Our daughter, Tigist, came to us with absolutely no background, family info, birthday or even a name. Her name was given to her by the police officer who was called to pick her up in Bedele. That is how she got her name and I love it. My guess is that probably the day-long drive from Bedele to the orphanage in Addis Ababa compelled him to name her what means "Patience" in Amharic, her language.
I know that now! She is my daughter and I have to have a ton of patience for this remarkable child who wants to talk and learn so much in the times she is awake.
She is so easily stimulated by stuff, not toys, but books and conversation and play...I tell her I love her every day and when I say that, I have to try to keep the tears from falling because when I say those words to her, they come from not just a Motherly love place, but from a place of "God, thank you so very much for placing her in our family to love and take care of. She is Yours ... and we do not take that lightly. We are forever humbled by her presence in our life."
So back to my intro...
I came across a blog where this woman described her meeting with her newly adopted son's biological Mother in Ethiopia. They had to take a drive far out into the country where most of these broken families live in complete destitution. I'm not sure how many times I had to clear my eyes from tears streaming down my face before I finished reading the letter, but it is an understatement to say that this biological Mother had a kind of courage that I don't think I could even find in myself ... here is her letter...
Written by an adopted Mother to her newly adopted son from Ethiopia, Addis Ababa ...
It is 4:45am here and I can’t sleep anymore. Anteneh just woke up yelling, “Abat!” (Father) because he had to pee. He went back to sleep and I laid there going over in my head the most amazing day we had yesterday. It was one of the hardest, most memorable days of both of our lives. The best way to put it into words is in a letter to Anteneh-
Dear Anteheh, We met your biological mother yesterday. It was one of the hardest things we have ever done but we know how important it will be to you as you grow up. She traveled 1 ½ days by bus from Harar to meet us. To tell you the truth, I was terrified. What was going through her mind? How would you react, seeing your mother after she gave you up 4 months ago? What would we say?
As soon as we walked into the room, both your daddy and I were overcome with emotion. I looked at her and she was so beautiful and tears just started pouring from our eyes. She looked at me crying and began to cry, too. It was amazing but as you saw her again, you smiled so big and stayed at my side.
We all stood there and she said, “Anteneh-this is your new mother and your new father.” And she looked at us and said, “I give this child to you in the name of God”. (This is all through a translator). Your daddy said, “We receive this child in the name of God”. We all sat down and you just kept gazing at her. She was incredibly beautiful. Long, confident face with a strong jaw and pretty lips. She was thin and sat gracefully with her hands in her lap and her legs crossed. Her hair was wrapped in a scarf in a way that reminded me of the famous profile of an Ethiopian woman with a long neck, face, and wrapped hair.
You look so much like her. I told her she was a beautiful woman and you look so much like her. We asked about your family. She said that your father was a soldier and that he is dead and she is living with ‘the virus’ (which means she is HIV positive). I thought how brave she was to give you to us so early in her disease before her body was ravaged by it, giving you the best chance of being adopted because of your young age. She asked about our family and we told her about your aunts and uncles and how Aunt Megan is going to have a baby and how you have so many cousins on the other side of the family that can’t wait to play with you. And about your grandmas and grandpas that are so eager to meet you and especially about Grace and Luke who are so excited. She had seen all the pictures in the book we sent you and she asked to keep it so she could always see the family you are with. We said, ‘of course!’
We told her that you have a dog at home and you will get to ride horses at one of your grandma’s. She smiled. We told her that we would always help you to embrace your Ethiopian heritage and bring you back to your country in the future so you could again experience this country, firsthand. We showed her on a map where we live in America and pointed to the beach in Florida where we will take you in a few months. She said she had been told there were beaches there. We took many pictures and when walking back to the little room we were talking in, she saw three little orphaned girls who were from Harar and kissed and hugged them and was so affectionate with them.
As we watched that interaction, we could just glimpse the love with which you had lived your first 3 years and were so thankful. She was obviously resisting loving on you like that so as not to confuse you and we are sure to distance herself from you to lessen the pain. As we walked around, you asked me to hold you but I made you walk a little so that I didn’t hold you back from touching her or hugging her or walking with her, if that’s what you might want to do. We sat down with her one more time and told her that we would raise you in a Christian home and she said she was ‘very happy for that.’ Sensing that the time was coming to an end, I started to cry again and so did she. Hers was more of a soft cry and she would dab at her eyes with her shawl. Mine was a wet, rather less controlled cry. Your dad’s cry was like when Grace and Luke were born-where his face looked on the verge of breaking down but wiped his eyes with a bit of control. It felt so special to be going through this life changing time with your Dad-I can only imagine how much it has bonded us in ways we don’t even know now.
We gave her 500 birr (about 50 dollars) to cover her travel expenses which she had to pay out of her own pocket. We all stood to go. I held your little hand and hugged your mother for the last time-the way Ethiopians embrace-kiss to the right, to the left, to the right again. But she went further and kissed to the right again-making me feel so close to her. The thing that hit me so hard and that I will always remember about that hug was how good she smelled. She smelled like an incredible perfume and at that moment I wanted to remember that smell. I walked out with you and turned and watched your daddy do the same thing. We picked you up and busted into tears as we walked back to the taxi. We walked by some American volunteers playing with some older Layla House kids and they smiled and said, ‘hi,’ with empathizing smiles. We walked past Gail and she looked at us with a knowing smile like she had seen this same event unfold hundreds of times and asked how we were. I just squeaked, “OK-that was so hard.” And she smiled at us.
We climbed into the taxi and rode off, crying-thinking of what it would be like to have to give up Luke at 3 years old, which is what it was like for her. I was just thinking how incredible that experience was and how thankful we were to experience it. It is clear that God is so full of grace and mercy. That room had been full of brave people. Your mother, the bravest-for having the strength to give you to us-what an amazing gift to give to you-a chance at a life in a family who would love you and nurture you-and to spare you the memories of watching her life taken away from her slowly by AIDS. You were so brave, too. You stood there and nodded as your mommy who birthed you and nurtured you and taught you your numbers, your manners-all those things mommies teach-and taught you how to cuddle and love, told you that you were to have a new mommy and daddy now.
And I know is that we were brave to meet her, knowing that it was for the best for all of us-especially you as you grow and wonder where you came from. Well, we are in somewhat of a dream world right now. We are rocked by emotion and counting the minutes until we can get you home to meet the rest of your new family. We are in awe at what we have experienced and will never forget this amazing trip. You are such a blessing already. You have no problem calling us ‘Abaye’ (Daddy) and ‘Emaye’ (Mommy)…and hug us and kiss us and squeeze us tight and ask permission when you want something (some of the time!). It is evident that this incredibly beautiful, strong woman we met yesterday gave you the best start in this world she could and for that we are SO THANKFUL. The love she gave you is the reason you are so wonderful and attaching so well to us. And we are in awe at how clearly God has shown us how merciful he is.
None of us deserve this gift He has given us of awesome you. Thank you, God, for this wonderful experience-we are so humbled. Love, Mommy