Every tree limb overhead seems to sit and wait, while every step you take becomes a twist of fate.
Up on the watershed, standing at the fork in the road...

If you are new to our adoption blog please take a moment to scroll down to the archives at the bottom of this page and start with July 2009 post "Watershed."


Meeting my "almost daughter" in Addis or The post I didn't want to write but had to get out...

My heart is heavy from the last few days in Addis. I wrote this post while I was still there.

I created this 4-day stop in Addis hoping we might have a referral by now. A little girl I could visit. But it was not meant to be I guess. Sometimes I wonder if it will really happen. No, I am not being melodramatic. There is a large part of me that thinks we missed the boat. It was not ever ever meant to happen. Not because we’ve waited so long, because the adoption process hasn’t been all that long. But I just have this feeling. I can’t explain it. Very glass is half empty today.

Without our referral I really couldn’t just linger around the AAI orphanages. It’s hard not to bond with the kids and get emotionally involved. And I do not need that.

I took just one morning to visit little AHOPE (kids under 8), Layla/Wanna House, and Opportunity House with a friend who lives here. I left some letters from other AAI families. I took a couple of photos for families. My heart was not completely in it.

Our first stop was little AHOPE.

I knew, intellectually, that probably little T was still living there. Courts just reopened after the rainy season and her family wouldn’t have had time to pass court and come and get her yet. But I wasn’t really prepared to see her in person. I was dying of curiosity to see her but so torn about it. I’m still not sure I did the right thing by going there. I pretended I was going to see where our child might come from (she will possibly come through AHOPE) but now looking back I know my real intentions. I wanted to see T. It was a bad bad idea. I really should learn more self-control.

First we visited the morning playroom where a group of about 10 kids were having a snack. They were all sitting around a table with a nanny hand feeding them. It was sweet to see. They behaved really well. Most of the group were boys about 5 years old. A couple were tiny little girls but when I asked how old they were I was told they were also 5. It is shocking what malnutrition can do. They looked 2! They all were happy to smile for my camera but thankfully not a group that needed to hang and cling to every visitor. I was really glad to see that. I hate to encourage that desperate clinging to strangers and begging behavior common in orphanages.

Then we went on a little tour of the sleeping rooms. Big kids were in school so they were all empty.

Then we walked to the baby house, which is in the same compound. It’s yellow and has a family of stick figures painted on the outside.

My heart started racing a little and I swear it was skipping every other beat as we walked through the hall.

We walked into her room and she was standing right at the door. I knew her immediately. I said her name and she looked up and smiled. She was bigger than I imagined. I guess 3 months have gone by since we first saw her referral photos. She smiled up at me and everything, every organ in my body, melted. I just said her name and knelt down to talk to her and look in her eyes and touch her cheek. After a few seconds she put her arms up and we held onto each other. Then she pulled back and gave me a long once over look. And an approving little smile. She talked some baby talk in Amharic. I imagined she was asking who I was. She wanted to tell me things that I’ll never know.

I carried her and we looked around the room together. She pointed out the newest baby to me and patted her on her baby hands. It was like she was explaining that this was a new baby and that was really interesting to her. She talked in baby talk to me and I nodded and laughed. It was anything but tragic. She was perfection. She was happy.

Oh, it was so so hard to put her down. But what could I do? I couldn’t exactly announce to everyone around me “this should have been my daughter. Thanks, I’m taking her now.” I was worried they’d take one look at my growing desperation and usher me straight out of the compound surrounded by security. I had a vision that they’d post a wanted photo warning the guards to not let me in again. I kept the feeling of desperation off of my face and out of my voice.

So I put T down and they said I could take a couple of photos of her alone for her new family. Since her referral photos were so serious I worked to get a big smiley photo. Not hard to do! She is such a happy funny little one. She played peekaboo with a paper. Then we said Chao (goodbye in Amharic) and she said “shao shao” quietly over and over as we left. She waved. I was impressed. She seemed to be the most brilliant 20 month old I’ve ever met.

I got outside and turned back to look at the hallway to her room and suddenly she was there. She had come out to the hall and was watching me leave. It was the moment I seriously considered grabbing her and running. She was standing in the hall and I was at the bottom of the steps out the door. We just looked at each other and then her nanny called her back. So hard. Have I said how hard this was? It ripped something vital out of my heart. My eyes were so dry it felt like it was worse than crying.

A few minutes later as we were leaving the compound T came out toddling after her nanny to another building. She just kept watching me. As she was about to round the corner she threw up her hands and started blowing kisses. She isn’t a performer. She didn’t run to us. She was securely following in the footsteps of the nanny. But she knew how to blow kisses. I wonder if she just learned that. She put her little hands up to her lips until she almost stumbled in to the wall and then she turned the corner and was gone. It all happened so fast. The whole visit was no more than 20 minutes.

All I have are 4 photos. Nothing more.

So I don’t get it AT ALL. I don’t understand why this has happened. What on earth am I supposed to have learned from this? Why on our first adoption, our first child, I have to fall in love with one and have her snatched from me I will never understand. Then why do I have to come here and SEE her and fall in love with her again? After I really thought I was over it and doing fine. Ready for our "real" referral now with AAI. If there is a lesson in this I will never get it.

I’m really angry about this. We CHOSE her. And we knew we would love her. And for being 3 weeks shy of completed paperwork she was taken and given to another family. And here we are in EXACTLY the position I thought would happen and told the agency would happen. Our dossier is in Ethiopia. We have approval to adopt. The paperwork is done and we are ready. And I am here – the other family is not. And if she were mine I would just stay. And she would know me and see me every day until she passes court. Better for her. Absolutely. Even if WACAP hadn't allowed me to visit her every day I would be in her city. I would be nearby if she needed me. We would take custody the second she passed court and live with her here until she had her visa to travel. We would do anything. We are so flexible. This other family had better be the most perfect and wonderful and deserving family who will be better for her than us (very hard to imagine.) They had better BOTH travel here to get her. They better think she is the most brilliant thing they’ve ever seen.

I believe in God you know. But I don’t think he purposely causes pain and suffering to exact His plan in the world. So I don’t know where this all fits in. I don’t know the why and I don’t know that there is a why of it all. I heard a great quote from a friend here yesterday. She said that adoption should be working to find families for children and not children for families. I think the same is true of God. He wants families for children and is maybe not so worried about us in all of this. Trying to believe He knows what is best for T. I wish I could know why it wasn’t us. It would be nice to know. I am adding it to the list of questions for the afterlife.

So now I have been thinking about her every minute of the last 24 hours. And some minutes seem very melodramatic, like right now. Tears, anger, searching her pictures for some clues to all of this. I talked to J this morning and told him everything. I think he is upset too. I’m glad he isn’t here. It would have been really hard for him to have met her in person. We decided I should leave Addis and not bother our agency about a referral or extend my stay. I need time to go home and grieve a little.

Her face was the face I want to look at every day forever. She has these big heart shaped lips that don’t stay closed over her baby teeth. She has Bambi sized eyes that get really wide when you talk to her. They are wide apart and have curled up lashes. Her curls are the softest things I’ve ever felt. She’s sturdy and much heavier than I imagined. At least 25-30 pounds. Her little lispy voice is gorgeous and surprising. She’s still a baby but just barely. She was wearing dirty clothes and the braids in her hair had just about come out completely-lost in a cloud of curls. But I could feel them through her hair. I have no idea if she is beautiful. I have no objectivity. I thought I was going to be her mother. She is the most beautiful child on earth to me.

I am coming home. I thought when I arrived that I would extend for a week here. The AAI Ethiopia director told me when I visited Layla House that 2 people ahead of us on the referral list received referrals last week. So we are possibly #2 on the list. Not quite sure. (Edited - we are #3 now.) But she can’t predict when more referrals will be given. But I can’t stay. I don’t want to stay. I feel heavy and tired and emotionally unprepared for a different child.

I am very worried now about accepting a referral. I am worried I won’t see the right face looking back at me. Has anyone else ever had this happen? If you have, could you please let me know how you dealt with it?

I heard this quote last week.
“Life is lived forward but understood backward.” Soren Kirkagaard
I think the first part is true. Jury is still out on the second part.



  1. Amanda, I am sorry you are hurting so badly. But I hope when you receive your referral and you see the face of your baby, you will know that is YOUR baby. Our homestudy was held up because our social worker went on an extended vacation (in the middle of our homestudy process...thanks) and I remember seeing other families getting referrals of baby girls around the time we would have been at the top of the list. I was SO jealous because those could have been OUR babies... BUT when we got our referral, I realized we were waiting for HER...our little daughter. I hope you get your call very soon and find some peace and joy on this heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking journey.

  2. This broke my heart reading it. I wish I had something-some wisdom, some words, something that could help. I don't. I'm very sorry for that. And, I hope that someday, years, decades from now-you understand. I really do.

  3. T is a very special little one that will forever be part of your story. While she is not your little one she is the one that played a MAJOR part in getting your heart ready for your little one. Honor that and don't forget her. But now you need to make room in your heart for YOUR little one. Get ready because it is going to be the best day. The day that everything changes. 3....2....1 Can't WAIT!!!!!!

  4. OBTW I missed you and I'm glad you are back.

  5. I am heartbroken for you. I hope that your heart heals. How wonderful for little T that she is already loved so dearly by someone. What a gift that you gave her. She obviously felt it. I also don't know the why's of things...but I often feel comfort by this quote from my favorite band, The Cure:
    "The world is neither fair nor unfair. The world is neither just nor unjust." I personally don't think God's hands are in the details, but I do believe God's love and acceptance and peace are always available when we ask for it and make ourselves vulnerable for it. Thinking of you.


  6. Amanda, I ache for you. It is COMPLETELY understandable the "pessamistic/ halfempty" outlook right now. You heart is broken. I've heard it said that- we create this image- this image of our family with a face , a girl or boy, a specific age or size, (etc) - we create this image as a coping mechanism. We create it- so we can keep going. So we LOVE that we are going through pain- cause we can 'see' what we are doing it for. And then... the reality doesn't match the coping mechanism.

    If this is true for you. Take your time. Try to remember the messages. The intensity. The sureity of how you started this journey. It hasn't gone away. Those reasons get buried underneath all these other side trips- but the reasons are still there.

    You gave that child a nice afternoon. You loved on her. She felt love and cared for, and joy for the time you were there to give it to her. You ache. You hurt. It would be strange if you didn't. We do not know what comes next. Just have faith that you were there for a reason. Even if that reason had nothing to do with benefitting you. You gave to her.

    (k- that sounds a bit like I'm giving you a-talkin'-to, but it wasn't my intention.) you are so full of love and ready. And I can't imagine how painful it is to believe & picture a child to love on and it be taken away. i can't imagine. Huggs to you. Get home and REST

  7. I cannot even imagine how hard that must have been for you. I am so sorry that you had to go through that. Prayers for you.

  8. Dear Amanda,

    I'm praying for you and Jeremy in this adoption journey. I'm so sorry that you are hurting after meeting that precious little girl. I will pray God's blessing on this process and that He will orchestrate all the details and bring you the child He intends for you to have.


  9. 3.5 years have gone by since I wrote this post. How time has flown by. Little T was adopted by a family that lives just 1 hour from us. I have seen here here, in our state, with her family. And she fits. They were right for her. And Ariam was right for us. And truly I believe life is lived forwards and understood backwards. It was amazing to reread this post and see all of the beauty and right and trueness of how our story, T's story, Ariam's story, and T's family's story played out. For the best.


About Me

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J and I have been married for almost 15 years. We have shared many adventures and a lot of watershed moments. In 2009 I began blogging and in 2010 we adopted our daughter from Ethiopia. In March of 2012 we began the process to adopt a little boy from Haiti. This blog follows the many twists and turns on the road to our two children and beyond.