs in the stadium or runs up the mountain.  No small feat! 

We asked her what kind of man she wanted Feven to marry.  The first thing out of her mouth was, "An athlete."  We all laughed about that.  We told her that whenever boys would come to the door asking for Feven, we would take out a stopwatch and tell them to run to the corner and back.  If they were fast enough, we'd let them talk to Feven!  She also went on to say that she wanted her to marry someone who would treat her well, and also someone who is a man of God.  We told her we would see to these things.

We were fortunate to take a video of her giving a message to Feven.  Our translator was on the video as well, translating Feven's birth mom's words from Amharic to English.  This video is so special to us!  She said a number of things, but one that sticks out to me is that she told Feven to work hard at school.  I think we'll play this message for Feven each September.  :)

It was incredible to have the opportunity to speak with Feven's birth mother again.  I didn't want our time to end.  She thanked us for coming all the way to Assela and asking her what SHE wanted for Feven.  I was surprised by that because I can't imagine it any other way.  Yes, Feven is our daughter, but she is also the biological daughter of another woman.  That bond will forever be there, and we will likely think about each other regularly for the rest of our lives.  Her wishes for Feven are just as important to me as my wishes for Feven.

It's funny because when we started the adoption process, I was scared of open adoption.  Open adoption is when the adoptive family keeps in touch on some level with the biological family.  It seemed too invasive for me, too unknown.  I was scared.  Now I have participated in a more closed adoption.  We will not have direct contact with Feven's birth mother, and I am saddened by that.  Now that we have met her and know her, we love her.  We have her to thank for our beautiful daughter.  I want her to know all of the special things in Feven's life - like her first steps, first words, personality and silly things she does.  I also want her to know that I think of her every. single. day.  I want her to know that I pray for her, both that God will heal her hurts and bring good things her way. 

Zac and I took a few photos with Feven's birth mother before heading home.  When we said goodbye, I lingered.  I think I hugged her, but I don't remember exactly anymore.  I know I wanted to.  I think I did.  I also think I held her hand and said a heartfelt "thank you" in her language. 

I don't know when I will see her again and that is hard.  There's a lump in my throat as I type that and the realization sinks in yet again.  I feel such a strong connection to her, and our lives are forever intertwined.  She is often in my thoughts, and often in my conversations with my daughter.  Soon her picture will be up in my daughter's room for us to look at each day.  She is part of our lives.  I wonder if we are part of hers too.  I wonder if she pages through the book we gave her and wonders about us.  I wonder if the pages of the book have water splotches from tears of sadness or tears of joy.  I wonder if the book is tucked away somewhere because it's too hard to look at now.  I don't know.  I have a lot of wondering.  I think that I will always have a lot of wondering. 

We intend to bring Feven back to Ethiopia at least once.  I hope we can bring her back more times.  And when we bring her back, I hope with all my being that we will be able to see her birth mother again.  She is an amazing, amazing woman.

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