Arrived at 7.30 after a pretty awful flight, then had long wait for visa, baggage, customs. Met by friends of friends of ours. They had arranged accommodation for us, and we said yes because we didn't know how to say no. One of those incredibly awkward situations where they were (I think) putting themselves to great inconvenience, and we would have much preferred that they hadn't. We actually already knew where we wanted to stay, but the mutual friends had asked them to arrange this without really checking with us, and we were too English and constricted to say - please don't. We had a suitcase full of - actually who knows what - for them, from the mutual friends. Luckily Ethio air didn't ask the 'did you pack your own baggage' question.
By the time we got out the airport, I was dim with fatigue and beginning to vibrate with stress about meeting our children for the first time. They decided that we needed to stop for breakfast, which we did and I managed not to say Please I just want to get where we're going and then I want to meet my babies because I'm afraid we won't like each other and I need to know, I need to know.
They asked lots of questions about our stay, but it turned out they thought I was out here to do volunteer work, and picking up the babies was just one more good deed to tick off my list. Leaving me with plenty of time for more. What kind of work was I going to be doing? Was I interested in coming to work with them? I became increasingly high pitched as I tried to say well, there's really one big reason I'm here, and that's to get to know our babies, and I'm not really sure I'm going to have time for a volunteer job as well. A few people asked similar questions about volunteer work, and it made me feel sad - partly because I hated having to justify spending time with our new children, but also because - is this what they think of us in the west? That we only come to Ethiopia if we think we can do some 'good'? That doesn't really reflect well on us, if it's true.
We got back in the car. No matter what we asked, we didn't seem to be able to get across the fact that we wanted to know where the accommodation was located. Not before we left the UK, and it turned out that we still couldn't find out now that we had arrived. We had a rough idea of where the orphanage was located, and more than anything we wanted to be close by so that we could visit the babies easily and often. But the car drove, and drove, and we knew that each mile, full of fascinating sights (okay, mostly goats) was taking us further and further from where we needed to be. I was just managing to keep myself together, telling myself this-is-okay-I-am-okay-it-doesn't-matter-where-we-stay-not-really-after-all-I'm-only-here-for-THREE MONTHS and trying to keep all the horror thoughts of the babies hating us, us not liking the babies and so on out of my head. Then we arrived at the place they had booked for us, and it was stupidly far away, and awful, and dirty, and astonishingly unfriendly, and as soon as they drove away I sat down on the narrow little bed and cried and cried and cried. No way, I said no way are we staying here. We've wasted the entire morning when we could have been seeing our babies and I cannot take this anymore. J agreed - our politeness had been stretched past its limit and we agreed to do a bunk. It took a few hours to arrange, but by 3 we were in our originally chosen clean guesthouse within walking distance of the orphanage.
And from there - on to the orphanage. I have dreamed about the first time I would meet my child (although it turned out to be children) for a long, long time. I think I was expecting far too much of myself, and of the moment. I even knew I was expecting far too much, but all those stories! Those pictures! The two souls, meant to be together, meeting for the first time! The emotion, the tears! How could I possibly not want that? But now that the time had finally arrived, it turned out that I felt panicked, and unsure, and curiously blank all at the same time. Did this mean it wasn't meant to be? Had we made a huge, huge mistake? Was I about to ruin my own life, and that of two innocent tiny babies??
I wish I could say that as soon as my daughter was placed in my arms, and I saw my son in J's arms, all my fears and doubts melted away. In fact, I considered writing that anyway because I so much wanted it to be true. But you know what? It didn't happen like that - not for me. I picked up my girl, and I could see that she was beautiful. Tiny, vulnerable, perfect, and beautiful. But I felt… not much. Just strangeness - like it was happening to someone else. She looked at me curiously, and I looked at her curiously, and I knew that I would love her, but I also knew that it hadn't happened yet. She was wrapped up incredibly tightly, in three layers of blankets, so all I could see was her teeny tiny face frowning at me from a huge log of rolled fabric. I remember thinking it's kind of hard to bond with a burrito with a face. And the same with our beautiful, perfect tiny little son. I'm trying to go easy on myself with the self-loathing about this. (Easy to say now, with a few days distance - after it happened, I got back to the nice clean guesthouse and cried and cried and cried for the second time that day). I'm telling myself that motherhood is going to be a lifetime project, and it's not really about the big moments, but I know that if I don't write it down now then I will deny it later, and say that as soon as we four all looked into each others' eyes we knew.
(break from journal-mode to ask the blog-world a question- Is this normal? Or at least normal-ish? I certainly hope so. For those of you who have met your babies, did any of you feel like this? I'd be glad to know if I'm not the only one. In fact, part of the reason I'm writing this is so that if anyone after me reads it, and faces the same thing, they won't feel quite as horror-struck as I did).
Everything looks much better today. These babies are really growing on me. Also we found some excellent coffee.
Baby girl falls asleep in my arms and makes adorable snuffling noises. Baby boy spends about an hour just staring at J, and occasionally poking out his little tongue. Without a doubt, these are the cutest babies I've ever seen! It's the strangest thing to leave them behind at the orphanage when we go back to our guesthouse. I'm really beginning to miss them. It hurts, but I also feel incredibly ...relieved.