In June of 2004, with a wide smile, my husband handed me my requested birthday gift – the signed Registration Form for WHFC . I wanted to start the adoption process again. At the urging of my children and my nagging soul, we began the course again. We all knew it was the right path, and the right time. Nine months later, on March 19, 2005, my oldest son, Jesse, and I returned from Ethiopia with my fifth child, my new son, Mesay. Once again, the mysterious forces that bring people together were at work. We could not have hand picked a more perfect fit for our family.
In many ways adoption is, as my husband would say, "a leap of faith." For us, the discomfort of the “leap” was eased considerably by the professional and compassionate guidance of the staff at WHFC. This was our second adoption with WHFC, so we knew the paper-layered course ahead; we knew the waiting; we also knew we were in very good hands.
Given our family constellation and the present needs of our large family we had to consider whether to adopt an infant again or to adopt an older “waiting” child. A younger child generally has fewer bonding and language issues, but an older child generally needs less daily and continuous care. Moreover, an older child has a greater difficulty being placed – this fact was a significant factor in our ultimate decision. My husband and I both had birth children; we knew there were never any guarantees whether you come to parenthood via birth or adoption. We knew life, especially life with children, was full of unexpected surprises. So, after great deliberation we took a deep breath and took that longer leap – we requested an older child.
There are countless older waiting children in Ethiopia, and many at Horizon House. Our social worker suggested that we look at some photos to see if this triggered any “gut” connections. We resisted that route and requested information on paper without photos. When I received the email with names and descriptions of the children I was immediately drawn to one name and one child – Mesay. When we received photos of Mesay it was simply the sweet icing on the cake and although all of our CIS paperwork had yet to be completed, I knew he was my son.
Our trip to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia was an amazing journey. Ethiopia is rich in history and culture. The Ethiopian people are extremely kind and loving, in spite of the overwhelming poverty that devastates their country and swallows their dreams. One afternoon at lunch, our waiter asked about Mesay and our adoption. He told Jesse and me that "he has to work so hard to have simple things, but the children cannot work, they have no family, no home, they become beggars...Mesay would be begging on the street right now...god sent you from America to save him, god bless you." It seems no amount of depression and poverty can steal their kindness and their wide and welcoming smiles! They are truly beautiful people.
We arrived in Addis Ababa late in the evening and struggled to sleep knowing we would meet Mesay in the morning. On a sunny Monday morning, March 14, 2005 our van pulled up to the gate at Horizon House. Dr. Tsegaye let us find our way - giving us privacy, but gently cradling it in necessary guidance. He is an angel in a suit! The children were seated outside; the anticipation in my heart was indescribable as I searched to locate Mesay. The search was longer than I had anticipated, as he was much smaller than I had thought. When my eyes reached his sweet brown eyes and bright wide smile my heart stopped, and then swelled as he ran to hug me. Unspeakable joy! He is absolutely beautiful and so, so kind and affectionate. We stayed for several hours playing with all the fun toys my daughter, Kristyn and I had bought. Mesay did not like it when other children held my hand or hugged me - he would gently take their hand out of mine and replace it with his. Later that day Jesse started to feel sick to his stomach. We think it was a combination of the altitude (8000 feet) and the jet lag. One of the nannies is a nurse; she speaks English quite well and cared for Jesse as if he were her own child. At one point Dr. Tsegaye went in to check on Jesse (who was now resting on one of the children's beds). Dr. Tsegaye told me he found Mesay sitting next Jesse. Dr Tsegaye asked "Mesay what are you doing?" and Mesay said, “taking care of my brother."
The re-birth of a family! Our family, by birth and adoption, our family has grown and been enriched by adoption once again. As the plane took off from Addis Abba and Mesay's sleepy head rested peacefully in my lap, unexpected tears ran from my eyes. Were they for Ethiopia's loss of a boy, or Mesay's loss of Ethiopia? Or were they for the gift nestled by my side and the pure power and joy of adoption? All of these questions were mine to welcome and honor as I was blessed by Ethiopia and the miracle of adoption - once again.
Its not a surprise that families come in all shapes and sizes!
Between a Rock and a Hard Place
Includes the "bible" of homeland visit planning a
A beautiful adoptee story
Changes are difficult. Think ahead of what you can do during the crucial transition period for both you and your child.
A reflection on adopting an older child with special needs
Be prepared to be amazed!
US Department of State Poses Extreme Restrictions on Child Advocacy for Adoption