Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Travel Journal Part Six: Gotcha Day

I've been putting off writing about Gotcha Day. It is so difficult to accurately convey all the complex emotions that we experienced on this monumental day. Truly, it was one of the hardest days of my life. Grief is a part of adoption that you don't hear much about. The Hallmark-movie-type Gotcha Day videos just don't tell the whole story.

I don't want to come across as negative. Adoption is a beautiful, wonderful thing. Please don't let this discourage you from doing it! Every day since Gotcha Day has gotten better and better. Really. Adoption is all about healing and redemption. I am learning that day by day.

Let me back up a bit... We spent the morning shopping (bought LOTS of souvenirs!) and went to lunch at Lucy's with the group before heading back to the Transition Home to pick up our children for good.

While we were at lunch, "T" (one of the AWAA employees) got a phone call letting us know that Benjamin's birth mom was in town and was going to be at the Transition Home when we got there in an hour or so. Oh. My. Goodness. I'm just assuming that God knows that I handle stressful situations better when I don't have much time to get nervous or to overthink what I am going to say or do. I'm trusting that he was taking care of me by allowing us to have so little notice before we first met Benjamin AND when we met his birth mom.

Instantly when we found out what was about to happen, I started crying. I cried off and on for most of the hour before we met her, anticipating the moment where I would come face to face with the woman who I know so little about but whose heart will forever be tied to mine. I have prayed for her so much. I know only a few details about her story, but I know that in order for her to leave her tiny son at an orphanage she must have been in an extremely difficult situation. She must have exhausted all other options. She must be desperate. She must be heart broken. And all of this breaks my heart.

When I walked into the room, shaking, I saw a beautiful young lady with long braided hair. She was composed. Nervous but peaceful. She kissed my cheeks, back and forth three times in the traditional way. Then I hugged her tight for a long time, trying to communicate to her what I could not with words. I told her that she is beautiful.

We communicated through an interpreter. It was awkward and difficult. There are such extreme differences between our cultures. I was very afraid that I was being impolite or offensive by asking the direct questions that we asked. And we did not get real answers to many of them. But regardless of that, it was a deeply moving experience. Despite her strength and composure, I felt such grief as I watched her walk away.

There is so much pain and suffering in this fallen world that we live in. This beautiful young mama was walking away from her baby boy forever. Why was she born into a family where she had no opportunity, no education, no money? Why is she now in a position where she cannot keep the baby she obviously cares for when I am in the position that I am in? It is so unfair and it hurts.

I have no desire to take her baby away from her. I do not want to rip Benjamin out of his culture, his heritage, and his beautiful homeland. At this moment it felt as though we were doing the totally wrong thing. But through prayer, I am reminded that I am not the one responsible for Birth Mom's situation. I am not responsible that B was left at an orphanage when he was tiny. I AM responsible to walk the path that we have been called to walk - to take a child home with us, to teach him about Jesus, and to give him opportunities that he never would have had so that some day he can help his people. Meanwhile I am to pray for and love all of the people of Ethiopia.

Adoption is about redemption, not perfection. It's about showing us how God can make something beautiful out of something broken. I sense that God has much to teach me about this. He has a plan and he works ALL things for good for those that love him. Even, and perhaps especially, the broken things.

We had only a few moments to ourselves after Birth Mom left (immediately I started crying my eyes out), and then Mulle (one of the AWAA employees) brought in the first of the the five children that we had promised to photograph for other adoptive families who are waiting to pass court. I tried my best to pull myself together. I had so been looking forward to doing this! Getting extra photographs was such a blessing to us during the long wait. I wanted to invest in each of these precious lives who were waiting for their parents. They needed my love. And I wanted to remember each of these moments so that I could send treasured tidbits of information back to the mommies waiting at home. I invested lots of energy, lots of emotion, lots of love.

The last baby had just left the room and I was hurriedly jotting down a few notes about her when I heard a wail. I looked up just in time to see a chocolate-colored nanny throw Benjamin into Daniel's arms, bury her face in her hands, and run away weeping. Oh the grief that these dear ladies have to endure! They have loved and nurtured my baby for six months, day in and day out, only to have to give him away, never to see him again. And they do this over and over and over. I can't imagine a job that could be much harder.

By this time I was crying uncontrollably. But B was with us and watching, and I knew that he needed to see joy and love in my eyes, not grief. I tried to pull myself together, but nanny after nanny came by to see B and to tell him goodbye. Many staff members who were not his actual caretakers who came by to say goodbye as well. When one of the nannies that Benjamin particularly liked left the room, he started to cry. I cried right alongside him. I don't know when, if ever, I have shed so many tears in one day.

Daniel held Benjamin as we rode away in the car. He whimpered a few times, but did pretty well. It wasn't until we arrived at the guest house that he fell apart. For six months he had not left the Transition Home. It was his whole world. He had been cared for by the same loving arms. Then suddenly he was ripped from his home and his "mommies" when two people who look funny, smell funny, and sound funny took him to a strange new place. His little world had been turned upside down. He was afraid and grieving. I was grieving with him.

He wailed for 45 minutes or so before passing out on Daniel's chest. He slept on us for several hours before we finally moved him to his bed. It was 6 in the evening when he fell asleep, and he did not awake until the next morning. He never had his supper or his nighttime bottle. He just passed out. I've heard that babies and young children sometimes deal with traumatic experiences by going to sleep. I kept praying over him as he slept on my chest that God would heal his little heart as he rested.

A birth mother walking away from her child forever, grieving nannies who have invested their lives in a child that they love, a sad and confused baby taken away from everything that he has known.... It was a hard day for all of us to say the least. But God is with us. He is making something beautiful out of something that was broken. I trust him in that, and I confidently anticipate watching him work.


Gillian said...

Oh, Sarah,
I have spent the morning with your posts -- these are the most beautiful postings about in-country that I have ever read--you have TRULY captured it--or it could be that our hearts responded to Ethiopia in just the same way (no suprise!!!).I am filled with ache and joy...and homesickness after the tender,beautiful descriptions and the photos that captured so much of the depth and beauty of the land, the heart, and the people of Ethiopia. Sarah, to walk as Jesus walked--among the precious people of His heart--to touch who He would touch, to see out of His eyes--this was not a simple sightseeing tour--I can see His glory in your radiant smiles,intentional interactions, and loving observations. You all are a treasure, such beautiful vessels. And that Benjamin is SUCH a yummy cutie!! I MUST kiss his little hands Ethiopian nanny-style VERY soon!!--We are JUST arriving home from a trip to KC but will call/be in touch so soon. I sense more as I read these posts--will love to hear your heart. SUCH LOVE to you!
Love, Gillian

Anna said...

Thank you soooo much for writing about this journey. I look forward to reading about all that y'all have experienced. I'm sure this post was hard to write, but I appreciate you opening up your heart and letting us, that are waiting to travel, see ET through your eyes. What a treasure! Benjamin is precious and I will pray for you guys in the coming days and months.
(By the way, I am a friend of Jenny Dixon's and even have a Go. Seek. Love. shirt!)

Julie said...

Sarah, Thank you so much for writing this post. I got to meet my daughter's birth mother and have had such a hard time processing the emotions of that. I wanted so badly to bring her back to the US, too; to meet her needs so she could keep her daughter and re-unite a family. I am so thankful for the peace of Jesus that has soothed my heart and I pray it does the same for you, for our children and for their precious Enat's in Ethiopia.

E.T.'s Mom said...

Beautifully written. Thank you for being so real.

Jason Egly said...

Amazing post. It stirs up so many emotions and brings back so many memories from a year ago. Thank you for sharing.


Teabo Chica said...

I have been back from Ghana one week. I went to go get my children and I can so relate to that feeling. You are right about redemtion.
I feel you and praying for you in this jounrey