I was 35 years old on September 30, 2009. My husband was 38, our son, Simon, was 6, and daughter, Sophie, had just turned 5. We were a happy little family of four . . . but we were not yet complete. September 30th marked nearly six months of waiting to know who our two youngest children would be. We hoped to be matched with two babies under the age of six months. In March of 2009, we sent off a jam-packed adoption dossier to Ethiopia, put our faith in God, and waited. In all honesty, six months went quickly. We had two busy children and jobs and birthday parties and school and life going on. But from the time we sent that dossier off to Ethiopia, we were incomplete. We were waiting.
On September 30th, I was driving to pick up my kids from school, and my phone rang. It was the adoption agency.
“We have your babies!”
As long as I live, I will never forget the magnitude and joy of that brief conversation. I remember what I was looking at when I was told the news (trees on road leading up to the school). I remember what the weather was like, how my heart started racing SO fast. I drove home as fast as possible and opened up my computer. There they were! How miraculous–I suddenly had two babies on the other side of the world.
Our daughter was 6 months old. She was petite and pretty and had huge eyes. She was born in the northern Ethiopian city of Gondar. Gondar is frequently referred to as the Camelot of Africa because of its many royal castles. Our daughter was discovered by a policeman when she was approximately 10 days old. We had no information about her birth parents, the details of her birth, or where she was for the first 10 days of her life. We only knew that she had been found, named by the police station and brought through various baby houses and caregivers to the orphanage in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia.
Our son was 4 months old. He was clearly malnourished and did not look well. He was born in Dire Dawa, the second largest city in Ethiopia. He, too, was found by a policeman when he was approximately 1 month old. We had slightly more information about him and his discovery. We knew the name of the road where he was found and the hotel that he was next to. But again, we had no details on his birth parents, his birth, or where he had been for the first month of his life. Based on his referral photo, were immediately concerned about him and his needs. We asked for additional photos of him specifically. Our agency responded quickly, and we received a few more recent photos. He still looked sickly, but we could see a spark there. We recognized him.
These two photos went up on our refrigerator and were replaced every month for four months until we traveled to Ethiopia to pick up our children.
I worried about my two new children. I worried about how malnutrition may have affected their growth and development. I worried that they might catch an illness in the orphanage and we would be too late to save them. I worried that they would not bond to me or me to them. I worried that they would somehow remember the trauma of their babyhood and it would impact them for the rest of their lives.
But more than anything, on September 30, 2009 I just wanted to get them HOME. They were so very far away. 9000 miles is SO far away. There were many times between September 30, when we found out about them, and January 28, 2010, when we finally met them, that I felt slightly crazy. Two of my children were halfway around the world without me! My husband and I would joke about renting a private plane and parachuting into Addis to just bring them home already. The waiting once we knew about them was the worst. The distance and time was agonizing. We knew that they were sick and that they needed parents and medicine and food. We had all of it to give, but we had to wait. I learned during this process that patience is not one of my virtues.
(With my husband Sam, our daughter Sadie in my arms and son Sebastian in his arms. Ethiopia, February 5, 2010)
September 30, 2009 was miraculous. At the time, the whole day felt really big and overwhelming. We didn’t know our son and daughter but for a photo or two and scant information about their lives. We had never been to Ethiopia or anywhere in Africa, for that matter. We had never adopted! But now, four and a half years later, as I look back on that day I remember it with reverence. It was the beginning of the rest of our lives as a family of six.