Rob, Riley and I woke up in the guest house. Allyn was back home in the US. We were a family divided one year ago.
I asked Riley if he knew what day it was. He was only four, but he excitedly said, "We're going to meet Amanuel!" We got ready and ate breakfast in a hurry and jumped up as soon as our driver, Abey, arrived to take us to the orphanage.
It was a 40 minute drive to the orphanage. I couldn't sort out my thoughts. So excited to meet the child we'd been praying for for so long. I was about to meet my son, except I couldn't shake the tears from my eyes. Every single bit of my happiness was wrapped around the thought that I was going to have to leave Ethiopia without him in just a few short days.
Then we were there. A muddy side street in what looked like a residential part of the city. We walked through the white-washed gates and into a tiny courtyard. Baby clothes hung on clotheslines in the back. I remember greeting Anabes, one of the in-country staff for our adoption agency in a fog. I wasn't really listening to anything anyone was saying. All I could think about was "he's here... my son is here somewhere!"
We followed Anabes up the stairs and someone opened the door to one of the rooms. I scanned the faces of the babies inside and immediately found Amani. He had looked up when the door opened, mid-crawl on the floor. I recognized him right away and we came in and sat down near him. We weren't supposed to bond with him on that first trip; I wasn't supposed to act like I was his mommy.
I managed to interact with him at arm's length for about 90 seconds (we have the video to prove it) and I just couldn't stand it anymore. I reached over and pulled him into my lap. We had started the adoption process 19 months earlier and I finally had my arms around my child. Only he still wasn't mine.
Lots of people have asked me what it's like to meet your child the first time through adoption. It wasn't a whole lot different from meeting my biological children for the first time, honestly. You hold them, snuggle them close, let your eyes roam over their little faces, instantly memorizing every feature. It was nice this time because I wasn't exhausted from labor. My mind was clearer. But it was harder this time because my third child wasn't going to come home with me just after meeting us and I was never able to shake that thought.
This morning, one year later, we woke up at home. ALL of us. And instead of being led by a stranger to meet my son, I hear "Mommy! Daddy! Riley! Allyn!" from the next room. He calls for all of us by name when he wakes up. In random order, usually.
Last year, he didn't know what a family was. This year, he calls us all by name.
Last year, I didn't know how to comfort him. This year, I know that he likes to go back to sleep for a few minutes after he wakes up from his nap in the afternoons. I know how he likes to be held.
Last year, I didn't know his favorite foods. This year, I know how much he loves bananas and all things spicy.
Last year, I didn't know what he looked like every day, what clothes he was wearing because someone else dressed him. This year I know how much he loves shoes and his Nemo bathing suit.
What a difference a year makes.