If adoption is considered a marathon we are at about mile 20 with the finish line in sight. (That finish line just happens to be around the world.) Anyone that has run a marathon knows that at the 20th mile you start to wonder how in the world you are going to finish the last 6 miles. That sums up how I am feeling.
This weekend we made a very large "to do" list. It included both adoption and non-adoption things and was then broken down into pre and post travel. It was then broken down again into "urgent" and "hopefully we will get done". Although we were able to do quite a bit, I am still at the point where the list is out the window and get me on that plane!
We still have paperwork to get together for the Embassy. We still need to pack. I still need to wrap things up at school. But, most importantly, we still can't wait to meet our son.
P.S. Thought you might enjoy a few pictures of the baby's room. I think it turned out very well.
You'd think after all that time waiting for a referral I would feel somewhat ready to travel and pick up our child, but I can't say that I feel that way. I'm kind of confused about what to do next. Obviously, there is the packing and preparation for travel. And of course we have to get ready to take care of our new son too. It kind of feels like I'm cramming for a big test in school or something....although this will turn out way better than that. So, we've made countless lists and I think we can actually pull this off.
This is definitely unlike getting ready for any other trip we've ever been on. I am so much more concerned about having all the necessary "supplies and equipment" for Henock than packing anything for Joanna or I. We will pick Henock up from the orphanage at the beginning of our trip, so we have to be prepared to take care of him the entire week we're there. Never having been a parent before, this seems like a daunting task. At the same time, we'll be able to get in plenty of practice in front of strangers before we ever have to parent in front of our family and friends back home. It will kind of be like a practice run!
Thursday our plane tickets and itineraries were waiting for us on our front porch when we got home from work. Our round-trip tickets were in the package, but also included were Henock's one-way tickets from Addis Ababa to Detroit. It was kind of cool to see his name printed on the tickets. I should also mention that if you're ever looking to travel to Ethiopia don't wait till two weeks before to make reservations...it's not the cheapest way to go. Of course we were expecting some sticker shock all along.
In other news, we heard that Alemu was visiting the orphanage again this weekend and will get updated pictures for us. We look forward to receiving those at the beginning of the week. Also, we should get some updated stats (length, weight) on Henock which will be useful to our pediatrician back here.
Today we received our travel dates! For once, we don't have to wait. As a matter of fact, we are leaving 8 days sooner than we thought! Our flights are booked. We leave out of Detroit on Wednesday, June 6th, and arrive the next night in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. That is 2 weeks from today!
We leave from Detroit and go to Washington D.C., where we board Ethiopian Airlines. This flight takes us through Rome to refuel and then off to Africa. We have the same pattern home. This is important as we won't have to get another visa for Henock because this is considered a direct flight.
If all goes as planned all three of us will land in the United States on June 16th. This is my dad's birthday. (Happy Birthday Grandpa!)
And of course, the 17th is Father's Day. What a wonderful gift for Benjamin!
Thank you so much to everyone who came to our shower yesterday...and for all the gifts you gave. We were so excited that you were able to join us. After loading all the new stuff into our place last evening, I told Joanna that I'm now convinced we need to move to a larger home! It makes me wish I would have finished the basement years ago. I think it will probably take all week to "organize" all the new gear. It has been fun going through everything and starting to set up Henock's room. I think it's definitely starting to look like a baby's room. Now we just need the baby! At least now we have what we need to get started. I know there is a post-travel baby shower also in the works that will be for my side of the family (and friends too).
I'd like to especially thank Elaine (Henock's new grandma) and Caroline (Henock's new aunt) for all the work they put in to running the shower yesterday. They were certainly busy all day, but everything turned out perfectly.
We were hoping to get some sort of update today about a more definite travel date, but we weren't contacted. So, we'll be following up with Kurt tomorrow about that. We'd like to be able to set up travel and make plane reservations this week.
I got a call this morning from Kurt (our consultant) who heard from Alemu (the contact in Ethiopia). Everything went smoothly with yesterday's court proceedings. We are officially parents! No official word on when we'll travel, but Kurt is estimating that Alemu will want us to arrive in Ethiopia on June 15th. That's only four short weeks from tomorrow! We expect to have that all sorted out in the coming days.
We also received answers to a few questions we had. Most importantly, it sounds like we'll be able to meet the birthmother while we're there. We are very excited about this because of how much it will mean to Henock as he grows older. I'm sure it will be a very emotional experience.
Also, we should be receiving new pictures of Henock in the next few days. We'll be sure to share them here. I know some of you haven't seen the pictures of him we received with our referral, so here are a few pictures of our baby boy.
When we woke up this morning we anticipated knowing “something” by night’s end. This kind of day is the hardest part of the entire adoption experience. It is difficult not to have expectations about what a “big day” will bring and even more difficult to realize that the expectations you were trying to not have, you did indeed have, and that they were not met. So, the wait goes on…
It is amazing how you can manipulate the same 4 pictures, looking for something new, and just hope that he doesn’t change too much that by the time you see him you won’t be able to recognize him in a crowded orphanage. I think of him often and hope that he is being nourished well, cared for by loving hands, sleeping soundly and can feel the many thoughts that go out to him on any given day.
Well, tomorrow is Henock's court date in Ethiopia. If all goes well (and we hope it does), I should get a call in the morning at work that the court process is complete. We talked to Kurt (our adoption consultant) tonight and he is optimistic that we will travel 4 weeks after the court date is complete. That means we're likely looking at traveling in mid-June sometime.
Once the court process is complete, Henock will be able to get his birth certificate and passport. All that will be complete by the time we arrive in Ethiopia. Incidentally, we discovered that, following in Ethiopian tradition, Henock's birth certificate will read "Henock Benjamin McKinney". How cool!! Ethiopians typically take their father's name as their last name. We do plan on changing his name once we're back in the U.S., but this will be his "official" name for a little while at least.
In our conversation with Kurt, we were able to find out a lot about the travel and we got answers to many of our questions. And we had a ton of questions!! We both feel more comfortable with everything now that we know what the next steps are. It's nice to finally be talking about travel. It seems like this has been a long time coming.
Happy Mother's Day to Joanna....and all mothers too of course.
Last night we drove over to Grand Rapids to meet 8 other couples that are also adopting from Ethiopia through our adoption adency, Adoption Associates. We met at Little Africa, a small Ethiopian restaurant. It was great to talk to people that are walking through the same process we are. One other couple also recently received their referral of a 6 month old boy. So, it was exciting to share some stories of the process so far. A lot of the couples had questions for us since many of them are just starting paperwork and doing their homestudies.
This will be such a remarkable group of people to stay in contact with as we all begin to bring our children home from Ethiopia. It will also be great if all our children can get together sometime in the near future too.
Two days ago we received the good news of when our court date is. This is the day that the adoption will be final and Henock will officially be our son. It is weird to receive a phone call that says "okay, May 16th is the day!"
On May 16th, we need everything to go smoothly. Three different parties will meet on our behalf to finalize the adoption. First, representatives from the orphanage will be there for Henock. They need to show documentation that he is indeed an orphan. Second, representatives from an Ethiopian governmental agency will provide all the necessary documents that say something to the effect that Ben and I are able to parent. (Well, it appears that way on paper) Finally, Alemu, our Ethiopian contact, and our power of attorney will be there on our behalf to handle all of the legalities of finalizing an adoption.
Now I need to tell you that there is a chance that all will not go smoothly. Our adoption agency has currently brought 3 children home from Ethiopia and of the three; two were delayed at this point. This is where I can insert a probability question...”according to past accounts, what is the likelihood of everything going smoothly?” I prefer to take the approach of my students and say “everything always works out, so why do we need this probability stuff, anyway?”
Anyhow, I do find it strange that on that day, I will probably be teaching some Algebra lesson while around the world an Ethiopian judge whose name I probably can’t pronounce will be changing our lives somehow. Either she or he will extend the wait and therefore tease us a little longer or will send us on a flurry to find the quickest flights to a country that our son is now residing in. Well, whatever happens on that day will still put us one step closer to bringing Henock home….and that is what we want!