Saturday, March 12, 2011

4 Years Ago

Parents often warn me to appreciate every moment with my children because they grow up way too fast. I can say that after 4 very short years home with Jacob, they are absolutely right. As I look back at that wonderful and life changing week four years ago, I have many wonderful memories.

Mar. 9, 2007- After more hours than I care to remember, our flight on Ethiopian Airlines landed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I was tired and overcome with emotions. I began to fight back the urge to cry and began to look around me. The Ethiopians on the plane were applauding. Something they did every time the plane landed at it's destination. The American women there to meet their new children were crying.

I got off the plane, got my visa, exchanged some money, got my luggage and found the rest of the people in my travel group as well as my parents. We got onto the van that would take us to the guest house and began to drive through the city. I fought even harder not to cry as I realized I was in the same city as my son. In a few short hours, I would meet him for the first time. I would no longer be a single woman wishing for a child. I would be a mom. My identity would change and I would change. But at that moment, I was just trying to maintain my composure in front of all these people I had just met while I took in the sights.

March 10, 2007: We got up early drove to the office before heading to the care center (orphanage) where my son had lived for the past 11 hours. When we talked to the social worker, got our name tags and learned more about what our week would be like. I listened but kept thinking that all I wanted was to go meet my son. Finally they took us to the care center where I got off the van. They took the families one at a time to meet our children. I don't remember where I was in the line to get my child. I just remember them saying my son's name and then following the social worker out to the patio.

The children were sunbathing when we arrived. They were suppose to be sitting on chairs but many of the young toddlers were wandering around. I remembering seeing a little boy that I thought was Jacob in a nanny's arms but the social worker walked by him and to the larger group. She asked the nanny there where my son was and the nanny pointed back to the baby we had just passed. I was nervous, exicited and again had the urge to cry. Not because I was happy or sad. Just because I was overwhelmed and wasn't sure what I was feeling. I couldn't believe this beautiful child was mine. There must be some mistake yet they told him I was his mommy. They told me to pick him up and he just sat in my arms and stared at me. Everyone took pictures and I just took in the moment and all the emotions. I was finally a mom and my dream had come true. I had met my son.

March 11, 2007: I travelled to a smaller city, Hosannah, Ethiopia, to meet my son's birthmother. Wow. I have never had an experience like that in my life. I smiled and she cried. She told me how much she loved Jacob and the reasons behind her decision to make an adoption plan. I won't share that story here and will never share it with anyone besides Jacob but I will say his birthmom is the strongest woman I have ever met. Jacob inherited her smile and her strength. Along with many facial fatures. She taught me the true meaning behind a mother's love. She left that meeting smiling and I left crying. Something I did for a long time after meeting her.

March 12, 2007, I arrived at the care center in the morning and got off the van with the other people in our travel group. I began walking up the sidewalk to the building my son was in. As I approached the building I saw Jacob standing on the othe side of the patio door. We made eye contact and he began screaming, giggling and banging on the door. He ran to the hallway door and met me there. I picked him up and went into the room. I sat down and some of the children began playing with my hair and coming up to me. A little boy came up and gave me a hug. Jacob quickly pushed him away and began blocking all of the other children from getting near me. He was claiming me as his own. He didn't need to. He had already claimed my heart.

March 13, 2007, Jacob and I went to the American embassy to get his visa. As we walked up to the building, I watched an Ethiopian family dressed in very nice clothes come out smiling. They got to the sidewalk, began yelling, smiling and hugging. They crossed themselves, fell to their knees and were obviously thanking God. They had gotten that magical American visa so many others were hoping for and that my son would easily get through the miracle of adoption and an immigration law for family members of American citizens. I will never forget that feeling that I wasn't any better than these people standing in line for hours praying for the chance to come to America yet I got to walk by them and avoid the long lines because I was born here. I still struggle with the unjustice I felt at that moment.

I returned Jacob to the care center that evening. He was a very sad little boy who cried and couldn't be consoled by his nannies. I was so glad I would never have to leave him again. I returned to the guest house and went to my room where I cried. I cried hard. I remember my dad coming into the room and telling me it would be okay. I would be able to take custody the next day and everything would be okay again. I swore I would never leave that little boy like that again. And I never have.

March 14, 2007, I attended the going away ceremoy and took custody of my beautiful one year old boy. We were finally a family. I was so grateful. I remember barely sleeping that night and waking up everytime he went to the bathroom in his diaper (it was pretty loud and disgusting). The next morning I heard him begin to stir and looked over at him. He sat up in the crib, looked at my parents and then looked at me. He began smiling from ear to ear and our lives together had officially begun. We were a family.

A lot has changed in the past 4 years. I have gone from wishing I had children to having two beautiful children (and probably a 3rd later this year. More to come on that later). I no longer think about what I want as I consider my future but I consider what is best for my children.

Jacob has gone from a baby trying to figure out what it meant to have a mom to a five year old boy getting ready for kindergarten and his first season of flag football. He's gone from not having a mom to having a mom, grandparents, an uncle and a brother. He's gone from being a baby who smiled and loved to get into trouble to being a happy child who still smiles often and loves to get his brother in trouble.

Our lives changed forever four years ago. I will never forget those days in Ethiopia or those first few days at home. There were challenges and many joys. I remember the days before I left for Ethiopia and worrying that I was making a huge mistake. Now, I can't imagine not having my children. Adopting Jacob was the best decision I ever made. I am so grateful to be his mom. A gift from God and his birthmom. I will never take either for granted.

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