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



Kim said...

Another post that has left my sobbing!! I love that you are journaling all of this for your sweet girl.

Jenni said...

Meeting your daughter's birth mom was nerve wracking, I'm sure, but what a gift it will be for your daughter! I am so glad we had this opportunity with our children as well.

Emily Kate said...

Sooo beautiful..the words and your baby girl.

Darcie said...

this little girl is so beautiful!
Found you on faith blogs. I love the music playing so im leaving your blog open for a while ;)