While I was in Ethiopia, I wrote this post. "When words fail, pictures will have to suffice." Those were my words, and they were (and still are) true. That week in Ethiopia was an emotional roller coaster. It was pain and joy, frustration and laughter, anger and eagerness. This post is going to be a baring of my soul. It is time to write the details of that week, and the things I was feeling, the little things that happened. You need to hear them. Thank you so much for your support, your comments and encouraging emails, and thank you for your tears and prayers. They meant so much to me. This story is my way of thanking you.
i hadn't slept the night of december sixteenth. i couldn't. and when i got up, i knew i would regret it, but that didn't matter because i was flying to ethiopia. it was cold and way too early, but a family friend picked us up to take us to the airport. we got to the end of our driveway, and my best friend and her dad pulled up. i hid the tears that came when i saw her smiling face. with all the excitement, stress, and exhaustion, i was so happy to see her. it was the perfect way to be sent off.
we rested the afternoon that we arrived - the 18th, i think. i was jetlagged, but sleep would not come. after visiting in 2010, it was so good to be back in a place i loved and missed. as i lay in the bed i would share with my dad for the next few days, i was thinking about them. wondering what they were doing that very moment. wondering what our meeting would be like. finally, it was time to get up and go see them. i remember the bumpy ride, the questions we asked about them, and the familiar sights from a year before.
the transition home
sadly, i don't remember much from our first visit. it was overwhelming. it was exciting. there were hugs, translation, and smiles of recognition. and a huge weight was on my heart, because suddenly it was real. faces i had seen in photos were now children on my lap. this was happening.
i want to share with you something i wrote in my journal. something i haven't shared before. "what if we regret doing this? what if it's too hard? i want my family to stay the way it has been for my entire life, but it won't....i'm feeling guilty for thinking these things. for thinking that we will regret this....i believe it's going to be fine. it will be good. it has been amazing to see the way God helped us get tickets, supplies...He has been helping us prepare the whole time." surely something worked this perfectly by God would not end in regret and grief.
the last hours in ethiopia
after we passed through embassy, the kids came to the guest house. everything was new - the room was clean, there were beds with pillows and blankets, there was a shower and flushing toilet. and as i write this, i am crying. they were so scared, so new to everything that i had taken for granted. we played, took showers, put on new clothes, packed. our flight left on the 22nd of december - just three days before christmas. it didn't feel the christmas when we were there. in fact, i didn't even think about christmas the entire time we were there. all i knew during that last day was what time our plane was leaving and realizing that it was going to be a LONG flight.
the realization hit that day, the 22nd. these kids are real, and they have faults just as i do. they are my siblings now. (do you know how hard that is? to realize that with a woman in the embassy giving you a smile, you now have four new siblings.) they know five english words, and i know ten amharic words. that's not going to get us very far. i can't think about the next few days. all i can think about is the next few minutes, how to tell them what they need to know, how to prepare them for this. and i didn't know what they were feeling. worse than i was, i'm sure. my dad and i could not prepare them for an airport, an airplane taking off, the upcoming arrival to a cold, dark, and entirely new place that was now forever home, but not the home they had known forever.
thankfully, the airplane was somewhat empty, and we were able to stretch out and sleep that night in the air. it brought a respite from the struggle to communicate and the fact that EVERYTHING had to be taught - from how to use the plastic fork, to how to open the bathroom door, how to wash hands, how to tie shoes, etc. etc. it was a very long 14 hours.
this was where we touched down in the united states. i remember smiling and pointing out the window. "look. we're in america." america was a word they understood, and it took on a whole new meaning when we stepped off that plane. welcome to america, kids. two hours in line to get through immigration. hallways lined with restaurants and stores. so many people. white people. this was where the frustration and anger begins. with an announcement, we learned that our flight home (which should have left three hours after we got to washington d.c.) was now delayed. the four were tired, intrigued, and impatient. so we wandered. my dad and i struggled to entertain as the flight was pushed back hour after hour. i was ready to cry, and i did a few times. i struggled to keep the tears back, because i would not let anyone see me cry. we were exhausted and done. done with airports and uncomfortable chairs and questions and stares.
after eight hours in the washington d.c. airport, our plane finally took off. i closed my eyes the minute i sat down and fell asleep. i awoke as we were landing. the littlest of "the four" was crying. she was scared and in pain from the pressure in her ears. the sun was setting and i knew we were finally home. i remember walking out into the dark, the family waiting, and my mom standing on the sidewalk. i walked to her and began to cry in her hug. i crawled to the back of the car, trying to control the tears. we were home, finally.
it was december 23rd, around 7 o'clock. i walked into my house, and all eleven of us walked through the rooms, showing "the four" around. we settled in for the night. after a shower, i sat in a dark room downstairs, curled in a ball on the chair. and i began to sob. for some back story, i've never been very fond of change. i don't handle it well. i just don't like it. and this change...this was the biggest change i had ever experienced. i realized that my family would no longer be the family i had known for fifteen years. i was mourning - already - for what i had lost. it was selfish, but all the adoption books said it would happen and it needed to happen. christmas passed in a blur, and we began to become a family. there was screaming and crying and anger. there were blank stares, hatred, and pain. six days later, i wrote this in my journal: "christmas and the first week of this adoption have flown by. truthfully, i don't even want to be writing here right now. i barely know what day it is." our new life had begun, but it did not end the way it began.
If you have followed my blog since then, you know that this story is redemptive. And if you don't know, let me tell you. This experience has changed me and every single person in my family. It has brought me so much closer to God. It is a story of difficulty, pain, mourning for what was lost, and learning. Everyday there is grace and mercy from our Lord. There is love and joy (most days) in this house now.
Adoption is not easy. It's not. It will never be easy. But I would never change it. I would never go back. The pictures of four kids in Ethiopia have become four siblings that I love very dearly. And tonight we are all sleeping by the Christmas tree - all eleven of us. It feels like home, and it feels like family. It feels so right. The Christmas my dad and I missed, the Christmas The Four didn't understand, is now a time to create traditions and a time to enjoy each other. This story is redemptive and for that I am so thankful.