...have been a whirlwind. Did I mention that my husband was headed out of town for a week today? And that BOTH parents have to be present to request a passport for a child? And that I was working on Friday (the 2nd Friday I've worked in the past 5 years) so that the only day we could actually go to get a passport for Riley was on Thursday - the day AFTER we got the call about court. Oh yeah, and the only passport agency that doesn't require an appointment is 30 minutes away. Craziness.
So after all the mad scrambling, we now have a plan. We are going to Ethiopia. Riley's coming with us (he has even agreed to shots!). We will be traveling to Gondar, the area where little man is from. Whew. The only last puzzle piece is where we will stay, but I think we've got that pretty well figured out. The man at the travel agency probably thinks I'm a little nuts, though. (PS. We used Lion of Judah travel agency and they were WONDERFUL dealing with me all day long as our plans changed a million times. He even saved us about $1200 by suggesting different travel dates. I definitely recommend them.)
And even after all that I'm not sure that it has sunk in yet. We're going to meet him. I'm going to hold him in my arms. We will stand in front of a judge and tell her how much we want him to be part of our family. We'll see his homeland, where he was born. I desperately want Riley to see Ethiopia for what it is: a beautiful country filled with beautiful people. I want all of my children to be proud of their brother's heritage, which will become part of the heritage of our whole family.
How do you prepare to meet a child? One with almost a year of life experience that doesn't include me. We can't tell him who we are - not on this visit. That wouldn't be right. We have no idea how long it will take after meeting him to bring him home. We don't want him to meet Mommy, Daddy, and brother and then not see us again for 6 months. We'll visit with him in his room, along with all the other kids there with him. I plan to bring bubbles 'cause I figure that'll make everyone happy.
How do you prepare to leave a child? It is hard enough looking at pictures of him and not knowing when he'll be home. How do I prepare for that last visit on Friday? The day when I know we'll walk out of his life and I have no clue when we'll walk back in?
My emotions are all over the place. I am unbearably excited to go. And having scrambled like mad to make plans I now feel like I need the days over the next three weeks to be just as manic so I can get through them. But I'm scared, too.
This may sound silly, but there really is a child at the end of this journey. Of course that's why we started all this in the first place. But now it's becoming real. I want to do right by this child, almost more than by my other two. I want to be a good mother to all my children, but I feel especially so about this little one - I owe it to his birth family to raise him well. I owe it to his country to raise him well - they are trusting us to raise a son of Ethiopia. It is an honor to be a parent regardless of how parenthood comes upon you, but I feel the honor more strongly upon my shoulders when I think of him.
I am finally allowing myself to imagine what it will be like to have a third little body running/crawling(?) around the house. Realizing we have to put the baby gate back up on top of the stairs, that we'll have to re-evaluate all the tiny toy pieces I only recently started allowing in the house. Bedtime rituals will look a little different - will he be able to read the paper-page books that the older kids read or will we be busting out the board books again? What will his giggle sound like when he's playing with his siblings? Lately I have had trouble differentiating Riley & Allyn's cry of "mommy" in the middle of the night! More than once I've opened the wrong bedroom door - they sound so similar! When will I be able to pick his cry out in a crowd?
We leave three weeks from tomorrow. It's going to be a long three weeks!