Adults helped themselves to sangria.
Babies helped themselves to dirty pool water.
And pink cake was eaten not so daintily.
First birthday celebrated. Check.
First year gone completely. Check. :(
I wondered about this a lot. I swore to use the word "bonding" for at least our first 6 months home instead of "attaching" since I know this second word can be...confusing? debatable? hard to measure?
Bonding is easy. I think we understood from day one that bonding is little moments and memories you create that build a web of invisible strings between parents and child. We started bonding when we delivered sweet snacks into D's mouth on day one. We started bonding when we gave her the bottle. We took photos. We touched her feet to the grass. We pointed at ourselves "mama" "dada" a million times with big smiles. We hugged and held and made her laugh just a little. We took photos as a family. We were creating bonds.
But how to measure attachment? What does it really look like? I am thinking about that a lot these days because something is changing in our house. There is something, dare we say love (?!), growing softly in our home.
Tonight we had this moment of overwhelming sweetness before we put her to bed. The three of us, giggling, kissing, rubbing noses, making eye contact. She was so happy she was just glowing. J and I were not a. trying to rush her to bed so we could get some evening time alone or b. tired and frustrated from a long day with a demanding one year old. Nope. We were just enjoying it. No faking it till we make it.
looks me in the eye a lot
smiles when she sees me
plays near my feet or within my sight (or J's if he is home)
bursts into sobbing tears if she senses any frustration or irritation on my part (I don't quite know what to make of this actually - any thoughts?)
comes to me and lays her head on my shoulder while we are playing in her room
gets upset if I leave the room when we are out in public
touches my face and hair (or J's) when we rock at night (sometimes with more force than I would like but still, I think it counts)
Likes to look at us together in the mirror - this makes her laugh and sometimes she announces "mama" at our reflections
Talks about "dada" or "dadee" all day long
She does all of these things. They were little at first. Their charm snuck up on me. Many early days I spent wishing for the cavalry to come and save me from her grabby hands and screaming voice. But then one day recently I realized that I know each scream. Now I understand what she needs immediately. She screams so much less now that she trusts us. One day I realized that I liked looking at her in the mirror too. One day we realized that we have little family jokes and tricks just between the three of us.
J and I have become oozing piles of baby love mush. We were not when we arrived home a month ago. And now we are. What happened? More than bonding I think. Dare I say attachment work is going on here? I think D is helping us along. She is really the answer to all of my prayers for a child that would bring us great joy and laughter.
We named her:(Jeremy suggests that I tell you it is pronounced like the music group R.E.M. but I would say that the last a is much softer. More like Are yehm.)
The name is a Ge'ez word which means Supreme Heaven. Ge'ez is the ecclesiastical language of Ethiopia. I think that means it is the language used for worship, scripture, and music.
We gave her the middle name Isabella. It means God's promise and it is also the name of Kelley's little girl whom we absolutely worship and adore.
Finally, we kept Derartu as a second middle name.
We left for Ethiopia armed with a few names we liked. And believing that we might choose to keep Derartu as a first name. But the name became painful to my ears after hearing it on the nannies lips for 3 weeks. There were too many moments when someone used her name to draw her to them and try to claim her. Too many times when her name felt like a leash tying her back to her long series of losses and orphanages and caregivers and not like the cord that could tie her to us. We needed to claim this little girl. To be honest I was scared to do it. I was having self-doubt. I was worried that she would feel loss. But far from that, she became A from day one and never looked back. She immediately stopped responding to D. She's a survivor. But more than that I think she WANTED and was waiting to be claimed by her family.
PS. After rereading each post I am shocked by how far we've diverged from our adoption parenting plan. Co-sleeping? Not a chance. Baby wearing? She wants none of it. Keeping her name? Nope. I would call the plan a huge fat failure IF I didn't look at the big picture and see so clearly how good each decision has been for all three of us.
(Keeping it real with this photo. She's been our mini dictator from the start.)
On day 6 we joined Kelley's family and several of their friends for lunch at Antika - an Italian restaurant off of Bole Road that I highly recommend. During this lunch something really significant happened. It turned out that one of Kelley's friends is the man who processes adoption visas at the US embassy. We talked for several hours about adoption, corruption, ethics, agencies, visas, the future of Ethiopian adoptions, AND we talked about D's medical needs. This man, this wonderful man, described step by step to us what we needed to do to expedite our visa process. He said that because of her pre-existing medical condition PLUS the extremely poor care she received resulting in poor health, she would qualify to be expedited by the embassy. (And she was. In the end we passed court on May 24th and had our visa appointment on June 16th. It was practically a miracle.
(Had her first pizza and LOVED it. How do kids just know the junk food?)
On night 6 I got the chills. On day 7 I was feverish and could barely get out of bed. On day 8 we called our friends Jon and Jess (who work for Foresaken Children - a great organization that supports a drop in center and halfway home for street children in Addis) and they took me to the Swedish Clinic. Dr. Nagina is kind but very blunt. As I lay on her emergency bed claiming I was about to die (and I seriously felt that way) she said "we will take blood. If it is viral I will send you home with nothing. If it is bacterial you get medicine." (I have never in my life prayed so hard for a bacterial anything!)
(Jon, Jess and baby Dawit. Thank you - we love you!)
She attempted to swab my throat for strep and it didn't go well. Let's just say that she probably has better patients in her 5 year olds. (I have a phobia of that wooden tongue depressor.)
It was bacterial. I cried a little with relief. She said I had an "extremely high and obvious" count of bacteria in my blood. No clue what that means. Sent me home with medicine.
Day 7-9 I lay in bed. Yeshi the cook makes me homemade chicken noodle soup and keeps it coming. Jer brings me crackers and apple juice. I can barely swallow (the infection is respiratory and throat infection.) The fever breaks. I read the entire book The Help. I sleep 20 out of 24 hours. I have no idea where D is or who is taking care of her and I kind of care in between long sweaty naps but mostly I have a little lapse of memory that she is with us and I am a mom now.
Day 7-9 J apparently takes care of D with lots of help from Dinkanesh, Yeshi and Kelley/kids. Jeremy becomes very very tired. Jeremy almost cries. I almost cry. Maybe we both cried but I can't remember much from those days. D looks at me suspiciously when she's in my room. She doesn't understand why I've withdrawn. I feel guilty. The whole thing is nightmarish.
Yeshi and Dinkanesh cannot understand why J is taking care of the baby when they are there. They take D from him at every opportunity and begin to bond with her. D transfers her affection to them and to the guards. We know it will be hard to win her back. UGH.
Days 10-19 Nine days apparently go by and I just don't know what we did. We feel we are living the movie Groundhog's Day. Each day we are unsure if we'll make it in the embassy batch for the 16th. (Her TB test, passport, and other documents have to be done.)
J gets up 3 mornings in a row at 5am to have D ready for her 6am TB sputum testing. It involves intubating her. It is apparently not pretty. This happens while I am recuperating.
We rarely leave the house. I work to gain back trust with D. We visit with a few friends. We go to bed by 7:30 or 8pm every night. We pray that we will get her visa.
Day 14 We drive to Debre Zeit/Bishoftu with an AAI social worker and an Elolam Kids social worker. They take us to visit D's hometown. It is not far from Addis but is a long drive in rain and on bad roads. It is a long and hard day. We learn some things we did not know. We are left though with more questions than answers. We make a surprise visit to D's first nanny. (More on this in the name/attachment post.)
Day 16 We go to the embassy with the AAI group and receive D's visa. They even allow us to come later than the families with older children so that we won't have to wait so long. (Average embassy wait is about 3 hours.) We see "our guy" at the window and thank him profusely.
Day 17 Kelley and Yeshi help me dress D in her traditional outfit for a spontaneous photoshoot. In the afternoon D's orphanage throws a going away party for several of the children leaving for the U.S. with adoptive parents. We make a definite decision to change her name after hearing the nannies call to her all afternoon.
Day 18 We said goodbye to the Bunkers on Day 17 when they left for their summer vacation in the States. Jon and Jess pick us up at 8pm. Jeremy has had food poisoning for the previous 12 hours. I have a raging recurrance of my bacterial infection combined now with bronchitis. (But thankfully minus the debilitating fever.)
Our flight is at 1:40am. We arrive 4 hours early in order to request bulkhead/bassinett seating at the ticketing desk for Ethiopian Airlines - which was already reserved by our travel agent. We are told these seats are confirmed. We move on to the endless nighttime airport wait. The only glimmer is the light at the end - the bulkhead bassinett seat so we can LAY HER DOWN. (She hates the Er.go carrier and got a major second wind in the airport that involved crawling, laughing, eating, and screaming.)
We board somewhere around 3am. Late. Late departure. And our seats are NOWHERE NEAR THE BULKHEAD.
This is when J has hits his very limit. 19 days of confusion, late pick ups by drivers, wrong information, sickness, poor service from almost everyone involved in D's adoption, and he is over the edge. He takes the baby, walks up to the front of the plane (after trying to talk to flight attendants with no results) and demands to talk to a pilot. He does not budge for 30 minutes. There are obviously other seats available - many at the back of business class and at least one on a bulkhead but they will neither move us or shift anyone else to a better seat so that we can have some room to spread out. I am tired. I am defeated. D is crying. I am willing to give up and sit down. (SO not my normal style.)
But J stages his silent furious crying baby-holding protest until finally the head attendant comes and moves a man out of our row and into a nicer seat so at least we have a seat free between us for D. It was the best we could get, and it was not the "confirmed" bulkhead, but it satisfied. I think after all that we had been through J just could not handle the thought of either of us holding her for one more second. (Especially since were both sick!)
We lay her down, she fell asleep, we slept a bit. And somehow the 9 hour flight to London passed without any more drama. There were other adoptive families on the plane looking at us. I am sure they thought we were being ridiculous. But they did not know what we had been through the past 19 days. This was just the breaking point.
We have only one photo of the entire trip home. This one. And it just about sums it up I think.
We've reached the end. Home glorious home. Cool breezes, endless blue sky over mountains, green grass, our car and her carseat, our doggies, friends with food deliveries, a CRIB to put her in. Heavenly.
These posts are not meant to diminish the accounts of wonderful trips from other adoptive families. I am guessing that if you are guaranteed a visa and only spending 4-7 days in the country, particularly during the warm/dry/sunny season, that Addis and Ethiopia in general seems just fine.
But I have traveled all over the world and seen some DIRE living conditions and yet I have never experienced anything close to Addis Ababa. It is painfully dirty, painfully full of disease and neglect, heartwrenchingly full of the poor, elderly, disabled and children living in the streets. I have been there twice before this year so it was not a surprise. But living there with a sick baby for 19 days was not easy. Or pretty. Especially in the rainy season.
J never wants to go back. It was that traumatic. It's actually kind of funny looking back - a month later - at how visceral a reaction he had to it. But we have committed to attempt a return every 5 or so years. So we will be back. And we will go during sunny season. To visit Lalibela and Axum and Lake Tana and all of the other beautiful parts so that we can help D appreciate the land and people she comes from. We certainly don't want this one pick up trip to be all we can offer her.