Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Reflections of Our Days in Ethiopia

A letter to my daughter

Dear Addison (Biftu),

We just took off on the last leg of our flight to Addis Ababa. I am calm and exited at the same time. I’m looking around at the beautiful Ethiopia Airlines flight crew trying to imagine how you will look in twenty years. Based on what Ryan and Abby have written about your emerging personality, I feel certain that you are a bright, inquisitive, and sweet little girl. As usual, your dad Aaron is as cool as a cucumber, but I can tell that he is so ready to be the very best daddy imaginable.

Your Ethiopian name, Biftu, means "The Dawn" in Amharic. When we return to America, I will name you Addison. I chose the name Addison to honor your birth city (Addis Ababa). Your father and I think it is a strong, but pretty name that sounds nice with Earley. Also, Addis in Amharic means "New," and I think of you as our new beginning. We are considering keeping Biftu as your middle name, or we might select another Ethiopian middle name that holds special meaning for us. We will make that decison after we meet you and get to know your personality. It took us a long time to reach an agreement on what your first name would be. I have been carrying around a list of Ethiopian girl names for months! We think the name Addison is a winner and hope you will like it as well.

Addison, I’m overjoyed because I no longer have to settle for loving the promise of you. I will soon be able to love you live and in person! In less than twelve hours, you’ll be in our arms. I’m so full of joy!

With Infinite Hugs and Kisses,
Pat (Your Mommy)

Day 1/ January 30th
Addison, when your dad and I arrived in Ethiopia, we were driven directly to Gladney’s Care Center where you have been staying for the last several months. I was pleasantly surprised by the nice building and grounds of the Gladney care center. Abby and Ryan agreed to video tape our initial meeting. I must say that pictures of you don’t do you justice. You are such a doll! I just love your large expressive eyes, chubby rosy cheeks, and little dimpled legs. Your eyes squint when you smile. I almost melted when I saw you sitting so high up in Aaron’s arms. You looked up at him as if you had seen him before. You can really look people over. You seemed to be comfortable with both of us right from the start.

What a relief to finally see and hold you. I wasn’t as emotional as I thought I would be. I was thrilled, but not tearful. I think we are both so tired from the long trip that it hasn’t really hit us yet. You will join us for good tomorrow. Since you’re not here with us tonight, I feel kind of weird…like I almost have a daughter, but not quite. I’m looking forward to getting some rest and seeing you first thing in the morning.

We were tired coming off the plane. The airport and baggage area were a little strange. There were plenty of visa stations so no problem there. Gladney representatives Abby and Ryan met us in the post security area. They seem nice and friendly. Tafesse, our driver, is with them and seems to be a cool, nice, young guy. They take us through the streets and city to the care center. Roads are being built and goats and people are walking on the road side. It’s a third world country. At the care center, we met Addison (Biftu). She is so cute and dynamic. She is always looking around and watching people and things. She hears everything too. I held her for the first time and she and I were very comfortable with each other. Afterwards, we had a coffee ceremony with the Tongs, Ryan, Abby, and Belay.

We checked into the Hilton. It was a challenge because the African Union Conference was going on, so there were many dignitaries from other countries in Addis Ababa. The Central African Republic Prime Minister and his entourage nearly ran us over in the Hilton. We had a late lunch at Blue Tops restaurant at 3 PM. When we went back to our room, we unpacked. We decided to leave Addison at the care center so we could set up the hotel room for her. After resting in the hotel room for a few hours, we got up later to eat at the hotel’s pizzeria. Very good pizza! I slept soundly but Pat was in distress all night. Something in the pizza disturbed her stomach. She continued to have major stomach problems the next morning.

Day 2 / January 31st
Addison, when you were delivered to us this morning, you were wearing a traditional Ethiopian outfit. You looked adorable! As one of your caregivers lovingly handed you over to me, I simply could not take my eyes off of your sweet little face. It finally hit me. You were my daughter. I was much more emotional today than yesterday. Maybe it was the way your father said, “There she is!” as your caregiver got out of the van with you. I wasn’t expecting to see you until later. I had no idea that I was getting a “special delivery” so early in the day. I was thinking that we had to go back to the care center to pick you up. What a sweet surprise. It is so obvious how well you have been taken care of. All of the caregivers at the center seem to love you. How could they not? I’m sure you’ll be missed. I learned that the caregivers have nicknamed you, "Beefy" and "Beef Mama." I'm sure your given name "Biftu" and perfectly chubby body made you an easy target for that one!

As we visited one of the orphanages, I couldn’t help but feel sad for the children who are still waiting for forever homes. I met two little girls (ages 2 and 4 ) there who I just wanted to bring home. For a few minutes, I envisioned all “three” of my girls running around the house and park laughing and having fun like all kids should. I must admit that as I sat in the car feeding you, I felt very sad knowing that many of these children will live in an orphanage until they are young adults. I am still amazed by the spirit of many of these children. They were running around playing, singing, and socializing with their peers like they are the happiest kids in the world. I am also touched how the older children wanted to impress us with their ability to speak English and knowledge of Christian songs. I think these children were as curious about me as I was about them. They were all over your father and me, vying for our attention. A couple of the older girls pointed out that we had the same skin. I smiled at them, gave them generous and sincere compliments, and hoped that they understood my admiration of them. I just wish I wasn’t feeling so poorly so I could have interacted more with them. I want to go back to see those kids again. I need to go back.

Well, Miss Addison, You had your first crying spell with us this evening. Around 7:00, you started crying your head off. We were about to call Ryan and Abby for help because we were beginning to think you weren’t well. You were crying so loudly, I just knew that at any moment, someone from the hotel was going to knock on the door, ask for the child, and report us to the Ethiopian authorities as unfit American parents. It hit me during your crying storm that I really didn’t know what I was doing! Yep, I had done my parenting research, spent countless hours on adoption discussion forums, and concluded that I would rely on my instincts and intelligence, but all of this knowledge seemed futile during this time. As soon as your “bright” parents figured out that all you wanted was your next bottle, we breathed a sigh of relief and got back to the business of being happy new parents.

Belay and another caregiver brought Addison to the Hilton. We will take care of her from now on. The Baby Bjorn carrier works great and our diaper bag with supplies was handy. Pat still has traveler’s sickness. She took a couple doses of ciproflaxin that seemed to help. Our first stop was the Kechene Children’s Home. This home had extensive grounds and was fairly nice. The children there were dynamic and lively. They wanted pictures taken and hands held. Some of the older ones spoke good English. A boy named Dawit gave me a gift of a bracelet in the Ethiopian flag colors (read, yellow, and green). The education center had many books on history, math, and physics. Good!

It’s a little sad to see orphan children; some bright eyed and hopeful, some reserved and quiet, and some sullen. Ryan and I left and ate at Rico restaurant. Pat was still weak so she and Addison went back to the hotel. While Tafesse and I waited for my phone to be unlocked (in order to use it in Addis Ababa), we went to Parisienne CafĂ© to sample the local beer, St. George. There were many pretty, well dressed, middle- upper class people there.

Day 3 / February 1st
Dear Addison, today was a sight seeing day. We went to the main museum here in Ethiopia and saw the historical Lucy’s bones. The museum was interesting and informative, but I missed much of the lecture because I had to attend to your needs. Bottle feedings, diaper changes, cuddles, and kisses. What’s a new mother to do? Besides, you are heavy so carrying you around requires a lot of breaks. The Baby Bjorn is so useful, but it is tough on my back. Maybe I’ll try to adjust the straps.

Addison, you are soooo sweet and you attract a lot of attention. Quite a few school aged Ethiopian girls came over to smile at you. These girls look so precious in their school uniforms and seem so well behaved. It’s interesting how being able to attend school is seen as a privilege here. Americans could learn some lessons from the people of this beautiful third world country.

Tafesse is our great driver. What a nice guy he is. The driving here is crazy, crazy, crazy! I’m so glad that Aaron didn’t want to rent a car. I can’t figure out the driving patterns and rules of the road. What’s worst is the lack of seatbelts in most of the cars we have ridden in. I haven’t seen one car seat since I’ve been here. I’m holding onto you so tightly while we ride, I’m afraid I’m going to break your ribs! However, you seem to be taking it all in stride. You’re either bouncing up and down on my lap or leaning to the right or left, depending on how fast we’re traveling and/or how bumpy the road. You are so laid back…unless you’re hungry.

Tafesse took Pat and I to the Milk House restaurant. This is a restaurant with a great view of the city. The meal was good and the best so far. I had beef tips with mild injera and Pat had the chicken and rice. The girls there were cooing at Addison. Everybody says she looks like me. Today was sightseeing day. We went to the Ethiopia National History Museum. Our guide was very loquacious and informative about archeological and political history. We saw Lucy or Dinkinesh, the 3.2 million year bones of early man Australopeticus Africanus. Haile Selasse’s throne was on display.

We then went to the Holy Trinity church where there was a funeral going on. We removed our shoes before entering the church. We were told about the history of the Orthodox Christian church. Haile Selasse, the empress, holy men, and visitors prayed there. Haile Selasse and the empress’ remains were in two huge sarcophaguses in the back of the church. The Old Testament was depicted on the left stained glass, while the New Testament was depicted on the right. The patriots’ burial places were on the church grounds. Belays’ father’s was part of the secret service under Selasse when they were killed. He is buried on the church grounds.

Tafesse then drove us to Eutoto, a high mountain area outside the city.

We passed many streets, neighborhoods, and people on the way. Going up the hill, we saw mostly ladies of all ages carrying eucalyptus tree sood on their backs for firewood. This looked like back breaking work for the ladies. At the mountain top, we had great views of the city below. Later that evening, Tafesse took me to the Beer Garden restaurant which was truly a paradise for a beer aficionado.

Day Four/February 2nd
Well Addison, I’ve passed a mommy test today. I had to change you in the smallest public bathroom I’ve ever seen. I could barely turn around in the tiny stall, but had to whip out the changing pad, hold you still so you wouldn’t hit your head against the hard tiled floor, and keep you from rubbing your little hands and feet against the toilet base. Not to mention how hot it was in that tiny space. And of course, I could not quickly find what I needed in the diaper bag, which I thought I had organized last night. But…I did it! You were smiling again and not giving me that look as if you were thinking, “Don’t you think you need to change me?”

After lunch, we went to visit your orphanage, the Kebebe Tsehay Children’s Home. Now talk about emotional, this is where you spent the first few months of your life. I was able to meet your caregivers, see your crib, and listen to stories about how small you were when you arrived at the orphanage. Aaron and I are so fortunate that we were able to travel here. We actually experienced first hand were you started your journey to be matched with us. This visit to your former orphanage was priceless.

Pat and I were driven to the Cottage restaurant where we had a great meal. We were then taken to the Kebebe Tsehay Children's Home. This is where Addison was first brought to. This home is not as elaborate as Kechene, but the caregivers seem very kind and loving. We saw her crib for the first month of her life. There were approximately 30 children there of various ages. Some were shy and others more interactive. The kids (mostly boys) were playing on a broken merry go round so I went over to help. One of the legs was broken and there were a couple of missing hinges on the seats. Therefore, when the children are sitting on it and it spins at a certain point in the rotation, the heavier section drops to the ground to prevent the spinning. I helped by putting my heavy foot on the base leg to stabilize and allow the merry go around to spin freely. The boys loved it. A caregiver put a girl on one seat to experience it.

We saw the toddlers’ quarters. The boys and girls are in different rooms. They seemed very subdued and quiet. This orphanage seemed like a nurturing place although it was just a little depressing to see so many children in need. There was one bad bully boy who was hitting, and pushing the other kids. The boy was only nine perhaps. The adults didn’t seem to check this. The manager of the home, Sophie, seemed nice. We had room service for dinner: a great Ethiopian meal.

Day Five/ February 3rd
Addison, today we had a wild and exciting day at the Merkato Market. We met up with some fellow Gladney families and made our way through the dusty, busy streets of Addis Ababa. I felt like I was in East India because of the images I’ve seen of the crowded streets and vendors there. The vendors here were kind and friendly. Of course they wanted to impress us with their goods, but they seemed intrigued or at least interested in your father and me. I think that’s because they see so few Black Americans. I know they see even fewer Black Americans with babies strapped to their bodies. A few of the Ethiopian men asked in perfect English, “Are you from America? Which state?” One man smiled when we responded, “Atlanta.” He said, “Oh yes, nice city.” One handsome vendor quickly pulled out a photo album and said proudly, “You know Oprah was here last year. The dress she's wearing in the picture - she bought it from me.”

After we purchased a few items, we lunched at a Chinese restaurant. Chinese food in Ethiopia – interesting. Addison, you are such a good baby. The other Gladney parents frequently commented on your good demeanor and on how comfortable we appear to be with each other. I felt like such a proud mother! You and I were really tired by the end of the day. We had a quiet evening while your dad went to an Ethiopian wedding.

Addison has a healthy appetite. She drinks 8 oz. of formula in the morning, which usually holds her during morning excursions. We always carry an 8 oz and a 4 oz bottle when we are going out for the morning. Today, Josef was our driver who took us, the Busschers (Doug and Shannan) to the Merkato Market. The Tongs were there also. Pat brought a little dress for Addison and a scarf for a colleague. There was much motion and bustling in the market. This reminds me of the Thai markets with many vendors in long rows. Afterwards, we went to a Chinese restaurant. The food was just O.K. I got a chance to talk with Joseph Tong (the Tong’s 9-year-old). He’s a very intelligent and inquisitive boy. Pat and Addison decided to relax in the hotel room that night. Later at 5:30, Tafesse invited/took me to the wedding of his cousin. They had all kinds of foods, meats, etc. There was dancing, chanting, singing, etc. There were crazy uncles yelling things out and the crowd responding which resulted in much laughter and fun. Josef drove me to the groom’s house, which was a beautiful, stylish, concrete house. The house had high ceilings, hardwood floors, two satellite dishes, big screen TVs, nice couches, bidets and special shower facilities. The DJ was playing oldies and whatever you would hear at a Black American affair. I noticed that all upper class Ethiopians speak good English.

Today was a great day. We visited the Dreamland Resort. Absolutely beautiful! We had a wonderful dinner, saw a beautiful crater lake, and watched young Ethiopian couples impress their dates. You and Nicholas (Doug and Shannon’s son) were such good troopers. Cutie pie Nicholas has the prettiest eyes with the longest lashes I’ve ever seen on a boy!

It is really beginning to sink in that we are now a family of three. It feels so natural being your mother. I often catch myself just smiling at you for no particular reason. I hope you’re not getting tired of me kissing you. Aaron is going to be a doting father. He is becoming more comfortable with you everyday. I like the way your eyes follow him around the hotel room. Something tells me that you’re going to have him so wrapped around your cute little fingers.

We think we are in a groove with Addison’s eating habits. We just have to keep the bottles ready to go. She has a certain cry when she is hungry. She gives a huff and a puff and a cry explosion. Sounds like the cowardly lion in the Wizard of Oz. Pat and I ate in the Koffa Restaurant at the hotel. The servers dote on Addison. They take and carry her, show her to the other servers, and coo to her. She is a charmer.

Our only event today was the sunset excursion out of town to a crater lake at the Dreamland resort. The road was a bit daunting, mostly highway with two lanes. People walk and park in one of the lanes from time to time. This is a bit dangerous. People are used to close calls here. The Dreamland place has an excellent view on the hillside of a crater lake. It is greater than 200 feet deep at the center.

The food was good but something bothered my stomach. When we returned to Addis Ababa, it was dark. There was a huge traffic jam because of the custom stops. The truck drivers are in all lanes and have to shift over to the right to be inspected. This causes the traffic jams. I took ciproflaxin to handle my upset stomach.

Day7/February 5th
Although I’m enjoying your birth country, I am so ready to go home. I just want to get my “real” life started with you. We purchased a few more souvenirs, had lunch with the entire group (didn’t enjoy this lunch), and then had a quick dinner at Kaldis (Ethiopia’s Starbucks). I like the fact that Kaldis is the great coffee house here, since Starbucks does not pay the Ethiopian coffee farmers a fair amount for their coffee beans. Go Kaldis! But I wonder if the owner of Kaldis is any kinder to the Ethiopian coffee farmers. Hum…I need to research this.

We woke up, had a meager banana bread breakfast, and were driven to the souvenir shops in the Post Office area or Ras Desta Damteur Street. These shops are not as crowded as the other market, although there is still plenty to choose from. We bought some silver, necklaces, axum crosses, and a wooden stool. We then had lunch with the whole group (Ryan, Abby, Belay, Doug, Shannon, their son Nico, Pat, Addison, myself, and another driver whose name I still don’t know. It was nice meal. The discussion turned to the Fistule Hospital. Most of the group had never heard of it. Pat told the group about the hospital and its services to help women whose internal organs have been damaged during childbirth. She is hoping to visit it while we are here. Later that evening, Pat, Addison and I went to Kaldis. Kaldis is a Starbucks clone chain store here. It has a symbol, color scheme, and coffee drinks similar to Starbucks. The place was packed with young, well dressed people eating, drinking coffee, eating desserts, and just hanging. We particularly enjoyed the avocado, strawberry, layered smoothie, although it was a bit warm (not cold).

Day 8/February 6th
Addison, it was great going back to Gladney’s care center, your previous home. We were able to deliver the humanitarian gifts which we were so happy to do. The young girls at the carecenter are young, but very poised and nurturing. I hope they enjoy the small tokens I left for them. I enjoyed talking with the caregivers. I find comfort in knowing that you were so well cared for there. One of the caregivers was deaf. I was especially drawn to her gentleness and grateful for her attentiveness to you. This caretaker knitted you a hat, which I will save in your keepsake box.

While we were at the care center, I held and played with another beautiful baby girl named Helen. I don't think you liked that. You looked a little sad after I picked her up and held her for a second time. You gave me a look as though you were wondering, “You’re my mommy, why are you giving her so much attention?” You don’t have to worry sweetheart, there’s no other baby in the whole world that I would prefer over you. I think it’s interesting that the caregivers like to point out that the babies, “look like us.” It’s a great feeling adopting from an African country. It’s probably a great feeling adopting from anywhere.

We went back to the care center for the first time since picking up Addison. We brought gifts for the caregivers and humanitarian aid in a big luggage. Four of the caregivers were there. They are always so nice. They brightened when they saw “Biftu” again. Someone had already taken Addison’s bed. There were cute babies there. Helen was a darling, dark-haired, dimpled girl baby. There was a handsome boy there as well. We had another coffee ceremony, talked more, and left. Afterwards, we went to a new restaurant with the best view of the city so far and ate great food. While there, we met another couple who were there to adopt their 9 or 10-year old daughter. They live in New York. Once we got back to the hotel, we walked the Hilton grounds. There were souvenir shops, a miniature golf course, volley ball court, tennis court, work-out room, and indoor squash. I wore the Baby Bjorn for the first time. Addison really enjoyed riding up high and looking out. For dinner, we went to the traditional Ethiopian restaurant Fasika. The place was constructed and decorated like a traditional Ethiopian cottage. There were murals on the ceilings and paintings on the walls. We sat on wood traditional chairs around the basket food tray. We sampled many traditional Ethiopian dishes and the Tej honeywine. It was all delicious. While we ate, the performers executed their routine. They danced with styles from various Ethiopian tribes. The singer and band played with much gusto. The dancers were amazing with their quick head movements. The female dancer went into the crowd to engage the patrons to dance. Each on in our party did a little neck and shoulder movement dance. The place was full of mostly Europeans, Nigerians, and some Ethiopians.

Day 9/ February 7th
Today was Embassy Day! I felt a little nervous this morning and was not in the best mood. We went to the American Embassy, answered a couple of questions regarding our knowledge of your past, and were congratulated on our adoption of you. It was over just like that. After months of filling out applications, gathering documents, waiting for a referral, waiting for a travel date, making travel arrangements, having our faith tested, etc., the final adoption step before leaving Ethiopia was over in just a matter of minutes. Ethiopia was entrusting us with one of their cherished babies. We feel honored. You were right there with us, witnessing everything. As usual, you were well behaved and just went with the flow. You’re such a sweetheart.

Today was embassy day. We were anxious, but relaxed. We leisurely got dressed in time for lunch at the Cottage Restaurant. I had an exaggerated impression of the quality and variety of the food there. It was not as good as I remembered.
The American Embassy was heavily fortified. There where two stages of searches and bag checks. No cell phones or palm pilots were allowed inside. We waited in the room below, while Belay went upstairs to do the final paperwork. Upstairs was hot, while downstairs was nice and cool with a TV and many chairs. After approximately 30 minutes, they called for us to go upstairs. The American woman asked about our correct signatures, asked us to raise our hand and confirm that we would tell the truth, and then asked us about our knowledge of the circumstances regarding Addison’s orphan status. Within five minutes, we were done. Pat and I kissed and then left with Belay. We had our celebratory dinner at the Milk House on the 10th floor of this building. Once again, my memory of the greatness of this food was exaggerated. We won’t be going there again. Thursday and Friday should be nice days. Pat and I are ready to go home. We want to get normalcy and our life started with Addison. Pat and I joke that we are no longer the darling new couple and child in Ethiopia. A new family arrived Tuesday from New York so we are getting less time with our favorite driver Tafasse. Ces’t la Vie!

Day 10/ February 8th
Addison, I slept late this morning because you woke up in the wee hours of the morning and had difficulty going back to sleep. The Muslim call to prayer (and the loud dog barking that accompanies the chant) tends to wake you and me around 5:30AM, while your dad sleeps right through it. I don’t think he has ever been awakened by this daily occurrence, which I find amazing! Why? Because it’s loud and continuous for at least 30 minutes! Anyway, I was able to catch up on some much needed sleep after your dad woke up and kept you occupied for a couple of hours. We had a good lunch, visited an interesting museum, and relaxed the rest of the evening. Ethiopia is great, but I’m so ready to get back to Atlanta with hubby and baby in tow.

Pat was up early with the baby, I was still asleep. When I got up we cuddled with the baby and I played with her for a couple of hours while pat caught up with sleep. We started our day late at 11:00AM after we dressed and got Addison ready. We went to Ricos. My second visit, Pat’s first. The food was good. I had lamb and Pat had a huge calzone. Afterwards, we went to the Ansi gallery. This is a contemporary art gallery near the French Embassy. This gallery is on nice property and belonged to the teacher of Emperor Meleniks’ son. It was built in the 18th century. There were abstract works here, sculptures, clay figures, etc. We met the artist who was preparing for a big show tomorrow. Later that evening, we dined at the Makush Gallery, which had contemporary but less abstract art.

Day 11/February 9th
We’re going home today! We got your Ethiopian passport and Visa. You look like such a world traveler with your cute little round head starring out of the passport book. Your father’s smile was huge when he saw your passport. He was so proud that his little girl has a document that he holds near and dear to his heart…a passport! Have passport, will travel!

The Ethiopian airport was crowded! At first I though that all of these people were there for departing flights, but it was explained to us that the majority of the crowd was there to send off love ones leaving for international flights. We quickly said our goodbyes to our driver and new friend Tafesse, and we were on our way. Well…not so fast. Your father and I were “randomly” selected for a security check, and then had to stand in line for what seemed like an hour before we even reached the ticket agent. Normally, this would have really annoyed me. Now, although it wasn’t pleasant, I had my precious cargo-YOU- which made minor inconveniences seem just that…MINOR!

We got up at the normal time and felt a little giddy. This was our last day in Ethiopia. We got to go back home with little Addison and get our life started. Tafesse took us on a little excursion to the neighborhood where he grew up. His mother owned successful doughnut shops before the Communist Durge took them away. Under the communist rule, people were only allowed one means of income.

We drove and saw the local “Home Depot” hardware store. At 12:30 PM, we had the final farewell lunch with the whole group at Costellis, a fine, classic Italian restaurant. Afterwards, we said our final goodbyes to Abby, Ryan, and Belay. I was a little annoyed because we had thank you tokens and cards for both, but we left them at the hotel because we thought we would see everyone later. Belay said he doesn’t like to go the airport anymore because the goodbyes are hard there.

We got to go back to the hotel to relax and pack for our 6:30 exit. Fortunately, the Hilton allowed us late checkout. They should have because we never did get the suite they had promised us when we made the reservations. As we were sitting in the lobby, we saw a guy who looked very similar to me. We had a similar gait were close in height, skin color, etc. Pat went over to him and remarked upon our similarities. He was pleasant and agreed about the similarities. We took a picture of us together. It’s funny because this guy actually lives in Atlanta!

The Hilton is very strict. When they see someone leaving with luggage they get worried and stop you demanding a “check out ticket”? So I had to leave my luggage with the concierge and go to the counter to check out. I had wanted to go to the curb where Pat was waiting. Fortunately, my Hilton points covered the room, so we just had to pay for meals which came to approximately 900 birr over the two weeks. We left along with the Busschers for the airport. We traveled in a convoy - people in one car, luggage in the other Toyota Landcruiser. The airport was a bit busy with many people trying to leave. The parking lot was not well lit. We felt a bit rushed but we said our goodbyes to our drivers Tafesse, Eyasuf, and Josef who had helped us with our luggage to a certain point. The line to Ethiopian Air was not too long-maybe 40 people, but it moved slowly. When to got the front of the line, we checked our four pieces of luggage. What a relief! Now we just had our carry-ons and Addison. The form at the immigration exit took a bit to fill out. Pat had to change Addison while I was in line. Finally we got through and into the terminal. We waited near our gates with the Busschers. At some point, we left to go to the Ethiopian Air first class/business class lounge. This was nice. Free food, drinks, TV, chairs/couches. This lounge was very comfortable. We stayed there and relaxed until it was almost time to board. After we boarded, we saw that our seats where on the first rows of the plane (seat 1D and 1F). Business class is the way to go. We kept Addison in her carrier until after the take off. Hurrah! We were on our way home. The flight was very pleasant. Addison was very composed. We gave her a bottle on take off and landing to depressurize her ears. The bassinet fastened to three holes in the bulkhead in front of our sears. She seemed to enjoy the bassinet. Pat and I had meals mostly in peace. The business class meals were food, and we had plenty of beverages and snacks. I can see why people pay extra. When we were in Rome for refueling, there seemed to be a disagreement/disturbance with the Roman cleanup workers, refuel staff, and Ethiopian Air attendants. They seemed tensed. After awhile, they resolved the issue and we took off again. We mostly read and watched movies. Addison remained composed, only needing diaper changes and bottles. Our idea of keeping bottle inserts pre-filled with formula was great. It was very convenient to make a bottle. Addison is not picky. Room temperature formula is fine with her. Our landing in Dulles was fine. It was a clear, cold morning. Getting trough customs was no problem. They seem to give a family with adopted babies a smooth passage.

Day 12, February 10th
Addison, I am so impressed with you. We flew for over twenty hours and you cried only once (and just for a couple of minutes). Sweet girl, you rested peacefully in the bassinet, looked around curiously when awake, and proved to be a superb infant traveler. A woman, who was seated behind me, asked if you were always that good. I was so happy to be able to truthfully respond, “Yes she is!” Oh yeah, in one of my earlier diary entries, I wrote about changing a diaper in a tiny public bathroom. That was before I was forced to change a diaper in an airplane’s lavatory…with a line of people waiting to use the facilities. Now that takes skills! I'm an official member of the “Moms Do What They Have to do Club.”

When we landed in Washington D.C. for our three hour layover, you were able to meet your paternal grandparents. Of course you smiled and charmed them and of course they loved you. It was a great moment. We had to rush to make the last leg of out flight to Atlanta. We were pratically running through the airport in order not to miss our flight. Once we were in our seats, you suddenly began to cry for a few minutes. There was a big, rough-looking redneck guy sitting in front of us. He turned around and rolled his eyes while you were crying. He probably thought you would cry throughout the flight. He didn't know my Addison. We got your bottle ready, you took a couple of sips, and quickly fell asleep. You slept throughout the short flight home. After we landed, that big, rough-looking guy gave you a slight smile. I smiled back at him because I do understand that a crying baby on an airplane is not that pleasant. By 3:00PM, we were driving up our driveway and entering our house as a family of three for the first time. We were home. I showed you your room and let you test out your new crib. You like to run your hand across the various fabrics in your bedding. I think you appreciate nice bedding…yep, you’re my daughter.

Aunt Marilyn and Grandma Birdie came by to meet you within a few hours of our arrival home. They just couldn’t wait until the next day to meet this baby whom they had waited so anxiously for. To be honest with you, I couldn’t wait for them to meet you! Your Aunt Marilyn could barely contain her excitement. She even refers to you as her child -:) After your aunt and grandma left, your Uncle Lonnie came by to catch a glimpse of you. You had already fallen asleep so he didn’t get a chance to experience your charming ways. Your dad was so tired he fell asleep within a few hours after our arrival home. Although we have a bassinet next to our bed, you fell asleep in your new crib in your own room. You look so peaceful and comfortable in your crib. You look like you belong here. Welcome home Addison. Our journey to and from Ethiopia has ended, but our journey as your parents is just beginning. I’m so looking forward to it.

Our layover in Dulles was approx. three hours until we were scheduled for the Delta flight to Atlanta. We called Mom and dad at home and they rushed right to the Dulles terminal to see us and meet Addison. It was great! Addison took right to mom, but Dad was getting over the flu so he did not want to hold her. They seemed enthralled with Addison. We sat, talked, and took some pictures until we had to leave for the flight to Atlanta.

The Delta flight was cramped and the plane was small. We were one of the last people to board and our seats were in the back. Addison was cranky and cried a bit initially. I was slow with the bottle. After a few minutes, she settled in. It was a short hour and forty-five minute flight. After we landed, Pat and I kissed. It was good to be home. We got our luggage-first class luggage comes out first! They put it in a special area too. Nice! We paid for the luggage carrier ($3) and wheel our stuff to the lower level. I left Pat and Addison at the lower level to run to Marta to go get the truck at the College Park
Bell South Parking Lot. I headed back to the airport to pick them up. The whole detour took about 20 minutes. We put Addison in her car seat for the first time. She fits well. We drove home, got out, and opened the house up. Everything was fine and as it should be. Congratulations to us! This journey is finished.

Saturday, March 17, 2007


Your Questions...Our Answers

Why did we adopt?
The concept of adoption has always appealed to me. As a single woman, I often told friends that I would adopt if I remained single. Once Aaron and I married,having a biological child proved difficult, so I decided that it was far more important for me to become a mother than to become pregnant. I have never thought my DNA was so superior that I could not love a child who was not genetically related to me. After many conversations and prayers, Aaron and I said “No Thank You!” to further promising high tech fertility treatments and began focusing our attention on adopting. We were on our way to becoming a family of three!

Why Go to Africa? / Why not Domestic Adoption?
Learning about the current procedures and trends in private domestic adoptions left us feeling uncomfortable and ambivalent. We learned that in the foster care system’s adoption program, there is a 50% chance that the child could be returned to their mother or another relative, even if we had served as their foster parents. We didn’t like those odds. I’ve read and re-read the rationale behind procedures in both private and public domestic adoptions and know that they are suitable for many people. However, these procedures and arrangements were not a good fit for us. It should be emphasized that no method of adoption is risk free. I think that most people who have adopted a child would agree that adoption is not for the faint hearted!

There are those who feel that Americans should adopt “from their own back yard” while others hold a more global view that there are needy kids all over the world. In my opinion, a child born in the United States is no more deserving of a loving home than a child born in a third world country and vise versa. However, the poor living conditions in much of Africa (that some Americans can not even begin to adequately envision), severe limited government resources, poor health care, and the lack of accessible education to millions of children, played a major role in our decision to adopt from Africa. Most importantly, the notion of adopting an orphan took hold of my heart and would not let go. I have learned that when I follow my heart (with a sprinkle of good reasoning) and pay attention to “that inner voice” which I believe is God’s guidance, I will make the right decision. I just knew that all of my life experiences had led us to this specific adoption journey. Thank God we like to travel!

Why Ethiopia?
I hesitated to include this next section in my blog because it is quite personal. But aren’t most blogs personal? Well this blog is all about my thoughts and experiences, so here goes. (Besides, I can delete it at any time…even if countless people have already read it!)

During the time when our hearts began leaning toward adoption, my fertility specialist wanted to discuss “her plans” for my next treatment. During one of her medical explanations as to why my previous treatments had not been successful, I remember asking myself, “Do I interrupt her now or tell her later that Aaron and I have decided to adopt?” When I realized that I couldn’t get a word in edgewise, I heard her say, “I’d like you to consider using donor eggs. Although it usually takes longer to find a Black American donor, we could extend our search to an East African donor. Yes! Looking at Aaron’s and your physical features, extending our egg donor search to an East African donor would be a great option.” I immediately thought to myself, “Honey,I’ll go to East Africa and adopt a child before I put Aaron and me through more of this emotional turmoil!” Little did I know at the time that this flippant thought of mine would soon become our reality. Around this same time, I had numerous “chance” meetings with children and adults of East African descent.

Leave it to Oprah to air a show that would water a seed that had already been planted in my head! I happened to see an episode where Oprah featured remarkable children. There was a young school-aged girl who had been hit by a train in her Ethiopian village. A missionary worker had learned of this accident and arranged for her to come to America and live with a couple in an Atlanta suburb. As this couple accepted responsibility for the medical treatment for this beautiful, wounded girl, over the next few months they grew to love her. When the child’s elderly grandmother asked the couple to consider adopting her, they didn’t hesitate to start the procedures to raise this child as their own. Although this child had literally lost an arm and a leg in that tragic accident, she had a spirit and enthusiasm that warmed my soul. She joined her school’s swim team, was on the student council, and quickly mastered the English language. I couldn’t stop thinking about this little girl and the Atlanta family that adopted her. I actually tried to contact this family to tell them how moved I was by their story. I never caught up with them (which is probably a good thing because I might have come across as kind of strange), but I still have that Oprah episode saved on a dusty VCR tape. All of these direct and indirect encounters happened during the time when I was leaning in the direction of adopting from Ethiopia. Call it serendipity, call it a coincidence, or call it fate. I’m just glad I was present and tuned in!

We learned that Ethiopia has the most stable adoption program in Africa and that several agencies in the United States have been approved to facilitate adoptions from there. When I read about Ethiopia’s rich culture and history, and discovered that there are an estimated 4.5 million orphans, I became even more engrossed. The fact that Ethiopia is often called the Cradle of Humanity made me feel like I was going “home” to receive my child. The people of Ethiopia possess great pride in their country as well as both an inner and outer beauty. The more I read about how Ethiopians cherish their children and the relatively smooth and fast moving Ethiopian adoption program, I knew without a doubt that the child I had prayed for was there…halfway around the world. Ironically, I had often told Aaron that I thought he looked Ethiopian. Knowing that our future child would likely bear physical resemblance to one or both of us was simply icing on the cake. Wouldn’t you know that many have commented that our little Ethiopian princess resembles Aaron!

Why are there so many orphans in Ethiopia?
Ethiopia is a country that has been challenged by political turmoil, civil wars, diseases, droughts. As a result, there is great poverty there. Birth mothers or surviving relatives often make the difficult decision to relinquish their children because they simply can no longer provide basic needs such as food and clean water. Babies are sometimes found wrapped in warm blankets and abandoned near safe public spots like police posts, churches, or government buildings.

What happened to your child’s mother?
Aaron and I are aware and are comfortable with the details of our daughter being orphaned; however, we will be discreet about her history. Although our daughter’s past is not shameful, it is her story to know and understand. When she is older, she can determine if and with whom she wants to share her story.

Are the children available for adoption healthy? /Are you concerned about your child having HIV/AIDS?
The vast majority of Ethiopian children available for adoption are healthy. Common minor conditions include parasites or minor skin conditions that are easily treated in America. Some of the babies/children are malnourished when they enter the orphanages, but usually fully recover prior to being placed for adoption. There are other children with special needs that are available for adoption. Once again, many of these children need minor surgeries that are routinely done in America. Parents determine if they want a healthy child or what illnesses they are open to. Our child was considered healthy at time of referral and continues to get glowing medical reports.

Until recently, the Ethiopian government did not allow children with HIV/AIDS to be adopted. However, adoptive parents can now request a child with HIV/AIDS and other chronic conditions (and many have). There are orphanages that specifically house children who have tested positive for HIV/AIDS. The children are tested several times for infectious diseases before being allowed to leave Ethiopia. Although AIDS has resulted in many orphans in Ethiopia, it may be surprising to learn that when compared to other African countries, the number of HIV/AIDS cases in Ethiopia is significantly lower.

How are you matched with a child?
After one’s dossier and other paper work is completed and accepted, you are presented with information on a child and the child’s picture (a referral). In most cases, a staff member of your adoption agency matches you with a child based on your pre-determined criteria such as age, gender, number of children, and medical conditions you are open to. However, one can select a specific child from an agency’s “Waiting Children’s List”. Waiting children are often older children, children with special needs, or sibling groups. It is typical to hear adoptive parents comment that they were matched with “the perfect” child for their family. We know that Addison’s placement with our family was God’s perfect planning!

Will you tell your daughter that she was adopted?
ABSOLUTELY!!! (In 2007, I still can’t believe I’ve been asked this) There is no shame in being adopted. My child will know from a very early age the story of how she became an Earley!

What is the process to adopt from Ethiopia?
Please refer to Our Adoption Timeline for a look at all of the necessary steps to adopt from Ethiopia.

Will you and Aaron adopt again?

TBD! For right now, we are happy and busy caring for our daughter. We will let you know if we decide to go down this road (or another adoption road) again. No pressure please!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Our Adoption Timeline

April 2006
Applied to Gladney Center for Adoption
Mailed CIS application (Advance Processing of Orphan Petition)
CIS Fingerprint Appointment
Completed medical exams
May 2006
Mailed homestudy application to Families First, our homestudy agency
(Our homestudy included an autobiography for each of us; personal recommendations; background checks; self statements on marriage and family life, parenting philosophies, child rearing expectations, child cared plans, financial status, religion, health, home and neighborhood, references, and completion of a 10 hour on-line parenting course)
1st Home Visit: Initial joint interview with social worker; Home inspection completed
Began gathering documents for homestudy and dossier
June 2006
2nd Home Visit: Aaron and I met individually with social worker
Continued to gather documents for homestudy and dossier
July 2006
3rd Home Visit: Second joint interview with social worker
Approval of international adoption homestudy
Completed parenting course “With Eyes Wide Open” through Adoption Learning Partners
August 2006
Homestudy mailed to Gladney and CIS
September 2006
Formally Accepted by Gladney into their Ethiopian adoption program
Authenticate dossier documents (several documents had to be redone and resubmitted)
Dossier completed and sent to Gladney
Dossier mailed to Ethiopia
October 2006
October 31st - Received CIS approval
Final documents submitted to Gladney
November /December 2006
Waited to receive word on Ethiopian court date which would determine our travel date
Submitted final adoption fees
Read and re-read Gladney’s guarantee and encouraging statements to get me through this difficult waiting period.
Communicated with other adopting parents for support
Decorated Nursery
January 2007
January 12th! Received travel call
January 29th Left for Ethiopia
January 30th Met our daughter!
February 2007
February 7th – Embassy Court date
February 9th and 10th- Traveled home as parents!