Sunday, July 22, 2012

getting home

confession: i chuckle just a little now when i hear people complaining about a short-haul domestic flight with their children.

i know very few people who aren't scared to death about the flight home from ethiopia with their newly adopted child(ren). it's a long flight no matter how you split it up (direct flight, layover, etc.), and you spend every minute trying your darndest to occupy a child who literally has no idea who you are.

when we got to the airport the night we left ethiopia, i suddenly remembered i hadn't put a change of clothes for myself in our carry-on luggage in the event of a disaster. this thought occurred to me as we were at the check-in desk, and the ethiopian air lady was waiting for us to weigh our luggage. i decided not to hold up the line by rummaging through my suitcase and continued on through immigration and security and to our gate, hoping the outfit i was wearing could withstand the next 16 hours.

we waited at our gate for about an hour and then were informed that our flight would be delayed another 45 minutes. it was hot, we were all tired (it was already close to 11pm), and all i could think about was how terrible it felt that our already-way-too-long flight was delayed. kal had been saying she needed to go to the bathroom, so i took her and decided to change rebuma's diaper while i was in there. i laid rebuma on the changing table and was in the middle of changing him when someone turned on one of those hand drying machines. it scared the ever-living crap out of him. he screamed and cried and thrashed on the table. another cwa mom, maureen, was thankfully in there with me, and she held him down while i got a new diaper on him. i didn't even bother putting his pajamas back on because i just wanted to get out of there.

the flight ended up boarding quicker than expected, so we were soon in line to board. i was holding rebuma, who had about every ethiopian eye on him because all he had on was a diaper (and ethiopians typically over-dress their children to keep them warm and modest). we got down to the door of the plane, and a couple of ethiopian men were checking out rebuma. "where are his clothes?" one of them asked. i explained what had happened in the bathroom. "well, everyone is staring at him because of his chest." translation: your kid has man boobs.

things went well for the first hour, and then rebuma had a dirty diaper. i got my diaper bag and took him into the teeny tiny airplaine bathroom, where i proceeded to remove the poopy diaper and throw it away. that's when i realized that my diaper bag had no diapers in it. so i wrapped his pajamas, which i had planned to put back on him, around him and trudged back to my seat. as i frantically demanded that jamie get me a diaper as quickly as possible, i felt the warm sensation of pee start to saturate the front of my shirt. and with 15 hours left on that airplane, i regretted not taking five minutes to move a change of clothing from our suitcase to our carry-on bags.

so i, covered in a full baby bladder's worth of pee, went back to bathroom because rebuma still needed a diaper. and as i laid him down on the changing table, i'm pretty sure his little mind went straight back to the hand drying machine trauma of 2 hours ago because he screamed and thrashed. and i'm also pretty sure the people sitting right outside the bathroom thought i was trying to stuff him down the toilet or something equally terrible.

fast forward another few hours, and rebuma needed another new diaper. this time, a flight attendant came in and held him down while i changed him because she heard him screaming as she walked by.

fast forward another few hours, and rebuma needed another new diaper. jamie and i both went in the bathroom this time. i held him up (so we didn't have to lay him down), and jamie removed the poopy diaper and put on the new diaper. it was a pretty good plan, but i think rebuma still cried and jamie managed to get poop on himself.

throughout all of this, rebuma clung to in grasped my shirt in each of his little fists and would not let go. my shirt was one of those shirts made of really stretchy cotton, so you can imagine that a few hours of stretching thanks to rebuma holding on for dear life had me freaking out that i was flashing the entire airplane. at times, i was on the edge of insanity, shoving rebuma in jamie's arms, saying, "i just need you to take him! he won't let go of me!"

somewhere near the end of the flight, we told kal she had to put her seat belt on (we weren't descending yet, but we were trying to obey the rule about keeping it on when seated). she flat-out refused, so we decided to ask a flight attendant to explain it to her in amharic. the flight attendant came over and explained the seat belt to her, but then casually said, "but she doesn't need to wear that now," then she reached over and unbuckled the seat belt. "thanks for undermining our parenting to our child who doesn't know she's our child," we thought. when we did begin our descent, kal still refused to put on her seat belt, so we asked another flight attendant for help. she spoke the magic words in amharic, and kal was immediately compliant. seriously, an airplane is not the place to work through a language barrier.

the rest of the flight was a blur. maureen let me borrow a tank top, which i put over the pee shirt. kal braided my hair. i walked up and down the aisles several times so rebuma wouldn't cry. rebuma was sans clothes for at least half the flight. i drank a lot of coke (but not too much since i didn't want to sit on the potty a million times with rebuma strapped to me in the baby ergo). and some guy a few rows in front of us got up and flipped out on another guy for "making a gross noise."

and that is why, after a 16 hour flight from ethiopia to DC, a 5 hour layover, and another 1.5 hour flight to charlotte with an 18 month old and an almost 4 year old who we just started parenting 3 days previously, we looked like this when we finally landed in north carolina:

so the next time you fly with your child, consider it a success if (a) your clothes are appropriately covering you and not covered in your baby's pee (b) your baby lets you change his diaper without the help of a flight attendant and (c) your child obeys you rather than the flight attendant.

Monday, July 9, 2012

should you adopt?

when we started the adoption process in 2009, we knew absolutely nothing about parenting adopted children.

what we did know was that God was calling us on this journey, so we committed ourselves to learning everything we could about adoption. we read books, we talked to other adoptive parents, and we attended a seminar on attachment. we became pretty fluent in talking about brain development and attachment and all the other things that come with adoption.

however, being proficient in all the right things doesn't really sustain you when you delve into the hard part of parenting adopted children. don't get me wrong -- i'm extremely glad we did our research. the literature on adoption is out there for a reason, and i honestly cringe when i hear that adoptive families bypass resources that will help them help their child heal. but there are days when my kids don't react to my intentional parenting the way the books say they will, and there are other days where i know exactly why my kids are behaving a certain way and exactly what i should do to help them, and yet i don't do it because it would be inconvenient for me (and also, sometimes it just feels good to lose your cathartic, yet so sinful).

the truth is, EVERY adopted child has special needs no matter how old they are or how well they seem to be doing or how healthy their paperwork says they are. and so, for me, the thing that gets me through the day is remembering that God called us to this and is helping us uphold our commitment to our children's healing -- even when it's really hard.

and this is precisely why i hate that adoption has become a fad, even among christians.

there is, without a doubt, a revival sweeping through the church where the hearts of God's people are being called to care for orphans. many families i know sponsor children through world vision or compassion international. i've watched my church gather around adoptive families by supporting them in fundraising and also in setting up an adoption fund. there are a number of organizations that now exist to serve orphans through mission trips or to empower women through job skills training so that poverty doesn't force them to abandon or relinquish their children.

as people hear more and more about God's heart for the orphan, i think many of them are genuinely concerned and want to do something. this is why so many of my conversations about adoption with others almost always begin with, "oh, your children are adopted!? we would really like to adopt one day too." unfortunately, when something explodes in popularity (even when it's a good kind of popularity), some people tend to jump on the bandwagon without having a clue what they are doing.

like i said, we knew nothing about parenting adopted children when we began. and if that's you, but you feel so strongly that God is calling you to this journey and you are ready to commit to whatever your child will need to heal, then you need to go for it. not a day goes by that we don't think about all the other children who are just as bright, just as funny, just as bursting with personality, and just as in need of a mom and dad as kalkidan and rebuma.

but if you just want to adopt because it seems like a nice thing to do or because all your friends are doing it or because it'd be convenient for whatever circumstances you find yourself in (ie, you have 2 sons but really want a daughter or you really want kids but have never been into pregnancy), then you should remember that fads come and go, but a child who comes into your family -- even if they are difficult to deal with or bring lots of baggage -- is forever. i can't say enough that it would suck not to have something greater than myself or my "wants" to fall back on when we're having a hard day in our house because of trauma-related behavior.

i still dream of the day when all christians will at least consider whether God is nudging them to adopt, even while believing that not all people will or should adopt. even on the hard days, i'm so glad God called us to this and 100% believe these 2 goobers are totally worth it.