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."


Days 5-19 The Rest of the Story

Ok, I lied. Name post will be the next one!
Really needing to wrap up the travel posts and put them behind me.

After her long day at the doctor's office on day 4 we spent the afternoon in immigration. This appointment is part of the behind the scenes work done before most families arrive in country. We took D to immigration in the pouring rain. Buckets. Cats and dogs. Drenching cold rain. HUGE crowd surrounding the building. Overflowing waiting rooms. Completely incomprehensible set of intricate stops and starts and lines and forms. We were with 2 social workers from AAI and several children being processed for their passports so we just followed everyone around clutching the baby to us and trying not to slip and fall in the mud as we went from one building to another.

We shuffled around, changed a diaper on the ground, kept D plied with bottles and each went into our zones. (You know, the happy place you go in your mind when you'd rather be anywhere else. Mine was a Fiji, Tahiti, Bali, Hawaii combo. I was tan and thin, margaritas drunk from coconuts were plentiful, it was not too hot or too cold... you know the place.)

We were rewarded at the end of the day. D had her passport photo taken (and received her passport early the next week) AND we got to see her new Ethiopian birth certificate. With our names listed as her parents and her birthday surprisingly assigned as July 18, 2009.

Days 5-19. How can I even describe them?
We had a very brief honeymoon period. Just a few days where D slept for long naps and long nights, we were both well, and the weather was warm and sunny. We spent one afternoon playing with Kelley's kids: Ben, Bella and Simon, at the private international school which has a track, playgrounds, green grass, and a great cafe.

(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.

When we arrived in London we couldn't stop grinning. We love the UK. We have lots of friends in London. London has great health care. London has pharmacies to treat my cough. London has croissants and hot mint tea and so much yum. We ate in Heathrow. D crawled around Heathrow. We decided to implement the "well it couldn't be germier than where she was living in Ethiopia" standard for allowing her to crawl all over public spaces. We slogged ourselves around to stay awake. We loved every minute of those 4 hours.

And then we hated every minute of the 10 hour flight home to Denver. It wasn't United's fault. They of course were wonderful. The transfer desk agent spent 20 minutes moving around the entire plane to get us a row of 3 in the front of economy plus. In theory we had space and comfort. But 5 of the 10 hours J spent in the back kitchen galley holding D who wanted nothing to do with sleep or sitting. 5 of the 10 hours I spent choking on my own phlegm and trying not to breath on any other passengers. 1 hour I spent walking D into sleep. And then she slept the last few hours on the plane, all the way through immigration and customs, all the way through baggage claim and almost all the way home. :)

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.



  1. Shit. Just shit. I can't come up with anything better.

    We were on that 1:40am flight to London a few weeks ago. Only it left at about 3am, I think, for no apparent reason.

    I didn't know London was an option on the IR-3 visa?

  2. We just went through Heathrow - transferred terminals - but didn't leave the airport. So we never went through immigration. No idea if you can get through immigration on an IR3 but you can apparently at least transfer through Heathrow.

    And rereading this post I feel guilty that it all sounds so wretched. The upside was that we were in a gorgeous home with a wonderful family who took care of us. So at least we weren't spreading our germs all over a guest house AND we had dependable hot water and good food. There are many upsides to our time in Ethiopia. It's just that with all the sickness we came away feeling so defeated and worn out which impacts the overall story.

  3. I'm glad that you are on the other side of this event....home, TOGETHER and healthy!

  4. I don't think you should feel guilty about this post. As a PAP who has been lurking here for awhile I can say that it really illustrates that no matter how intentional you are about the process, no matter how experienced you are in-county/on-continent beforehand, things can differ wildly from your expectations. Your blog explores so many important topics in IA/ET adoption--I applaud you for not keeping silent on the less-than-ideal parts of the story.

  5. Oh, A, your story just reminds me SO much of what ours felt like (even down to the trip to immigration... not many people see that!!)

    Trying to be a new parent, in a new city, at the same time as being sick? Officially sucks,, in my opinion. I, too, have never been so glad to be home. (And NEXT time you come through London, if you can get out of the terminal and have space in your schedule, come and see me! I'm only a few miles down the M4 from Heathrow :)

  6. Your time sounds so congested with worry, sickness, and government frustration! I am uber-thankful you found the time you did for us. You guys are amazing.

  7. I hear you with this post. It must have been very hard on all of you.

    I got deathly ill when picking up our daughter in Addis. It was dreadful. I lost it at the Embassy. (What a filthy dump that was--a travesty.) I was not awake for two days. Except the 1am hospital run. I wish I knew about the Swedish Clinic! Gratefully, our daughter was not sick and my husband and teen son could hold down the fort.

    I found Addis hard on the soul in so many ways and like you want to go back but in an entirely different way. Plus, we'll take Cipro prophylactically once we land in Addis.


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.