Friday, April 23, 2010

One Month Home

Wow.  Has she only been in our lives for 4 1/2 weeks???  That is amazing to me.  Judging by the way she has adapted to this new life, and by the way we feel so crazy about her, and by the way she has just bravely marched into every new situation and made it her own, it feels like she has been home for much longer than that.

I still haven't finished blogging about our last few days in Addis.  So I'll just wrap it up now.  (with a few pics from a recent trip to Woodward Park thrown in for good measure.)

I'll start by saying that it was very hard to say goodbye.  To Ethiopia, to Genet, to Abiey.  I cried as I looked around me at the airport and knew that we were taking a piece of Ethiopia's future away from it.  Does that sound nuts???  It probably does.  But as I held our bright little piece of sunshine, I knew that whatever she becomes in life, it will not be an Ethiopian.  And I was sad for her and sad for Ethiopia.  I don't have the right words to express this... but it broke my heart.  But then she pitched such a fit in the waiting area at the airport that my heart went right back into mommy-mode again.  And then when we buckled her in on the airplane and she didn't like the buckle and was squirming and trying to take it off and EVERY Ethiopian around us was trying to calm her and give her candy... I just totally checked out.  I mean it.  Not my most glorious moment, but I was exhausted- mentally, physically, emotionally, and I thought "if these people want to deal with her for the next 15 hours- FINE."  But then she so sweetly fell asleep on my lap within minutes of takeoff that I got over it.  I was an emotional WRECK, though, for many reasons.  My poor husband.  He is so patient with me and so quick to over-look my over-reactions.  (Most of the time. :-)

A note:  I did not enjoy Ethiopian Airlines.  The plane was HOTTER THAN HADES both there and back- what is that???  Aren't airplanes usually freezing cold???  And I have to say that the staff was, how shall I put this?  Well, not Asian.  Most of my overseas trips have been either to Indonesia or to Australia and I've traveled almost every Asian airline there is.  And I'm  not exaggerating when I say that the air staff on those flights make you feel so at home and are willing to bend over backward to accommodate your every need.  And... suffice to say, this wasn't quite the same.  You can't beat them for price, but good luck getting your water re-filled.

Immigration in DC was another nightmare.  She thought it was VERY funny to run away from us.  And I have to say I was very self conscious that I was surrounded by Ethiopians and that I could not control my Ethiopian child.  So after finally doing the "Okay!  Bye-bye Abeba!" thing and walking away from her until she ran to me, I grabbed her and put her in the sling I brought with me (Thanks Anj!  I need to get that back to you, don't I???) and I whispered in my best Mommy Dearest serious voice, "When Mommy says NAY (come), you NAY!!!  Do you understand me????"  And yes, indeed she did.  Sometimes you don't need to speak the same language to communicate just fine.  :-)

So from then on whenever she started to run away from us I would just point at the sling and say, "Do you want to get back in this?  Then when Mommy says NAY, Abeba NAYS!"  Yes, including the bad grammar.  But it helped me keep my sense of humor.  :-)


Arriving in Tulsa will always stand as one of the highlights of my LIFE.  It was so beautiful!  All these friends and family were there and they ALL felt like family to me!!!  It was so amazing to realize that she didn't just have a family waiting to love her, she had a whole community ready to embrace her and love her!!!  I was blown away.  Balloons, signs, toys and presents, and the wonderful, gorgeous people I am lucky to have in my life.  I'm getting choked up just thinking of it.  To see the tears of joy in THEIR eyes was a thing I will never forget.  I just felt so surrounded by LOVE.  It was amazing.  (BIG PS- IF ANY OF YOU WHO WHERE THERE HAVE PICS OF THIS AMAZING MOMENT, I WOULD LOVE TO GET THEM!  I HAVE RECEIVED A FEW VIDEOS, BUT NO PHOTOS!  THANKS!)




Best moment:  As soon as we came through the gate all holding hands, Charlie Buck (age 4) ran right up to Lilah and got right up in her face and said, "My mommy said you can come to my HOUSE!!!"  I melted.  Too gorgeous for words.

And then... we were HOME.  Lilah slowly came into the house and just spent some time looking around.  Then she spotted a picture of her on our bookcase and shouted, "ABEBA!!!"  Adorable.  When we showed her to her room she was in awe.  But that was nothing compared to when I opened her closet.  I don't know if I've mentioned it on here before, but the girl has a wardrobe that is almost a sin.  She took each of her 21 dresses out of the closet one by one and laid them on the floor so tenderly.  Then once they were all out she chose one to put on.  It was precious.

And every moment since then has been the same.  Even the moment when I put her in time out for the first time for saying something naughty to me in Amharic.  How did I know it was something naughty?  Oh, a mommy just knows.  Am I right, girls???  She looked at me with an attitude and said, "Blah blah blah blah!"  And I knew it was bad.  So I knelt down on her level and said very calmly, "Don't talk to Mommy like that."  And the little precious thing squared her shoulders, looked me right in the eye and SAID IT AGAIN!  Oh, yes she did.  And I said, "And now you have to sit in time out."  I moved a chair by the bookcase and set her in it, and let me tell you, we BOTH knew exactly what was going on.  She started bawling right away, which I took as a good sign- she knew she was naughty and knew she needed to get in trouble for it.  But even as it was happening I was thinking, "This is hilarious!  She's speaking Amharic, I'm speaking English, and we are communicating perfectly well."  ;-)

She is a joy.  We are blessed beyond anything we could ever ask or imagine.  I have to say that I really didn't expect it to be this easy.  I feel bad even typing that b/c I know not everyone has it easy, especially at first.  I mean, she just looked so SAD in all those referral pictures!  I really expected some issue: sleep, food, attachment, grief, temper, language... something to be an issue.  But it has been really, really smooth.  Almost too smooth.  Almost to the point that I am waiting for the other shoe to drop, so to speak.  I know eventually there will be an inevitable time of grieving for her- acknowledging all she has lost and mourning the fact that she will never get it back.  But I expect that to come at a later time when she has more language and processing abilities.  So for now she just seems to be a healthy, well adjusted, foreign toddler!  Pretty amazing.  Someone did mention that you don't really see their full personality for at least 6 months, and that makes a lot of sense to me.  But all things considered, we know we have had it VERY easy.  She is SUNSHINE!!!

13 comments:

Lindsey said...

I LOVE the fact that we shared so much of Ethiopia together! And I had TOTALLY forgotten about chewing out the stewardess under my breath! :)
The pics are amazing and I am so glad that things are going well. She is a dream!

LOVE you!

Jenny said...

LOVE this post! She is blessed to have you guys and you are blessed to have her. She is a DOLL:)

Kimberlie said...

I am so glad that life is settling in well. And regarding communication - I just tell my kids that when women become Mommies, God gives them superpowers to know exactly when our children are doing something naughty. They asked me how I always know when they do something wrong. Frankly, it's because they always have guilt written all over their faces and they are terrible liars (thankfully!), but I like them to believe I have super powers. It's more cool to them. :)

About the heartbreak in the airport. With our first adoption, I was just clinging on for dear life. But with the second, I remember sitting in the airplane as we taxied away from the gate and saying to my son, as I bawled, "say good-bye to China sweet boy. It will never be your country again." It really broke my heart for him that he couldn't grow up in the country in which he was born. I knew all the blessings that he would have (good health care for his ongoing needs, good education, parents to love him forever), but it made me really sad that China wouldn't be "his" any more. It's a complicated feeling because you want so badly for them to be able to grow in their homeland, but you also want them to be your child with ever fiber of your being.

Christine said...

I love, love, love reading your posts!

Thank you so much for sharing your journey with all of us!

Your stories warm my heart and are a help as we wait for our little girl!

Blessings!

Christine

Annie said...

Beautiful post! I felt the exact same way when leaving Ethiopia with my 10 month old. I cried for her, and for Ethiopia. I have been talking to my husband about moving there! Your daughter is gorgeous!
~Anne

Sylvia said...

Your writing about your experiences has been so inspired and heart-warming and real. If I was thinking of adopting, I would come running to you for help and advice. I so love your blog - only discovered it just before you entered the adoption process and have followed you ever since. Usually end up with goosebumps and tery-eyed.

Sylvia said...

sorry - teary-eyed

Maribeth said...

Gayla,

She is beyond beautiful, and she really does seem to be doing amazing.

I had the boys here when I finally decided to catch up on reading blogs, and when they saw her picture they went crazy. They were yelling "Abeba" "Abeba". When I told them that she came to America, they were so excited.

Hope the good times keep up for you guys.

It Feels Like Chaos said...

Okay, so I'm officially stalking your blog! We just got on the wait list to adopt a girl age 0-30 months from Ethiopia through Gladney. I found you through the Gladney FBI website and am so grateful for all you've shared here! We expect to be getting the older end of the age range, but after reading the first few chapters of Toddler Adoption, The Weaver's Craft, I got nervous about the fact that our adopted daughter will likely be a toddler. I have 3 biological kids so I've done the toddler thing but the book just got me scared that adopting a child at the toddler age is terrible. So, it is really encouraging to hear things are going well for you guys. Lilah is absolutely adorable, by the way! Huge congratulations on your new princess!

michelle said...

So wonderful to read your journey and "meet" your beautiful new addition. She looks like sunshine!

Congrats to you and the Gower clan!

Sohailah said...

I love it. And I so get that whole won't be Ethiopian deal and the robbery of Ethiopia. I know that's the deal with my friends who have the orphanage in Kenya - they want those kids to stay there so they can be light and life and the future of Kenya - however, your little Lilah needs YOU where YOU are and where SHE is, or she wouldn't be with you where she is. Who knows where she will end up and how she may even possibly affect Ethiopia because she was brought here. Blah, blah, blah... nothing you don't already know.

love ya!

Tiffany said...

I cannot stop the tears streaming down my cheeks. What a beautiful post, and a darling girl. We are in the beginning stages of our adoption process. We too are adopting from Ethiopia. Thanks you for sharing your heart. I am following now, as I cannot wait to read the rest of your story!

Leanne said...

Gayla,

I also BAWLED as we were driving to the airport. I mean like a crazy person. I cried b/c our daughter was loosing part of her heritage. And try as we might, we can never give it to her. Not completely. I cried b/c our adoption trip was over. I cried b/c her birth family has lost something so beautiful. I mean I was a WRECK. One might think I would be happy to get home, but the sadness of everything just overwhelmed me.

I write this to you b/c I thought I was alone!!!! Thank you for sharing!!! Thank you!!!

Selam! G'day! Hello!