The Hard – One Month Home

Yesterday marked one month since our sweet girl came home. Whoever said that adopting a child of any age is like bringing home a newborn was right!  Despite our best preparations, this past month has been so much more difficult than we could have ever expected, and even more rewarding than we could have hoped for.

The first week we felt helplessness on a whole new level. We watched a baby mourn her previous life in the only way she could, through gut wrenching wailing in sounds we had never heard before.  She bucked, screamed, scratched and hit when we tried to hold her close. One night she cried in our arms for three hours straight.

The only person who could make her smile was her big brother Jackson.

Week two followed with getting up through the night every 30 minutes to soothe her, when she didn’t want to be soothed. There was less hitting, but still a lot of bucking and a great resistance to letting us love her. She didn’t want to be held, but she also didn’t want us to let go. The whole household was exhausted and feeling broken, but we got to see her laugh for the first time when mama showed off some dance moves.

Week three saw improvements on the sleep and her letting go of some of the sadness, with more of her personality peeking through. She started to allow us to hold her close, and reached out to touch our faces and become more silly and less serious. We had our visit with the International Adoption Specialist and they gave us lots of reassuring words on where she was developmentally, and some new medications to help heal her ailments, she was eating and gaining at record speed. We were feeling more optimistic and rested.

Week four, we felt like we were on the home stretch and had made it to the other side. Not so! We began to see mournful crying in the day, not just the night. Nights got easier, and we took it as a good thing that she was letting down her guard throughout the day and just letting us hold her as she cried over the faces, sights and sounds she left behind.

Week four also brought belly laughs and crawling, lots of smiles and “talking,” and the connection with her big brother really began to shine. She loves hanging out with him in their room, and if she’s sad he’s the first one to get a smile out of her. She is starting to let us cuddle with her, and we’re hoping that soon she cuddles back.  For a long time it’s going to be three steps forward, two steps back and we’re at peace with that.

Not gonna lie, the transition has been hard, very hard. We are fortunate to have a great support group. Thank you to those who brought us meals, we needed it. You who called or texted throughout the day just to see if we needed to talk, that meant so much. Others who dropped off diapers and asked us what we needed until we finally stopped trying to be heros and finally accepted help. And, when we had our lowest days and felt like hiding out, made sure that we knew they were there for us by being persistent friends – thank you for not “leaving us alone.” One of my favorite days was finding out a dear friend did her own research on adoption and attachment and said just the right things when I was feeling like no one understood. That someone would care about our adjustment on that level has gotten me through some really tough days. We’ve even gotten out to happy hour a few times, and even the times we couldn’t make it we are grateful that you haven’t forgotten us, and we appreciate the invites nonetheless.

Bringing home a newborn can be terribly isolating. Bringing home am 8 month old or toddler can be as well. Some think that because the child is older it’s less difficult, that you’re not going to have stressful days, sad days or days where you feel very alone. I am here to confirm it’s the opposite. You have to learn this little person’s history through trial by fire. Figure out what her cries mean, hold on tight when she won’t let you comfort her, smile at her as she is physically fighting with all her might against your love and not let her go. And, let’s not forget our sweet boy who needs just as much love and attention, if not more, than before she came home.

I’m sharing all of this because I’ve spent many sleepless nights looking at adoption blogs for others who have been through this and no one talks about “the hard.” On the bright side, we are very fortunate to be going through this at the same time as other families who are sharing their candid experiences and for their words and the sharing of their experiences I will be forever grateful. Hopefully someone will come across this blog when looking for advice on how to help their friend who has adopted, or another adoptive parent who is going through the same thing can find some comfort in knowing that they’re not alone, and it will get better.

Until month two….

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We wanted to write a quick update on how things are going with our case.  Unfortunately, the processing is not going as smoothly as we had hoped.  We woke up this morning to the news that our case has been transferred to Nairobi for further investigation.

Without going into too much detail, it’s not exactly the outcome we were hoping for, which would have been approval from the Embassy.  But, it is forward movement and for that we are grateful.  USCIS in Nairobi tends to give out answers in a much quicker manner than the Embassy in Ethiopia and we are optimistic that we will hear something from them sooner rather than later.

We are extremely upset with this recent development, yet, trying to remain focused and looking forward to the happy day we will be united as a family.

Please continue to hope for a quick and positive outcome to our case.

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Waking Up In Ethiopia – Day Two

We were up bright and early (3:30 AM) since Jackson had a nice long restful sleep during the previous day. ;)  At around 5:00 AM, liturgical singing begins which can very easily wake you up, but we were up anyway.  After going downstairs and having our breakfast, we were taken to see Harlow again.

The first hour with her was a total blur, mostly due to the fact Steve and I barely got to hold her. Jackson was ever the doting brother and wanted to hold her, feed her, burp her, etc.  We’ll see how well that goes once she’s home. :)  She was alert, but clearly wondering who we were and a little bewildered by all of the excitement.  She’s a very laid back baby, again, we’ll see how that works our once we’re home.

She had great muscle tone when we did some tummy time, though she’s not sitting up unassisted yet.  She has the biggest brown eyes you’ll ever see with lovely long lashes.  She’s a little beauty, and very smart – we can totally tell.  She is sweet and snuggly and a little hesitant with strangers (this is good), but once you get her smiling and “talking” she doesn’t stop.  We could have spent all day with her, but we headed off for our daily excursion to see more of the country.

The good thing about CAN/West Sands is that they keep you busy.  They don’t necessarily want you (transition)housebound all day because it would be harder on the kids and us when it comes time to leave.  After what felt like five minutes of snuggling and cuddling, but was closer to two hours, it was time for us to head out.

Most of our travels were done in a Toyota van that holds up to 12 people.  The roads are somewhat incomplete, for lack of a better word, and you’re competing with people and cattle for a space on the road.  Everyone drives fast, and you’re often off-road (on an undeveloped road).  Getting to your destination is half the adventure. :)

Our first stop was a school in Nazaret.  This is a school that our agency is working with to sponsor.  The kids went wild over Jack and kissed and hugged him from head to toe.  He was pretty taken aback at first, but then they grabbed his hand and off they went to play and learn.  Kids have a universal language like no other.

At this school, the teachers teach for free.  There is no lunch program and the kids are fortunate to be able to attend.  It makes me realize how much we take education for granted, along with lunch programs, and clothes and shoes that fit.  It really put things into perspective to us and reminded us to see beyond the small world we inhabit each day.  It was one of the moments on the trip I was so grateful we brought Jack, as I hope to teach him to become a world citizen and think about how his actions and ours can impact the whole world.

After we visited the school we headed to lunch in the center of Nazaret.  You know who fell asleep at the table and we had a leisurely lunch while waiting for our travel companions to return from something they needed to do separately.  Close to the end of lunch, we watched a bunch of politician looking folks be seated.  Prior to being seated we observed the wait staff checking underneath the seats.  Turns out that they were from the Ministry, and the waitstaff was checking for explosives.  YIKES!

After we met back up with our traveling companions, we went to an orphanage where some of our fellow court family’s children had been staying.  We did not take any photos, but I just need to express that despite the conditions in parts of the orphanage, there was so much joy and love to go around.  Again, the little children grabbed Jack’s hand and they all went off to play.  Nothing mattered: what you were wearing, material things, where you were from, etc.  Just as it should be.  So many adults could take a lesson from how children interact and the inherent love and trust they all possess before all of the extraneous feedback gets in the way.

After experiencing so many emotions in such a short amount of time, we headed back to the Transition House to see sweet Harlow again.

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Journey to our Daughter – Day One

I want to write these things down as they are still fresh in my mind, and will update with photos over the next following days.

On Monday, April 30th after a wild weekend of packing, we loaded up the car and headed to Houston.  We chose to fly Lufthansa for a few reasons:

  • Recommended to me by some pilot / attendant customers
  • Reliability and on time arrival
  • Flies through Germany, one of our favorite places

Checking in was a breeze, and we headed in to board the plane.  Some of you may know that I am a terrible flyer, and so I was trying very hard to stay calm about the prospect of the 20 hours of traveling that lay ahead.  Luckily, J is the opposite.  He’s a great flyer and has been since birth.

We boarded, got J in his jammies and settled in.  It was an uneventful flight with decent food (for an airline) and unlimited cocktails (which we did not drink for fear of major dehydration). We landed in Frankfurt the following morning at around 10:30 AM, and made our way through the airport to get on our connecting flight.

J fell asleep about 6 hours into the first 9 hour leg, and slept through our entire layover on Frankfurt.  At about 12PM we boarded our flight into Addis. We had a layover in Sudan and it was pretty surreal being parked next to the UN plane.  It was a 1.5 hour layover and we were not able to disembark, or even move from our seats.  Not sure why…

We finally took off for the 1.5 hour flight into Addis.  Coming into Addis we saw how huge the city was.  The stars were obscured and all we saw were hills of twinkling lights.  It was a beautiful sight.  We landed and the procedures at the airport had changed.  This meant that our Agency Director was unable to meet us inside.  We disembarked and made our way down to the VISA line.  It took two hours to get through the line and after all of the travel, it was exhausting.  J was bored and tired, and the airport was devoid of any of the creature comforts of other major airports so we stood, and waited.

We finally made it through the VISA line and a luggage assistant came to help us.  He loaded up our bags and walked us outside to the area where our Agency Director was waiting.  For his 15 minutes of service, he demanded $20.00.  We made the huge mistake of not exchanging our dollars for birr at the airport and I had barely any birr.  I offered him the equivalent of $5.00 and he threw it back at me.  Not cool!  In the end he got $10.00 out of us because that’s all I was able to exchange with someone on the spot.  Lesson learned, have your birr exchanged at the airport and don’t be afraid to haggle (I am not afraid, as most of you know).

We loaded up and wound our way through the streets of Addis.  It was actually very dark and hard to see the city as there are few to no street lights.  We were taking in the scenery and learning more information about our baby girl and her history.

When we arrived at the guest house at around 10:30, we were asked if we wanted to peek in on her.  I was torn, how would I see her for the first time and not pick her up and snuggle her?  In the end we couldn’t resist seeing her sweet face and peeked in on her.  I was immediately in tears, and Steve snapped a photo of the first minute we were able to look into her big brown eyes.  It was unusual for her to be awake at that moment, and I feel like she knew we were coming and was waiting for us.  We only laid eyes on her for about one minute, but it was as if she knew we were hers, and she was ours.  Our family was instantly complete.

Needless to say, it was love and first sight, but before we could wake any of the other babies we went into the guest house, checked in and tried to sleep despite the excitement of being in Addis, and being so close to our baby girl.

Next up, Day Two. :)

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Orphanage Fundraiser

Hello dear friends and family,

In a few short weeks we will leave for our first trip to Ethiopia and we couldn’t be more excited. For the next few weeks and the time in between our first and second trips, we will be raising funds to support humanitarian needs in Ethiopia.

We have purchased shirts with the design that the wonderful Lincoln Durham has created for us, and will be giving a shirt to every person who donates $20.00 to our fundraiser.  100% of the proceeds will be utilized to provide donations (Pedialyte, toys, toothbrushes, toothpaste, crayons and coloring books) to the orphanages and transition house in Addis Ababa.

You can donate as little or as much as you would like, but $20.00 will get you a lovely shirt, details on the shirt below.

Unisex super soft ringspun cotton shirt in sizes S, M, L & XL.

If you would like a shirt, please select either Heather Irish Green or Dark Chocolate Brown, and the size.  You can pick the shirts up from us, or have them shipped. Shirts will be shipped out on or around May 25th and please add $5.00 if you would like them shipped.

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We have a court date! If all goes well we will be declared her family on May 4th. After that, we will come home and wait for the US Embassy to issue her Visa, and then go back a second time to bring her home.

Get ready baby, we’re coming for you!

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Our Case Has Been Filed!

This is AMAZING news.  Our case has been filed in court.

What does this mean?

It can take up to two weeks to get a court date, which means in the next two weeks we will know when we are going to Africa to meet Baby Girl!  

Please keep your fingers crossed for a continued speedy process. :)

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