January 18, 2011
*some of the names have been changed out of respect for the people in this amazing story.
Today was court day. It was a day that will never be forgotten.
Solomon picked us up at 9:30 this morning and drove us to the courthouse. We drove up to a six story building. It didn’t feel like a courthouse at all…just a regular building filled with offices.
We finally got up to the fifth floor, and walked into a large square room with very little furniture. It was filled with Ethiopians and white foreigners. Most of the Ethiopians were birth families, and the white people were the ones adopting their children.
It was a strange scene to be a part of. In some ways I felt a little guilty. It felt like the Ethiopians were there to experience great loss, but the adoptive families were there to experience great gain. The foreigners were there chatting with each other, and it seemed that the Ethiopians were so quiet.
A large group of adoptive parents finally showed up who were with All God’s Children International. I had met several of the mothers through blogs and facebook. One adoptive mother had a solemn look on her face. and she told me she was worried about meeting with the birth mother, and she was trying to hold it together.
That was the other strange thing….we were sitting in the same room as Alex & Eliana’s birth mother, but we had no idea who she was. I kept scanning the room, looking at different women’s faces, wondering which one might be her. I looked at one and thought, “Maybe that’s her.” She had fair skin and looked young. It wasn’t….
After our first few minutes there, our attorney showed up. She is young and beautiful, and very kind. We sat down by the wall and starting chatting. She asked me how I was feeling and I told her I was a bit nervous. When she asked me why, I told her I was nervous about meeting the birth mother. She responded by saying that we didn’t have to meet her, but of course I knew that we did. It was the most important thing we needed to do. I started crying when I talked about it. Just the thought of the sacrifice she made, and how she must have felt leaving them at the orphanage….it was almost too much for me.
One by one, groups went in and met with the judge. They would be in there for about one minute, and then they would come back out. The entire group of AGCI families came out and said that MOWA still hadn’t gotten the notes written. They looked so disappointed. They were leaving the country without having a solid “pass” from the Ethiopian government. I knew it wouldn’t be as difficult for us since we were staying in country, and we could still spend time with our babies.
At one point during the waiting, our attorney said that the orphanage representative had showed up with the birth mother. My nerves kicked in again and after a while, we eventually knew which one was the birth mother. I tried so hard not to stare in her direction. I didn’t want her to know that I knew who she was. I wanted her to be able to hide…to not hurt. I couldn’t help but wonder what she was thinking. Was she sad? Was she relieved? Was she hurting?
As the orphanage representative spoke to our agency representative, the birth mother just sat there solemnly on the other side of the room, staring down at the floor. There were no smiles, and no chitchat, but why would there be? She was saying goodbye to her babies for good.
The room was finally almost empty. It was just us, our attorney, and then the birth mother with the orphanage representative and agency rep. They called the birthmother in first. A minute later she came out and then Wes and I went in.
It was a small room with a few chairs to sit in. At one desk sat a woman who seemed to be the secretary. At the other desk sat the judge. She was a beautiful woman, who exuded a sense of power and grace at the same time. She wore a scarf over her head. She asked us several questions in a voice so quiet that it was hard to hear her.
Have you met the children?
You still want to adopt them?
Have you taken adoption training?
Are you prepared to deal with their identity issues?
Yes. (But is anyone ever really ready for this, though?)
Will you teach them about Ethiopian culture?
Do you know other people who have adopted from Ethiopia?
And that was that. She didn’t saying anything else to us. We already knew that since the other families hadn’t received their notes from MOWA, we hadn’t either. So we didn’t officially pass today, so they are not officially ours yet.
They told us it would be another 3 weeks (February 7th) before we would hear anything more, which would mean it would be at least another three weeks before we have Alex & Eliana with us 24/7. They will stay in the orphanage until then. And I’ll be honest, both Wes and I are still a bit confused by this. So we are just going to pray for miracles, and hope something changes.
After the judge finished asking us questions, we stood up, exited the office, and entered back into the waiting room. The whole thing took about 2 minutes, literally.
Once we were back in the waiting room we met Meseret, the children’s birth mother. Up close you could see how young she was. She was wearing a pink scarf around her neck, an orange top, with a striped & multi-colored cardigan, and black pin stripe pants. Her skin was dark, and her deep black hair was back in a ponytail.
She was quiet and quite shy. It felt surreal to think that this woman bore our children and brought them into this world. She seemed like a child herself.
I had mentioned to our attorney and agency rep that we wanted to privately talk to Meseret and ask her some questions if she were willing. The head of our agency staff here in Ethiopia was very firm in that she wanted us to go to the office first to have the meeting. At the same time, our agency rep that was with us said that Meseret wanted to go see the babies one last time at the orphanage. We didn’t really know what was going on or where we were going at this point. We were just trying to do what they told us to do.
And then before we knew it, there we were, getting into our car with Solomon, and Meseret was getting in the car with us. I never thought it would go like this, but nothing goes according to plans here. I was so worried about her, hoping that it didn’t hurt too much for her to be in the same place as us. And so we drove to the orphanage. Meseret was in the front passenger side seat. Wes, Cara Dee, and I were in the back.
We arrived at the orphanage about 10 minutes later. All the workers know us there by now, and welcomed us in. They were very confused about Meseret at first. They asked me if she was our friend, and after repeating it several times, they finally understood that she was the birth mother of Alex & Eliana. When the light bulb finally went on, two nannies brought out Alex and Eliana. They handed them to Wes and I first. I couldn’t help but feel guilty. I almost felt as if I didn’t have a right to be handed these beautiful children first. Meseret was the one who brought them into this world, and was brave enough to bring them to the orphanage, in hopes that they might have a chance at life. I felt like she deserved all their attention, and yet I was the one they would call mother. It was a very strange and awkward feeling.
After giving Eliana about 10 kisses, I handed her over to Meseret almost immediately. You could see that Meseret was completely taken in by her. Eliana just sat there being her usual smiley self. She was so beautiful sitting there in her birth mother’s lap. She just cooed and smiled at me across the way. Wes sat with Alexander for a little bit before we passed him over to Meseret also.
So there both of them sat on her lap, just as easy going as ever. I snapped several photos while she sat there. I kept thinking how important it was for Alex & Eliana to know what their birthmother looked like. Her skin is much darker than theirs. They both have her ears. Eliana has her nose. I think Alex has her eyes.
While we sat there, we asked a few questions as the director helped translate. We found out that Alexander was born first, and Eliana was born second. He was big, and she was tiny and thin.
She held on to Eliana, and I took Alex and handed him over to Wes. Alex just chilled in Wes’s arms, like it was just the most comfortable place to be. We got the impression that she seemed to favor Eliana more, since she sat with her more, but when we asked her if she favored one over the other, she said that she loved them both very much.
We stayed for about half an hour. We then stepped out of the office into the courtyard, where we took a couple of pictures of Wes and I with Meseret and the twins. It was supremely surreal. There we were smiling as if it was just any other day, and all the while knowing that this was a day of loss for Meseret.
She gave both Alexander and Eliana a final kiss, and that was it. We left the orphanage and headed over to Illien’s offices.
Wes, myself, and Meseret sat down at an office table with Dinkenesh, a nurse and social worker that works for our agency. Dinkenesh told us that we could ask any questions we wanted to. So we started asking away. We learned so many things. Many of these things are too personal to share on a public forum, but we wrote everything down, and will cherish every detail. When Alex & Eliana are old enough we will have the chance to tell them so many things about where they came from. We learned about their maternal and paternal descent. We learned about the day of their birth, and the time they spent with Meseret until the day she brought them to the orphanage.
When we asked her if there was anything she would like them to do when they grew up, she told us that she wanted them to be educated and become doctors. Her only other request was that we raise them as our own. She asked nothing of us but that.
She said that she was sad the day she left them at the orphanage, but that today she was happy because she saw that we were a good family. I asked Dinkenesh to tell her how grateful and thankful we were to her for the wonderful gift she had given us. Honestly, how can you say thank you in a situation like this? There are no right words. Each time I tried, I started crying. I couldn’t talk anymore, and hot tears fell from my face. Again, her loss was our greatest gain. It just didn’t seem fair, and yet at the same time there was nothing I wanted more in this world than to be the mother of Alexander and Eliana.
One detail I will share is about their birth date. We had been given one with their original paperwork, but weren’t sure if it was accurate or not. Many Ethiopians don’t know their birthdays. This is very common. Even Meseret didn’t know her own birthday. But when I asked her when the twins were born, she knew the answer immediately. June 13th. There was no hesitation. Dinkenesh looked at Wes and I and said with a big smile, “You are very lucky! Not many people know the exact day.” Who knew that the knowledge of something as simple as a date of birth could be such a huge and unusual blessing?
At the end of our meeting, I asked Meseret if we could pray for her before we left. She said that she would like that. So Wes and I both grabbed her hand and began to pray over her. I got through about 3 sentences when the tears got the best of me and words would no longer come. Wes continued on with the rest of the prayer. It was a very special moment, and a very difficult one at the same time.
The meeting was over, and I asked Dinkenesh if Meseret had eaten. She said, probably not. I asked if it was possible for us to buy her lunch. So directly after the meeting, we all headed over to a very nice Ethiopian restaurant. There we sat and continued to ask more questions about her life and any other things we thought that Alex and Eliana might want to know some day. I knew this would probably be our last chance, and I didn’t want to forget to ask anything important. We told her about ourselves too, hoping that she would find comfort in knowing who her birth children were going to grow up with.
So there we sat, And in that hour, we shared the same plate of food with the birth mother of our children, in traditional Ethiopian style. I never imagined we would see a day like this.
After the meal was over, I walked over to Meseret, shook her hand, gave her a hug, and kissed her cheek. And then we said goodbye. From there she was taken back to the people who would see her back to her home, a couple of hours away.
It was a day I will never forget. And through all the pain and difficulty of the emotions of such a meeting, I am so grateful for it. I wouldn’t trade it for the world.
Now, we just wait. We supposedly have to wait 20 days for the court to approve things, and then we must wait several more weeks for an embassy date. I continue to believe for miracles in the timing of it all. We will just have to wait and see. All in all, though, I have peace that all will happen at just the right time.
Today we thank God for his goodness and His faithfulness. It has been evident in every step of the way. Thank you God for who you are and for how much you love us. We are in awe of you today.