I’ve always considered myself fairly resolved. As a teenager, I didn’t need much proof of friendships. I never consumed myself with thoughts of exclusion or inclusion. As an adult, I’m not compelled to question if I belong with or am included by those I know and love. However, parenting in general beckons my heart for proof of being enough, offering enough, loving enough, and meeting enough needs. I look for proof that my children see me as the parent I aspire to be. I am not proud of this. I am aware of it. And becoming a parent through the miracle of adoption leaves me looking for “proof” once again. Yesterday, God allowed me one of these glimpses.
For each set of traveling families, Gladney hosts a tour of the Gladney foster homes and a coffee ceremony. At the coffee ceremonies, the adopted children’s “special mother” (from their time in Gladney’s care) has special time with the child alone. They say goodbye. They dress the child. They mourn. A chapter of love, friendship, and parenting comes to an end. They share their last kisses and hugs, their last words of promise, their last memory. Many of the caregivers were orphans themselves. They relate with our adoptive children in a special way. The special mothers treasure this time. Tigist is Mezekir’s special mother. She loves Mezekir. And the story goes, during Meze’s time at Gladney, he loved and preferred Tigist to all others. On Wednesday, we attended the coffee ceremony. Tigist peered out the front gate as we approached the Gladney home in the van. She could barely contain herself. The evidence of her joy prevailed. She could not wait for us to disembark the van before taking Mezekir in her arms. And then, as quickly and magically as Mezekir was placed into our arms 2 and ½ weeks ago, he was swept away. Tigist’s time with him marked the beginning of the end for them. Mezekir appeared unaffected. He smiled at me as they walked away. I felt a lump in my throat. It began to grow. I was not sure why.
We toured the foster homes. Tigist and Mezekir stayed together. An hour later, we returned. From outside Gladney home #1, I could hear a familiar cry. Mezekir wailed loudly. He was unhappy. I hurried through the front door of the red brick house in the Ayat neighborhood, and Tigist saw me there. She held Mezekir tightly, but it was clear she knew things had changed. She looked to me, sadly, but certainly, and handed Mezekir to me. Mezekir’s cry had been inconsolable. His tear-stained face and red hue proved his cries were a long time in the making. Then, a surprise, a moment, the moment I had dreamt of happened. Mezekir looked at me, his cries quieted; he buried his face in my shoulder. His wailing softened to a whimper and then ceased all together. Tentatively, Tigist said in broken English (and a mix of Amharic), “I’m not mamma anymore. You are his mamma now. He loves you. Go to America and be happy.” The sweet but sad moment was the proof in the pudding; he did know me. He wanted me. He loved me. And, if even for only a moment, he knew I was his mom, and he longed to be with me. I’ve known for so long he was my son. And God granted a glimpse of Meze’s heart melding into mine.
Thursday, we attended Embassy. We expected an uneventful but long experience. I determined ahead of time, it would not be an emotional experience. But truth be told, all of the emotions of knowing Mezekir’s story, remembering his relinquishment, speaking about his birth mother and her story, remembering the time waiting for him, recounting each profitable and failed step in our adoption journey, praying for him and his country and his birth family, knowing soon we would depart this place and people, which we have grown to love, and looking toward the future together culminated when we approached the window for our embassy appointment. The man performing the interview was surely caught off-guard by my tears and smiles. His gentle voice did not lighten the blow as he asked about Mezekir’s background and his birth mom. My answers were brief. I provided what he needed. Inside, though, I remembered each detail of the pain and heartbreak surrounding his life before entering our family. After answering his questions, he looked at us and matter-of-factly reported, “Congratulations. You are free to take your son home with you to America.” Tears flooded and my smile beamed as I cried and thanked him. Even though he does this everyday and is accustomed to the miracle of adoption as it plays out in front of him, for me this experience cannot be replicated. I cannot imagine this journey without tangibly feeling and visibly seeing God at work in every step along the way. He has answered our prayers in the moments of our trials. His name proves to be our strong and mighty tower. He answered our hearts deepest dreams and desires. Each time we call on Him, He faithfully responds. We rejoice today more than ever as we recount our steps in this journey, His journey. He led us across continents, over oceans, to a situation of need and desperation, which evolved into hope and joy. Ethiopia, we love you! Thank you for the gift of a son, of friendships, and of unmatched kindness and love.