Note: I received two posts from Ben & Leigha, so be sure to check out the first post as well...
Hello all! This has been one of the most challenging days of our lives. As we loaded up to visit Kid's Care Orphanage (where Sammy lived for 7 months) we were told that we would be meeting Isaac's birth mother this afternoon. We traveled to ET a few days early in hopes of meeting her, but now that it was really going to happen. Neither Leigha nor I was 100% sure we wanted to. But first thing's first...
Our trip to the orphanage this morning was awesome! It hadn't changed much in the last 2 years. It was still home to way to many children and the most amazing women who love them more than I can describe. Even in the frenzied excitement of our visit, there was a feeling of peace and serentiy that was palpable. The kids were so happy to get some candy and other treats from some of the families, and to have their pictures taken (and them to look at themselves on the screens of digital cameras). I pulled out the camcorder and one of the older boys broke into a sweet dance routine! The attention I paid to him prompted other kids to come show me their moves. I wish Abe could have been here to show them how it's done! The best part of the orphanage visit, though, was seeing a 7 year old girl in our group reunited with her friends and nannies in the orphanage. All of the kids in the orphanage were so obviously and genuinely happy that she had finally reached her family. It was also great to see some of Sam's nannies that we met 2 years ago. They all still remembered "Mickey, Mickey, Mickey," and we gave them some photos of Sam that we brought along.
From the orphanage we went to lunch and then back to the Guest House to meet Isaac's birth mother. We went up to our room and watched out the window for her arrival. When she came Leigha went down & I stayed behind in the room with Isaac. We wanted to make sure that she wanted to see him (which of course she did) before we brought him down. I won't share much of her story here, because her story belongs to her and to Isaac. Communication with her was very difficult because she barely speaks Amharic (the prodominant language in ET) and we were speaking through a translator who speaks English and Amharic. Leigha and I both felt so stupid because, under the crushing weight of the emotion of the encounter, we couldn't think of to say or ask. She was very shy and had difficulty looking us in the eye. She held Isaac for most of the encounter, but then after a little while she told us she was ready to hand him to us. She was obviously extremely sad, but when we asked her how she felt at this moment she said "happy."
Unless you have been in such a meeting, you cannot imagine the unspeakable bravery and strength it takes for a woman to make the decision she made. For a long time I have had a heart for orphans, but honestly it's pretty easy to "feel" for them. Today I learned the hard lesson that behind most of these orphans there is a birth mother who had to make a decision a thousand times harder than any decision that any of us will ever face. Sometimes people comment on what a wonderful thing it is that we adopt, or how noble the financial and emotional sacrifices that we make in the process. I have always said that for us adoption is a strictly selfish act because the joy and blessing that we get from our kids so far greatly outweighs the minor inconveniences we experience in the process that the notion of us doing something noble "for those poor kids" is laughable. Today I learned that the hard and noble part of adoption comes long before we even enter the picture. It is simply tragic that conditions in the world are such that the best (or only) option for millions of women is to give their precious babies to an under-resourced institutional orphanage in hopes that their childrent might simply stay alive, and if their broken hearts can still manage to dream, that their children might someday live happy lives in happy homes. It is difficult to imagine that many women are even capable of such dreams given the utter sadness and struggle of their own existences. As the meeting with the birth mother drew to a close she told us that she was happy that Isaac would have a good home and asked if it was OK to hug us. A friend of ours took a few pictures of Leigha, Isaac and me with the birth mother, and then she walked through the gate and we will never see her (and she will never see Isacc) again.
On a happier note, we are now headed to Gelgela (the orphanage where Isaac lived for a couple of months). We have never been to this one, so I'm REALLY excited to go check it out and to tell the nannies thanks for the amazing care they have given Isaac and all of the other kids who come there.
We are all ready to come home, and are excited to start that journey tomorrow evening. You all are going to love Isaac, and we can't wait to see Owen, Abe & Sam and introduce their new baby brother!