Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Day 3

It was pretty trippy to go to sleep as a mother of 3 on sunday night and know when I woke up that I would physically have 4 children.  Elliot has legally been ours since court, but since he wasn't in our possession I really didn't feel like I had 4 kids.  As I wrote on day 1, I was pretty nervous about seeing him again. The way it worked was that even though we flew in Sunday, we couldn't go see him til Monday morning.  And the Monday morning visit would be only 10 minutes to reconnect before I had to whisk him away to our embassy appointment.  I woke up early, had some tea, got to pray and read a bit.  I had a lot of peace and was thankful that God has really allowed me to be in the moment this whole trip.  Every time I started to try and predict what it would be like with him these next couple days, God would just shut it down.  So when Abrehem poked his head through the gate, I knew it was time.

When we pulled up to the gates of the orphanage, we saw a lot of the little guys were outside.  It was neat to see them playing outside, because during our court trip I didn't see the nannies take them outside at all.  I thought maybe Elliot would be out there, but he wasn't.  They told me he was upstairs getting dressed and to wait outside.  I sat on the ground and played with all the little ones.  They were so cute and friendly, it was hard not to want to scoop them all up.  One of the nannies popped her head out and said he was ready.  I walked up the 3 flights and saw his little face over the gate of one of the rooms.  I immediately crouched low and crawled over to him.  I started talking low and whispering to him that his mom was back and we were going to go home now.  Of course he didn't understand a word, but I wanted to give him some space but also try and comfort him.  Then I got out my phone and started showing him pictures of the last time I saw him.  I showed him a video of him and I and several pictures.  He started showing some interest, and then once I let him hold my phone, I was inJ 

I carried him downstairs.  He was  bit hesitant, but wasn't reaching for the nannies.  We walked out and got in the car and he let out a couple little cries.  I held him close and tried to reassure him.  By the time we were down the road he had wrapped his body around mine and was gripping my shirt.  I held him tight and scratched his back.  As usual there was massive traffic getting to the US embassy, and before I knew it he had fallen right asleep on me.  It was the best feeling ever.

Embassy was incredibly anti-climatic.  We showed them our passports, waited in a room for about 5 mins, then they called our name.  I walked up to a window and a man asked me a couple questions, then said, 'congratulations, your adoption is complete.'  We left and headed back to the guesthouse.

I had asked the social worker prior to our arrival to have the going away party right after embassy.  They assured me this would be no problem.  I wanted to make a clean break from the orphanage, I didn't want to have to take him back after he had been away.  So when we got back and they told me the party now wouldn't be until Tuesday, I was pretty bummed.  Knowing there was nothing I could do, I just accepted that was the way it would be.  The head social worker of the orphanage called me into the office so they could tell me a bit about Elliot’s schedule.   We went over some basics about what he eats, when he sleeps, personality etc.  It was neat to hear more about his personality.  They told me he is the leader of the toddlers, very outgoing, and a happy boy.  Since all I had witnessed up until that point was a quiet little guy, it was fun to hear about his real self.  After everyone had left the office, it was just me and Elliot and the social worker.  I started to get up to leave, but she stopped me.  She said, ‘can I ask you a small question?’  I said, ‘yes, of course- anything.’  She looked up and said, ‘are you a Christian?’ I said, ‘I am.’  With much relief she said, ‘oh good, that is of the most importance.’ I went on to tell her about our faith, community and that we are praying that a life following Jesus was in Elliot’s future.  She said, ‘that’s good, because he is going to be a pastor.  Watch this.’  Then the boy, who I've heard utter only one or two words, places his hand on her head and says something in Amharic and then a big amen!  It was so crazy.  She went on to tell me how he prays for everyone.  It was pretty special to say the least.
Elliot with nannies and staff at Hilawe

We left Hilawe and headed back to the guesthouse.  He seemed pretty tired, so I just laid him down in the bed next to me and we fell asleep within minutes.  Four hours later, there was a knock at the door telling us it was time for dinner.  Elliot sat down and ate a whole plate of spaghetti and then about half of mine.  The boy can put it back.  It was awesome!  After dinner we got our best glimpse of his true self. He started smiling and laughing and playing with toys and just being generally adorable.  We finally made our way up to our room to get ready for bed, but he was still wide awake from that crazy nap.  So for the next hour he opened and closed these Tupperware tubs my mom brought.  He filled them with stuff from around the room then jammed it all in the cupboard in our room.  He organized and rearranged the shoes and toys.  He was totally entertained for a good hour.  I started to get tired, so I turned out one of the lights and tried to lay him down next to me.  He got right up and kept playing.  After 10 mins more of playing, I finally put him in the bed and turned out the light.  He was asleep within minutes!  He slept the entire night without waking.  It was crazy to wake up every so often and here his little breath. Occasionally he would let out a little whimper or sigh and I would take my hand and place it on his chest.  He finally woke up around  7… I was a little nervous to see how he would be in the morning.  But lo and behold he rolled right over and gave me a big ol smile.  Perfect end to a perfect beginning.


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Day 2

I’m about an hour from touching down in Addis.  The plane ride has, for the most part, been pretty uneventful which I’m super thankful for… however I’m a little concerned about getting the chainsaw in my checked bag through customs!  I’m even more thankful to have my mom by my side on this trip.  As I have mentioned more than once, the first trip we (Brandon and I) took to Ethiopia back in October was the hardest thing I’ve done in my adult life.  Many factors contributed to my anxiety—from stress about how the kids back home would fare without us, to the unthinkable – some type of accident while traveling.  Add those to the stress of being in a new country and meeting your two year old son for the first time.  Yet as I should know by now, God’s grace came in such abundance, that my every little concern was covered in multitudes. 

It was always our intention to travel back the second time together. Since it is not a requirement for both parents to come for the second visit, many adoptive families chose to have only one parent come.  Since the second trip is so short, having only one parent (the primary caregiver) come is a great way to offset the overall adoption cost.  For us it was only about 6 weeks ago that we decided maybe both of us wouldn't come.  Many people were surprised that Brandon was okay with staying back this time.  Once we began throwing the idea around of having my mom come,  I was amazed at the peace God gave me about the trip.  Brandon graciously told me he wanted to do whatever was best for our entire family.  Being able to be totally focused on Elliot this trip was my top priority.  As amazing as it would be having B here, I know that the stress of how the kids back home were doing would make me lose focus. Knowing B is home caring for our babies makes all of this so much easier.   Having a mom whose heart is so inclined for the impoverished, and a heart so full of love for Jesus and all children was the best traveling companion I could have asked for.  Not to mention, I can be my WHOLE self around her, and much like labor, feeling safe in this journey is of paramount importance.

The weeks leading up to this trip have been some of the busiest of my life.  As if juggling 3 kids, a husband, and many extracurricular events wasn’t enough, I suddenly was hit with a massive wave of work.  I’ve been a real estate broker for almost 8 years, yet about 6 months ago I made the decision to go work for a local company.  Previously I just worked from home, mostly with friends and family, and averaged about 2-3 deals a year.  I’m on track to close more escrows in 1 year with SLO realty than all the deals I did as a broker for myself the last 7 years .  I wasn’t sure how well I would transition in to being a working mom, but without even knowing I went from very part time to almost full time.  Thankfully, I really love what I do, so I didn't even realize how consumed I became.  Instead of being super stressed about leaving the kids this go around, I became super stressed about leaving my open escrows.  Yet, like my first trip, my amazing community rallied around me and is standing in the gaps for me.  As I have some time to finally reflect, I’m really realizing how much God used all the work these last couple weeks to totally curb my anxiety about traveling.  I was actually to busy to worry about anything but work!
I found myself saying things like the ‘storm before the calm’ these last few weeks.  I know I can’t fully comprehend just how much my life will change in 1 week.  To go from working my booty off, to girls nights, solo trail runs, date nights with my husband, pedicures with lily, to being a true blue stay at home mom is going to be a very interesting transition.  It’s not easy for me to have to think about saying no to things, but I have to keep reminding myself that these next few months with Elliot are so critical.  That establishing his trust and confidence in me has to outweigh everything. I know it will be such a battle with my flesh, yet as He continues to do, I’m trusting my God will give me everything I need to walk this out.  Please be praying for me in this.

As many of you know, international adoption is quite costly.  B and I were fully prepared to incur any debt for this adoption.  There were times our credit cards got to high, and we had to wait to take the next step, yet either through gifts, an AMAZING fundraiser, or a closed escrow, I am so proud to say that we will walk away from this adoption 100% debt free.  For all of you who have contributed either monetarily, or by watching my kids so I could work, or by having me be your realtor, my heart is so full of thanks and gratitude.  I love seeing God in the details….

Friday, February 22, 2013

Home Part 1

It’s been almost 4 months since I last saw my son.  Many people have asked me if it was really hard to leave him our first and only week together.  One of my biggest fears prior to taking our first trip was just how hard it would be to leave him.  I replayed so many scenarios through my brain about our goodbye and just how much my heart would hurt leaving him.  I imagined the pain and anguish I would convey when I had to tell the story of our first goodbye.  So when we arrived home and I was first asked about our goodbye I was almost embarrassed to say how not hard it was.  Saying goodbye to Elliot, much like this entire experience, has been anything but textbook. 

As I wrote in my prior blogs about our court trip, Elliot was extremely attached to the ‘nannies’ (caregivers) at the orphanage.  He made it very clear that he would tolerate us, but he preferred them.  It was extremely encouraging to know that he could, and was attached to these women.  After all, they had been his mommies for as long as he could remember.  Leaving Elliot with these women was not only easy, but it felt so right.  And as any mom would tell you, your child’s happiness trumps just about everything.

So I guess it goes without saying that my anxiety level about having to take him from his home far trumps any goodbye I've had thus far.  It’s a strange thing to be trembling with excitement about finishing a 2 year process, but also be struggling with pangs of guilt as I prepare to traumatize my son.

I know you’ll say something like, ‘oh, but think about the amazing family and home he is coming in to.’ Or , ‘he’ll adjust so quickly, how could he not love having a real mom and dad.’  And I agree.  I really do.  I keep saying things like, ‘it’s short term pain for long term gain.’  Or, ‘you’re right, life in an orphanage is not an easy road.’  All of these are true, and it does help my brain to feel better about all this, but as a mom, it absolutely breaks my heart. 

Adoption never claimed to be a perfect solution.  In a perfect world, every child would have at least one parent who loves them unconditionally.  For some reason, my first choice for Elliot didn't work out.  And so tonight, I leave everything I hold sacred and safe, and board 2 flights for 20+ hours to find, hold, protect and LOVE the son that was not born of my body, but born of my heart.  The son that God knew that one day would be ours and would finally complete our family, from the moment I laid eyes on that blond hair, blue eyed boy at CCS. 

‘For where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay.  Your people will be my people and your God my God.’ Ruth 1:16