We arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on Easter Sunday of 2007.
I remember being both exhausted and energized as we pulled into the care center to meet our son.
My hands shook with anxiety, my mouth was desert-dry with anticipation. My eyes traveled from my wife to the closed-door of the room where we waited, and back – over and over again.
As the door knob turned, my heart began to race.
“Ready?” A young Ethiopian worker’s voice signaled that it was time.
I grabbed for my wife’s hand and took a deep breath.
As we strolled down the sterile hallways lined with checkered green and white tile, I felt outside of myself – as if my mind could not fully grasp the gravity of what was about to happen.
I hesitated before entering the room where the boy we’d traveled to meet lay napping – I needed to collect myself. I searched for the strength to keep moving forward.
My wife breezed into the room triumphantly. She held Yosef first.
That was perfect.
I wanted to hang back – to stare at him for a minute, to touch his kinky, curly hair and to be appropriately lost in the moment.
We did it. We made it through. He was ours forever.
The day we met Yosef wasn’t the first or last time I’d felt the need to garner strength to carry on.
Our adoption process has continually forced me to learn how to be uncomfortable, to boldly unearth fear and worry that I’d normally suppress. I was tested at every level, with each step we took.
Even today, as we celebrate our 10th Gotcha Day, there are times when I feel unworthy of the good fortune that our adoption has provided us.
Whether then or now, there is one way that I’ve been able to move forward – I think of 5 people who, along the way, wouldn’t let me quit.
I think of a co-worker, named Ryan.
I stopped by Ryan’s cubicle one Thursday morning in the winter of 2005.
That morning, after I was done hassling him about missing his monthly sales goal, I tried to make small talk. I asked him if he had kids – to lighten the mood and soften the disappointing results I’d delivered.
He told me, “No, we were told we couldn’t conceive.”
I replied with surface-level sympathy, and tried to quickly escape a subject that was out of my comfort zone.
Ryan, though, perked up as he began talking about their plan to adopt an infant from Asia. I was intrigued and re-situated myself on the edge of his desk.
For the next fifteen minutes, I pounded him with my curious questions of ignorance – the costs, the timing, the work, the travel, if the baby was healthy.
Ryan patiently answered every question and, although he never knew it, was starting me on an adoption journey.
I think of my wife, Aimee.
I was simply making dinner conversation when I abruptly changed the subject, “Aim, you’ll never believe the conversation I had with a guy at work today. He is adopting a baby from China. It sounded pretty cool.”
At that moment, if Aimee would have responded with, “There is no way we could do that”, this story remains unwritten.
But, she didn’t.
Aimee had the to spirit to jump, to explore, to seek more answers and to ask better questions.
I think of a social worker, named Angela
The beginning and end of adoption processes are magnificent, yes, but the in-between is tough. I’m a wimp by nature and the process required more than my wife’s unbelievable strength.
I needed our case worker, Angela, to push me along when I felt like I was in too deep.
Angela could be a calming influence or a kick in the pants – whatever was needed.
When she showed us Yosef’s picture for the first time, her smile was as big as ours – and it should have been. She was the steward of our dreams.
I think of a mother, named Worknesh
Just imagine saying goodbye to your child. Picture kissing your little boy for the last time – uncertain of where he’ll go but assured that his new home promises to provide opportunities that you cannot.
Yosef’s birth mother, Worknesh, had the courage to make that awful choice. Thinking about it breaks my heart.
I work in service to her every day – hoping that, in some way, the universe will provide a signal to her that the little boy she loved enough to send away, is making her proud and doing exactly what she wanted for him.
I think of a child, named Camdyn
When we accepted our referral and were waiting to travel, we named the chubby little boy in the picture Camdyn. One of the first gifts we received, in fact, was an alligator towel with that name inscribed.
And, although I hated the strain of waiting for months to meet him, the thought of Camdyn existing helped ground me.
I’d look at his picture, re-position the letter “C” we’d placed on his perfectly finished bedroom wall and re-fold that gift often – anything to be reminded of the great outcome of this difficult work.
I needed Camdyn and, most of all, I hoped he needed me.
Camdyn was the dream of my son. That is, until I saw him for the first time.
That day, ten years ago, I met a bouncy toddler that a strong woman in the southern region of Ethiopia birthed and then named Yosef. In that moment the dream of Camdyn became our son, Yosef.
I cried that day, looking at my son and thinking of these five names – just like I am tonight, writing this.
Now, 10 years later, as I watch Yosef grow, I will never forget those who have pushed me to today.
Indeed, WE did it.
Together, WE made it through – the last 10 years, the next 10 and forever.