June 17, 2008

A Journey of the Heart - Post 3

(To Read Post 1 - Click Here)

(To Read Post 2 - Click Here)

Suddenly I’m holding him and it’s true what I’ve heard – the world shifts. I make myself laugh with the thought that already I would throw myself in front of a bus for him. I am kissing his face and my tears are rubbing off onto his little cheek.

I struggle to articulate internally what I am feeling. Absolute love. Definitely that. He smells good – maybe he just took a bath. His hair is soft and his skin is…well, like a baby’s bottom. The smoothest I have ever felt. He snuggles in a little and I melt. Soon I hear AB call out “my turn” and I am reluctantly handing him over to his father. I grab the cameras and try my best to do the moment justice as we stand in awe of our son.

In my mind the same thought keeps playing over and over “it’s so worth it…it’s so worth it, everything is worth it”. This gives me a deep sense of comfort that I had not anticipated just moments earlier on the ride over.

Soon we are ushered into a “family room” where there are two couches and a few chairs. It’s next door to the small office we’re in and so we make our short trek over.

The sounds of the orphanage are permeating the small space, but our son is in the spotlight. We hear children laughing and playing in the background and in front of us, our little boy delights in being lavished with attention, kisses and hugs. We are enamored of him and he is simply enjoying (we presume) being doted on.

Our time together flies by and we find ourselves handing him back to the nanny that brought him to us. For our process we have the option to take full custody or allow him to stay in his familiar environment during our stay in Ethiopia. The idea being that we will visit him twice a day and do all of our site-seeing and touring and he will be comfortable where he is used to being. After holding him for about an hour AB looks into my eyes and speaks golden words “let’s take him now”. Since I am feeling the exact same way, I giggle like a school girl and say “TOTALLY!” But we both know that’s not possible, because the orphanage needs time to issue his final paperwork and get his things together. This baffles us slightly, as we cannot conceive of the “things” he could possibly have. Wasn’t he abandoned by a river? Did they leave a suitcase with him?

We resolve ourselves to wait 24 hours. He will come home to the guesthouse with us tomorrow afternoon, and we reluctantly hand him over to the nanny. He smiles a pleasant smile as the nanny disappears out the door of the “family room”. I am crying again, but this time I realize that it’s because my heart is so full. And I’m pained to see my little boy walking away from me after all the years I’ve waited to hold him. Anton is also choked up and we slowly make our way back to the car and on to the guesthouse.

As we approach the gray gate – has it really been ten minutes of driving – I now notice that just outside the gate to the house we are staying in, there are piles of trash burning, smoldering actually. Large piles – easily six feet in the air or more. And the smell is less than pleasant. How can all this chaos be right outside the gate? Was that there earlier? How did I miss that?

Now that life is changed and everything is upside down, we are loathe to do much but talk about our son. As we eat dinner and go over our brief two hours holding the new love of our life, we also face our first night of sleep in well over 24 hours. I crawl into the bed and let out a groan. I’m so tired I can hardly stand up, but even that might be more comfortable than the mattress I’ve just put my aching limbs on. Anton agrees and we shrug it off and try to fall asleep. True to form, AB is out in mere seconds. I, on the other hand, struggle to find a comfortable position and find my mind is racing. About the flight over, the pets back at home, the culture shock I’m facing, and of course – the little boy who has stolen my heart. Some hours later, I manage to fade off to sleep.

The rooster crows and it’s time to get up and meet the day. Mornings in Addis, we find, are nice – because the weather is lovely, at only around 73 degrees. Our windows are flung open and the smell of burning trash and burbury spices hit my nose. But no matter, the world is our oyster – because about ten miles away, our boy is waking up. There is new hope and despite being jet-lagged and sore from a rocky night of sleep, I am anxious to start my day and take on my mommy-hood full force.

We eat and make another visit to see our son and he doesn’t disappoint – once again; he’s all smiles and snuggly.

We are told after our short two hours together comes to a close, that he will be ready to be released to our custody later in the afternoon. We’ll have to come back one more time. We aren’t disappointed, because we have waited this long – what’s another few hours? But handing him back over is proving harder and harder as we feel like grabbing him and running for that darn blue gate. I cry again. Anton is comforting me gently as my little man is walked back to that tiny building…what’s in there, I wonder. What does it look like? Can we see it later? We are told that we are welcome to tour the orphanage on our return. We decide to schedule it for another day altogether – too many other issues to care for.

The man who grabbed up our luggage back at the airport has been driving us to and fro and I’m beginning to realize that he’s a really nice person. Cordial and personable, and always well dressed. He’s friendly with us and his English is miles better than anyone else we’ve talked to – besides our attorney. We’re getting more and more comfortable with him and having him around is starting to bring us comfort when we’re facing language barriers, etc.

We realize that we’re going to need some things that we just hadn’t considered – so our driver informs us of a small grocery store that he can take us to. I hadn’t entertained the possibility that in this difficult setting there might actually be a grocery store. He reminds us of the local embassies and their families – French, German, American, etc. As we arrive, I know that this is as close to home as I’m going to get. We find the “baby” isle and stock up on diapers (that turn out to be way too small), wipes, formula, jars of baby food, and rice cereal. We are tempted to buy some Ethiopian delights, but unable to read or comprehend what the labels say, we opt for baby essentials only.

Later that day, we find ourselves going back to the orphanage – and back for our boy. After some brief translation we find that though we are being allowed to take Quint with us, his paperwork will not be ready for two days. At this point, we are beyond caring about the paperwork – and our eyes are set on the goal of becoming a family. Bring out our little guy – what else is there?

I determine to capture what it looks like when he is brought out each time and so I stand ready along the path that he travels to get to me. As the nanny rounds the corner, I see my handsome boy in a pink jacket.
This makes me smile, because it’s at least 76 degrees out and this is a winter coat he’s wearing. Regardless, as she gets closer I start to snap pictures and to my right, Daddy is already coaxing a smile from him.

This is the last time he will be brought out to me. From this moment on he will be brought to and from wherever he is headed, by his mommy and daddy. And that feeling is surreal and wonderful and frightening. Mostly wonderful.

We grab hold of each other and for a moment we are just three little people – attached in a circle and full of love. We return to the family room and take some time to just be together. We also get to meet with the doctor, who will tell us about Quint’s medical history. We play and laugh, and of course, I cry – just being with him and seeing him in the flesh is so overwhelming, that we are overcome with emotion. We examine him gently – looking at the outfit he is in (quite cute blue jean overalls) and ironically, Minnie Mouse socks.

He falls asleep in my arms and the doctor makes her appearance. We go over general issues and attempt to understand why he’s coughing. We are told he has allergies – and that this is very common for the kids at the orphanage. What kind of allergies require antibiotics, I wonder? I am afraid to ask too many questions, because I don’t want to offend.
I keep thinking to myself that once we are back at home, we can truly assess his health. Until then, I feel the language barrier is keeping us from really understanding his situation. She also tells us that the reason they can stand to part with the children at all is because they believe the children will come back to better Ethiopia. That scares me a little - I am not willing to talk about parting with him already so that he can return to Ethiopia. I only just got permission to leave the orphanage with him and already we're discussing him returning? Selfish of me? Yes, a little. Truthful? Deeply.

We pack up and head back to the car – where Quint is placed into our Bjorn. It’s the only “carseat” we will have for him during our stay in Addis – and somehow seeing him strapped to Daddy gives me comfort.

Off to the guesthouse, where we will begin the rest of our journey as a family of three. At this time, the only thing going through my mind is “here we are…we did it…we’re a family”….the same words we thought and spoke just moments after we took our vows seven years earlier. Here we were again, making a life moment – altering our path forever – and changing the course of history for our lives. He we are, half a world away from home and all we know – building our family and finding ourselves in love with a beautiful little boy. My mind doesn’t go to all the things we will do once we’re home. I’m too caught up in the beauty of the moment. I can’t even get beyond the hour. But in the back of my mind – flitting around like a fly – I can hear the shadow of doubt calling to me. Reminding me that beyond this wonderful little person we are now toting around is a tremendous responsibility. Beyond this beautiful moment, is a lifetime of love, worry, care, and work. Just having it there though, somehow manages to steal slightly from my over fantasized version of official gotcha. Good to know for China, I think. Fortunately, the thoughts aren’t near enough to deflate me. I push them aside. I’ll deal with this one day at a time. Like every other parent walking the planet.

Besides, first we must survive the rest of the trip…and that will almost be our undoing.

to be continued...


Kim said...

I have loved all these posts... You have been on an amazing journey.. and you still have more to come..
HUGS girly.
Have a Great Week..

frogglet said...

Another great post!
And more great pics of your beautiful family.

Briana's Mom said...

You are an amazing storyteller. Can't wait to read more.

Unknown said...

I am very much enjoying your account. We are leaving in less than three weeks to pick up our boy from the same orphanage. Whew! I am SO frightened, but trusting God to protect our new baby, Noah and our bio baby, Oliver.

Stephanie said...

more more more.... this is great stuff!!

Eloise said...

Oh my goodness! That was the best entry yet! And that last teaser line... you really know how to keep a reader on the edge of her seat, don't you? Hurry back with "the rest of the story."

rubyiscoming said...

Gosh, just beautifully written, beautiful smiles in all the photos, beautiful joy for us all to witness! WONDERFUL - very happy for all of you !

Kelly & Todd said...

I have enjoyed reading your posts so much that I now find myself stalking your blog waiting for more. You have captured my attention/interest so much with the details of your journey that it is like a book I can't put down. You have such a talent with words - it's like I'm there with you, and I can't wait to read the rest.

Thank you so much for sharing your story and your life in such great detail.

Wishing happy thoughts for all three of you as you continue to get settled in at home as a family.

-- kelly :-)

Linda said...

Another great post...You really know how to put your feelings down and share with everyone. Waiting for more!!! Thanks again for sharing...Linda

redmaryjanes said...

A very dear friend has sent me here to your blog. What an amazing journey. Your son is absolutely beautiful.

redmaryjanes said...
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Our Journey to Jadyn Nicole said...

Christie, Thank you so much for sharing your amazing story. You and Anton are very lucky!!

Dan, Misty & Ashar said...

You are publishing this into a book, right? How can your story bring me to tears over and over again? You really must publish. Thanks for sharing it all!

Suz said...

Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us, you have an amazing way with words!

Jennifer said...

Love the socks!

Jesi Q said...

Wow! How totally cool! Our little man wore that pink coat every day for two weeks while in Ethiopia! It has a gnome-pointed hood on it, right? We were there in early April, so it looks like it was passed on to Quint! Our little girl also wore those exact socks! How fun to see them on someone else as the cycle continues! Great writing!