June 28, 2008


Ok, so moving on...

If you missed the Epilogue - check it out below. Meanwhile,


He's growing and changing and still as cute and wonderful as he was the day we got him. The difference is, we are getting to know his personality and what a joy he is. Such a delightful little guy. This not to say that he never cries, or doesn't fuss, or God forbid meltdown. It just means that on the whole, he's just a very likeable baby. Happy, easily entertained, funny, and snuggly. What's not to love? Thank you Lord for our boy!

Just wanted to share a few pics with you -

Quint loves PAPER. A whole load of cool baby toys and he would rather open mail with his Daddy than play with any one of them. It's the cutest little thing. Hand him a rattle and he looks at you like you've lost your mind as he chucks it over his shoulder. Hand him an envelope from one of a hundred junk mail items - and he's in paper paradise.

His new trick is sitting up! (Sniffle...my little boy is already growing up too fast...) He needs help getting up in the sitting position, but he LOVES to be upright so he can frantically flail his little arms up and down while squealing in delight. Trying to reach for toys proves too challenging for him in this position as he loses his balance and falls over. But, my oh my, how he loves sitting up!

Just because he's my boy...and I love him. I love that coy look on his face. He has 100 of them and they're all priceless.

And his Daddy thinks he hung the moon and stars...there isn't a day that goes by that I don't hear Anton bellowing across the house "that's my BOY!!"

And this is Q in his brand new Pack n Play. (Fisher Price Rainforest set and it comes with a changing table and place to store diapers and wipes - wahoo!) He loves it! He had such fun sitting up and actually playing with his toys. He would topple over and I would sit him up again, and he would giggle. What a little doll! Can you tell he's a happy boy? Or is it just us?!?

June 27, 2008

A Journey of the Heart - Epilogue

We’ve been home from Africa for four weeks and a few days. In some ways, life returned to normal. By normal I mean, we still have to do dishes, we still have to do piles of laundry, we still fold towels, we still go to work every day, and we still pay bills (ugh). But in so many ways – life is exponentially different from life six weeks ago.

Not only have we traveled to the other side of the globe, seen a whole other way of life, met amazing people there, and gained a huge life experience – but we met and held our first child, for the very first time. We brought him all the way back home and began forming a new life that included him.

Yes, life changed forever on May 19th, 2008. In lots of ways – because we had never been to Africa before and we had never held our son before that day. How do you forget something like that? You don’t, of course. You can’t. It changes you…

I’ve received lots of feedback about my posts on Ethiopiamany of them supportive and kind, but a couple not so good. And this is why there is an epilogue to my writings. You know what they say – one rotten apple ruins the basket. So, I’d like to tell you my closing thoughts on this story…

As I said at the beginning – the experience I had was my own. It was no one else’s to have or to experience but mine. Prior to leaving, I searched in vain for a blog or a family that might have written something in detail about their trip. Good or bad – I was open. I actually would have welcomed a very happy tale because I was very nervous about going. I didn’t find either. I looked high and low for the good and the bad – all I found was either silence or a “well, we made it and we have our child now, so moving on…” or “I guess the trip was good looking back now”.

I received a letter from an adoptive mom who basically said “thank you for saying this. All I ever heard after getting back was fairy tale trip after fairy tale trip, and my trip was extremely difficult. Now I’m comforted, know I’m not alone, and could actually go back again someday in retrospect.” Well, that made me feel good. People are affected differently, depending on perspective and the side of the trip you're on.

On the same day, I got a e-mail from a family that said they hoped I could someday "learn to appreciate the culture for what it is", that it’s not the US, and that they had nothing but a wonderful time. Total opposites of the same trip. It doesn’t bother me… much. Or maybe it does. And here’s why:

When I wrote these posts, I did it with the mindset that most would just appreciate the story – but knowing somehow that somewhere I would have readers who might offended by my lack of willingness to say “oh it was great, and everything was swell, and what a hoot and isn’t that Ethiopia just amazing?”. On our plane ride to Ethiopia, I was in conversation with a fellow passenger who was herself born and raised in Addis. I said to her “so tell me – is it wonderful? You’ve lived in the US and Addis – is it beautiful to you…like coming home and a comfort to you”. She smiled a wry smile and said “you’ve never been to Addis, have you?…Addis is not beautiful. It can’t be. It’s just…well, we’ll just say that it’s interesting. We’ll leave it at that.” And that, my friends – ended up summing it up for us, to be sure.

One detail I left out of my 4-part journey, was the amazing (and I mean amazing) family we traveled with - from the flight out - to the guest house stay - to every errand and place we went while there, to the orphanage to see our children for the first time, and back to the states on the very same plane. I left them out for their own privacy and also because I didn't want to impose my own experience onto theirs. We lived life together in those ten days, and bonded in a way that only families experiencing something like this together can. I miss T so much. I think of her almost everyday. Having her and B there was a lifeline of sorts for us - and we could not have made it through those tough days without them. They were so positive and helpful and their constant energy and positive outlook kept me sane. But even they began to crack just a bit those last four days and through each other, we all held on for that moment when we could...well, leave. Coming home for all of us, was an emotional and special moment. I could not have asked to share it with a better family and their 5 year old daughter was just incredible. When I look back on the trip, I realize they probably had a much better experience than we did in many ways - but they too felt the walls closing in, so to speak, and were ready to go home much sooner than we had all arranged. This gives me comfort now, in the wake of hearing different criticism's of my story.

I went to Ethiopia with the mindset that I would have no preconceived notions. I understood that I was leaving the US and venturing somewhere completely different. I told people we were going on a vacation – a quiet time where our family could explore, cocoon in, be together and enjoy ourselves. I was beyond excited. I did a two week mission trip in one of the poorest parts of Mexico and felt somehow this had prepared me on some level. I’m not so self indulgent that I expected to find an Olive Garden on the streets of Addis or a shopping mall on every other corner. Like I said before - Anton is a world traveler and lived in the jungle of Indonesia for years among the poorest of the poor – he’s lived it. And still, it did nothing really to quench the culture shock we both found ourselves in or to mend the need to leave when the trip was almost over.

There’s something wrong with applying your own experiences to those around you. If Family A goes to Disneyland and has a MAGICAL adventure and rides every ride…twice…and eats lunch with Mickey and Minnie, and the whole trip is comp’d, courtesy La’ Disney – well that’s an amazing trip. But if Family B goes and it’s rained out every day they’re there, and Mom slips and falls and hurts herself and has to limp around the rest of the day, cold and wet…and they all wait in 2 hour lines and accomplish about three rides in 9 hours, and never see hide nor hair of The Mouse Family, and as they leave – are told that while in the park, prices were raised by double – so they’ll now need to settle up before leaving… Do I need to go on to point out that these two families had different experiences? Of course not. Would it be just a tad short-sighted of Family A to say to Family B “well I hope you’ll be able to learn to appreciate Disneyland – we had a wonderful time”? Ahem. Wrong indeed. You must first walk a mile…and trust me…I’m guessing Family B really, really wanted what Family A had experienced.

Nobody wanted that trip to go beautifully more than AB and I did. Nobody wanted to absorb and enjoy the culture, the people, the sites, the smells and the experience more than we did. And it turns out that after four years of trying to be parents, and umpteen thousands of dollars, and a bazillion air-miles later, and putting all your freaking eggs in a Pollyanna sunshine basket of “it’ll be great”… whaddyaknow? Sh** still freaking happens – even when you’ve done everything in your power to make it perfect and travel thousands of miles to get there.

It bears repeating apparently: Baby was very sick. Mom got very sick. Dad felt left out and so he went and got himself sick too. Mom had excruciating jetlag and slept 20 hours in ten days. (which, if you do the math of 8 hours a day multiplied by ten days, that’s 80 hours – so I was only 60 hours off – how bad can that be for a first time mom with a new baby that she’s never met or held or cared for before? Just wonderin…). Being sick led to trouble for all of us. How much can you enjoy any trip when you’re sick? How much can you appreciate all the good that does pop up around you? Someone tell me. And then when you do feel well enough to leave the room to actually go somewhere and you’re surrounded by the most excruciating poverty – are you feeling like “this is great…sure am glad I came out for this”? No. You’re feeling…God, I feel bad for feeling sick. And then baby projectile vomits and you say “take us home…we’re just not up for this and we need medical attention”.

When I wrote my story down it was because I wasn’t seeing the blatant stories that I so desperately needed to hear before leaving. Not because I wouldn’t have gone – but because I might let the air out of my expectations just a bit. Might have helped – might not have – but I’ll never know because I never found it before I left. It never occurred to me in my right mind that we would all get sick. It was somewhere off in the deep recesses – but I shoo’d it away. Sick? All of us? Give me a break – not in my wildest imagination. I thought, worse case scenario – the baby might have a cold or something. But certainly not to find him dripping green puss from both ears. Not to find him with perforated eardrums. Not to see him covered in sores…or to watch him struggle to keep food down. Not to feel so terrible myself that the smell of dinner made me want to lose my lunch. Or to have sleep be so fleeting that I cried when nighttime came. Who would wish that on themselves? Who would want that instead of the adventure we came looking for.

Recently, Anton and I watched the video of our gotcha moment and moments of our time in Ethiopia –afterward he said “you know the video truly doesn’t capture in any capacity how difficult that culture was to absorb”. I felt like he’d just absolved me of all my guilt for having had such a rough experience. What if in retrospect, he said “I guess it wasn’t that bad” and left me feeling that I had imagined it had been so hard? He’s the world traveler of the two of us. I would be devastated to have miscalculated our experience in that way. And even more so to have misrepresented it here for you to read.

I wrote my story knowing full well that there were those reading who still had their referrals and travel ahead of them. Faithful readers who understood the depth of the challenge they took on when they began their journey. I could no more sugarcoat our experience than just flat out lie and say it was all wonderful. What about those families for whom the travel experience was not good? What about those families who did struggle, or didn’t find the culture amazing and wonderful? What about those who felt like a fish out of water and couldn’t wait to come home? What about them? Does every adoption story have to have a happy ending? Does every gotcha have to be magical and amazing? Does everyone have to appreciate, enjoy, or even love the culture? Is that even possible? Not even close. You will find, as we did – that even in the most planned, awaited, and anticipated moments…that’s right…I'll say it again…sh** happens.

If you traveled and had a great experience – I am nothing but happy for you. That is music to our ears, because we did not. I’m glad to know that there are families out there who lived the dream and had the trip of a lifetime. That’s what I wanted too. I’m relieved there are people willing to say they can’t relate to me. That’s a good thing, isn’t it? It was not a cultural comparison of bad vs. good for us. It wasn't US vs. Ethiopia. It was problem after problem compounding daily with interest and the inability to find elements of comfort in our surroundings. It was the removed opportunity to travel and see all the amazing things we had planned to see, because we were too sick. It's not about never wanting to go back or not being able to appreciate it for what it was. It's about still grieving that our trip wasn't all that we hoped it would be. Not even close, if I'm honest.

So here's the clincher – I would do it again in a heartbeat. That’s why there had to be an epilogue. (If some had just waited for it…)

The bottom line is not that we had a bad trip or that we barely made it, or that we struggled in Ethiopia. That was just our experience from top to bottom – start to finish – good, bad and ugly – just like I promised you at the beginning – no sugarcoating. Plain and simple. Do you like sardines straight out of the can? Yuck. Me neither. But AB does. LOVES them, in fact. To him, it’s heaven on a buttered piece of bread, bless his little heart.

Did we love Addis? Nope. But lots of adoptive families did. Nothing wrong with that either. To each his own...as my mother always says.

The TRUE bottom line is that good – bad – indifferent – wonderful – or crappy…the trip we made to our son and all the days there in Addis were at their very core – life changing and amazing. Yes, we were sick and miserable. Yes, we were tired and had a hard time eating, sleeping and many other things. No, we did not enjoy the culture as much as others who have gone. No, we did not leave feeling like we wanted to move there. No, not every Ethiopian we met was friendly. Yes, the people on the whole were warm and kind. No, we did not enjoy trying to find a way to feed our new son in the middle of the night with no electricity. No, we did not enjoy cold showers and contaminated water. And no, we did not enjoy seeing amplified poverty on every corner of every street. I’m sorry…

No, I just lied. I’m not.

That’s just the way it goes. That was the journey we had to take to get to our son. That was what God intended for us - and not a day went by that we faced a new challenge that AB would not say to me "we have to ask ourselves what God is trying to teach us here". And he was right. That was our road to walk, and we did - or crawled it anyhow...and we did learn amazing things. About our own strengths and weaknesses. About our ability to adapt. About a different way of life - love it or leave it. And most importantly about the place and the people with whom our son lived for a short time.

But I would do it again. Tomorrow.

Because, my friends - despite being uncomfortable in more ways than one – it was life changing. And not just for us. Think about Quint. What a difference a day made for that little boy. One day, alone and abandoned. The next day? Part of a family and loved, and cared for in every way. We were blessed the minute he was in our arms, and we knew it.

If I could leave you with one thought it would be DO IT. You know who you are. I'll be your little nagging voice. What are you waiting for? I walked through that orphanage and felt broken inside. What about them? What about the babies that are still there – or the ones that are brought in every day? What about their future. We may say that we’ll leave that to someone else – but what if we are that someone? I certainly didn’t think so – not even a year ago. Just one short year ago, you couldn’t have convinced me that I would have a son from Africa a year later – it was that far off my radar. What a difference a day makes…when I realized that I needed to do this.

So I’ll leave you with this: consider adoption for your family, if you haven't already. And if you're in line to adopt from China, and your LID is beyond July of '06 - consider adding to your brood. The first place to start is with a good agency who can answer your questions and our agency was STELLAR and I mean STELLAR. From beginning to end, we were taken care of in every possible way. They were kind, friendly, attentive, informative, and we never felt alone or out of the loop. They were professional and always made us feel like we were their only family. Information is free – and it cannot hurt to ask for some if you are even remotely interested. If you visit the website, you can request a packet of information to be sent to you – no strings attached.

Remember, it’s not the trip that marks your journey anyway – it’s the end result. When you are on the other side you may find yourself thinking the very same thing we do when we look at Quint… “we could have missed this”. And to that thought, I can do nothing but weep…

Dove Adoptions International

180 North Main Street, Suite A Banks OR 97106
Telephone: (503) 324-9010
Email: dove@adoptions.net

Website: http://www.adoptions.net/

June 26, 2008

Makeover Blog Edition

Well, it's time folks. In keeping with all the changes in my life - let's just all agree that this blog has gone without change for way too long. I know we're a little attached to the header...(cough...anyone? Is this thing on?...) but it's time for it to go. Boo hoo. I've set up for a really big change and I hope I won't lose you all in the process? If you come back to visit me in the next couple of weeks and see a completely different look - don't panic - it's still ME!

Probably the biggest change is that both the header and the name will change - but the web address will stay the same. So you can still go to keirajoy07.blogspot.com and find us - that will remain unchanged. And yes, we are still adopting Keira, and we are still waiting for her every day (and missing her so...). But to be fair, now that we also have a son, I felt we should meld the two adoptions and make the blog more "our family" friendly - rather than a tirade of thoughts about waiting for one child - which given all the changes in the last year, is slightly outdated for our life. Now we have Quint and we wait for his little sister.

We're going with something a little more personal to me and some colors that are more customized. I will give you all the skinny on who does the amazing job after it's done and we can all sit back and admire her handiwork. The header will bear a sentimental saying that resides in my heart thanks to my sweet grandpa, and will be passed on to my children.

Bloglines readers - promise you'll visit at least a couple of times to see the blog in all its glory and not just appreciate it from the plainness that is bloglines, yahoo reader, etc? You know who you are! Give a sista some props...

Meanwhile, I'll continue to blog and just forgive the "construction" if you see any at all.

I'm so excited, I can hardly stand it! It's gonna be so special!

Here's to change! (and I've had plenty recently...)

June 25, 2008

A Journey of the Heart - Part Four

(To Read Part One Click Here)

(To Read Part Two Click Here)

(To Read Part Three Click Here)

It’s a funny thing to be handed a baby. Adoption does weird things to you. You go through so much scrutiny, paperwork, planning, more scrutiny, processes, more paperwork – it leaves you a little jaded on the other side. So, when someone approaches you and hands you a child and walks away – you kind of feel…strange. Are they sure? They just handed you a little person and walked away…after all that…work. And now this is it. Sink or swim – let’s see what you’re really made of Mom.

We drive away from the orphanage and I can’t help but stare at his beauty. It’s humbling. He’s snuggled against Anton and I keep thinking “are they sure?” and “really for real for real?”. But in my heart, I know it’s real and this is our son and they are sure.

Getting back to the guesthouse, we head toward our room and decide to do baby inventory. Not how many diapers we have and if the clothes we’ve lugged thousands of miles will actually fit – oh no. We do fingers, toes, eyelashes, birthmarks, and pretty much head to toe inventory. Not because we’re “examining” him like a piece of cattle – but because we are ENAMORED of him and want to know his little self intimately. To be able to say “his little toes are perfect” or “he has a birthmark on his arm” (which he does, in fact). So desperate are we to know him – to know everything about him. We survey this beautiful baby and keep glancing up at each other in awe. Really for real? Yes, really for real.

We remove the wrist tag he’s been wearing, which has his name and assigned number on it. Underneath, his skin has become irritated and is peeling. We also note that he has several patches of tiny pustules on his skin – covering him from his head to the bottoms of his feet. We have no idea what they are, and nothing we put on them seems to help. When his diaper is taken off, Quint begins scratching at the bumps on his stomach voraciously.

We experience a first bottle feeding, and I put too little formula in for his liking. Thinking he won’t be able to get any formula out of that tiny hole, Daddy cuts a bigger hole. Now the milk drains down his face and onto his neck. He plays with the bottle instead of drinking it and makes us feel forgiven for our mishap with his ready smile. Since we’ve gone and made a mess of him, we decide to do a first bath. Honestly, I want to bathe him to get the orphanage off and the redeemed on. Though it sounds bad – it seems a very natural need in the moment. We fill up our small bathroom sink and gently ease him in. He is delighted and plays happily, splashing us both with water.

He comes out smelling like a Johnson & Johnson ad, but I’m in heaven – he smells wonderful and I want to kiss him all over his tiny head and cheeks. I do.

We put him to bed as night approaches, and he gazes up at us with a sleepy smile. He’s asleep in a matter of minutes and we are reveling in our new role – piece of cake. Was that all it took? What’s all the hype about? (sigh…so na├»ve)

Looking over the schedule the orphanage gave us, we can see that he will probably be waking up for a midnight feeding. What the..? Who makes these schedules? Middle of the night feedings should drop off around 4-5 months. We’re in the 6th heading toward the 7th month. Deciding not to disturb his current schedule and freak him out with too many changes, we honor the routine when he wakes at midnight on the dot and fusses for his bottle. But, sweet as ever, he eats and goes right back down. This is the last night he wakes for this feeding and we are grateful.

Unfortunately for me, so begins my own routine of severe sleeplessness. And now we come to the payoff.

Around six am the next morning, Quint begins to stir in his crib and since we are like kids in a candy store, we anxiously open our own eyes and look over at him. We are greeted with a smile that would melt the coldest heart. I find myself bouncing out of bed to get to him, and so with that I cuddle him, kiss him, and bring him in between Anton and me. Snuggled close, he coo’s and giggles. We give him a bottle and this time, think we get it right – because he happily chugs the warm milk down.

[Here’s where it should be said that a “bottle” was no easy task. Formula had to be bought in advance so that he would not have to change food. The babies are served bottles that are hot. In our guesthouse, there is a microwave, but they say to never heat a bottle in the microwave – says it all over the container. But considering we are without power sporadically throughout the trip, it was a poor option to begin with. Meanwhile, we have to ask the house staff (who don’t speak English so it’s a lot of pointing and gesturing) to light the stove so we can boil water to heat the bottle up. This takes over ten minutes and we quickly realize that we need to find a way to wean him off the “heated” bottle. Especially when we can hear the baby melting down as he waits way to long for that bottle to come…]

Something else is becoming rapidly apparent - Quint is sicker than our original assessment. He wakes up with a nose full of mucus – dried and caked over his nostrils. It is apparent that he was thoroughly cleaned up each time he saw us. He becomes cranky when we try and clean it up, and his cough has become more obvious. It’s wet and rugged. And constant. He appears very tired, and goes through phases where he will not sleep. Others where he sleeps very well.

His eating is sporadic and I cannot get him to follow the schedule I’ve been given by the orphanage. He does not appear to know anything of solid foods – even though his routine shows that he eats solids three times a day. We soon realize this might just have been what they thought “we” should be feeding him. Never mind he had never seen a spoon before.

He begins having trouble sleeping in the crib and we worry we are heading for a tight fit in our Queen size “hard as a rock” bed. If we lay him down, he screams. If we walk into the room and he hears us, he cries. Not wanting to traumatize him, we pick him up – which soothes him immediately.

At dinner one night, he projectile vomits repeatedly until he finally calms. We are all stunned and heartbroken for him. I am shaken and cannot believe what I just saw. He still cannot breathe through his nose and his mucus is getting worse. By the third day his eardrums perforate from the pressure and he begins draining thick green puss from both ears. Since I have never been a mother before, this sends me into a panic. It does not appear we have any resources available to us, other than what we can conjure up ourselves. We are given the option to return to the orphanage to visit the doctor there – but I am reluctant after her shrug off diagnosis that he merely had “allergies”. And even though we were given Antibiotics before leaving the orphanage – it is an outdated 30+ year old method of antibiotics. Surely there have got to be stronger meds for this type of infant sickness? But no. None that are available here and once again we are reminded of the harsh reality of being in a 3rd world country.

Our days are spent mainly at the guesthouse – eating, napping, reading, and taking walks. We enjoy the company of the six property dogs and four tortoises.

But we do manage to end up taking a drive somewhere almost everyday – mainly out of necessity. We visit the store a few times to stock up on our ever dwindling baby supplies and we also visit the U.S. Embassy to obtain a Visa for our boy. This is the only way we will be allowed to leave with him, and likewise, enter the states with him. After meeting our attorney, we follow him on the street for several blocks and then find ourselves turning over our possessions while we enter a building to raise our right hand and swear to tell the truth. In minutes, it is over and we are on our way back outside to make the walk back to the car. It seems too easy and yet – difficult because we are on constant personal guard. Afraid of a pick-pocket (which we are warned several times about) or just nervous because we’re in a foreign land and stand out like a sore thumb. There are armed officers and no photography allowed of any kind. As we walk on the street, people stare openly and some even point. It must look funny to see us – waltzing down the road with this little Ethiopian baby, two white people who are sadly out of place.

Because the water is contaminated – we have to use bottled water for all our needs. Brushing our teeth requires a “stop and pour” technique. We also find out from another family that even though the guesthouse provides a laundry option, clothes came back missing, damaged, or are found on the lawn in the mouth of one of the dogs. Since we have packed so light – we have no items to spare and opt to wash our own clothes. This is a much bigger task than I originally planned on. Because Quint is spitting up and/or throwing up, we are going through his clothes and bibs much faster than we can keep up. Showers are fine, if the electricity is running. When it’s not, we have no water pressure to speak of, and the water is very cold. We bathe anyway and I learn just how hard it is to wash thick hair with a drip, drip, drip of water.

Food is good most nights and breakfast is very nice. We get scrambled eggs, fresh squeezed orange juice, and toast. My run in with unpasteurized butter is interesting – as it has a rancid flavor. I shrug it off and happily devour my eggs and juice every morning.

We visit the Ethiopian Museum and find ourselves amidst ancient Ethiopian and African artifacts.

But even the museum is dilapidated and run down. There is not much to “see” because the building is small, and our guide speaks broken English. We tip him and wait outside for our driver to return to get us. As we wait on the steps, we slowly become surrounded by curious school children. Realizing that we may be the first white person they’ve been close to, we smile and try to be friendly. This encourages more kids to gather around us. I take a picture that fails to capture the crowd, but shows the kids hovering.

On yet another day, we are escorted to the Mercado – the largest open air market in Africa.

Looking to be open minded about the chaos we find there, I choose to have a good attitude. Anton is mesmerized by the throngs of people, and I am once again stunned by the poverty and hard selling going on all around me. Quint is safe and sound in the Bjorn and with the help of a guide; we make our way through the market. We are ushered into a pocket size shop and given small stools to sit on. It’s hot, and this store is the diameter of a large walk in closet. But the people are very friendly and we are treated like royalty. We are offered tea – which we decline, because of the water. There are four salesmen in that tiny space, and they crowd around us, showing their wares and hoping we will purchase a little of everything. We are shown clothes, tablecloths, and napkins - all beautifully hand woven and simply lovely. We decide on a green and red table cloth and napkin set for Christmas time, and purchase a stunning and tiny woven pant and shirt set for Quint. Anton haggles to get the price down, as soon as we realize they are asking a large amount for these items – but we can’t truly blame them for trying. They smile, and agree and we shake hands and leave after many gracious thank you’s and goodbyes.

Several purchases and so much to see, hear and take in, we grow tired and ask to be taken back to the car. On the way there, I notice a man standing in the road and urinating. Another man who is clearly very disabled comes into our view. He is right in front of us. His legs are lame and are wrapped in a thick black rubber, as are his arms. He drags himself on his stomach along the road and the rubber protects him from road rash. Once across the street, he continues on up the sidewalk. We are silent and after exchanging quick glances, I can see that these visuals are weakening our resolve to get through this trip. Despite the "normal" clothing the people wear, we know that most of them are living in poverty.

That afternoon we venture back to the orphanage because we are scheduled to pick up Quint’s final release paperwork and we have asked for that promised tour. We arrive and in minutes, we are handed the final documents that release Quint to our custody from the orphanage. I glance over a document as I sign and the words “who accept full and entire responsibility regarding the child, who is now their own child” and I take a deep breath and complete my signature. It’s a huge moment, and yet I still cannot take it all in. We are given a small woven backpack and inside we find a lovely African outfit for Quint; a gift from the orphanage to us. We thank them profusely for everything, and the director says “It is we who should thank you – for taking this child and giving him a home”.

As we step back outside the office, Anton draws my attention to the small building where Quint spent the last three months. Inside the floor to ceiling window, we can see an infant inside an infant carrier – a nanny hovering over to make the baby smile, and a man holding a camera next to her and leaning over the baby.

Immediately I recognize both the carrier and the purpose. They are taking referral pictures for waiting families. This makes my heart swell. I feel a sense of connection to those families – whoever they would be. I have been on the receiving end of those pictures and now I know just how they are made. I think about our referral picture...

This gives me a deep sense of appreciation…for everything we’ve seen and experienced. I don’t know why…but it makes me weepy.

After some time of waiting, we are finally ushered into the building where Quint has lived. We are told we may see his crib, if we like – and we are eager. But here is where the tables are turned and our initial excitement is quickly caved by grief. As we walk through the building, I can see very quickly that I am about to be changed. I can tell these are images that are going to go with me – walk with me – be with me – for many years to come. Maybe for the rest of my life. I turn the video camera on, and try to grasp what I’m seeing. I can’t. There is a heavy smell of feces and urine in the air. We are told this building houses only babies two years and under. I look to my left and right as we walk down a narrow and dark hallway. I think to myself “what do they do without power? How do they feed them or take care of so many when it’s pitch black in here”. But there’s no time to get an answer, because we begin to see the infants who live here and my heart begins to bleed. How do you describe this? There is a little girl on my left, in a room – by herself. She is wailing on the floor. A nurse approaches her, and the little girl screams out and kicks her feet. The nurse abandons the project and walks away. To my right, twelve little children are on potty chairs – all in a row. The smell is overwhelming, to be truthful, but they are cute and actually wave at us. We wave back and smile at them. On we walk – down this dimly lit hallway. I actually notice an exposed light bulb hanging from the ceiling – there is a buzzing sound coming from it. Can you visualize this scene? We enter a room where instantly we are surrounded by babies. My breath catches, because they are crying and reaching up to be held. Some are sitting, playing quietly. Some are asleep. Because we are following a nurse, we keep pace and must move on. We enter a second room, and our eyes meet the same scene. More babies – crying, reaching up to be held. I see a baby who is gorgeous, standing quietly in her crib. I know I have seen that face before, but I can’t remember which family back home has blogged that little face. I smile at her and say “Hi”, but the pace continues and I must keep going. Another room, and yet another – all babies…so many in tears. Snot running down their noses – clearly it’s no surprise why Quint is sick.

Finally we come to a small room, all the way in the back. There are about four cribs and I spot three babies – two of which are crying.

In the corner, the nurse points – that’s where he slept.

That’s where he slept – I repeat in my mind. That’s where he slept. A tiny and empty white metal crib greets my cautious gaze and I’m held captive by it for a moment. Anton snaps a picture and I hold the video camera on it for a few seconds. My son’s reality becomes thick in my mind and heart. Here’s where he slept for the last three months – half a world away from me. Surrounded by crying babies and the hustle and bustle of a busy orphanage. Here’s where he lived. In this little space that I’m staring at. All those nights wondering how he was, where he was…here in front of me. I hear myself saying thank you and find myself quickly walking back the way we came – through a maze of rooms filled with babies. I grant myself a moment to make eye contact with a baby and she reaches up to me. I groan out loud – because we have not been given permission to hold the babies. I make my way back down that long hallway and outside, where I take a deep breath. I can feel my heart breaking. I want to cry and before I can stop it, the tears come flooding down my cheeks. Anton follows me with Quint, and I make my way back to the car. I sit down on the pavement and cry openly, though I am ashamed and afraid to offend the staff. Our driver tells me not to cry, but also reminds me that it’s hard to see, and that he understands. I sit with my head in my hands for a few minutes and Anton tries to comfort me.

I understand that they are in the best place, given the circumstances. I am actually very grateful that because of them, our son is now in our arms. Because this orphanage exists, we have our boy and a lifetime of getting to know and love him. But my heart…my aching heart…all those babies. Yes, Quint is chosen. Going home with his parents to be loved and cherished. But the babies that remain…who will love them? Who will come for them? Where are their parents to love and cherish each of them? It’s not right…why some and not others? Anton tells me “we can’t know why God chooses some and not others…its part of His plan”. And it does give me a miniscule amount of comfort – but I am burdened. Yes, I’m so glad my son had a warm place to sleep – but the emptiness and loneliness of that solitary little crib. The babies reaching up…”hold me…PLEASE…love me!” – these images are emblazoned in my mind’s eye. How do you forget that? Why would you want to?

I manage to dry my tears and we make our way to a small shop on the premises where handmade gifts are sold. The proceeds go toward the orphanage and we buy several beautiful items to take home with us. I know this is the last time I’ll be at the orphanage, and so I do take in all I can. But as we prepare to leave – I snap a photo of the window to his room. Take that image home with you and never forget what is behind that window, I tell myself. Never give up…never forget.

Quinty remains sick and his ears continue to drain puss. His nose and cough worsen. On a night when, in my sleep deprived and stressed out state of mind, I think it can’t get any worse, we lose power for what will be the next two days. During that time, I become sick with a terrible cold and I cannot swallow. My congestion builds and I cough constantly. On a day when we are scheduled to tour an American school, I bow out and Quint and I spend a quiet (and LONG) day at the guesthouse alone. Anton leaves for the tour and I feel myself starting to slip, just a little. While we lay on the bed in the afternoon, Quint begins crying and I know it’s because he is so miserable. I feel we are especially kindred spirits in this moment. But crying actually makes him worse, because it creates a runny nose and upsets his cough. Soon, I join him and begin crying myself. This somehow comforts both of us and we finally fall asleep crying.

As the night hits and I am facing another sleepless night, I beg Anton to take us home early. But not before Anton admits that he too has succumbed to being sick. I haven’t slept more than ten hours in 5 days and we are all sick. Quint is miserable - though several times throughout the day we are able to get smiles from him to send home to family and friends.

Can we tell people what’s really going on? No. We decide we can’t. Because it’s too hard to put it down in writing, what we’re facing. It’s too burdened. It’s too harsh to explain and not sound like whiny babies ourselves. No, we’ll just give the gist and leave the rest alone. And this not to say that there are no good moments, or that we aren’t enjoying our boy at all. Quite the contrary – despite his being sick, and us too – we find him to be a delight. He is happy, despite being so sick. We spend time together roaming the property and we do find that we are most certainly bonding through this life experience.

When in my mind I begin to list all that we are facing, I give myself an extra measure of grace. First time adoptive parents, culture shock, extreme poverty that is all pervasive, horrible jet-lag, sick baby (and I mean sick), sick parents, no medication or very little of what we really needed to see improvement, no sleep, you can’t drink the water, lack of electricity and no warm water to bathe or lights to see or do anything – any one of these things by itself gets difficult. Add them all together and you get a recipe for the biggest case of anxiety and upset…there are no words.

Begging and pleading with AB “please, take me home…take us home…I can’t take it another day…”. I threw myself almost literally at his feet. I had no problem groveling. Please, don’t make me do another day. Get me out of here. This conversation was by candlelight – because we had no power. And because he is an amazing husband, and because he loves me - he tries – but he quickly finds that we can’t secure tickets to leave sooner because of the cost. It is horribly inflated. Stay we must, and stay we will. We have four days left – four days that I am sure will be my downfall.

Night after night, I am sleepless. Hours go by and I watch the clock. I sit in the living room of the guest house, swatting at the heavy layer of flies, and trying to find something to watch on TV. There is cable! Eureka! But after sifting through all 450 channels, I can only find predominant Muslim, Arabic, or Amharic stations. The only English speaking channel I can find is BBC News. I’ll take it. Hours and hours of news – people with British accents. I am suffering from lack of sleep, but soon I start to have night terrors. I fall asleep and quickly jolt awake, scared to death. This happens over and over to the point where I am afraid to sleep. This then perpetuates my lack of sleep. When I see nighttime is approaching and we are winding down our day, I cry because I am dreading the night. I pick up and put to use the simple phrase “I hate nighttime here”. Anton gives me a sympathetic nod – he’s just as worried about my lack of sleep. Meanwhile, he has bruises on both hips from the hard mattress. Each morning I am awake already to hear Quint rouse. He is the highlight of my morning hours, and waiting for them both to wake up seems to take a lifetime.

Our final excursion is a car ride to the top of the hill that looks down over Addis. My spirits are starting to pick up, because I know we are leaving in two days. I try to take in all I’m seeing and snap several shots as we trek up the mountain. The countryside is beautiful and leaving the city, we also leave behind the heavy pollution. I can breathe for the first time in days, and I greedily suck in the cool fresh air. Up and up, we wind and still, the poverty is all pervasive. We see scattered houses and children are on the street playing. The higher we go, the happier I feel. We pass a small village and see many people milling about.

On our way to the top, we pass an Ethiopian flag – battered and bruised and symbolic of a struggling country...

Once we arrive, we get out and pay a pittance to travel a short path to a lookout point. We pay and make our way down the green path. It’s beautiful here and the air is lovely, but heavy.

We find several boys milling about at the lookout and they start to explain to us what we’re seeing down below, and about the fragrant eucalyptus that is growing all around us on the mountain. We manage to take a few pictures before the rain begins to fall, and we quickly retreat to our car. Once inside, we realize that the boys expected to be paid for their improv “tour de mountain” – they are looking at us with frustrated expressions and shrugging their shoulders. We are finding that being white in this world equals inexplicable wealth – any interaction with the locals leaves an expectation for a “tip”. Our driver reminds us that we’re easy targets and not to worry about it. But we still feel guilty as we drive away…

On the way down the mountain, we stop at a beautiful vantage point and take a final look at the city of Addis – that, in mere minutes we will be enveloped in, once again. From here, it seems normal – peaceful…quiet. From this place, you can’t see the poverty. From here, you can block out the masses of people dying, begging, starving…sick, homeless…from here you can pretend its all ok down there. Suddenly our car is surrounded by curious children – our driver warns them back, and they giggle, but do not retreat. After several warnings in Amharic, he jumps out of the car and begins to give playful chase. But the boys are faster and head straight up a rocky hill. We are all laughing and capture the moment with a click of the camera.

Behind me, I spot a beautiful young girl, carrying what I assume to be a sibling on her back. I snap a picture and she happily smiles for me. I wave goodbye as the driver pulls away.

When we reach the day before our plane is to leave, I find I am too sick and weak to care for Quint. I can hardly function any more and I must seek medical help. Anton finds a Swedish clinic in the city and has our driver take me there. I cannot breathe with all the fumes and so I cover my face with my shirt and lay in the back seat while we make our bumpy trek to the office of the doctor. Once there, I am seen to quickly and given a strep test, which I pass. We are relieved, because we can see white pustules on the back of my throat. The doctor is kind and warm, asking all kinds of questions about our trip. His office is clean and organized; a stark comparison to the chaos just outside his doors on the street. I am given medication for pain and for sleep and we leave with much lighter pockets, but don’t care. As we pull out of his driveway, we must wait for a herd of goats to meander by the car. I sleep on the ride back to the guesthouse and once there, I am put to bed.

Finally, the time to leave does come – and packing up our things, I feel an excitement that I cannot describe. I am so anxious to get on the plane. Just get me on the plane and I’ll be ok from that point. There is no part of me sad to say goodbye. I can think only of my home, my bed and the possibility of sleeping sometime soon. I am anxious to get on with life and leave this city behind. Anton admits to me that despite having seen and lived in a third world country and extreme poverty – he is tired of Addis and can’t take another day. He is ready to go home. This surprises me – my rock who I thought could not be broken by extreme travel – has succumbed to the hard life around us. It’s not surprising – because I succumbed on day one. It gives me comfort to know that I am not alone in my anxiousness to leave.

Our airport experience is difficult and lengthy. We are forced to go through seven checkpoints, and are literally exhausted when we finally take our seats aboard. We find both the plane and our seats are much better than the ride out. We have a bulkhead and tons of leg room. We are also given a bassinet, which hooks on to the bulkhead. The flight is 15+ hours and Quint manages to sleep thirteen of them. We are blessed and grateful. As are the people around us. Plenty of Ethiopian women seated nearby give us advice. He’s too cold. He’s too hot. He needs a blanket. He’s hungry. He’s beautiful (I knew that one!). On and on – but their intentions are good and I feel I have just hours longer before life goes on. I am desperate to hear American people speaking. Might seem silly, but I have heard nothing but accents for ten days and I am longing to hear someone say “ya’ll”.

We arrive in Washington D.C. the next day. After several checkpoints there as well, we push through two large double doors and quite suddenly find ourselves in America. Officially. I know this, because I spot a Starbucks out of the corner of my eye. We both become weepy and tell our son “You’re home now! You’re home!” But really, it’s us who are HOME and we are overwhelmed by the reality of what we have just experienced on all levels and in so many different ways. We are grateful and exhausted. We have one more leg of the journey to get to our hometown – but not before we get in line at that Starbucks and savor some coffee goodness. And boy, do we!

Finally, we find ourselves on that last plane ride home. It’s a short flight and we are surviving on adrenaline. Quint is still happy and giggly. He sleeps another two hours and we feel blessed to have such a wonderful son. The moment is surreal as we step off the plane and head to baggage claim.

Once through the revolving door, we see a multitude of friends and family – cheering for us – balloons, gifts, and smiles.

We are overwhelmed with this outpouring of love and speechless in many ways. So many emotional miles to this moment. So many tears. So many heartaches and heartbreaks. So many stumbles along the way. So many obstacles. And yet, here we were…finally – on the other side of the journey. Holding our son and listening to those we love congratulate us, ooh and ahh over our sweet boy, camera flashes going off, and hands extended to hug and greet us, to pat us on the back and tell us how beautiful Quint is. Here we are…finally. Our boy is home. We’re a family and we're home...

Epilogue to come…(if you are put off by this story in any way, please come back to read my final thoughts after having returned home and putting distance between myself and Ethiopia. I have tender thoughts I would like to share with each of you about our post-adoption journey)