We’ve been home from
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
I’ve received lots of feedback about my posts on
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
Telephone: (503) 324-9010