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Friday, April 26, 2013

You Want HOW Many Kids?

Ron and I have been asked this question a lot, and have received a lot of very puzzled replies.  I know my fellow adoptive mamas have also been posed this question and have interesting answers.  I figure it's time for a good explanation...

For starters, Ron and I are thrilled that Aidan is in our lives and we couldn't be happier to call him our son.  Although we're both happier in our family lives than we have ever been with just one child, we want to adopt more.  How many more is yet to be least 2 more, but we're taking it step by step as we go.  We could end up with 3 or 13...well, not that many ;)

I will be one of the first to say I am not one to make a distinction between biological children and adoptive children.  In my mind, they're all children- brothers, sisters, sons, daughters.  Although I don't have any biological children, I know that I would love Aidan just as equally (and maybe even more) as any biological child.  I have spoken with many other adoptive parents and their responses are the same.  There is no difference.  They are all their children- sons and daughters.

However, I feel that there is one topic where there is a difference between adoptive and biological children in my mind- HOW MANY!  I think that for many of us, if we saw a family with 10 children, we would think, "HOLY COW!  That's a lot of kids!" 

For me, my thinking goes further.  Although I try not to make distinctions between families, it is obvious when a family is multi-racial and has adopted multi-racial children.  These families are easily identified (yes, I know I am missing all the families that have adopted within their same race/ethnic background and I apologize). 

If I saw a family with 10 kids, I definitely think, "WOW!  That's A LOT!" 

BUT, when I see adoptive families with 10 kids, I think, "WOW!  You're amazing...good for you!"

Why the difference?

I think the difference is how and why families are grown.

When having biological children, many couples want children that will look, act and think like them- children that will be extensions of themselves and genetic legacies.  For this reason, I know many couples are satisfied by having 1-3 children, and usually at least 1 boy and 1 girl.  I think it's evident that a 2-child: 1 son, 1 daughter, family is considered ideal in our society.  And I can't argue with that.  It makes sense and is logical.

However, when adopting children, the story is a bit different.  Although I know parents adopt for hundreds of reasons, there is one connecting thread- to give a child a loving family and home that they would otherwise never have.

When building families with adoption, there is no "ideal."  We don't have the urge or need to adopt children that look exactly like us.  We don't need a boy and girl to carry on our specific genetic traits. But we do have the urge to open our hearts, arms and homes to children in need.

I definitely realize the logistics and resources required to raise a child in today's American society.  There are food, medical, housing, clothing and education expenses.  Colleges are just a bit pricey and the cost of living in the US is gradually rising.  Additionally, one needs to consider the size of a house, the number of beds, the size of a car (no more throwing 10 kids in the back set- Hello seat belts, car seats and safety regulations).  There is a lot to be considered when expanding a family.  And I am a firm believer (like many of us) that a family should only be expanded if the appropriate resources are available for that child. 

Adoptive families are held to these same standards as biological families- if not more so.  The reason is that in order to adopt, you must have Home Studies completed.  That is, you must prove that you have the financial and logistical means to care for additional children.  If you are unable to prove this, the social worker will not approve/recommend you for adoption.  With this requirement, I know that every adoptive family I see, no matter how large or small, has at least passed that initial test.

I also realize the importance of quality parenting.  In today's world, we are torn by an increasing number of obligations- work, family life, leisure, etc.  I recognize and strongly respect different families' choices for balancing those obligations.  I have equal respect for the stay-at-home mom or dad as I do for the working mother/father.  Both have their own unique challenges, rewards and sacrifices.  I echo the common belief that parents should have an active role in their children's lives- they should make time for their children and be hands-on parents. 

With all that said, adoptive families have one more consideration- to expand a family to give one more child a home or not to,  This is a very difficult, heart-wrenching question for those in the adoption world.  We all adopted in the first place to give a child in need a home and we are not blind or untouched by the vast number of children that are still orphans or do not have suitable families in this world.  It is incredibly difficult to close that door and turn one's back on adoption and children in need.

In adoption, I still strongly believe that financial and logistical considerations are needed, as well as quality parenting and family time.  However, I have to look at the alternative- IF that child is not adopted.  In many cases, they will never have a family.  They may receive little or no education.  They may lack good health care.  They may never know the sense of belonging or experience the love of a family.  Their futures may be grim, with few options available to them.

However, IF that child is adopted, even into a large family, they will have a family.  They will experience love, laughter and a sense of belonging.  They will receive a good education (yes, even the worst American public school is better than even the best public or private school in many developing countries).  They will have access to health care and a future of accomplishing one's dreams. 

When I see large adoptive families, I realize that the children may not receive as much one-on-one attention with their parents as families with only two children.  I realize that the family may not be able to travel as much or conduct as many leisurely activities as a smaller family.  And I realize that the children may not be able to go to expensive colleges courtesy of their parents' bank accounts later in life. 

I also realize that in almost all cases, having parents is better than no parents at all.  Having a family is better than not having one.  Going to school is better than working on the streets.  ETC. 

I believe that for many of those children, they wouldn't change a thing about their families or family life.

Adopting children isn't about creating society's vision of a perfect family.  It isn't about 1-boy, 1- girl or ensuring legacies.  It isn't about "making one of your own" or "carrying on the family genes."  But it IS about opening hearts, minds, arms and homes to children in need.  It's about finding your family and discovering a love greater than you ever imagined.  It's about providing hope, happiness and a future to children.  It's about kindling the human spirit and the good that is humanity.

So when I see a large adoptive family, I think, "Wow!  Wow!  WOW!  You gave ALL those children a loving family!  How amazing is that!"  And it truly is- AMAZING!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Thai Psychological Exams: A Diagnosis of Sanity in an Insane Place

I know I promised this post awhile ago, and now that Aidan is fast asleep in bed, I have the time to write it!

Taking a step away from talking about our journey to bring Aidan home, I'm going to jump back to the world of adopting in Thailand.  I have realized through my statistics page that my blog draws a very large amount of interest for Thai adoptions.  I also realize that very little is available on the internet regarding the process.  So to those of you in the search for information on adopting from Thailand- or just seeking entertainment- this one's for you! :)

When Ron and I first went to the Thai Adoption Center in Bangkok in October, 2012, we were told that we would need a psychological evaluation done by a Thai psychologist in order to complete our adoption packet.  This was a new requirement by the Thai government for all international adoptions- only foreigners needed the evaluations- Thai nationals did not (I guess by default they're considered sane- unlike us crazy foreigners wanting to give homes to Thai orphans).

We were told we needed 3 different tests done: Person, Tree House Test, the Adaptive Personality Test and a Memory test (I forgot the name).  We called Chiang Mai Ram, the local hospital here in Chiang Mai, to the schedule the tests.  They were aware of the tests required for adoptions and we had an appointment made on a Tuesday.

When the Tuesday arrived, Ron and I went to the hospital to meet with the psychologist.  We went to the 4th Floor- the speciality floor that serves all Westerners.  We went to the waiting room before being called for our weight, height and blood pressure.  Why we needed these, I don't know.  Keep in mind that this is THE best hospital in northern Thailand- YIKES!

Ron went first.  Ron is essentially a horse of a human being, crazy fast at running, and works out multiple times a day.  His resting heart rate is normally around 35-40 beats per minute.  Now, this does seem abnormally low, until you consider his body make-up.  Then it seems normal.  Well, for our Thai nurse, his heart rate of 38 was not ok (this appeared on the Pulse-ox machine attached to his finger).  Rather than analyzing why this might be his heart rate, or questioning it, she simply changed it.  She wrote down "68" as his heart rate on his physical form.  I know in her head, she thought, "There, MUCH better!"  However, me, as a doctor, thought, "OH NO YOU DIDN'T!"  Yep- she changed his vitals- a medical No-NO!

Then it was my turn.  I was beginning to feel a bit annoyed and was strongly questioning the medical capabilities of this nurse, and the hospital.  When it was time for my blood pressure, I put my arm in the blood pressure machine.  The machine was broken, which we learned later.  The pressure cuff began to inflate, and then the machine beeped- "Unable to read."  The nurse tried again, with the same results.  Rather than thinking, "The machine isn't working, let me grab a stethoscope and conduct a manual blood pressure on this patient" like a normal medical professional would do, she hit the override button.  The cuff inflated again, but with higher pressure.  Still a beep and no reading.  So she overridden again.  And again.  And again.  Finally, when the blood pressure cuff was registering about 300, my arm went completely numb.  At that time, I shouted, "OK!  WE ARE DONE!" at which she immediately turned off the machine.

At this point, I had completely lost faith in this hospital's ability in performing good medicine- they couldn't even take vitals properly.  I know this nurse was trained in blood pressure, and I really, really hoped she knew better than to think my blood pressure (as a healthy, in-shape, young female) was above 300.  But somehow, I don't think she knew that.

Ron told me to calm down, but I wasn't too happy.  I did calm down a little bit to meet with our psychologist to prove ourselves sane to adopt a child from Thailand.

We were called in his office and sat down.  He was a shorter man with shaggy hair and big glasses that were ready to fall off his nose.  I tried being positive and nice, but it became more and more difficult.

Our conversation went like this:

Doctor: "So you want to adopt from Thailand."
Us: "Yes.  1-2 children."
Doctor: "Why do you want to adopt?  You are still young?  What is wrong with you?  You cannot have your own?"
Us: "Well, nothing is wrong.  We know that there are close to 150 million orphans in the world and many children in need of homes in Thailand.  We have a lot of love to give and want to give a home to those in need."
Doctor: "Well what will you do if you have your own child?  Won't you love them more?"
Us: "Well, no.  Having biological children, if that's what you mean, isn't in our plan.  And we would love any child equally."
Doctor: "Hmmmmmm."

Already, I thought, "GREAT!  We have to prove our sanity to one that already thinks we're insane!  This will be fun!"

Our conversation continued to include topics of our work, married life, background and ages.  Many of this needed to be repeated 2-3 times.  And then repeated all over again when it was my turn and the information needed to be written in my chart.  When we finally finished about an hour later, I thought, "We're done!  You did it.  An hour of awfulness is over!"

We thanked the doctor and walked out.  We went to the nurses' station to check out, and were told NOW we needed to schedule our testing.  TESTING?  I thought that was the test!  No, that was the initial interview required before the test.  Oh, ok...but I thought both were scheduled today.  No, just the interview?  But we were told both could be done on the same day...

Nurse: "No.  The doctor for the tests is not here."
Me: "Can you call them and see if we can do the testing today?"
Nurse (after she called): "They did not pick up.  No testing."
Me: "Can you call again?"
Nurse: blinks blinks blinks blinks blinks
Me: "This is a hospital.  You should be able to make a referral.  I am a doctor.  If you can't reach an office the first time, you should be able to try again!"
Nurse: blinks blinks blinks blinks blinks
Me: "Can you call again?"
Nurse: "We will call you with the appointment."
Me: "No, you can't call us with an appointment.  We are leaving for Ethiopia in 4 days and need this done today, like we were told."
Nurse: "I call you."

So we left, without an appointment for our testing, and me beyond frazzled.  I kept thinking, "I CANNOT BELIEVE this is the best in Northern Thailand!  How on earth are we expected to be willing to have emergency procedures performed here if they can't even take vitals OR make a referral appointment?"

Ron tried calming me down.  I went to get ice cream!

Later that afternoon, we received a phone call: the doctor can do the testing in an hour.  We said "Fine, we'll be there."

So we drove back to the hospital and checked in with the amazing nurses :)

LUCKILY, they didn't attempt to retake our vitals for this appointment!  We were called into a different office and met with who I thought was a doctor- but she was only licensed to administer and analyze the exam (a "Mrs." and not "Dr."- again, I don't understand Thailand's medical system).  

We were told that we were going to take the personality tests first and we had 3 hours- that's THREE hours- to do so!  WOW, I thought!  Yet another fun time at the doctor in Thailand!  We were give the test, which contained 456 True/False questions.  Here are some examples:
"I like flowers."
"Someone is trying to poison me."
"At night, I have thoughts so bad I don't tell anyone."
"I would like to be a soldier."
"I have friends."
"I hear voices."
"In school, I was suspended for cutting up."

After the first 25 questions, I thought the test was mistranslated- "cutting up?"  What was that?  Then I looked at the cover page.  It wasn't a mistranslation- the test was written in the 1940s.  Go figure.  I tried entering into my 1940-era vocabulary mode, but I still struggled with what many of the words meant...regardless, I had never been suspended in school, so that answer was false!

I tried really hard not to laugh at the absurdity of the test.  Ron, who was in another room, had no issues laughing.  About 45 minutes later, we both finished.  We were ready for the next tests.

Keep in mind for a true medical test to be reviewed in a standardized way, the test must be given the same way, every time- same directions, same order, same questions, etc. 

I went first- Ron sat outside.  I was given a sheet of paper and was told to copy the pictures as best I could.  I was shown 8 different cards, with 8 images total.  After seeing each image, I copied it down...8 dots in a row across a page, a square with a circle in it, two triangles, etc.  Nothing too complicated...and I was very confused with the point of the test- until later (ok, I'm still confused)!

Then I was given another sheet of paper.  I was asked to draw a girl to the best of my ability.  It was here I finally laughed.  For those of you that know me will know that I am the furthest thing from an artist.  I hate art and CANNOT draw!  So I drew a stick-figure girl with pigtails and a triangle for a dress and and smile on her face.  That was my girl.  The licensed administrator just looked at me when I was done.  I smiled :)

Then I was asked to draw a tree.  This, I improved on.  I drew a nice fluffy tree with a bird's nest, nice grass at the base, and a sun in the sky.  Done!  Finally, I was asked to draw a house.  I drew a very basic, 2-D house with shutters, flowers, a tree and chimney.  DONE!  No questions were asked, no comments were made.

Then I was given a 3rd sheet of paper.  I was asked to draw as many of the first 8 images I was shown from memory.  AHHH- now maybe there was a point (or not)...So I managed to draw 6 out of the 8 images.  I had forgotten 2 during my attempts at being an artist.  When I was done, I was told, "You did very good.  You have a good memory."  In my mind, I thought, "I still missed TWO!"

No comments were said.  No feedback given.  Then it was Ron's turn.

I sat outside and heard his test.  He was asked to copy the 8 images, just as I had.  But then, rather than being asked to draw a person, tree and house afterwards, he was immediately asked to redraw the images, just seconds (not minutes) after he drew them the first time.  Ron was able to draw all 8 images from memory.  Meanwhile, I thought, "Ummmmm.....that's not how the test went with me!"

Then Ron was asked to draw a person.  Then a tree.  Then a house.  After drawing his house, Ron was asked, "Is the door open or closed?"  It was closed.  "Is it hot or cold out?"  Ron said, "Cold, this house is in Michigan."  "Michigan?"  "Michigan.  It's a state in the US where it snows.  It is very cold there right now."  "Oh."

That was it.  Somehow, Ron's testing had the order changed AND he had to answer questions.  Same tests, no standards...Again, I was thinking, "HOW IS THE WORLD IS THIS CONSIDERED A VALID TEST?" 

We walked out and started to laugh.  I told Ron I honestly would be surprised if we were considered sane.  That meant I wouldn't be surprised if we didn't pass.  None of the testing made sense AND the doctors already thought we were CRAZY!

We were told our test results would be ready in a month.  Upon returning home from Ethiopia, and meeting Aidan, we made a new appointment with the original doctor (Mr. "What is wrong with you?") for our results and formal letter.

We met in his office and I vowed to have a good attitude, be polite and try to see the good in this.  I kept telling myself this as I watched the doctor try to locate our names in the computer.

The doctor then took out our files.  On top of our file was a document protector (clear sheet of plastic covering our papers).  Inside the protector were our two letters: the top letter had a yellow sticky note on it...keep in mind, these were INSIDE the document protector.  The doctor tried removing the sticky note by scratching above it.  After the first attempt, one would think he would have realized it was under the plastic and to stop scratching.  Instead, he kept scratching to remove the sticky note.  Over and over and over again.  After about 30 seconds (I really wish I was making this up), the smile on my face could not have been any bigger as I was trying with everything I had to hold my laughter in.  FINALLY he realized the sticky note was under the plastic.  It was then he pulled out of two letters and was able to remove the sticky note.  "WOW!" I thought.  That was it.  I had no other way to describe it.

The doctor then read our letters.  MUCH to my surprise, we were deemed sane enough to adopt from Thailand.  I was considered to be mildly self-centered, controlling and confident.  Somehow, IQ scores were there as well...and we didn't take an IQ test.  Ron and I were both rated at above average/superior intelligence.  Somehow, my score was a few points higher than Ron's.  However, IF they derived these scores from our memory test, Ron got 8/8 correct, I only got 6/8.  How they derived these IQ points, I have no idea.  Your guess is as good as mine.  Maybe they made them up- like our vitals.

After the doctor wrote a quick summary, we received copies of the letters and our medical charts.  We needed to give these to the Thai Adoption Center to complete our packet.
Once again, when Ron and I left the office, we burst out laughing.  The conclusions and results were close to hilarious- especially Ron's.  At the end of the day, we passed.  Although I never questioned my true sanity, these tests and interviews by Thai doctors made me feel insane by their standards for wanting to adopt.  However, at the end of the day, adoption once again prevailed (as well as our sanity)!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

GOTCHA Day: Part 2

After bringing Aidan back to the guest house, we were greeted by Katie, Ben and Benyam.  It was so cute to see the two boys together- they both looked elated to be with their families!  The staff at the guest house were great with Aidan and made everything more comfortable.

I ate a quick lunch, and then brought Aidan to our room.  I thought to myself, "It's just you and me, buddy!"  For the first time, I was a bit nervous.  Our adoption was complete and Aidan was ours.  Now it was time for me to be a Mom.  Despite my nervousness, I was overjoyed.  Aidan was beyond perfect and much cuter than I ever remembered.  He was full of life and made me want to never stop watching him, afraid I would miss something!

We played on the bed with his new toys for awhile before I realized he was pretty tired.  I made a bottle and the two of us laid on the bed, snuggled up, Aidan's head tucked in the nook of my arm.  I never wanted that time to end.  My son was taking a nap in my arms, in a bed, out of an orphanage.

When Aidan woke up, Katie, Benyam, Aidan, Hereg and I walked to the small drugstore around the corner to buy rice cereal and formula for Aidan.  It was our first official outing and I loved being able to walk around with Aidan in my arms.  I bought the rice cereal and baby formula that he had been eating at the foster home.

The afternoon continued to get better and better.  I was constantly amazed with Aidan and how much he had learned since we last saw him 6 weeks ago.  He could crawl now, babbled a ton, and was much stronger.  He began to look more like a little boy than a baby.

That afternoon contained a lot of firsts: first time dressing Aidan alone, first time making rice cereal, first time making a bottle, and first explosion diaper change.  Turns out, Aidan had awful diarrhea and made a mess.  Sweet Katie was there to help me and calm Aidan down while I changed him.  I'll always remember having Katie there as she gave me her "diaper tips" to help prevent leakage and keep the diapers on.  I must have seem so frazzled and lost, but she was an amazing support.  I will always be so thankful that Katie was with us in Ethiopia to help me through the first few days of being a Mom!  Katie- you're an angel!

As the evening approached, I fed Aidan dinner and got him ready for his big night out.  Ron's flight was arriving around 8PM and we were leaving for the airport around 6PM.  Although the airport was only 30 minutes away, they stop allowing visitors into the airport before 7PM.  In most places, anyone is allowed in the arrival area for when people arrive through customs and baggage claim.  However, in Ethiopia, you are only allowed inside if you buy a ticket (an incredibly long line) and wait in yet another very long line to get in.  I now realized why the Adoption Avenues staff met us outside the airport whenever we arrived- getting into the airport was no easy task!

When we arrived at the airport, the driver pushed his way to the front of the ticket line.  He tried explaining to the booth staff that I had a baby, but they wouldn't give him a ticket.  Literally, seconds before the booth closed about 5-minutes later, he trust 20 birr (about $0.66) into a man's hand who was first in line and he was able to purchase us two tickets in addition to his own.  Without those tickets, I wouldn't be inside for when Ron arrived.  It was a crazy ordeal to watch, but the driver fanagled the tickets and we were all set.  This was yet another example of my respect for the Ethiopian culture and all the extra steps the people must do in order to do "normal" things.

Inside the airport, I was able to rock Aidan to sleep.  A lot of locals were very curious about Aidan and I- a young white woman with an Ethiopian baby.  The driver kept explaining that Aidan was adopted.  One man in particular kept asking and asking questions.  I finally asked the driver what he was saying and he said that the man was very concerned that Aidan would love me more than his Ethiopian birth Mom.  The driver said his response was, "Well of course he will.  (Pointing at me) She is his Mom."  That made me feel amazing inside.  I knew that people would always question our adoption, but at the end of the day, I'm Aidan's mom and he's my son.  We have an amazing Ethiopian angel who is his birth mom, and she will always be loved.  Hearing someone else defend my situation for me was amazing and I was grateful.

Around 7:45, Ron's flight arrived from South Africa.  Aidan was fast asleep and all bundled up.  I just kept waiting and waiting and waiting for Ron to come out through customs.  I was standing at the rail, looking through the double doors at baggage claim when finally I saw him.  He was probably 50 yards away and saw me when I waved.  I knew he was smiling.  I immediately lifted Aidan high in the air so that Ron could see him.  Later, Ron told me his first thought of seeing Aidan in the air was "Lion King," which made me laugh.

Around 9PM, Ron began walking through the double doors.  Aidan and I were at the side waiting!  Ron turned to walk towards us and soon, Aidan was in his Dad's arms.  I couldn't help but cry.  The three of us were finally all together, forever.  We all hugged and laughed.  Aidan woke up and was exhausted and a bit cranky- who could blame him after such a day!  We soon loaded up into the car and drove back to the guest house.  On the way, I filled Ron in on the day and all that he had missed.  I learned all about South Africa and what Ron had seen.  Then, Ron got all quiet when he was looking at me holding Aidan.  His eyes were a bit teary and I knew- Ron felt the exact same way about Aidan as I did: unbelievable, unconditional love.  I knew we made the perfect choice by choosing Adoption as our Plan A for our family.  Aidan was our perfect son!

Here's a version of our GOTCHA DAY video:

Back in our room, Ron was able to rock Aidan to sleep.  I cried...again.  There was my husband, rocking my son to bed, for the first time.  I don't think there's anything more precious than that.  Ron and I fell asleep with smiles on our faces- we were parents and Aidan was our son.  That night, I kept waking up almost every hour to check on Aidan.  It took EVERYTHING in me not to wake him up and hold him whenever I saw him.  I still couldn't believe he was ours!

The next morning, Aidan woke up around 6AM.  He pulled himself up in his little wooden crib and started to giggle.  That was one of the most precious moments.  I think he thought, "WOW!  My two people are still here and I think they love me!"  Does it get any better than that?  I think not!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


On Monday, February 25, we celebrated Aidan's GOTCHA Day- the day he was forever ours!

Prior to arriving in Addis, Ron and I arranged our flights out of Bangkok.  I was flying directly to Addis from Bangkok on Ethiopian Airlines- only a 9-hour flight!  Ron was flying from Bangkok to Johanesburg, South Africa, before heading to Addis after an 8-hour layover.  We decided it would be best to save the money for other things and use miles for Ron's flight.

Upon arriving in Addis, I was met by the Adoption Avenues staff outside the airport.  It was amazing to be back in Ethiopia, see her people and experience the sites once more.  The feeling of being back was overwhelming and was something I wasn't expecting.  I was so overcome with emotion that I started crying on the way from the airport to the guest house.  There's just something about Ethiopia that got me- maybe it's just because Aidan was born there- but I have a feeling it's more.  It's the country and people- and one of the most amazing, hopeful, faithful, enduring places on earth!

During the drive, I asked the driver if there were other families at the guest house.  I already knew our friends, the Brooks, were there.  We met them in January when they were in Ethiopia for court to adoption their son.  Ron and I loved our time with Katie and Ben and enjoyed staying in touch over the past 6 weeks.  They were an amazing source of positive encouragement and hope during the last weeks of waiting!

I was told there was another family at the guest house- there for court.  When I asked for more information, I was told they were adopting two children...a boy and a girl.  My heart froze.  I thought, "Could it possibly be Kimaya's parents?", the little girl who shared the paperwork mix-up from Aidan's orphanage?  I asked more, and the driver said the last name was Ebbs.  I knew it!  I remembered that last name from Kimaya's crib.  It was them!  I started crying...again.  Somehow, in all this crazy journey, everything managed to come to a perfect close.  By having Kimaya's parents at the guest house, and her being legally adopted, Aidan's paperwork trail and story would be complete.  Words cannot describe how grateful I was that the Ebbs family would be at the guest house.  It is crazy how it all worked out, but unbelievably perfect!

When we arrived at the guest house, I felt my heart begin to race.  It was very familiar and exciting.  I knew that in less than 2 hours, Aidan would be in my arms forever!  But I had to get ready!

I was immediately greeted by Katie, Ben and Benyam Samuel!  He had grown so much and looked great!  He was quite the little chunker in fact, but as cute as ever!  The best part was seeing him in Katie's arms!  She was beaming and Watching other families experience adoption is like watching another family experience a birth.  It is unbelievably raw, emotional, intense and intimate.  By sharing these moments, we are forever bonded and connected. 

I was introduced to Sues and Brent Ebbs- Kimaya's parents.  They were wonderful.  They are from Colorado and have 2 biological children at home.  I immediately hugged Sues and started crying (I know- it was an emotional day)!  I explained the story of Aidan and why I was so grateful that they were in Ethiopia.  They couldn't believe the story and loved having the connection.  Brent and Sues are some of the nicest people and I know Kimaya (Anna) and Tola (Tim) are blessed to have them as parents.

The dear staff from the Adoption Avenues guest house were also there and it was wonderful seeing them again!  We all shared hugs and catching up.  They became life family during our last trip, which only continued as they helped take care of Aidan and watch us learn how to be parents this trip. 

Soon, I was in my room, quickly unpacking, getting things ready for Aidan.  Diapers, clothes, bottles, toys, his lion stuffed animal, etc.  Then, I had to get ready!  It was less than an hour until "Go time!" and I had to hurry!  After a quick shower (the water heaters in the guest house had recently been replaced and the shower was warm- an amazing feat in Ethiopia)!  I ate a fast breakfast and then waited...and waited...and waited!  Those last 10 minutes seemed to take FOREVER!  I wanted to be with Aidan, to have him in my arms, and to tell him how much I loved and missed him!

Soon, Eshetu, our driver arrived and I was ready to go!  It was great seeing Eshetu and catching up with him on the way to the foster home.  We had kept in touch over Facebook and he will always be a wonderful friend for our family! 

Once arriving into the foster home doors, yet another wave of emotion hit.  This was IT!  From this day on, I was a Mom to a truly amazing son.  The seconds felt like hours as I waited for Bedassa to be brought downstairs!  Sues was able to tape the GOTCHA moment for us!  The moment I saw Aidan, my heart flipped.  He had grown so much- his hair was longer- he looked older- but still perfect!  I held him, cried, told him how much I loved him and squeezed him tight while I kissed his face.  He was OURS...FOREVER AND FOR ALWAYS!

After rebonding, Aidan fell asleep in my arms after a bottle.  I was able to sign the required documents to "check him out" of the foster home.  This meant that Ron and I received guardianship rights and Adoption Avenues was no longer responsible.  What an amazing feeling.

At lunch time, I was able to get into the car to head back to the guest house for lunch- with Aidan in my arms!  What a feeling.  After 10 months of tears, paperwork, phone calls, e-mails, prayers and research, this was happening.  Aidan was ours and he was out of the Ethiopian orphanage system, into our arms, hearts and family!  Through all the ups and downs, it was beyond worth it! 

Although there are estimates that there are still 5 million orphans living in Ethiopia, there are now 5 million MINUS one.  Although Aidan is just one, he's so much more in our minds.  And even though he is just one (or WAS just one orphan), there is still one less orphan and one more family.  I honestly don't think there is anything more beautiful than that!

We Cleared Embassy!

I know it's been awhile since I've last posted (a few months in fact), but we've been busy!  I'm backlogged with things to document for Aidan, as well as others that are interested.  I've recently looked at the statistics for my blog, and I'm amazed- even though I haven't posted anything in 2 months, my blog is viewed about 60 times a day and from people in over 20 countries.  Most of the search words used to find this blog involve adoption.  I'm hoping that for those reading, this blog serves as a guide, inspiration, resource and source of entertainment regarding adoption.  If this blog encourages or helps at least one other family adopt, then I feel like all my effort and time has been very well spent!

On Friday, February 22, Ron and I received one of the most life-changing e-mails we had ever received- our adoption of Aidan was cleared by the US Embassy, his Visa was approved and we could go and pick him up...FOREVER!  There are no words to describe the emotions felt reading that e-mail- sheer joy, excitement, nervousness, relief, anticipation, and LOVE!

Leading up to this event, we had passed court on January 23rd, two weeks after we left Ethiopia, and Aidan.  Our agency, Adoption Avenues, then went on a required paperwork hunt to get Aidan's new Ethiopian birth certificate with our names on it as his parents, his Ethiopian passport and a medical exam required by the US Embassy.

On Wednesday, February 13, we were submitted to Embassy.  Around 7PM Thailand time, we received an e-mail from the US Embassy stating that our case was submitted.  We were at a friend's house and I did a crazy happy dance (ok, more like spastic screams and jumps)!  We later received an e-mail saying that our case passed preliminary review, which meant that all required documentation was submitted.

On Friday, February 15, we received an e-mail stating that Aidan's birth mother was requested for an interview.  This is required for all children that are relinquished by their birth families- someone from the birth family must arrive at the US Embassy for an interview.  During this interview, they are asked why they relinquished their child, if they understand that their child has been adopted, and if they fully understand what that means.  My heart broke for Aidan's mom during this journey.  She chose life for OUR son 10 months previously and was required to continue to relive her decision through interrogations.

Thursday, February 21 was my Ethiopian angel's interview.  We were hoping we would clear the US Embassy that day, but we didn't.  Many families clear the same day as the interview.  When we didn't receive an e-mail by 11PM Cambodia time (we were visiting in Angkor Wat for a vacation/babymoon), I began to freak out.  I thought something was wrong- that we wouldn't clear- that it would be even more weeks before I could hold Aidan in my arms forever.  I cried, and cried, and cried.

But then, good news...friends of ours cleared Embassy just minutes before it closed...and their birth mother interview was the day before.  I had hope...Aidan might clear, too!  Hearing our friends' elating news lifted my spirits and put things back in perspective.  This was adoption- nothing is black and white, predictable, or in my control.  I had to have faith!

The next morning, Ron and I took a bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.  We arrived around noon Cambodia time, about 8AM Ethiopia time.  I was dying to check our e-mail.  We walked to a small outdoor cafe on the Mekong River and sat down.  We turned on our computer, logged into our e-mail and THERE...two e-mails from the US Embassy...

WE CLEARED EMBASSY!  I screamed and started crying.  Ron hugged me, and just kept holding me.  We had did it.  We did all of the required steps and received the green light to fly to Ethiopia to pick up our son!  It was such a relieving, amazing moment.  After 10 months of sweat, tears, paperwork, phone calls, e-mails, prayers and research- we did it!  Aidan was going to be in our arms within 48 hours.  How amazing was that?!?!?

We ordered glasses of wine to celebrate our adoption victory!

Prior to leaving for Cambodia, Ron and I researched tickets to Ethiopia.  We knew we arrived back in Bangkok around 1PM on Sunday, the 24th.  There were nightly non-stop flights from Bangkok to Addis Ababa.  We had a feeling we could clear and were planning on flying out that Sunday.  In fact, before leaving Chiang Mai, we packed for Ethiopia and Cambodia...we had 7 suitcases (1 for Cambodia, 2 for  Ethiopia, 1 for Aidan 2 for donations and 1 as a carry-on for baby gear), a car-seat and toys packed.  Talk about a car-load of a "hospital bag!"  We left everything for Ethiopia in Bangkok...just in case.  Well, turns out, we would be flying to Ethiopia on Sunday, as hoped for!

We looked at tickets and called to book them that evening.  We were able to use miles for Ron's ticket, but that meant that he would be flying to Ethiopia on a different airline and arriving 12 hours after I did.  He was flying Bangkok to South Africa to Ethiopia, whereas I was flying directly to Addis.  We discussed this and figured it was best to save the money and fly differently.  After all, Ron would arrive in Addis only a few hours after me AND I would be able to meet him at the airport...with Aidan.