Saturday, April 5, 2008

Thoughts from a mom just back from Ethiopia...

We have an online forum through our agency. Yesterday, a woman wrote the following post. The question she was answering was about the scenes of Ethiopia shown on American Idol, and what people thought of them. I really couldn't stop thinking about her comments so I wrote to her and she has given me permission to share them with you.

"I don't usually say much on the forum, but here go some thoughts I've been trying to collect ever since our return 2 weeks ago from Ethiopia with our son.

We traveled to Addis early and were able to spend a week and a half there before our adoption week started. It was during those days prior to meeting our son that we were able to really see the devastation in that city. Having been to West Africa before, we thought we were prepared to see and handle the poverty, etc. in Addis. Nothing could have prepared us for what we saw ... the impact poverty, drought, disease has had is far greater than any other place we had been.

During our week with CHSFS we were significantly sheltered from the worst parts of the city. We never drove through the Mercado ... which is the center of the largest slum in Africa. People/children sleeping on the median and lined up down the sidewalk. A million people living in an area with no sewer or water system. So many people ... living in condition I did not even know existed. It was only during our early time there that we were able to really see all this.

Before we left for Ethiopia we had put together this beautiful picture of our son's birth country in our minds. We had done the reading/research and we knew so much of the amazing history and rich culture Ethiopia has to offer. We knew about the beauty of the people and the countryside. It was easy to focus on the beauty when we were a half a world away.

But when we actually were there it was very easy to do the exact opposite ... be so completely overwhelmed by the devastation that we could not even bear to think about the beauty. It is so hard to explain in words and always comes out wrong when I try to write it.

It's sort of like this ... the beauty is there, it is amazing and overwhelming and striking. The history is deep and the culture is fascinating and wonderful.

But when I held an HIV+ little girl in my arms at AHOPE I could not even think about the beauty because the unfairness and overwhelming grief that surrounds her is so big I can't even see it all. It's like the beauty makes the poverty so much more real. It's the contrast between the two that is so overwhelming and hard to deal with.

When I watched my two bio daughters play with the kids at AHOPE ... play with them without any regard for language or nationality or sickness ... it make my heart ache with grief for these people. Not because I am any better than them ... not because I have some ability to "save" them from anything. But because all of a sudden I felt guilty for my life of privilege ... for my life that has come so easily by comparison.

We worked hard to make this adoption possible ... working extra jobs, cutting way back on things we used to think necessary. And our friends here honored us with this huge going away party/fundraiser before we left. We were sent off with this huge encouragement for all the "good" we had done as a result of our "sacrifice." I stood at AHOPE a couple days later with my bags of donations and felt so horrible for even thinking I had made a sacrifice. Nothing I had done really qualified as a sacrifice in light of what I was then staring in the face.

And now that I'm back here in the States I've gone back to my regular life ... the shock of what I saw has worn off in so many ways. It is when I stare into my son's eyes that I feel this overwhelming responsibility to him ... like I owe it to him to try and make a difference.

And if me, as a mother who has traveled to Ethiopia to pick up her son, can move past what I saw in such a short amount of time ... then surely the majority of our American population can do the same. And if it takes pictures and statistics of the worst to compel us to give ... then so be it.

Ethiopia is a beautiful place ... probably the most beautiful place we've ever been. But her beauty is being overshadowed by her struggles ... struggles that we as a country could significantly impact. Not because we are better in any way ... but because for some reason that I don't understand ... we have access to more resources.

So ... there it is ... the rambles of a mom who gazes at her new son with so many emotions going all the time ... love, grief, guilt, sadness, joy and more. What happened to cause our son to need our family should never have to happen. Right now we are trying to figure out the next step our family needs to take in order be a part of the rebuilding of our son's birth country.

Adoption turned out to be so much bigger for us than we ever thought it would be. So much bigger ... and so much more amazing. Truly the journey of a lifetime."


  1. Wow, Wow, is very moving to read of her experience there and her afterthoughts provoked by the conditions. Thanks for sharing it with the blog world.


  2. Oh my goodness....tears...I wonder about this, I worry about this, I share her concerns and future thoughts....

  3. You probably don't chech these anymore, but I had to say how accurately these thoughts described how I felt upon our return from India to adopt our two sons. I have not been able to put my feelings into words, even after two years. Thank you, and the writer, for sharing them!