Today we flew in over Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It is the day we have been waiting for. What a beautiful country! There are gorgeous mountains and everything is very green. Jay and I were so nervous as we watched the sun rise over Ethiopia. We had no idea what to expect for this much awaited moment. After flying, getting our visas, money exchanged, passports stamped, luggage, and customs, we met up with Zebene, the owner of Grace Guest House. We met another couple and their grown son (from Broken Arrow, OK!) who were adopting 2 older kids through our agency.
The guest house
The buildings, smell, and sight of people walking everywhere were exactly what I expected to see in a city in Africa. The guest house wasn't far from the airport, and as we pulled up to the gate, I knew that we would meet Hadassah at any second since she was staying with some nannies at the house. First, we met Isaac and the Marshman's, with sweet little Kate, in the foyer of the guest house. They were so great to film our first minutes of meeting Hadassah. We just stood awkwardly and nervously right by the stairs, knowing that any second we were going to see the little girl we had grown to love through pictures.
Sarah, Hadassah's nanny, brought Hadassah from the back courtyard and through the kitchen to us. My first thoughts were that she had just had a bath. I thought that her skin looked so different than what I expected, but it was the Vaseline rubbed into her freshly bathed skin. :) The nannies had her in boy's shorts and long-sleeved shirt and a sweet pink dress over it. They were so proud of the way she looked, and so was I. Jay and I just stared at her in wonder and I reached out to take her from Sarah. I didn't want to scare her, but I had to hold her or I would burst right there in the dark foyer. Hadassah was so much smaller than we thought. We are used to big, sturdy kids, and she was thin and light. Sarah backed up into the kitchen and closed the door as we took over.
I'm not sure how Jay reacted, but I cried silently on the outside and like a sobbing baby on the inside. This is our daughter. This is her! She looked terrified and held it together until I leaned in to kiss her cheek. Then she just let out a wail! She was so unsure of us, especially of all the cameras. We tried to calm her down by walking into a different room and that didn't help. We tried a bottle and that didn't help either. Finally, I noticed that the nannies and other kids were in the courtyard, just outside our window. I opened up the window to let Hadassah look out and she calmed right down when she heard the familiar sounds and language. This was actually our trick for the first day with her. In fact, Jay set the camera on the window ledge for about 10 minutes one day and recorded the sounds so that we can play it for her at home when she needs to calm down.
I eventually walked out back with Hadassah and found her room. Sarah let me in and showed me Hadassah's crib. I looked around the room and turned my head to find Sarah silently crying. Of course, I just cried with her. We couldn't understand one another, but we just stood there and cried. Sarah has loved Hadassah like a daughter. The bond that they have is just precious. Before we went to ET, I told Jay that I was kind of jealous of Sarah. I was worried that when we met Hadassah, she would be too attached to Sarah and wouldn't want anything to do with us. But that thought melted away as soon as I saw Sarah carry Hadassah into the foyer.
The courtyard. The babies' room is the grey door on the left.
Hadassah fell asleep very soon after our first meeting. I don't know if it was her nap time or if all of the emotional stress just wore her out. Poor baby. She slept in my arms as Aggie (a PRECIOUS girl who speaks English and works at the guest house) helped interpret some questions from us to Sarah. We were able to ask how much Hadassah eats in a day and how often she sleeps. I could tell that Sarah was a little unsure of who this lady was taking her little treasure, but she was so nice and answered all of my questions.
Asking questions about Hadassah's routine.
We spent the afternoon getting to know Hadassah. She warmed up to us and smiled quite a bit. But she still had moments where she would breath really funny and almost start crying. She wouldn't let Jay hold her, but she would sit with me right next to Jay and touch him. She really liked him, but wasn't ready to give in quite yet.
Kate and Hadassah. They have been crib mates since the orphanage. Kate is sweet and calm. Hadassah is loud and a ham. They are B.F.F's.
Just get used to seeing a blurry arm on Hadassah. She is always waving it as she chatters. And, of course, she'll do anything to make Kate laugh. :)
Jay and I realized that we were SO hungry and ordered a pizza from the guest house kitchen at about 1:00. Come to find out, they took our order, went to the market, and made everything after the order. We ate lunch at about 3:00 and loved every bit of it. The staff at the guest house is amazing. They have the biggest hearts.
Hadassah was tired again, so I rocked her to sleep in my arms. She was sound asleep as I laid her in the crib, but her eyes popped open and she was scared. I knew she was exhausted, so I just gave her a bottle and hid behind the wall. Earlier when she fell asleep, I noticed that she was kicking her legs as she cried. I thought that she was kind of throwing a fit. But as I watched her from behind the wall in the bedroom, I realized that kicking is the way she rocked herself to sleep. It broke my heart. But she fell asleep for about an hour. When she woke up, she was frightened again and calmed down by the chattering in the courtyard. We brought a baby photo album with us to leave with Hadassah. It's filled with pictures of all of us and pictures of Hadassah that we received. One picture has Sarah and Hewitt holding Hadassah and Kate. When Sarah saw the picture, she laughed and cried at the same time. It was our breaking point with Sarah, when she knew that she was important to us and that Hadassah would always know about her.
Checking out the courtyard again and calming down. And showing Sarah the photo album.
After that moment in the courtyard, Hadassah was used to us and never acted scared again. She played, smiled, spit, and clicked her tongue over her toothless gums in the cutest way. She even let Jay hold her and walk around with her. Jay just kept talking about how beautiful she is. We couldn't get over her. We still can't.
We met with Dereje, our agency's ET attorney, and he talked us through what court would be like in the morning. We were able to ask him a lot of questions and he was so patient with us.
After meeting with Dereje, we arranged a ride with Howie to a Greek restaurant for dinner. We left Hadassah with Sarah and both of them were super excited to see each other. After a great dinner with the Marshman's and Isaac, the Taylor's, Howie, our driver and interpreter, we headed back to the guest house. When we got back, it was about 9:30 pm and Hadassah and Kate were sharing a crib together. They were so snugly and cute. I had a hard time letting go and allowing Hadassah just to stay asleep in the nursery. I had envisioned her in our room at night and felt guilty for leaving her with Sarah. I finally gave in because I didn't have the heart to wake her and make her sleep with those scary strangers called parents.