March 29, 2011 4pm
So. Yesterday, we left off after our meeting with Selamawit’s birth mother. Her name means “my history” or “my story.” Yonas tells us people will name their children something that means something about what is going on in that mother’s life at that time. Very similar to the way the names were given in the Old Testament, like the way Rachel and her sister, Leah, named their children based on their current misery, happiness, or whatever it was at that time.
We went back upstairs and had 30 minutes to freshen up. Matt got his shower and then they took us to a nice, casual Italian restaurant.
We had intended to eat Ethiopian food at every meal, but they have our days all planned for us. Where we eat, what we do and sights to see. We just want to go with the flow and be grateful, so it’s all ok. I think many adoptive parents have never traveled outside the US and kind of want their western food. We end up meeting another guide and 3 other adoptive families for lunch and all eat together. One women had her 2 new sons (siblings) aged 3 and 4 with her. Beautiful boys. She was a first-time mother. Another woman with her new son about 1 year old. Both of their husbands had not come. This was their Embassy trip (2nd trip.) Also a couple with his parents along. They are here for their court date and the couple intend on staying a month or so until their embassy date. His parents are returning home in a week. It was fun to talk to everyone and hear their stories. We are the only ones that already have children.
Remember, we still haven’t slept, have already gone to court and met with Sally’s birth mother and it is only 1pm. Yonas, Matt and I stop for some coffee before we meet Sally. I didn’t have any for fear of never sleeping again! My coffee cutoff time is noon. Actually I only drink tea at home, but I LOVE coffee so I am making an exception in Ethiopia where coffee is king!
We get in our van and head to the transition home. It is essentially an orphanage, but once the child is matched, they move them to this transition home that our Agency, America World, runs. We pull into some solid metal gates that a guard opens. It is definitely a run down place, but that is to be expected. A little playground is the first thing we see and then we head up a few steps to a covered front porch. Yonas says to sit down on the 2 leather couches on the porch and he will check on Selamawit.
She is asleep
And he says they would prefer not to wake her, but wait until she wakes up. Oh yes. Definitely. Never wake a sleeping baby. Especially as they are about to meet their new parents. We want as good an experience as we can get now. They are worried we will be bored. Everybody we meet here is beyond kind and accommodating. What they lack in a well run country, the make up in the people. We say we are very happy to just lie down on the couches and take a nap while Selam naps (that’s what they call her sometimes.)
Yonas says he will videotape our first meeting. So happy about that. In Russia we were not allowed to videotape that first meeting. But soon after.
In the meantime a batch of children, about ages 5-14, run out, as if for recess, to the playground. Precious children. They kick a soccer ball around, play jacks with rocks. One of them, about 6-7, looks at me and says “Mama?” Oh goodness. You have to control yourself not to want to take all of them home. They know we are there to adopt someone.
Finally a nanny brings Selamawit
My first thought is she is beautiful. She has very dark brown smooth beautiful skin. Big doe eyes. She is holding on tight to the nanny and definitely not sure about who we are and what the heck do we want. I’m sort of not sure if we should just let the nanny hold her for a bit, but the nanny waits for about 30 seconds as we talk to her and then hands her over. I take her and she crys. Doesn’t want to leave the nanny, but just about 10 seconds later she stops as I start talking to her and doing the normal mommy bounce and walk around.
It is so interesting this first meeting. You are really both just checking each other out. It isn’t this immediate love thing. From both points of view. I mean I definitely know she is ours and the one God brought us. It’s not that. It’s more about just a bonding that takes a little time. So we spend the next 2 hours checking each other out on the porch of the home. I do all of the interacting while Matt sits and watches and/or naps. It’s best that way.
(See the video of our first meeting with Sally at the end of this post.)
Even though she is very wary of us, she is also very calm and peaceful.
She is definitely her name which means peaceful and content. She very easily just sits in my lap and lets me hold her however I want. She doesn’t smile at all. About 30 minutes later they bring me a bottle of really warm milk. I put her back in that cradled position and give her the bottle. She drinks it. Loves it. And looks up at me the entire time. We will do that ALOT. That position where she eats and looks at mom at that distance of about a foot is so essential in bonding. With Luke he was already being trained to use a cup when we got him at 13 months. I threw it out and went back to a bottle. Didn’t care how long we used that bottle as I don’t here either. You, little girl, are gonna get what you missed. I’m not sure what that was, but God knows.
A little later they brought some pureed banana. She ate that fine. And then I changed her diaper and noticed 2 big oval scars. 1 about an inch above her belly button and 1 an inch below. They were very similar about 1 1/2 inches wide and 1 inch tall. Hmm. What in the world is that? Yonas asked the nanny and has since asked some others, though we should be able to confirm the story with the birth mother at some point. We think it was a cultural thing they did in her town for abdominal pain, like colic or something similar. Or it could have been a boil. They would cauterize (that was the word used) the stomach with some sort of hot metal.
Wow! That is something. So I’m sort of just trying to take that all in. Ok, well, that’s just what they do, I suppose. That then brought to mind other things I’d heard about that they do to girls and women in Ethiopia in some tribal cultures. Female circumcision. I checked. She was not. Later the pediatrician tells us this is usually only for older girls. Marrying age. Gracious.
Still, you never know.
Finally near the end of our time, I figure out if I lift her up in the air and then bring her down, she will smile. That was so nice to see. She wasn’t at all interested in either the light or dark brown baby doll. I also had a wooden ring stacking toy and she loved playing with that.
She is still getting over a cold, ear infection (she would mess with her ears) and some sort of fungal infection that the pediatrician later showed us. It was barely noticeable on her head. They were treating it. I could also feel a rumbling in her lungs when she would breath so she was pressing through a little, but not fussy at all. Very peaceful and content. Just wary.
At the end Matt got involved, talked to her and held her. She didn’t cry. Just checking him out again.
And that was it. It was time to go and we would be back tomorrow morning to have our meeting with the pediatrician. Once we did that we would tell Duni, yes we are ready to go to court. We were really ready now, but just wanted to do the “due diligence” as Matt said.
Time for dinner
We headed back to our guest house, as they call it. Had a little rest in the room for about 1 1/2 hours and then had dinner down in the lobby where the tables are. Several of the other families ate there too and we all talked. Rice and some kind of roast chicken in a spicy tomato pepper sauce. Very good.
They found Maureen’s paperwork, PTL! I wonder what would have happened had she not come and pushed it.
We hit the sack at about 8pm. I woke up and thought it must be about 5 or 6 am. It was 12:45am. Oh goodness. I stayed up all day thinking I would sleep all night. But really according to my time clock I just took an afternoon nap. Matt had woken about 30 minutes before. We ended up being awake til 6am alternately getting up, playing on laptop or phone, lying back down just to rest and talking. It was actually fun. Finally I slept from 6-730am. That was good, but I felt like a dead weight and it was time to go eat breakfast.
Oh, the coffee
It is sooo good. Yes, I’m drinking coffee while in Ethiopia. It is the thing to do. It is so dark and a lot of cream barely turns it a lighter color, but the taste is smooth. Mmmmm. We had an omelet. Very good. And some local breads.
Back in the van now and back to the Transition Home
We walk back up to the porch and look in the big glass window to Selamawit’s room. The beds are in there and the play area and the eating area. She is sitting at a table with about 10 other babies. It’s a table with 10 sort of high chairs cut into it. Her back is to us. The nanny tells her to look around and she looks at us with those big brown eyes and I know she is thinking, “What are THEY doing here again? And what do they want? They are definitely looking at me. Hmmm.”
The nanny brings her out and I finish feeding her. She is fine to be with me, but still wary. After about 30-45 minutes she yawns and looks at me. I press her head slightly, down on my shoulder and she surrenders easily and falls asleep on my chest.
Oh the glory of holding a baby like that while they sleep. I am now falling in love. She must trust me a little bit. Or maybe it’s more that she has no choice. We sit like that for about 30 minutes with Maureen and her little boy next to us. A nice breeze is passing through the porch. It’s a perfect moment.
Next it is our turn to meet the pediatrician.
I love this woman. She is probably around 60. She has only been working here for about 2 months. She used to work for the Embassy. I’m not sure in what way.
We walk in her very small office at the back of the transition home and sit down in 2 chairs next to her desk. She holds Selamawit and proceeds to tell us that from the moment she met her she sensed that she was fine physically. That her brain was fine, but that she didn’t trust. For whatever reason, she just didn’t trust and that all she needed now was love, skin to skin nurturing, attention, nourishment and she will do fine. She went on about God and his plan for her and the spiritual side of health and the mind and how important all of it together is – like a holistic point of view.
Oh my goodness, I have never heard a traditional medical doctor talk this way. I felt like she was a prophet sent from God to speak into parents lives like us about this orphaned child. I already believed these things, but to have her just go off on it so naturally and so sublimely and lovingly. That meeting was a gift from God to us. About 1/2 way through I asked if I could videotape her and she said “of course.” I wish I would have from the start. She asked if we would keep her up to date on Selamawit’s progress. She would love to know. Yes, ma’am, certainly.
We walked back out to the yard and sat on a blanket with Maureen and her little boy. Maureen is 45. Had her first child at 42. So being the oldest moms, we had a lot in common. It’s been fun getting to know her. She lives in Hawaii and her husband is military just recently stationed in Quatar. They saw each other about 6 months last year. He gets out next year and they are not sure what he will do. But not the airlines. He is tired of being away from his family.
We all just went to lunch again. We met the other families at a restaurant. Again, Italian but some other things too. There were beautiful Ethiopian paintings all over for sale. I found one I really liked. We will think about it.
And next we went to a coffee factory in town. First we sat in the coffee bar and had a macchiato.
Basically espresso and milk. Again, so, so good. Then we bought a bunch of coffee to bring home and then walked around the factory and found out how they made it, mostly for export.
Tonight on the agenda is Ethiopian food for dinner – finally! And traditional Ethiopian dancing. This should be wonderful.
And tomorrow we go to court in the morning, the Transition Home in the afternoon to hang out with Sally for a few hours and then I get a massage, manicure and pedicure. Oh how exciting. I think Yonas and Matt are going to the bar. I said “Knock yourself out boys. I’ll be very happy getting the massage!”
Love you all!