exposing the dark side of adoption
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some major shopping!
Posted by Is Eight Enough? at 9:06 AM 1 comments  
We knew that today was to be the day that we had our official birth mother meeting. Meg and I had been downtown all morning buying furniture and supplies, and the guys had been doing the same with furniture and landscaping materials. We got home and had about 30 minutes to clean up, before she arrived for her meeting.

I asked if it was possible for us to give her something to eat. Meg told me that they would do a coffee ceremony for her. This is something that shows a person that they are welcome. I had Dane take the video camera, and I asked him to be so careful getting the most important emotions and moments on camera. It was a big responsibility, but I
didn't want just answers on paper, I wanted to be able hear her speak and res

I didn't tell the girls she was coming, until I was certain she would not back out. When we heard the truck arrive, I had Ray pick up the girls and quickly bring them in the house. I then sat them down and had young S explain to them that their Enat was coming to visit them. I had no idea what I was doing. But, I had been told by Solomon, S, and other Ethiopian people that 'this will be good'. I have since learned that the Ethiopian culture and the white culture are so vastly different – simply because of what these children grow up through and with. You cannot compare an Ethiopian child's way of handling loss a
nd grief with a North American child!! There is simply no comparison.

There was no upset, no reaction at all. Simply a
n understanding and an acceptance. Ethiopian children are mature beyond their years.

When she walked in the room, she sat down but the girls didn't rush to her. I put two chairs on either side of her, for the girls to sit on, and gently took them to her and said, "Enat." A moment later they went to her and gave her hugs. But I could see that the transition was already taking place. It was just like other adoptive parents of Ethiopian children have said – the child just naturally went between two groups of parents. They were happy with her, but yet engaging themselves with us.

I have 1.5 hours of video of this meeting. What I can tell you are a few things, and it might help other adoptive parents of older children. We were told that our children have been prepared for a long time to go to Canada – therefore, they were ready and wanting to go. They will not make a choice to go back to their mother.

Well, this is true. There was a moment in our meeting when both the birth mum and S were laughing. They laughed because both girls said the same answers. After each situation, it was translated to me, so this is what I learned: When asked by their mother if they wanted to stay in Ethiopia or go to Canada, they replied that they wanted to go to Canada. When asked their reason Mesai said she wanted to go to Canada so that she could get a good education, and then she could become a doctor and then she could come back and help the sick people.

She was then asked who she would come to see when she came back, when she was older. She replied, her grandmother, as she had lived with her. She then said, "I want to come back and see Fikru." To which birthmum and S both laughed. Fikru is Corrie's boy and of course, we will be seeing him. So her little heart will be very happy to know that she is not leaving him behind. Of course, she then said her Enat.

What is amazing is how these children have such a deep understanding of poverty, illness, and death. This was not the first time that Mesai has said she wants to be a doctor, and each time it has been said that she wants to help her people.

The wonderful thing about our meeting, as grief stricken as their mother was, was the stories behind the birthparents' marriage. When their mother told the stories of their father and herself, they were love stories. The tragedy in the girls' lives is that their father died and life became devastatingly hard for the children and the mum. Far beyond anything, you or I could imagine. I thought I knew what poverty was. I do not know it, but I now have a better understanding.

I am so thrilled that we have beautiful stories: how they met, how they got married, the unusual marriage they had, the love they shared, how the birth father was a hard and dedicated worker, good husband and father, and had a special spot of Mesai, because Gadisae was a wee baby when he died, and how he would come home from work to play with her.

We have wonderful stories to share with the girls. I am so glad I wrote out so many questions to ask. We learned that we have similarities: her father was tall and slim, like Ray. When she said, tall and slim, I immediately said, "Like Ray." And the interpreter said, That is just what she said.

We both had deliveries of our babies in 1 – 1.5 hours. It was neat to make some connections.

What was truly surprising, seeing how deep her grief was, and how little she could share with me about simple questions, was how she would go into full detail when explaining about how she wanted to know all about Canada, and its culture, what the girls learn to do in Canada. She has no hope, but to know where her girls' are going and what their new life will be like, is like a piece of hope for her.

What opened my eyes were the questions I asked. Our interpreter was amazing. When I would tell him that a question was silly, he would say, not to worry. I would then go ahead with the question and I would feel frivolous and silly from some of her answers.

For instance, what is your favourite colour.

What I learned: do you really think someone is thinking of favourite colours when to have an item of clothing is a luxury? How petty and foolish!!

Or: What is your favourite memory?

I am thinking she will tell me a funny story of Gadisae or Mesai doing something cute, but instead she tells me her happiest memories are when they got food to eat…..

We had some wonderful moments during our meeting. When the food came out Gadisae sat with her mother and tried to get some injera for herself. Ray tried to dissuade Gadisae. I said to let her. This was wonderful to have them interact. There was plenty of food. It was beautiful because the birth mum helped Gadisae to eat and it was natural and right.

But then a little later, when I was sitting on the chair slightly across from her, Gadisae came up to me and put her arm around my neck and looked into my face. I leaned down and kissed her; she immediately kissed my cheek. As I looked up, I saw the birth mum watching, and I could see her smiling. I knew, as a mother, as much as my heart might be breaking, that I would want to know that my child loved and was loved by their new parents.

Other times, when Dane was videotaping the interview, Gadisae stood beside her mother and made silly faces at the camera. It was priceless and caused the tension to loosen a little.

We were very blessed when our birthmum took our girls' hands and one by one, me and then Ray, she put their hands in our hands and gave them to us. She told us that though she gave them to us on earth, and she was thankful that they would now live, that one day in heaven we would all be together and she would again be their mother. We all cried at this. It is true. Our girls have two mums now.

I asked her if she would like to talk to her girls and give them a message for when they were older. Many, many of her answers were empty answers because she had no memories to share, no good times, and no frivolous thoughts, but when I asked her this question she was quick to agree. I placed the girls in front of her and she began to earnestly talk to them.. They listened intently and answered her questions and they talked for about ten minutes.

She asked them who their mummy and daddy were and the girls pointed to us. She told them to go to Canada and get a good education, and to be active (not lazy) and to listen to us and to do as they were told, and to be respectful. She told them that they could come back someday and see her. The girls showed their concern for their mother in going to Canada, so that they could grow up and come back and help her.

When they were done talking, S said he was astounded. He did not know that the girls would open up and talk so 'frankly', as he put it. And he did not think the birthmum would begin to share so openly with her girls.

After we had done all of our questions, and she had had a nice meal, we brought out our bag of gifts. Each gift was quietly and graciously received, but when she came to the book of Canada, she became animated. It was a children's book that showed the alphabet of Canadian items: Terry Fox – either T or F – I can't remember. She was quick to point out that though he had a crippled leg, he still did the run to help others. It was neat to interact and see her smile when certain things drew her. I was able to show her the hand cream and rub it into her hand and show her. The zipper at the end was neat. None of us knew the zipper was invented in Canada, and it made her laugh. It was nice! When she left I offered to keep the bag for her at the orphanage to keep it safe, until she could find a place to stay. She said she would keep it with her. It is important – there are pictures of her girls and little goodies for her.

I am so thankful that we were able to have this meeting. What she doesn't know yet, is that I have been able to find a job for her. It is a good job, with good people, where she will also get lunch, and coffee and tea, five days a week, while she works. She will be able to earn money, and she will then gain back her self respect and hope, because she will then be able to find herself a little place to live and be able to cook her other meals. This place also has another mother who has given her child for adoption to Canada, and this other mother is at peace about it, because she knows that her child will have a good life. So it is my hope that she will be able to help our birthmum, through her grief.

We are also going to have a friend take her shopping and buy her a new set of clothes and shoes, so she can feel good and pretty again.. Every woman deserves to feel good.

When she got up to leave, Gadisae simply put out her hand (in the Ethiopian custom) and said, "Goodbye Sintayehu." (As that is her name) She then shook hands with both her girls and we took her to the gate. Ray and I hugged her and told her she was family. It was very emotional for Ray and me. Mostly, because the girls were so clearly our girls now – we could see this by their lack of emotion about losing their Enat. What gives me comfort is knowing that we will be sending photos and letting the girls write to her. She said she wanted to know about Canada but mainly from what the girls wrote in their letters – not just stated facts.

I think when she left that she had a little more hope in her life. She had seen with her own eyes that her girls were settling and happy, and yet, she knew that they loved her and wanted the best for her. And Mesai knows, through the translator telling her, that her mummy and daddy have helped her Enat, and that I believe, will give Mesai the permission to attach to us and be happy herself.
Posted by Is Eight Enough? at 8:54 AM 7 comments 

2008 Aug 1