--Okay. Which book do you want to read?
-Read my Avé Story!
--You want to read your Lifebook?
-Yes! Read about me!
And so we read her story. Again. Again and again and again.
"After the rainy season ends in southern Ethiopia a very special time begins. Spring-like weather makes everything start to grow! Flowers are blooming everywhere. Trees are putting on their best leaves. The farmers are planting their crops. It’s a beautiful time in a beautiful country. And after the rainy season ended in 2006 something else beautiful happened. In the area called the Sidama Zone, in a village called Luta Bongodo, a very beautiful baby was born. Her family thought she was so beautiful that they decided to name her “Flower!” And that baby was YOU! Abeba Lilah Gower! The word for flower in Amharic is “Abeba.” And so that’s what your name means. “Beautiful Flower.” * **
*A few details have been changed or deleted for privacy.
** And if you read something up there that you know is incorrect, please let me know!!! I'm just using info I've gathered and cobbled together from many sources. I want it to be correct, so correct me if I have been misinformed!
I can't remember specifically who introduced me to the concept of adoption lifebooks, but I'm forever grateful. For those not in the know- a Lifebook tells the adoptees story- as much as you know of it- from birth to the time he/she came to be your son or daughter. Every teeny-tiny piece of information is important to the adoptee. After all, their life doesn't begin at the moment they join our families. For my daughter, she had 2 years and 9 months with her first family and then 8 more months in an orphanage before she came home with us. That's a lot of living and a lot of information she's going to wonder about someday!
We are fortunate to know some great details about her life in both of those circumstances. I'm sure these details are going to mean so much to her. And we are fortunate to have some great pix from the area where she was born. (Thanks again, Heidi!) But truthfully? It was very challenging to write.
It was challenging because my daughter's story is hard. And sad. And because although we know some things, other details will forever be a mystery.
The unofficial (or maybe official?) Lifebook guru is Beth O'Malley. She has a website and a "how-to" book on the subject. One thing she stresses is not to sanitize the story. Not to leave out hard truths or difficult facts. Because, well, because they are facts. And to hold back information is just unfair and ultimately unkind. But she does give you great suggestions for language to use at each stage and in many different circumstances. I found all of the information she offered very helpful while I was writing Avé's lifebook.
I was motivated to start writing her story after an interesting event last summer. My boys were talking about when they were in my tummy (I honestly can't remember why this had come up... seems very random, but that's kids) and Avé said, "Tell me about when *I* was in your tummy!" I simply told her that she didn't grow inside my tummy- that she had grown inside the tummy of her first mommy- Mama Meselesh. She asked why, and since I wasn't prepared to give her the birds-and-the-bees conversation I just said something lame about that's how babies are born- from the tummies of their first mommies. She had a lot more questions about how she was born and I knew that was just one reason I needed to get her lifebook written- so that I could tell her her whole story. Or as much as we know of it.
Right now I just have a rough copy printed out from my computer, but she loves it! We read it all the time. And when she is grieving it is the first thing we turn to. It reminds her of who she is and where she has come from. It connects her to her roots and to people and places I don't want her to forget. It reminds her that her first family loved her so very much... and that her second family does too. And above ALL it tells her that God loves her and has been watching out for and protecting her through all of her story. And that He has big plans for her life. And that while God didn't orchestrate the parts of her story that are sad or painful, He was there with her through that time and was always, always, always holding her so close and loving her more than she can even imagine. More than her first and second families combined.