Friday, February 22, 2013

Tuesday. GOTCHA. Deep sigh.

Adoption is beautiful. Y'all know that, right? It's theological. It's redemptive. It's beauty from ashes. It's God's glory revealed.

It's also painful. And messy. And terrifying. And a sure sign of the Fall that there are orphans to begin with, and that in order to play a part in their personal story we have to also play a part in inflicting some measure of pain upon them.

There is a crucifiction before there is a resurrection.

When we went to court in November, there were kids at Bethie's foster care center who came up to us instantly, jumped into our laps, brought us books to read, giggled at our tickles. Our girl wasn't one of those kids. We discovered instantly when we met Bethie that she was a sensitive, introverted, shy little girl. We knew that taking her away from all she has known was going to be hard. So hard. So hard that I've spent the last two and a half months praying, crying and worrying.

Monday we spent a little bit of time with our girl at the care center to remind her who we were. To "familiarize" her with us before we took her away from all she knew.

Tuesday her ringlets were gone (boo! but I'm sure they don't last at night.) We hung out a little in the front yard at what used to be her home, but wasn't where she slept any more. So many changes since we left, including a monumental one: I learned that her special mother, Arafame, had been layed off a month before. So sweet girl had already had the one 'mother' she knew taken away from her. For a month now. And I didn't even know it, didn't know how it had affected her heart and her little soul. But I prayed that somehow it would make her transition to our care a little easier.

We had bought a present for Arafame. The Gladney social worker promised she would deliver it to her.

James Avery

As if it could possibly convey thanks for loving our daughter. Thanks for cuddling her and kissing her and wiping her nose and teaching her songs. When she bonds with us, we will know it is because of you, and we will always be thankful. 

There was a traditional Ethiopian coffee ceremony planned, which is how they send off the kids.

And then our Embassy appointment (to pick up her visa) was at 2pm. She had to go with us, so that was when we would take her.

They call it Gotcha Day. And I do love that, I do. As an adopted kid myself, I actually think that's super cool, to celebrate the day we finally, finally, GOTCHA in our arms. Cute, huh?

Ohmyskull. If only adoption weren't so freaking complicated. If only GOTCHA didn't mean TOOKYA from all you knew while you were SCREAMING and TERRIFIED and there was no way to convey to you that THIS WAS A GOOD THING, WE PROMISE, REALLY, IT IS, even though GOTCHA seems like a word applying to the Boogy Man, not two parents who have loved you and prayed for you and worked really hard to bring you out of an orphanage and into their family.

Bethie, at 27 months, is a perceptive little thing. She knew something crazy was amiss. She stayed far away from us. I tried to pick her up once and she screamed and kicked until I put her down.

There were two other families there with us. Zach and Christie, whose sweet baby Myla slept the almost the whole time. And Jean, whom I've emailed for years and finally got to meet in person, and who quickly became a good friend. Bethie's roommate Tess cried herself to sleep on Jean's lap.

Maggie shared crayons with her new baby sister and gave her a necklace that Ike had made at his kindergarten Christmas party that had somehow managed to find itself in Addis Ababa.

In melodic Amharic the social worker and nurse tried to prepare Bethie for what was to come, as if they could.

I sat on the couch while all the nannies milled about and chatted, feeling awkward, just wanting to get this over with.

(Wait, you were wanting unicorns and rainbows?)

I did change her clothes. Or one of they did, anyway.  They also managed to get a tiny dose of Dramamine in her, because we had been warned by everyone that she got carsick.

We drank yummy Ethiopian coffee and ate yummy Ethiopian popcorn and they called Arafame. When Bethie heard her voice, we got to see her smile for the first (and last) time that day.

And then it was time.
The moment that I have prayed for/dreaded with every fiber of my being had fibally come.


I'd like to tell you that my heart was breaking for my poor terrified little girl but in reality, I was just numb. Comfortably numb. Otherwise it would be far too much for my own heart to handle.

Then before we got half a block away, literally, half a block away, this:

Because the Lord in His infinite mercy, before the foundations of the world were made, had determined that my baby girl would get carsick and therefore, during the most tragic, confusing moment of her little life, would be completely stoned on Dramamine.

Praise be to His holy name.

She woke up when we arrived at the Embassy building and immediately scrambled out of my arms and into Walker's. Once we were inside, Deerje, Gladney's coordinator, held her for the entire twenty minutes or so it took for us to drop off our paperwork.

Afterwards we went to Lucy Restaurant, one of our favorites (restaurants in Addis are shockingly good) and she wanted nothing to do with me while she nibbled on a roll and sucked her little fingers, but she was calm.

Then we drove to the top of Entoto Mountain for a quick partial-family photograph.

We went back to our guest house. Bethie fell asleep again in the car, I think she was using sleep as a coping mechanism. "Just like you do," Walker said. She seemed like she had shut down. I don't know how much of that was the Dramamine, or the shock, or a combination.

At some point, she let me hold her. We ate dinner there, and then I put her in her snuggly jammies, and she laid on my chest, and sucked her fingers, and we slept, all night, like this.

I fell asleep knowing that she was still confused and grieving, but believing that she was realizing that even though she didn't know who we were, we were kind and gentle. And I prayed that her little heart would heal.


  1. So glad I'm reading this after seeing her smile in her chair at your house. If I had read it before you got on the airplane with her I don't think I could have lived through the flight waiting to hear you had landed. I was anxious enough as it was! <3

  2. thanks for telling it how it really is. we are on the wait list that never ends for our own little girl. Every story i read is all terrific and happy. Im glad to know that if that is a lie, at least we wont be alone. Im so glad she finally has her family and i look forward to seeing how her adjustment goes.

    1. I just bawled my way through this. We are home 7 months with our daughter who was 10 months at the time of TOOKYA. It wasn't rainbows and unicorns for us either. Hard times. But it does get better. If you need to talk to someone about the honest and ugly parts... I'm here. Brandydwade at If I can give one piece of advice though... It is to cocoon!! We didn't, not really, and it was a terrible mistake.

  3. Praying, praying, praying for you guys! Praying you sense God's nearness with you each moment of each day. And praying for peace for Bethie as she grieves the losses she's faced - including having just recently lost A - in order that she can attach and bond well and healthily to you guys! Rich blessings from Heaven on your family!

  4. Oh that's tough :( You are so right - there is a crucifixion before the resurrection. And it's SO hard to know that you are taking this child from everything she knows and loves... hoping and praying that she feels safe with you quickly (hopefully that has already started to happen), and a LOT of patience and TONS of wisdom as you help her walk this out. Our little girl (30 months old when she came home) is also very sensitive and easily upset. At 6.5 months home, sometimes it's the littlest things that can set her off... but it does get better. I'm so glad we planned to cocoon with her when she arrived as I don't think she would be doing well at all if we hadn't been so strict about it.

  5. My heart is twisted with such familiar memories...our daughter was about the same age, when we walked out of the only room she had known in India. I remember her one sweet smile the first night, big round silent tears waking up the first morning, shut down for several days...but oh the moment after a couple days home...the smiles came...the giggles...the trusting had begun. Now, a year and a half later, joy-filled giggles mixed with daily age-appropriate whineyness mixed with beyond her years questions... God bless you! God is faithful and He loves your sweet daughter for all eternity! May His Grace uphold you and your family and your little one in all the days of the journey ahead! Sally

    1. A celebrity (you!) has commented on my blog! YIKES! :)

      I will continue to hold you in prayer! As I look back, there is amazing joy in the journey, but there is tremendous struggle too. Maybe you will be the one to write the words of encouragement to other Mommas as you walk through this time. I could never find the words to express the time that followed bringing our daughter home...the time that you are just beginning. Looking back now, there is one word...MIRACLE...her heart and mine are forever changed!

      Here's my only advice...let go of everything else...and hold that baby girl as much as she wants and even when she doesn't. The NEED she will need will be a tremendous weight in some moments. Be encouraged...the Lord will provide. Lastly, I've learned that your older children are also riding on this roller coaster of emotions and change. They are secure in your love and will not only be ok but will be blessed! In the moments of sheer desperation...cry out to the one who called you...He is faithful! As the days go by, there will become more and more joy replacing a broken little heart. Then one day you will look into her eyes and you will know her and she will know you and Praise God for the journey!

  6. Oh my goodness, now I have to leave another comment because I just saw your comment note about comments being your love language!

    That is a riot! I'm not techy enough to know how to personalize anything now that I switched my blog over to wordpress so now I can't say funny (or if I wanted to - snarky!) things like that! Darn! I guess a normal person wouldn't care much about how you edit that little line above the comment box, but now it's going to but me. Tomorrow I'll have to go back to my lbog and mess around with things!

    I blogged privately for 5+ years and just finally made he decision to start blogging publicly about a year ago, but then a few months later some major health problems pretty much brought a halt to that.

    But it's been the comments of a few people that have found my blog because I've commented on their blogs and the encouragement of them that I've decided that I'm going to start blogging again. All my old readers I'm sure took me out of their google reader because they Uunderstandably gave up on me! Ha!) But i've even got about two dozen posts done or almost done so I really can get back into doping this reguarly as good allows!

    (look what happens when you you talk about loving comments....maybe you should say "except random comments?" ;- Ha ha)

  7. Yes, adoption is such a complicated thing. Beautiful in its redemptive nature, but gut wrenching all the same.

    I'm so glad Gotcha Day wasn't traumatic. I have read some stories that were just - well, traumatic.

    And that picture of Bethie on one side, Maggie on the other - it's just beautiful. That would be on my fridge. =) I LOVE how you have involved your other children in the trips, and in the process. And I love Maggie's sweet heart, crying in Costco and now bringing her little sister home. When mine are out of diapers, I look forward to sharing all of this with them as well.

    Hope you - and Maggie and Bethie! - are recovering from jet lag and crazy time changes. I have thought of you often lately.

  8. We had a divine appointment together this morning, me and your post. I woke up early and couldn't sleep. I lay in bed just thinking about our little guy who had crawled in between us sometime in the middle of the night. I was thinking about his adoption, telling him his story (now that he is 4 and starting to understand more). I thought about what we would tell him and how we would tell him. Then I started wondering if we should do it again.

    I was contemplating all of the angst that goes along with taking a 9 month old from everything he knew - and what he possibly knew - and if we had done it all wrong. There aren't usually rainbows and unicorns when you're spending a week in a Residence Inn and you don't know how to get to Target, and if you have to eat out one more time you may just lose it.

    Bless your heart, in the truest sense of that phrase. Bless the hearts of your whole family and especially little Bethie. I can't imagine what it feels like to have finally ended that part of such a long journey. Thank you for sharing your story with us. This is what my heart needed to hear this morning. Praise God for waking me up so I found you before you were swallowed up in my twitter feed. Enjoy every trying moment with your new precious baby girl.

  9. In just a few months we will meet and bring home our 4 year old daughter from Congo. I have no idea how she will react, if she will like me or if she even comprehends that she is being adopted. Thank you for your honest, non-frilly "gotcha day" post.

  10. Such a fabulous reminder for me, that sometimes when it feels like everything good and comfortable is being torm from me, it is because God has something far more wonderful coming. Seeing her sweet face, so grief stricken at leaving the life she has known, with no idea that she is going to better and wonderful and pure love. Perfect analogy for our life in Christ- we must hold to His promises, not what circumstances seem. Praying for you and your little girl, that she will recognize and receive your love very quickly.

  11. I see so much of our Journey to Jonathan in rainbows for me either, but redemption- YES!

    Praying for you!!! For Bethie and for transitions....lots of them!

  12. So glad that your little Bethie is finally safe in your arms!! I've followed your blog for a long time, and am thrilled that your whole family is finally together (or will be when you arrive home!)! I will continue to pray for you all, especially Bethie, during this trying (but oh, so blessed!) time in your lives.
    Praise the Lord!

  13. God has a begun a good work in her heart, and HE IS FAITHFUL to complete it! We had screaming and literal clawing at the hotel door in Thailand for days. She is beautiful, and the God who got you through that horrid wait will get you through the challenge of being the best parents you can be to this precious babe! Prayers for all of you! -Jen T.

  14. I felt every bit of this, friend. I think my story acquaints me so much with the mourning part of adoption. It's just really, really painful and hard, and there's no way around it. You have to go through it.

    But there is morning after the mourning. (Oh! Christian bumper sticker! I'm going to patent that.)

    Praying for you, every minute.

  15. Oh have such an honest way of writing. I cannot stop crying, especially as I hold my little newborn we are most likely adopting. But truly am thinking of my second son as I read this. We were at the end of seven different living arrangements within foster care. His placement before us was supposed to end in adoption but they backed out after he had been there for 4 months. He was one and a half and had already been calling them 'Mommy' and 'Daddy'. Toddler adoption is so painful and there is no way around the pain. You must go through this with her!! She will love you so deeply... I wish I could say your 'dark' moments are over, they are not. We cycle through new behavior every few months. I will never concede that my son has an attachment disorder. Sometimes his brain 'flips' into self-defense, which for him is the fight-or-flight response. Who of us in pain does not occasionally want to lash out?! In our Christian journey how often do we find ourselves in a battle with our Savior? Adoption is was our own salvation. God understand messy! His grace for me and my 'toddler adopted' son know no end.
    May you feel HIS GRACE during any dark moments ahead...He always brings the light.

  16. Oh, so SO moved by your post. I sit here in my recliner in Idaho weeping for your sweet Bethie. Tears of hurt for what she has lost and tears of joy for what she has gained. Just remember that God never wastes ANYthing, and He WILL bring beauty from ashes. Praying for you and Walker and Bethie and each of your other children as you make this transition. May you feel His loving arms around your whole family as you wrap your loving arms around your sweet Bethie... finally HOME!

  17. Your words and pictures...I appreciate the reality. My heart broke and tears came looking at the pictures of her being put in the car. Bless her. And you. I'm glad it's over...and just beginning.

  18. Such a familiar story. I kept telling myself two things, a family is better than an orphanage, no matter how good the orphanage. 2. I remember that because of a move and miscalculation on my sister's due date, I stayed with my grandparents for a full month when I was only two years old. Of course, I don't remember that happening but know my mom vowed to never do that again because I didn't seem to remember her when she came for me and certainly didn't want to go with her. It only takes a month to start mending a broken heart for good.

  19. Tears here. Adoption IS beautiful. Thank you, Jesus! Prayers for you and your sweet, darling girlie. So thankful she is in your arms! xoxo

  20. Bethie sound so much like my son B!

    He was a few months older than her and I am sure his story is a little different, but his sensitive, introverted, personality and ways of coping were very similar.

    We lived in Addis with custody of him between court and embassy, so our cocooning was very, very small (we were the only ones to hold him for 3+ months there--well, except for some Ethiopian waiters who we couldn't stop:-)--and another 3 months at home in the US). Keeping his world small helped a lot.

    We have been home for a year and a half and he is finally starting to really and truly seem comfortable not only with us but with grandparents/cousins/etc. It has been a long, hard, fight to build this love and trust and there are still some deep scars, but real healing is taking place for all of us!

    Good luck and many prayers! The first few months (or years) are hard, very hard, but so worth it!

    I posted this when we'd been a family for almost a year and am linking it in case it helps at all:

  21. Loving seeing little Bethie in your arms and with your family for eternity.....finally! Praying for easy adjustment and attachment. It can be so hard on these little ones. Their lives have been turned upside down so many times in such a short much uncertainty, so much not to trust and love. It will get better....through time and God's grace. Her coping mechanisms will subside and she will trust and love as she is loved. God places the lonely in families, he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy (Psalm 68:6) He will and safety and love for Bethie in your precious family. Praying for your family.

    Mignon Cannon

  22. have we never talked about the fact that we are both adopted? how?

  23. As an adoptive mom, I've often reflected on the dual, Christ-reflecting nature of adoption. It is beautiful, redemptive and wonderful. But the fact that it even exists means that something went horribly wrong in the perfect, natural, God-created original plan of mothers and fathers and families.

    Sooo hard to experience your baby's trauma. And, though your mind understands and knows that it is not personal or about you and your experience, and though you have an ocean of grace and love for your girl... Missy, I'm telling you (because sometimes it's just good to have such things spoken) that it's also ok if you have moments of feeling a little "hurt" or frustrated with her rejection of you. Total grace for you, too. That would be a normal human response to the situation here and there, and you are human.

    I'm certain you know very well that it is a healthy thing. After all, YOU are the most direct, clear ANTI-nanny, the obvious intended Replacement symbolizing the break in her healthy --but "insecure", due to her background-- attachment to them which she is healthily resisting. And attachment can be like a pendulum, swinging from one place to another, until the swinging loses momentum in time and finally settles down into the healthy middle ground of secure attachment.

    Here's an example of what I mean: When my daughter, after much work and several months, did become (insecurely) attached to me, then my HUSBAND became the most obvious ANTI-me-- the one who most likely might replace me in giving her care if I went away for any brief time . And she began to reject him violently all of a sudden, to the point that she was a nervous wreck if he was even in the house. And if I did have to leave her with him-- her dad of several months!-- for a time, she would cry and then completely dissociate. I mean, she checked out of existence, blank stares and all, so traumatic was his ME-threatening presence to her. This went on for 6 months (and he struggled with feelings of rejection and frustration with her, though he knew what it was about). Then came a day when we had to leave the kids with Grandma and Grandpa for 2 days. When we came back, suddenly Daddy AND Mommy were a-ok. I think being with still others further out in her attachment circle reinforced to her who her family, here inner circle of people really were. Daddy was in it. And we were on our way.

    All that to say, it's a ride for all of you, bathed in sooo much grace as this redemptive story unfolds. May you know you're bathed in grace and held. : )

  24. We're approaching our third Gotcha Day in a few weeks. Gone are the idealistic dreams of meeting my child. Ours have been awkward at best and miserable at worst. But the smiles and attachment eventually come and it's so worth it!

  25. beautiful, beautiful post! we plan to adopt too :)

  26. We had a terrified, sad girl on our hands too. Thanks to another honest mama, I was prepared for tears on that "magical" day, though -- it was still excruciating for her, and for us watching her, but I'm still SO GRATEFUL to every parent with the guts to be honest. Thanks for not making it look like hearts and flowers all the way . . . and also for sharing the great news about her smiles.

    And my children will be so glad to see the empty cage -- they've been waiting for that!

  27. I haven't visited your blog in quite some time, but I am so glad I chose to today. As a hopeful adoptive parent, this is what I want to hear. The truth. I will pray that Bethie bonds with, falls in love with, and adjusts to her new family in perfect timing.

  28. There are so many things I want to say about this searingly honest post, about this exquisite story, about your challenges and triumphs, but I simply don't have the words! But I did want to say how struck I was by that last pic - do you know it looks exactly like the pics you see taken in the delivery suite with the new, exhausted mama having her first cuddle with her babe. You have that exact same look on your face! I love it! Too precious for words. x

  29. I will pray for your precious Bethie as well. I was quite touched by your story. This is a well-written blog, and I've passed it along..

  30. We brought our son home from Guatemala at 21 months, and I understand your pain and hers. It will slowly get better, but it is oh, so hard. Keep your eyes on God! He will give you strength for each moment. Covering sweet Bethie in prayer. May The Lord heal her heart! His mercies are new every morning.

  31. Like someone else above said, THANK YOU for being honest. It's not often a bed of roses. Praying for her continually. (And for you, mama!)

  32. love seeing bethie out of that cage! lots of prayers for your sweet family.

  33. Ok, so I'm WAY behind on reading blogs and am just now catching up in google reader, but oh, my word, I cried. Cried for her confusion and grief. Cried that her special "mother" had been laid off. Cried for the rejection...cried for the fact our world has orphans at all. Praying for you, Missy!



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