We met M&m on Friday, August 7th, 2009. This is what I wrote on August 8th...
Yesterday we met our children for the first time. We had pancakes at the guest house, went to an orientation meeting at the CHSFS office, and then on to the care center. We were not allowed to bring cameras in, and we had to change out of our shoes into some other plastic shoes.
When we first walked in we were told to go downstairs. The building is an opulent mansion with not so friendly marble floors and stairs. Downstairs there was a large group of older kids sitting together on a raised section of the room. When I walked in I heard three or four small voices chant, "Meaza, Meaza, Meaza," they knew that we were her parents. Then I thought that I saw her. There was a very small girl in a navy blue shirt and light blue shorts. Her eyes were huge and she looked at me, then she looked at Steven and gave him a big smile. It looked like her, but I thought that this girl was definitely too small to be Meaza. The kids were rushed out of the room by a nanny. All of the families gathered in that room. We were called up individually to meet our kids. I think we were fifth or sixth to go. They had a videographer following us.
We were led into Melese's baby room. There on the floor, in the right hand corner, was Melese in his Bumbo and Meaza kneeling next to him with a big smile on her face. He was wearing a striped romper and Khaki shorts. She was wearing a pink t-shirt with a monkey on it, a white shirt underneath, red sweat pants with scalloped edges, (that were a bit too short), and red Wizard of Oz shoes. Her pink shirt was a 5t but was way too big. We went to sit by them and her social worker Roza prompted her a little. She was a little shy at first. Roza sat between us and Meaza put her arm around her neck and sat on her lap. I reached my hand out to her. She took it and then jumped into my lap and hugged me with her whole little body. She was super smiley.
We spent some time up there, just hugging and staring at each other. She never stopped smiling. She went easily to Steven too. We headed downstairs to play. We showed her the photos we brought, and the first word we heard her speak was "Woosha," followed by "Daddy." She is the most affectionate child I have ever met. The rest of the morning Steven and I switched off between them. They both have colds. Melese's is more severe. His chest is quite congested and his breathing was labored. She liked to rock in the chair. They are both beautiful. She would just hug and kiss us the whole time. We counted together in Amharic.
I had to pee this whole time. I asked her if she wanted to come with. In the bathroom she immediately slid onto the filthy toilet (there was no seat) and grabbed the sides with her little hands, all with this huge grin on her face. I was about to tell her to get some toilet paper, but there wasn't any. We scampered back out to where the other families were and I quickly located the hand sanitizer. We played some more. The very first thing she did was notice my Shubi bracelet. We unwound it and I put it on her. She loved it. The bracelet was great because we spent time turning it into necklaces for each other. You can tell that she likes pretty, girly things; the jewelry, Steven's watch, a scarf. She seems all 'girl'. Melese was just looking around with those huge eyes of his.
We got called to go up and watch the nannies feed Melese his vegetable soup. Steven fed him with the nannies, and Meaza did not want me to put her down. The nannies are quite brusque with their feedings, but it seems to do the trick. As much joy and relief there was in having her cling to us in such a smiley and loving way, there was most certainly sadness as it was obvious that M&m had spent very little (if any) time together. She was jealous and would do something to get my attention if I even looked at Melese being fed. I took her back downstairs. One of the videographers asked me to bring her to the play area so he could get some footage of her playing with her 'school age friends'. It seems like Solomon is her best friend. She wouldn't leave my arms to play with them until I sat down on the floor. That is when I finally had the privilege of meeting Tanya and Eric's beautiful boys. ______ was all smiles but _____with his gorgeous full lips gave me quite the frown.
It is 5:00 am now and I am listening to the prayer chanting that begins every morning.
After a short playtime Meaza and I hopped each step back down to the first floor. Steven and Melese came down shortly. We had to say goodbye and go back to the guest house for lunch. I put Melese
It was a bit gut-wrenching leaving them. After we got back to the guest house I told Steven that I wanted to get them and leave. I was ready to go home. We had lunch, pasta, rice and potatoes, and went to the CHSFS office for more meetings about the week, and instructions for the embassy. They gave us biscuits and coffee. We toured the building. We then (4pm) finally got back to the care center. I called Meaza out of a group of kids and she threw herself into my arms. Steven went to get Melese. Then a nanny who continues to be sour faced and a bit nasty called her back and told us she needed to have her snack. (Meaza had nibbled on a snack with us in the morning meeting too- they had brought her a sambussa). For this snack, all the kids sat at a table in the kitchen. I had Melese in a rocker and couldn't see her, but Steven said that she and Solomon were interacting a lot. She put her arm around him and they both turned and blew kisses to Steven. She covered her eyes with her hands to pray. Solomon led the prayer for all of the kids. They each got a banana as a snack.
She came back to us. She had a new outfit on, a romper thing with big pink flowers and buttons on the bottom. It looked a bit like bloomers. We read, Brown Bear together. I brought a hair pick and some headbands, but she wasn't too thrilled having them on. She combed my hair for me. We put her on the floor with Melese. His arm would reach out and touch her, but she still wanted very little to do with him. We counted in Amharic, first me, and then she. She has sweet little pancake breath. Her eyes are super sparkly. Steven got Melese to smile and to chirp a little bit. Melese needs some serious nurturing. They both do. Leaving this time was even harder. I put Melese in his crib alone, although the nannies did say something reassuring to him. Meaza would not let me put her down to go. She squeezed me so hard and kept kissing me. Her nanny asked her if she liked her mommy and if her mommy was nice. I kept trying to put her down but she wouldn't release her legs. Finally the nannies told her to kiss me goodbye and say, "Ciao." She did. I put her down and was literally swarmed with kids. They all grabbed me and every single one of the children kissed me goodbye, on my lips, cheeks, hands and shoulders. They said, "I love you." It was wonderful and heartbreaking. All of these kids have families on the way but they are all starved for affection. The nannies love them but there is just not enough time in the day for everyone to have their needs met.
* Note about this post- Months later, Meazi told me that she saw Melese a lot during their stay. CHSFS did a great job in facilitating meetings between them. The day we met her she was just being possessive, I think. I don't want anyone to think that the agency was keeping siblings apart, quite the opposite.