May 07, 2010

Friday, April 23rd – The day we met Noah

We all got up Friday morning and went to the dining room for breakfast.  I was feeling pretty nauseated—probably a combination of jet lag, nerves, and the altitude.  (The altitude is 7700 feet in Addis…in Minier it is about 600 feet.)  When I got into the dining room, the scent of Ethiopian spices nauseated me even more.  The cooks had made pancakes for breakfast, but they were already cooking the day’s lunch too.  The smells were so unfamiliar to me and with me already being nauseated, I just about couldn’t take it. 

DSC_0703Even though many of us had major jet lag, there was a feeling of excitement in the room.  It was such a nervous energy—we were all giddy.  This was the day that we had all looked forward to for so long.  The day we would finally meet our children. 

After breakfast, we all went outside.  We could see the care center from the guest house.  It was just down the valley and up the hill…a short drive away.  Our children were all there waiting for us.  Most of them probably didn’t know that their lives were about to be changed forever.  We could also see goats on the hill and a lot of new construction.  The excitement was brewing among all of us as we boarded the bus.

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The care center is a beautiful building with  many windows.  There is a fence around the perimeter of the courtyard.  When the bus pulled up, Ato Girma told everyone that one person from each family needed to sign in with the guard and no cameras were allowed (to protect the privacy of other children).  Once we signed in, we went through the gates to the front of the building.  There was a row of shoes under the awning.  The shoes were similar to Crocs.  Everyone was to change out of their street shoes and put on a pair of the “crocs”.  This is done to keep the care center clean.  After we had all changed shoes, we went into the care center.  The social workers introduced themselves and then directed us to go down the flight of stairs to the room which I would describe as a large living room.  It had several wicker couches  and chairs and had a raised stage-like area that had a large area rug on it.  We were all nervous.  The social workers said they would begin calling families one at a time to go up to meet the children.  Our agency also had a camera crew that would video us as this happened. 


I was shaking so hard I could hardly stand up.  One-by-one, they began to call families.  Each family would go up several flights of stairs and after several minutes, they would come back down with their child in-hand.  Everyone would cheer as they saw the newly united families descending the stairs.  After several families had been called, we finally heard the social worker say “Dawit’s parents?”  This was it.  It was our turn to finally meet Noah.  We walked up to the fourth floor with the camera crew ahead of us, filming as we went.  When we walked through the door, we saw him right away.  He was playing on the floor with several other babies.  His eyes were so big and were taking in all they could.  The nanny picked him up and handed him to me.  I didn’t cry.  It was just a surreal feeling.  I described it as almost an out-of-body experience. Garland later mentioned that the song “Heaven” by Fred Astaire described the moment well:

Heaven... I'm in heaven,
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak.
And I seem to find the happiness I seek……

We stood there, just checking each other out.  I could hardly catch my breath.  It wasn’t from the altitude or the four flights of stairs I had just climbed either.  Noah looked at us with those big brown eyes and smiled his beautiful gummy smile. He was perfect.  His skin was very soft.  His hair was even softer.   I held him first, then Garland took him.  He looked so tiny, but he was healthy.  After several minutes, the nanny told us we could take him downstairs.


When we came down the stairs, everyone clapped and cheered at our newly formed family.  We were still in shock and just could not believe that we were really there; really holding our baby boy.  We sat on the floor on the big area rug with him.  He just stared at us and took it all in.  After about 30 minutes, the nanny came down and said it was time for his feeding.  We took him back upstairs and the nanny asked me if I wanted to feed him.  She gave me the bowl with the cereal in it.  I attempted to feed him, but I was shaking so much and couldn’t shovel it in fast enough for him.  The nanny took the bowl back and fed him while I held him.  He ate so fast.  After he was finished, we went back downstairs.  He spit up a lot.  I wasn’t surprised though because he ate so much cereal so fast.  After a little more time with him, they told us it was time for us to go back to the guest house.  We took the Noah back upstairs.  I didn’t want to let him go, but I knew we would be back soon to see him. 

I was still not feeling great so I came to the room and took a nap.  I’m not sure how I was able to sleep, but I was so exhausted that sleep came easy.  After an hour and a half, Garland came and told me it was time to leave again.  I felt a lot better after napping.  We knew we were going to the main offices of CHSFS-Ethiopia, but we didn’t know that we would first get to go to the care center again to see our children.  Ato Girma told us that everyone would go to the care center, but he would take two families at a time to the main office to take care of some business.  We got to spend the afternoon with Noah.  He just kept checking us out.  It was a very strange feeling to say “I’m mama.”  I had dreamed of it for so long, but for it to finally be true, felt so odd. 

When everyone had finished at the main office, we took the babies back up again to their nannies and then loaded the bus and went back to the care center. 

That night, we had pizza and couscous.  I was finally able to eat a little.  During supper, Ato Girma called the airport.  We found out that Garland’s bags went to Nairobi.  The airport worker said we should be able to get them the next morning.  When everyone was finished in the dining room, we all headed to the lounge/family room and talked about the excitement that had just happened that day.  An awesome, memorable day. 


Shannon and Boyd Bringolf said...

Wow! What an awesome day!

Denise said...

Beautiful story can't wait to hear more, brought tears. So happy for you all

The Gotch 5 said...

Don't know how you made it without crying I was crying just reading this. I am such a sap!! He already looks so different from that picture taken just two weeks ago...WOW! Happy Mother's Day JuJu!!!

Gretchen said...

I can't wait to read the next entry!

Jessica said...

The post I have been waiting for! I read it with tears rolling down my cheeks. Thank you for sharing, Julie. I also can't wait to read the next entry!