The following post was written just six short months after Kasey’s husband traveled to Ethiopia to bring home their adopted son, Samuel (5 years old at the time). Kasey was eight months pregnant with their daughter, Cricket, and their youngest son, John, was just 2 years old at Samuel’s homecoming.
I was thinking last night. This can be dangerous, I know. But I realized that the intensity that drove us to bring our son home from Ethiopia last year has been stuffed.
You know that feeling you get when you are so broken over something — something so much bigger than yourself? Overwhelmed just doesn’t seem to cut it. But, maybe you understand.
In the last 6 months since my husband stepped off the plane with Samuel so much has happened. And one thing was finally able to be stuffed. Sort of.
You see, I remember sitting at the gate with our youngest son, John, and also our dear, dear friend who was kind enough to drive us to the airport and take pictures of our reunion. I remember knowing somewhere inside that everything was different now. It was done. It wasn’t all talk. Now we are going to live this out for the rest of our lives. Every. Day.
I can’t even describe what I am feeling inside as I write this.
I remember watching the many passengers get off the plane. Walk up the ramp. Then a woman I don’t know saw me.
“I saw your little boy,” she says with a big, warm smile that crinkles her eyes. She might have cried.
I remember touching John. I remember feeling my belly so huge with our baby girl. I wore the dress that Samuel saw me wear in the picture that he carried with him. The picture he slept with.
My son. My son was so close. He was going to be hugged again by a mother. His mother. He was going to have a mother. Finally.
It felt like forever as everyone unloaded. I stood up. I squatted down. I squeezed Johnny. I saw an older man sitting behind me. I saw the flight attendant watching us.
Then I saw him. So brave. So small. What on earth was my poor boy feeling? He had not slept more than 3 hours in the past 24, and here he was in a whole new world. Was he sick to his stomach? Was he terrified? Excited? Overwhelmed? Scared? Numb?
I know I was.
And I was in love.
I was relieved. He was real. And he was warm, and he was soft, and he was mine. He is my son. Mine.
I clutched him and kissed his face, and cried on him. He smiled. A lot.
I know my boy now, and that smile was beautiful, but he was uncertain. Was I going to take him from my husband — his new daddy? He must have had no idea. He tolerated my hugs and kisses. I respected his intense need for his daddy to stay close. Touching close. He clutched the little backpack that I had painstakingly selected for him weeks before. He was wearing the outfit that I had so lovingly hunted down, washed, folded and given to my husband to pack for the trip. He was wearing the shoes I had selected. His hair was washed, lotioned and brushed with the items I had researched and fussed over in the hair-care aisle.
The reality of my son felt so odd to me at the time.
He said “mommy” and “Johnny” with a smile. I bought him food to win him over. He and Johnny played with the camera, our phones and my purse. They ate donuts and drank orange juice.
I touched his hair, his skin, his arms to soothe him in his carseat on the drive home. He mercifully fell asleep. His daddy sat next to him. I twisted in the front seat to touch him. Johnny was tired. Charlotte’s Web played on the DVD player I had purchased last minute as a possible distraction for him.
I didn’t know what to call him. I called him his Ethiopian name and his given name. I found out a couple days later that he liked his new name alone. He began referring to himself with the new name, dropping his Ethiopian moniker all together. We kept it though. It’s his. He giggles when I call him by both names now. They are both on his birth certificate. I like how they sound. They are who he is. Sometimes John says he is Ethiopian too.
I wonder how much Samuel weighed at birth. Did he cry a lot? Did he cry ever? Was he colicky? Was he a happy baby like Cricket? Who held him? Hugged him? Loved him? How does he see himself? Does he feel loved? What does he remember?
The rain. He remembers the rain.
It rained. And he was alone. All alone.
I know. I asked him recently.
“I came as quick as I could, baby. Mommy and Daddy came as quick as we could.”
I held him. He melted on my lap. We were both close to tears.
It has been six months. I do not think of dirty water, malnutrition or the remaining 143 million orphans so much anymore.
It isn’t because I don’t care.
It’s because it would bring me to my knees.
What once drove me to work tirelessly to bring my son home, now has the power to break me. How can I think of those things now with the reality staring me back in the face at the breakfast table?
It’s tough. I can take only little bites of the bitter reality now. I can read one blog post about child prisons in Uganda, and I must stop. No more cruising YouTube for videos of adoptive family journeys, the orphan crisis or Africa’s drought. As I type this, my son is having a sleep over. He isn’t just down the hall tonight for me to touch his face, to hug tight, to remind myself that he is really is home.
That he isn’t hungry.
That he isn’t alone.
I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. John 14:18
Kasey Ellis founded the adoption ministry at Praise Assembly in Beaufort, SC. For more information on Kasey and to have her speak at your church or help start an adoption ministry, check her out on our SCWM Speaker page.