On March 19th, 2012 I arrived in Ethiopia at approximately 7am.
A driver from the hotel picked us up, Mom went with me, and we headed back to the familiar Riviera Hotel. Wass, from Hannah’s Hope, would be on his way to get us in a couple of hours. Talk about a long two hours! Mom and I got to work. We set out all the baby gear, bottles, formula, wipes, diapers and Clorox wiped the surfaces. I’m not usually a germ-a phobic, BUT I didn’t want my baby getting any new viruses for the plane trip home. He was already feeling pretty crummy. That task took all of 30 minutes. So then we just sat around. I entertained myself by watching Mom adjust to being in Ethiopia for the first time. In Africa for the first time. Lots of firsts.
THEN! He was there. Wass was early! We charged down armed with cameras and iphones to document THE moment when I would reunite with my son! I’m not a crier. So I was hoping I would at least have one beautiful tear. One that would trickle down the right side of my face as I caught a glimpse of my son. That’s my good side you know… Little did I know MY moment was going to be a bit different than I had planned.
We bumped along the road up to Hannah’s Hope and I sucked in my breath as I saw those big black gates. Knowing my son was waiting right behind them. I very patiently waited and fought the urge to rip open the van door and scale the gate myself. Seriously, the anticipation felt unending! Very dramatic, I know.
Wass honked the horn and the person-sized part of the gate was opened. We filed out of the van with the Smith family, who were also there on second trip, and made our way into the courtyard of the orphanage. And there he was. Right there! His caregiver was holding him. All of the sudden I felt really out of place. Weird. I don’t know how to describe it but I was fairly slow as I made my way over to Liam Alula. My weird feeling proved to be on track. At the site of me Liam’s caregiver began to tear up. She did not hand him to me as I reached out for him. Talk about awkward. At first I was like “woman, are you kidding me!” Not out loud of course! But I was certainly thinking it! And then I began to cry. For her. Not me. For her and for Ethiopia. For loss. She loved him. She cared for him for months, and as she turned her back to me, with my child in her hands, all I could do was pray for her sweet heart and hurt for her. This went on for several minutes. Me feeling like a not-so-great person and her trying to grieve and figure out how to relinquish him to me. Then I remembered something! I had taken pictures of them together on my first visit. I had those pictures in my back pack to give to her! Yes! I pulled them out and she turned to me and gave me my son. I stayed with her, trying to comfort her but we don’t speak the same language. I just hugged her and rubbed her arm and gave her the pictures. A staff member who could translate finally came over and allowed me to speak to her. To tell her how much I loved this child. How God loves him, how we have waited and how we have dreams for him to grown strong and healthy. She responded with tears in her eyes that these were her dreams too and we held hands over this baby boy we both love. I will never get to meet any of Liam’s biological family. They were never in the picture. We will never know anything about them. That has been sad for me in some ways. I’ve wondered who I will tell him about. Well. I will tell him about his sweet, loving caregiver from Hannah’s Hope. She knew how to love him well while we waited for him.