Wednesday, January 18, 2012

About our Court Trip to Ethiopia

I haven't written, because I haven't known what to say or where to start.  But, I want to remember this trip, so I will try.

After a red-eye flight at 3:30 a.m., we arrived in Addis Ababa around 10:30 a.m. with all luggage and kids in tow.

2:30 a.m. in the Delhi airport...

Totally shot, we were so happy to see Binyam, our agency's driver, waiting for us right outside the airport.  He drove us to the guest house and we settled into our very spacious room to get cleaned up and rest.

I promise Paul didn't sleep the whole time. :)
Addis was a lot more modern than I was expecting it to be.  Lots of tall buildings, malls, well-planned streets (remember, I'm comparing it to India, not the US), and seemingly a burger joint on every corner, which made us very happy.  It's at a high elevation and has beautiful mountains surrounding it.  The countryside is truly beautiful!

CHICKEN HUT! And Kiryn's excitement about being a big sister!
We were all so anxious to meet Meryn, so we ate at a fast food place just down from the hotel.  While we were eating lunch, Paul and I confessed to each other that we were looking at all the girls and women in the restaurant, wondering what Meryn would look like as she grows up, and decided we were hard pressed to find a lady who was not stunningly beautiful.  Ethiopian people are truly breathtaking. They have a very unique, distinct appearance.

As we were driving out to the care center, I decided that Addis might have more mannequins that people. It seemed like the entire route the roads were lined with little clothing stalls, one after another, and each one, only a little wider than it's door, had about 8-10 mannequins all clustered out front, displaying their fashions, and each mannequins was attached by a rope around the neck to the shop, apparently to deter anyone from running off with it.  Strange. :)

It seemed a long drive to the care center.  Each turn, I kept looking around for something familiar that I'd seen in dozens of pictures the last few months, and each turn that took us away from the main road told me we were getting closer.  When we finally turned down a tiny dirt alley lined with houses, I was frantically searching for "the gate" that I've seen so many times.  We stopped before I found it. : ) But, I knew it when I saw it.  We walked in, ducked under the lines of tiny drying clothes, and made our way into the room that held our daughter.

I saw the nannies bustling when they saw us coming, and her nanny bending over her crib, trying to get her ready for us.  As I approached, she moved out of the way graciously, and gave us room to walk up and see our little girl for the first time.  As I bent over her bed and made eye contact, she smiled up at me and kicked her feet!  What joy!  Oh, she was gorgeous!  The kids were overwhelmed and just huddled around, looked at her, touched her, kissed her, took turns holding her.  We all were just in our own little world of finally being together as a family.  Luke and Kiryn gradually noticed the many other babies in the room and began to play with some of them.  One little baby in particular was very smiley and they took a quick liking to her, and decided that we actually needed TWO baby sisters, Meryn and this little girl.  : )

We didn't stay long that first day, we were so tired.  We decided to take Meryn with us back to the hotel and spend some time alone with her.  It was a wonderful rest of the day playing, studying her face, watching her sleep, getting to know each other.  We experienced our first taste of Ethiopian food for dinner that night!  Injera, I can live without you.  (Injera is a fermented bread made from a grain that only grows in Ethiopia called teff.  It's gray in color, spongey in texture, and served cold.) However, a lot of their meats and gravies were really yummy.

The next morning, we got up and went out to a famous local coffee shop named Kaldi's.  There was one right near our hotel, so we walked over.  Our first outing with four kids went pretty well. : ) I wrapped Meryn up in my wrap carrier, Levi was on Paul's shoulders, and the big ones were holding hands.  The coffee shop had amazing pancakes the kids loved, and fantastic coffee that we loved.  Good start to the day...

I ended up taking Meryn to see a doctor first thing that morning.  She had a bad cough and shallow, short breathing.  Paul and I woke up several times in the night worried about her.  I let the agency staff in-country know, and the nurse came first thing to our hotel and accompanied me to a doctor.  It was quick and easy, and we got some medicine for her that really helped almost immediately.

Over the next few days, we spent most of our time at the hotel and care center, back and forth.  The older kids did really great at the care center and could play and interact with the babies and big kids there for hours.  Levi, if we went right after lunch, would fall asleep in the car and stay asleep as we laid him down on the bed, and just sleep right along with the other babies!

I knew Meryn was in an orphanage setting. Duh.  And I've been to orphanages.  But it's different when it's your child in that orphanage.  And this care center is SO much better than any of the orphanages I've been to before. It's cleaner, it's supply and medicine cabinet was stocked, plenty of clothes, plenty of bottles, plenty of formula and diapers.  Lots of loving nannies.  But things just function differently in a group setting than they do in a family.  Nannies are always walking here and there, so toys can't be cluttering the floor.  Toys are rarely allowed out, because it would be chaos if they were.  Sometimes diapers can't get changed promptly, and rashes start.  Sometimes babies cry and no one hears them.  Sometimes babies spend the majority of the day laying in a bed looking at the ceiling.  Cribs are used, worn out, breaking.  Toddlers leave food in places and critters invade.  There's not enough money to buy fruit, so meals are pasta, rice, bread, tea.

I knew Meryn was in an orphanage.  But I was not quite prepared for how hard it would be to imagine taking her back there and leaving her.  It's just not a family.  There's no mama to stare into her eyes every night as she drifts off to sleep, and greet her every morning as she's waking up.  There's no Big Bubba to fall down in front of her, or make silly faces, to make her laugh, and bring her toys, try to help her when she's crying.  There's no Big Sis to hold her, sing to her, and feed her bottles.  There's no Little Levi to share bottle time with and get wet slobbery kisses from.  There's no daddy to hold her, sing to her, love her, to wrap around her little giner.

There are so many kids at the care center.  And they (almost) all have families coming to get them.  They NEED those families.  They need more than basic needs being met. They need constancy, love, security, routine, discipline, instruction, truth.  They need families.

The day we left Meryn was one of the most difficult days I've had.  I was holding it together.  But just as I got her to sleep and laid her down, I started to loose control.  I turned to see Luke, running to Paul, burying his face, and his body shaking with sobs.  I asked him to tell me. As he struggled to wipe the tears off his face like a strong boy, he said,

"Meryn shouldn't stay here.  She should be with us.  She should come with us forever."  

Right-o, little buddy.  I agree.  We tearfully walked back to her bed, hand in hand, to see her one more time.  She was asleep, but stirred, saw us both, and grinned wide.  We blew her kisses and walked away.  As I did, Meryn's nanny grabbed me, and held on tight.  As I looked up from our embrace, I realized all the nannies were crying.  My strong little man, Luke, weeping for leaving his sister behind, had brought them all to tears.  I love his heart. I love how he sees the need of the children.  How he understands, and is concerned for them. How he loves them.  

He and I sat together and cried all the way back to the hotel.

It was a hard day.  Not goodbye though, just "until later."  Lord, please hasten the day our Meryn can join us...

To bring some clarity as to why things are this way, I will attempt to explain. : )

Ethiopia requires at least one parent to physically see the child and appear at the adoption court hearing.  But the birth certificate, passport, and visa cannot be applied for until the court decree has been written and finalized.

So once the court decree is written, about 4-? days after the court hearing, it takes 1-2 weeks to get the birth certificate, 1-2 weeks to get the passport, 2-3 weeks to be seen by the Embassy doctors.  Then the paperwork is submitted to the Embassy.  It's usually a month before the Embassy contacts families after their paperwork is submitted.  Sometimes families can travel within 6 weeks of the Embassy receiving their paperwork.  But usually it takes longer for the Embassy to review everything, get whatever other information they feel like they need to decide whether to give these children immigrant visas (even though they are already legally adopted, for crying out loud), and then issue the visa.

From court to visa interview with the Embassy its an average of 3 months.

Think it's wrong? Me too.  But, it is what it is.

We've written our Senators and asked them to encourage the Embassy to install a system to do all this document checking before the court hearing so things can move much faster after court. Or at least to try to move cases through faster.  Seems like it shouldn't take them a month to get to something.  But I don't know anything.

We're just trusting and praying that God knows all this, and His timing is perfect, and she'll come home on the day He has appointed...


  1. You are so beautiful, and your heart for adoption is so radiant! Thank you for sharing all these things so freely so that we can learn with you and pray for you all.

  2. thank you Megan. Really enjoyed this recount of your journey. in the making. :) hugs.

  3. Thanks so much for sharing more. I can't imagine how hard it was to leave her and to count down the days until you can pick her up! I'm praying for you guys and that things go quickly!

  4. I love this post! I can vividly remember so many of the pictures you described. And I also found the Ethiopian people to be absolutely gorgeous. I stared and stared at them just like people do here in China to us :) Hoping for an embassy speed-up!

  5. I cried reading your heart and your story. Thanks for sharing it with us. What a journey. We are praying with you. I can't even imagine how hard waiting must be.
    Love you!