Monday, September 20, 2010

Our Final Day in Ethiopia

Throughout the adoption process, there was one event that I knew would likely happen, and I simply had no idea how to prepare for it: meeting my childrens' b1rthm0ther. One of the great things about adopting through Gladney's Ethiopia program is that if a birth family member is still living, a meeting arranged for that birth family member and the adoptive family to meet each other. It provides an opportunity for (in our case) the boys' b1rthm0ther to get some of the closure she needs--a chance to meet us, to ask us any questions she wants, an opportunity to say her goodbyes. And of course, it was also the one opportunity we had to meet her, gather information from her and about her that the boys might want to know one day, and to take some photos of her for the boys.

I wish I could show you her photograph here, but to protect her privacy, we've chosen not to do that. I will say that she is an absolutely beautiful woman who clearly loves her sons, and I respect her so very much.

The meeting took place at Gladney's offices, not far from our hotel. A social worker met Brian and me and the boys, and got us settled in a conference room, and said that the b1rthm0ther (whom I will call "N") was waiting at a cafe, and she would return with her shortly. I thought it would require a car ride to go pick her up, but apparently the cafe was in Gladney's office compound, because the two of them entered the room only a minute or two later.

Brian and I stood to greet her, each of us holding one of the boys in our arms. "N" walked right up to the boys and kissed each of them on the hand. We exchanged three kisses with her, as is the custom in Ethiopia, and we all sat down around the table. She spent time holding each of the boys during the meeting as we talked.

Travis and Joanna (Gladney staff) gave us some great advice about how to approach the meeting. We were so glad that we talked to them and took their advice! They counseled us to remember that this is very likely the one and only opportunity we would have to meet "N" and to ask her whatever questions we have for her. They said that it was not the time to beat around the bush--that Ethiopia is a straightforward culture and the questions should be asked directly.

Brian and I made a list of questions we wanted to ask her, including some that we were nervous about asking. But I will say that our honest questions got honest answers, and I'm so glad that we asked everything we did! Brian took notes during the entire meeting, so we have the information for the boys. (Also, we knew that emotions would be running so high during the meeting that if we didn't write it down, we would forget everything.) We asked her permission to video tape our meeting, but she said she didn't feel comfortable with that, but that photographs were fine.

After about thirty minutes or so of talking with her, we brought in our mothers, so that they could meet her and she could meet the grandmothers of her sons. We took photos of each individual boy with "N", one of "N" and me (Tracy) and both boys, then Brian jumped into the group, and then the social worker took a photo of all of us together, including the grandmothers.

After our quick photo session, the grandmothers said good-bye. (Brian's mother was so sweet and told "N" that she and my mom would help take care of them.) We asked "N" if she had any other questions for us, and she said "no", and then we said goodbye. I'm not going to lie. I held it together pretty well during our meeting, but as soon as Brian and I walked out of the building with the boys, I burst into tears. It was just so sad. My heart goes out to "N", and I think of her often. I hope she has peace in her heart knowing her boys are loved by us. She knows that we will be sending an annual letter to Gladney Ethiopia with photos of the boys (that she will have access to), so she can see them as they grow through the years.

I'm so glad we got to meet "N", so glad we got some information from her for the boys, and so glad we have some photos of her to show them.

Once I had regained my composure, we met with Belay. He is the head of Gladney in Ethiopia. He gave us the boys' passports, visas, original birth certificates and vaccination records, and we had everything we needed to bring the boys home!

While our moms went out and did a little bit of souvenir shopping...

...Brian and I and the boys went back to our guest house to get everything packed up for our journey home!

In the midst of our packing, I noticed that (without any coaxing) Jeremy was trying to feed Zachary his bottle. He's a very sweet big brother. When he hears the baby cry, he makes sure I know.

Just before we left, we discovered that our guest house has a rooftop with an amazing view, so we took a family picture!

Here's one with "Uncle Soli"!

Then we packed up the van and headed to the airport. We passed the beautiful Holy Savior Orthodox Church on the way.

And then we arrived at the airport:

Jeremy kissed Solomon goodbye. The rest of us said goodbye to our dear Solomon with tears in our eyes. He is such a sweet guy who we all just adore!

Once we got our bags checked and through security, my mom had fun entertaining Jeremy in a baggage cart!

We got to fly with another Gladney family from Addis Ababa to Dubai!

We even were seated on the same row, so that made the flight go by fast!

Once we arrived in Dubai, we went straight to our hotel room (we stayed at the hotel inside the airport decision we could have made!), got showered and fell into bed for a whole four hours. Here's our little baby all freshly bathed and ready for bed!

Morning came waaaaaaaaaay too soon, but we had a flight to catch. Home was within our reach....


Anonymous said...

Such beautiful pictures (I love the one of Jeremy kissing Solomon goodbye) and how very heart-wrenching to meet with the boys' birth mother and hear her story. I pray for peace for all of you.

Dana Cheryl said...

It's one of life's least common and most unusal feel overwhelming joy and heart-rending sorrow all at the same time. In those moments my gratitude for scripture is deepened because I know it has the authority to give me assurance...

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

Autumn's Mom said...

What an incredible journey!!!! I can't wait to see some of your daily life now that you are home :)

Thanks for sharing always!!!

michele said...

What a wonderful post! Thanks for sharing it. :) michele

Kelli Ugarte said...

I agree with Dana. How many times in life can you feel such unbelievable joy and incredible sorrow all at the same time? Wow, meeting "N"....words can't express.

J at said...

Oh god Tracy, you've got me crying here for N. For everything she has lost. Such bravery, to do what she knows is best for her boys. For your boys. And you, so brave to meet her and talk openly and honestly with her. It's a hard, hard fact of life that too often, one person's gain comes at such a price. In your case, an entire family's joy, at the price of N's. I hope that she finds joy and peace, and that she knows how loved your boys are, and how well cared for they will always be.