Two years ago, we walked into the orphanage in Ethiopia to pick up our sweet girl. It was early morning. We’d just arrived in country and dropped our bags off at the guest house. As we entered the gate at Kidane Mirhet, the older girls recognized us and darted off to get Hanissa. The nannies weren’t fully prepared for our arrival and a lot of rushing ensued. By the time we reached the door, our girl was standing there, waiting.
She looked sad and confused. Her eye was swollen and bloody because she’d tried to rid herself of bothersome molluscum that had once nearly covered her eye. She was glad to see us, but not prepared. The older girls, once again, whisked her away to fix her hair.
She was so little and vulnerable. There was sadness on her face and fear in her heart. What was this new life that she was about to embark on? Our first visit, she begged us to take her away. Today was the day that would happen. She said goodbye to her friends and we walked out of the gates, together. Forever a family.
That first night there were tears. Lots and lots of tears. Somehow in her young mind, she knew. She knew it was an end and a beginning, but she couldn’t possibly comprehend it all. We knew she was losing familiarity and gaining uncertainty. She was losing commonality in culture and gaining diversity. She was losing predictability and schedule and gaining confusion. She was losing friends and gaining family.
We caught glimpses of the fear and pain she was feeling. She rejected me and panicked, screaming for hours if David wasn’t nearby. I wondered if I’d ever be able to console her.
As the days passed, we began to see more and more of her personality emerging. She was curious about everything. Each new sight brought wonder to her eyes but caution remained a companion, too. She loved her bath, especially the bubbles. Her shoes, which lit up, kept her occupied and amused, even though they were 3 sizes too big. She wouldn’t be parted from them.
We discovered that she liked to write. It was an escape from the two strangers in her life. And then there was the purse, full of toys. It isn’t that she enjoyed playing (that would come in about 18 months), but she loved having them. She would open the purse, take the toys out, and then return them all to the safety of her bag. It was hers.
The jello cups were fun treats and orange Fanta is still her favorite to this day. She was learning about us and we were learning about her. We heard her giggle and sing songs. As nights became calmer, she would entertain us from the crib at the foot of our bed.
David was her security. In all the change, she found comfort in him.
Finally, the day came for us to travel back to China. It was time to fly. Hanissa thought the plane was amazing. There were lots of buttons and lights and those things make for a happy girl. And, as long as Daddy was nearby was content to sit with me.
Finally, we arrived in Yanji. Exhausted and dirty, but happy to be home. We were finally all together.
Two years have passed. Sometimes, I just can’t believe it. We are still discovering much about one another. Life experienced together, a ready laugh, and a willingness to listen have been instrumental in growing as a family. Adoption isn’t an event that finished when Hanissa arrived home. It infiltrates our home daily sometimes shouting loudly and but often hidden, barely recognizable.
Today we celebrate ‘Gotcha Day.’ Yes, it is the day we got you. But, it is also the day you got us. Your insecurities, your passions, your smile, your songs, your willfulness, your intelligence, your questions, your wonder, your joy, your sweetness, your perfectionism, your physical limitations, your desire to overcome, your inability to cope, your strength, your tears…it all got us. And, we are forever hooked. I’m overwhelmed by the goodness and wisdom of our Father in bringing us together as a family. Yes, for this child we prayed and because of this child we rejoice, not just in the picture perfect moments but in difficulties, too.
We didn’t just become family. We became family, forever.