Sunday, October 9, 2011

Travel Journal Trip 2: Day 6

June 29, 2011

Birth Mother Meeting

Dear Lil' Miss,

I was a bundle of nerves as I woke up this morning.  Yesterday we had asked Tsige if there were still plans for us to meet your Birth Mother today...and as far as she knew, there was.  Although she did warn us that because of the long trek your Birth Mother would be making in combination with the rainy season...there were no guarantees.

We were able to get a hold of Grandma VG on Skype...but it was far too early for your big brother to be awake.  It worked out though, because I was in tears and full of nerves.  Grandma was up early filled with anxiety because she knew how nervous I was for today.  I explained to Grandma my turmoil over this meeting...

For your sake, I prayed she would be there.  I hoped to gather as many answers as possible for the moment in your future that you would need them the most.  I longed to hug her and thank her for her most selfless gift she could ever give.  And I wanted so badly to have a picture of the four of us together to cherish and share with you.

But for my sake, I dreaded the meeting.  I was already a ball of emotion without having to meet and converse with the woman who chose life for you.   Would she like me?  Would she look at me?  Would she smile?  Would she cry?  Would she care?  For the sake of coping, we had illustrated a probable story of what had happened leading to the day your Birth Mom relinquished her rights.  Would I be relieved that she loved you as much as I had imagined or disappointed that the reality of your past wasn't at all what I had hoped?

Tsige informed us that they would call the hotel if they learned that she didn't make it in time.  But after waking up, getting ready, and having breakfast...we assumed that the meeting would be taking place after all (even after the incredible downpour we had experienced during the night)!  This knowledge had me literally sick to my stomach with nerves...daddy too.

At breakfast we talked with all the other families about our fears, but they quickly put things into perspective for us.  Out of the four other families with us, only one had a birth family and they were unable to make it for their meeting.  Although they were all very understanding and supportive...I think many of them wished they were given this opportunity.

They asked us what kind of questions we were prepared to ask.  In all honesty, I had been so completely focused on being here with YOU that I didn't wrap my mind around the possibility of this meeting actually happening.  Besides the photo album I had spent MONTHS perfecting...I had nothing prepared.  No questions, nothing.  Thankfully these four families helped me out with questions they wished they could ask.  And the family whose Birth Family meeting didn't pan out??  They brought to our room (after breakfast) the list of questions they had prepared.  THANK GOODNESS!  We spent about a half hour before being picked up going over that list deciding which questions we wanted to focus on and getting you as prepared as possible for this meeting.  And then our phone rang letting us know our ride was here (side note: on the first trip we always tried to be down in the lobby waiting for them so whoever was driving wouldn't have to wait on us....but on this trip you took priority so often the lobby would call our room and we'd be all ready and run down).

Our drive to Hannah's Hope was quiet.  You stared out the window, I sat with my palms sweating, and daddy barely spoke (soooo not normal =D).  When we pulled up, Danny pulled into the gates of Hannah's Hope, parking by the toddler house and staff office.  Not knowing exactly how this would all play out, my eyes were peeled for your Birth Mother.  Having only seen a few photos of her, I wasn't sure I would recognize her right away.  As we hopped out of the van, the older children at Hannah's Hope ran up to say hello and to get you to smile.  I didn't feel like my normal self...I smiled nervously and kept scanning the property.  Out of the office stepped an unfamiliar and beautiful face.  She ran up to us and said "T*******" (your given name).  I knew this wasn't your Birth Mother...she looked nothing like your photos...but I also knew we hadn't met her before and wondered how she knew you.  I didn't know if she was a staff member we just hadn't met or if she knew you before we had.  Either way, we smiled and said hello and then she ran off towards the classrooms (I assumed she was in a hurry to find your Birth Mother and part of me longed to run after her).  {***We put together the pieces after we got home and found out that this woman was Birtukan, the director of the Bethzatha Orphanage in Hosanna where your Birth Mom first brought you.***}

We walked over to the office where Almaz greeted us and led us back to her office.  "I feel like I'm going to throw up" I whispered to your daddy.  Almaz sat down at her desk and we made ourselves comfortable.  "How are you doing?" she asked us.  "Nervous" we admitted.  She took a moment to answer any questions and we gave her the photo album we had put together for your Birth Mom and then she walked out of the room to go find her!  I made sure you were properly covered (no exposed limbs, since Ethiopians seem to frown on that) and got out our camera and our flip.  My palms were sweating.  Oh gosh, this was it.  What do you say to the woman who gave you your daughter???

Due to the intimacy of this moment, I'm going to refrain from sharing details of this meeting on my blog and save it for you someday...and then you can share it however you feel comfortable.  However, I will say that this experience far exceeded our expectations.  Your Birth Mother and I were both thrilled to learn that we shared some common interests as well as hopes and dreams for you.  It was an amazing and emotional connection.  Words can't describe it...but I hope to pay it justice someday for your sake.  We are so thankful for this meeting and hope that one day we can travel back together as a family and reunite.  She is family to us now too.

Almaz translating the book we made {And THAT is Birtukan smiling!}

Using the flip to capture this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity!

You...asleep in your Birth Mother's arms!

After a lot of laughs and a good share of tears, we exited the building together and took a moment for photos.  Then we hugged and kissed and said our goodbyes.  Although I was watching through teary eyes, I know I saw a smile on her face as we parted ways.

Birth Mom, Me, Daddy, Birtukan

You are SO blessed to have the unconditional love of TWO woman.
One who gave birth to you...and one who raised you.

My expectations for the day was that we would stay at Hannah's Hope for a while, but when Danny offered to bring us back to the hotel after this emotional morning, we accepted.

Back at the hotel, our friends swung by our room to see how our meeting went...and although we didn't share details, I know we were all grateful that at least one of us had this opportunity.

After sharing lunch together, we secluded ourselves in our room for a nap.  The emotions of this trip...and this day, had us all exhausted.

We hung out with a couple of the other families later in the day.  The "S" family had received all their paperwork a day early and were trying to get an earlier flight home.  As much as we hated to see them go, we could relate to being ready to leave.  The first trip felt so short and we didn't get to see even half of what we had hoped to.  But this second trip was a whole 'nother ball game!  Emotions ran high and as you got used to being in our custody, we were hesitant to get you on too much of a schedule before switching it all back up again.  Don't get me wrong....we were thankful for the bonding time before pulling you away from any environment you ever knew...but we were VERY ready to get home and start our lives together.  We wouldn't blame anyone for wanting to cut this trip a little short, however sad we were to see them go!   Unfortunately for them, it just wasn't meant to be.  But that did mean we got to enjoy a little more of their time! =)

I think everyone had hit the point of exhaustion this trip because several families turned in early tonight.  Babies' schedules were out of whack and parents were all tired and home-sick (and a few physically sick).  We headed down for dinner alone with just a few families tonight, but within minutes of placing our order...we knew it was a mistake.  You were rubbing your eyes and fussing....and we had already learned how quickly that turns into a complete meltdown.  Daddy pulled the waiter aside and asked if it was possible to get the food delivered to our room instead, and they seemed happy to oblige. 

We said goodnight to our friends and turned to our room.  We gave you a bath and got you all dressed for bed before they arrived with our food (I had ordered Beef Shiro and it always seemed that Ethiopian food took a bit longer to prepare - no complaints here though!).  After finishing your bottle, you went down for bed no problem...and daddy and I finally got to enjoy our food.  This was my first time ordering this specific dish...but OH MY was INCREDIBLE!!!!  Probably my favorite yet!  WHY had I waited so long to try it???  I ate the ENTIRE thing (most Ethiopian dishes are meant to be shared) and wished I had more.  I went to bed one happy woman that night!!!

Tomorrow we would say our goodbyes to Hannah's Hope and to Ethiopia.  I wasn't sure I was ready for this...

Until then yene konjo!
Your Mama


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Travel Journal Trip 2: Day 5

June 28, 2011

Embassy Appointment

Dear Lil' Miss,

Another great night with our little trooper - way to go sweet thing!  It always made us laugh that about the time we would get you back to sleep (after you would wake for a bottle) that we would hear Baby E waking up below us.  The special mothers definitely had you all on a tight schedule!  =)

Today was a big day and it made us feel like we needed to rush...but in all reality, our appointment wasn't until 1:00pm and it was quite early yet.  So we took our time getting up and getting ready.  Chantel let me borrow her shampoo and conditioner in hopes I could save my hair a LITTLE!  Hahaha!  What I didn't know was that she had poured shampoo and conditioner into old travel size Pureology bottles.  I thought that's what was actually IN the bottles, so I used the shampoo as normal, and then when it was time for conditioner...I noticed that the bottle said it was a styling product.  I chuckled to myself thinking that she thought that was conditioner when it was actually a blow dry cream (leave it to the hairstylist to take it literally) and shrugged that I wouldn't get to condition after all.  I got out of the shower, yanked a comb through my matted hair, and dumped some of the "styling product" into my hair before I blow dried it.  I thought my hair felt REALLY smooth (for not having a flat iron) and was pretty proud of myself....until Chantel told me later that it WAS conditioner!!!  I put condition STRAIGHT on my hair without rinsing it!!!  And the CRAZIEST part....was that my hair was SO dry from being conditioner-free for several days that it just soaked it all up!  I didn't wash my hair the next day either and I wasn't greasy one bit!  CRAZY.

Morning Nap

SLOWLY waking up
Almost dressed for Embassy, we just added a dress over this.
After a nice break- fast with our frien- ds, daddy went down to reception to call the airport again.  Much to our surprise, our luggage had ARRIVED!!!  I was so happy, I can't even describe it to you!  Danny was supposed to be swinging by the Riviera shortly, so daddy's plan was to ask him for a ride to the airport...and if that didn't work out, then the Rivera staff could take him later.  I looked out the window with daddy waiting for a ride, but when Danny showed up, he had too many things to do and errands to run.  So then we waited for the Riviera van to get back (they were picking up people from the airport, people we didn't know) so that he could get a ride with them.  Eventually he was on his way and you and I were on our own for the first time.  Of course, you napped like a good little I wasn't all that concerned (not that I would be anyway).  I tidied up the room a little bit, although there wasn't that much to do with no luggage.  This would have been a good time to read one of the MANY books I had our lost luggage...  In a short while you woke up again, and we played together.  I had only a few toys, but thankfully you seemed to take to them.  It didn't take long for you to get bored of me though...obviously you are used to a room full of faces, so I'm sure this solo stuff was quite wierd.  You began to fuss, so I rocked you and we looked out the window while listening to music on my cell phone.  I was a little worried that the battery would die on that too...but I was running out of distractions for you so I went with it.  It seemed like hours passed that we did this, and I was anxious for your daddy to get back (and wishing I had a way to contact him) and keeping a constant watch on the clock, remembering what time we were supposed to be picked up for Embassy.  He eventually did come back, but when he walked in the room he only had ONE suitcase.  I was so happy he had ONE that I didn't really question it, but I could tell that he was soooo frustrated.  When he had called that morning, the airport staff confirmed that both were there...but when he showed up, only one was.  They searched everywhere for the other one, with no luck.  And whereas before they could scan our luggage tags and tell us that they were still in Amsterdam, this time, they had no idea where the other piece of luggage had gone.  NONE.  I hardly cared, I ripped open that suitcase so fast!  Unfortunately, this suitcase still had no hair products (either for myself or you) or medications.  We were also missing our snacks and most of daddy's clothes.  Regardless, we had SOMETHING so we tried to look on the bright side.  I began putting things in drawers and closets while daddy played with you.  You instantly had a smile on your face again!  =)  As I quickly tried to get changed and polished up for our appointment, the phone rang....the front desk was informing us that our ride was here.  JUST in time.

It was our family and the I family with our appointments today.  It was wonderful to get to spend some time alone with the I family and get to know their fun family a little bit more!  On the way, we stopped to pick up Tsige who would help us with the paperwork aspect at the Embassy as well as be a translator when needed.  Wass had his IPOD with him and was allowing us to choose the music...we laughed at his wide selection of music, belted out some oldies, and laughed that we knew all the words to the teeny-bopper songs.  It was a HOOT!

Was told us where we could expect to see the U.S. Embassy...and it was not hard to spot!  In the midst of busy street corners, small homes, and shops made of sticks and tarps to shade the owners from the sun, was a GIGANTIC square building with a huge U.S. Flag.  It looked very out of place.  It seemed wrong somehow that the Embassy was bigger than the courthouse we were at a short 5 weeks ago.

Wass parked across the street and waited in the van while Tsige went with us to the appointment.  As soon as the van was stopped, we were surrounded by young boys wanting food, money, and to practice their English.  But right now EVERYthing was about this appointment.  Tsige pushed past the boys and urged us to follow.  We smiled at them and went on our way.

There was some crazy brickwork leading up to the door.  When we walked in it looked like a lot of US courthouses....with strict security.  We had to check in any electronic devices at the front desk...but fortunately Almaz had warned us to leave all that stuff back at the hotel or in the van with Wass.  We had to go through security scanners and the guard made us each take a drink from our water bottle to prove it was just water.  After security we exited and walked through the courtyard (which was meticulously landscaped by the way, with even a sprinkler system installed....sooo American!) into a space that looked much like a DMV.  There were desks at the front of the room with glass in front of them and rows and rows and rows of seating where many people were already waiting.  There was also a kids play area in the corner where we saw several older children playing while waiting with their new families for their turn at the desk.  There were also many Ethiopians there.  We could definitely feel eyes on the back of our heads (we sat in the front row).  We knew from other families that the wait would either be hardly anything, or several hours.  We were prepared with toys, changes of clothes, and food just in case.  You were in the Moby, close to me and you were doing quite well considering.  Not long after arriving their I felt my entire stomach WET.  I asked Tsige where the bathroom was and then headed there with the diaper bag. Most of the public bathrooms in Ethiopia were not conducive to changing a I was a little concerned (not to mention I had forgotten to pack toilet paper for myself).  For the first time I was RELIEVED that this was a very American bathroom!  Automatic toilets, warm water in the sink, a changing area, ect.  I could hardly believe I was still in Africa!!!  I took you out of the Moby and laid you down (on the pull-out diaper changer area thing....yeah, shocking huh!?!) to change your diaper...but it was then that I noticed that you hadn't wet your diaper at all!  You had only sweat through your entire outfit (and mine)!  I laughed and picked you up and brought you back out to daddy.  I was thankful that it was only sweat because I hadn't thought to bring an extra outfit for myself.  Daddy decided to take a layer off of you (much to my dismay because it was the cutest part of your outfit) to cool you off and you were ALL smiles! =)

As he was doing that, the I family was called up to the desk.  After a few short minutes they were all smiles and hugs and tears as they walked back to their seats.  A couple more families went before our family was called.  We walked up to the desk and handed the clerk (American) our paperwork.  She asked us a question but we couldn't hear her at all.  Daddy had to pick up a phone (like at a prison) to hear what she was saying and relay it to me  She asked us a couple if we had met you before court, what we knew about the birth family, ect...and reminded us that your adoption was now full and final!!!  I didn't even try to hold back the tears as I smothered you in kisses all over again =)  She handed us your Ethiopian passport and we walked back to our seats!  Since it was only our two families we got to head out then and there.  I had been so nervous for it, but it was so simple and easy!

We stepped back out into the courtyard and exchanged congratulatory hugs and celebrated the fact that these kids were truly OURS by Ethiopian AND American standards!!!  WOW!  Then we headed back through the security building and back to our van where Wass was waiting for us.  On the drive home (or rather...the hotel), we stopped for a small errand for AGCI and to drop Tsige back off at her home.  By the time we arrived back at the hotel, you had fallen asleep in the Moby again.  We thanked Wass for driving us and headed up to our room to lay you down.

You woke up when I took you out of the Moby, as expected.  But we weren't planning on getting you on a real schedule until we got home.  No use getting you used to our schedule in Ethiopia time and then switching time zones.  Plus...we like to fly by the seat of our pants =)

The S family came up after Baby E woke up from her nap.  We hung out in our room for a while.  You quickly quieted down for a nap though, since yours earlier had been cut so short.  I welcomed the snuggles.  Since our charger had arrived, we finally were able to get on Skype after you woke up we logged on to talk to your big brother.  He was a little less excited to see you this time, obviously very busy with playing.  =)  But Grandpa and Grandma had big smiles!!!  We knew that once again we would have to cut it short though.  If we were going to eat dinner, we had to do it now before the babies melted down.  We were beginning to get your routine down now!  =)

After you sweat through the last outfit =)

Don't be fooled...she STILL doesn't take a binkie! =)
We went downstairs to order dinner with several other families, but it took some time for our food to be prepared and before they even brought our plates out you were starting to meltdown (due to the short nap earlier, I'm sure).  We ate quickly (and therefore our stomachs suffered) and said some quick good-nights...then it was back up to our room for the bedtime routine.

As always, hearing bath- water run brought in instant smile to your face.  You relaxed as soon as we put you in the warm water and fell asleep quickly for bed.  Such an angel!  We just adore you sweet girl!

Good Night....Tonight and EVERY Night!
Your Mama