Saturday, 7 November 2009

Me again...

It's really hard to know how to write at the moment, because my
thoughts are so jumbled up inside my head. Maybe one day I will be
able to make sense of all this, but at the moment, in the middle of
it, I definitely can't. Some of what I'm feeling seems really
negative, and I hate the fact that this sounds like I'm complaining.
I'm really not, I promise. I look at those two little faces grinning
at me, and I know I'm the luckiest woman in the world.

But. Parenting is famous for being something of an adventure. And
being in a foreign country, with (as it turns out) NO idea of when you
are going to be able to go home, is also something of an adventure.
And I've discovered that I like my adventures one at a time, please.
What's getting me down is just all the really boring stuff - we are
staying in a guesthouse that is mostly okay, but the bathroom door
doesn't close, the shower doesn't really work, the drainer doesn't
drain, there are loads of cockroaches, there is (obviously) no clean
water coming out of the tap and mostly we are just a looooooong way
from home. We had to pack our bags for our first month of parenting
with no freaking CLUE what we were really going to need. And now that
we have more of an idea, we can't get any of the stuff. I'm beginning
to obsess about how wonderful it would be to have MORE BOTTLES. I'm
going to embarrass myself here and admit that we only brought four.
Yes, you read that right! Four! For twins! We have the whole Playtex
drop-ins system, which is fine, and means the bottle bodies don't need
to be sterilised, but ack! This means that we can't make up any more
than four bottles at a time, which is absolutely no joke when we are
faced with two tiny malnourished panic-feeding babes. I'm sure there
are decent bottles somewhere in Addis, but I don't have any idea how
to find them, and I don't really have the time to scour the city - see
above, re: two tiny malnourished panic-feeding babes.

Last night I was asleep for long enough to get into a proper REM
cycle, and here's what I dreamed - I dreamed I went to the supermarket
and bought more bottles (and some chicken… sorry vegetarians). This is
how much I am missing having access to standard consumer goods - I am
dreaming about those fluorescent-lit aisles as if it was some kind of
paradise, rather than the kind of place I would normally spend a week
eating mouldy fridge leftovers to avoid.

In case it's not obvious, yes I do feel incredibly guilty for how much
I miss the comfortable bits of my life at home. I know how great it
is, technically, to be spending all this time in our babies' birth
country. But the thing is - we're not really in Ethiopia here, we're
in a hotel room. We have a view of Ethiopia from our windows, but it's
incredibly difficult to get out during the day (see above, re: two
tiny etc) so we're not really adding anything to our sum of fabulous
Ethiopian experiences during this trip, we're just trying to survive
our transition to a family of four and that feels like quite enough.
Last trip, and this trip, I've been hit hard by how much lower my
capacity for thrilling new experiences is than I had assumed it would
be. If you haven't travelled yet, I think my one piece of advice would
be - plan to take it slow. Becoming a parent to a child who has no
idea who you are is a huge and giant thing. And if you had gone into
labour and delivered a child in a hospital in Addis, you wouldn't even
be thinking about doing sightseeing during that same week, no matter
how physically great you were feeling. Getting to know Ethiopia is
hugely important, but I think we (as an adoption community) have
unrealistic expectations about combining this with parenting a new
child, especially if it is our first child.

Personally (and this little sidetrack is just my own personal opinion,
I'm sure others will disagree) I think this is part of the reason that
it's too easy to fall into one of two schools of thought on Ethiopia
travelling - a) it was horrible! I couldn't take a proper shower, and
it was impossible to get decent cheese! (or baby bottles, if you're
me, or whatever). Or b) Ethiopia was great! It is a wonderful land,
full of rich culture and beautiful friendly people! I'm exaggerating
a little, but I know that I personally can be prone to this, and I'm
sure I'm not alone. We get this strange, short time here, and all our
experiences are polarised through the lens of this bone-crunchingly
intense experience that is new adoptive parenthood. Like everywhere on
earth, this is an incomprehensible place, especially after a length of
time measured in days, or at best weeks. But things feel awful and
beautiful and it's all too hard to make sense of it. Our
cognitive-dissonance-o-meters are WAY in the red zone, and I think
that in order to get that one part of our brain labelled 'Ethiopia'
back into neutral, it can be easiest to just go with a or b.

I don't think I need to point out the dangers with a, especially since
that's the camp I'm most in danger of falling into right now, with all
my supermarket fantasies. I think option b is a little more subtle.
[ha, yes, 4 hours sleep and I used the word subtle with a straight
face. Don't worry,I think that's ridiculous too.] I started to think a
bit about this when I did the whole 'beautiful country rich culture'
speech to some Ethiopian friends and they basically told me that I had
to be kidding. I've come to think that the main risk with option b is
that it can just be us being wilfully, arrogantly ignorant of some of
the more difficult things that are going on here. As adoptive parents,
we have a vested interest in creating a happy theme-park version of
this place, (whether we give into that desire or not) and I've come to
believe that this is no less arrogant than choosing option a). I
mean, we're only able to adopt in the numbers that we are because of
endemic economic and health problems in this country. I hate that
fact, but we have to face it. I think that pushing option b too hard
sort of says: Hey guys! I have considered your social problems and
your poverty and I have decided that they are A-OK with me! And
really, in the end, I'm not sure that's any more respectful than a).

And no, I have no idea what the answer is, except that I don't really
think there is one. At the moment I'm trying to learn to just feel the
tensions and learn to live with them, which is harder than it sounds,
especially when people ask questions like 'so, how was Ethiopia?' I
think my stock answer is going to have to be 'complicated'. I'd be
very interested in other people's thoughts on this one, whether you're
yet to travel or did it ages ago. Those of you who are
na-blo-po-mo-ing, here's an idea for a post for you! A little gift
from Addis from me.


One last thing, since this post just got totally away from its
original intention (and in the end has taken about four days, see
above re two tiny etc!) . I wasn't kidding when I said I don't know
when we're going home. Having (finally) acquired for the babies their
court papers, translations of same, birth certs and passports, we were
able to apply for their visas yesterday. And, long story short, nobody
will commit to a processing time except to say it could take up to TWO
MONTHS. And of course it probably won't, but I wanted someone to
promise me it wasn;t going to be more than, say, another week and so
I'm just trying to adjust my expectations again and stop fantasising
about my house, my kitchen, and a shiny row of fifteen brand new baby
bottles by the middle of November. Prayers for a speedy process would
be much appreciated.


  1. If you give me an address I will FedEx you some new bottles so fast it'll make your head spin. Or anything else you need. Seriously.

    Wishing you speedy processing and more REM sleep. Love you much.

  2. Wow, there was a lot in that post!

    4 bottles not enough - got it. Will remember that one - even though we only have one child...I know people travelling in 2 weeks - can some bottles with them if you like? Seriously, I could.

    Ethiopia - I have been trying to prepare myself for this trip. I have been trying not to fantasize it too much in my head....I know it will be one of the most eye-opening trips I will take for so many reasons.

    I hope you don't really have to spend 2 months waiting for your visa.

    Let me know about the bottles.


  3. PS... No one thinks you're complaining, no one thinks you're ungrateful, no one blames you for missing your home & your refrigerator and your supermarket. Just because you love your babies doesn't make the situation not hard. Hang in there, sweetie.

  4. This is a great post. I have been trying to write about my trip, and so much of what you are saying resonates with me. Maybe I should link to your post, and say, "What she said." Complicated.

  5. Your ability to wrestle with what is the proper response to Ethiopia as an adoptive parent is so huge, especially given that you are taking care of two little babies who need you so much right now. I really respect your thought process and agree that the answer to this, and to many issues around adoption are COMPLICATED. Easy answers are easy to give, but they often chip away at either other people's dignity or our own for not being true witnesses of such complicated human relationships.

    I really admire your honesty and willingness to struggle - you are and will be such a great mom - no matter how many bottles you have.

    I hope the bottle situation is solved and most of all hope you can be home soon.



  6. Are you still in Ethiopia? There is a grocery store we think was named "Bambi" that is also referred to as the 'white people's grocery store' - all the embassy people shop there, and it carries international brands and looks like a US grocery store. You may be able to get more bottles there, and if you are in a guesthouse, your driver will know what the store is.

  7. This post makes me feel thankful for our process in the US, as much as there is a lot of paperwork and a lot of waiting, it sounds like your process is so much more complicated. Hope the visas come soon!

    And thanks for the heads-up on how to think about the trip to Ethiopia...

  8. Complicated is a fabulously accurate description. I fall firmly into option b myself but I think that's a reaction to the fact that no one (at least around here) knows anything about ET except famine and starvation. I like balance. If all you hear about is ying then I'm going to tell you about the yang. I don't want my child growing up feeling like his birthplace deserves nothing but pity.

    I think Theresa, of Eastiopian fame, is going to be there 21/11 or thereabouts. I'm sure she'd be happy to oblige in the bottle dept if you don't have it sorted by then.

    Two months??!! I was absolutely ready to go 3 days after taking custody. There would have been bloodshed at the 3 week mark.

  9. I appreciate this kind of information more than anything. My mind just kind of got reset, about the whole a) and b) camps of thought about Ethiopia. Travel experience most likely to feel complicated - check. Being prone to melancholia and feeling sensitive to so many things, this kind of discussion of experiencing Ethiopia makes me feel better prepared. I feel for you, not that you just want the comforts to which you are accustomed, but that you just want to be home. I will send you all my positive energy for speedy travel home.

  10. You're certainly right. It's totally arrogant to say that traveling to Ethiopia is a blissful experience. And yet, after you come home and you want people to appreciate that your children are from this REAL place that has a REAL culture (for better or for worse) it's easy to sugar coat things. I also think it's tempting to sugar coat things for our adopted kids, though I honestly don't know what help that would ever do for them (maybe it's for us- to sugar coat their early lives for them ). There's this conundrum where as adoptive parents we're supposed to instill this appreciation for our children's birth countries- and sometimes that comes at the expense of being honest. Your situation definitely warrants a good venting. Your bottle situation sounds like it sucks! :)

    You will be fine. It doesn't seem like it now, but it will be.

    And, your blog post was so raw and so honest...that is the reason I love your blog and your writing. Keep it going- you are expressing things that need to be said and need to be felt.


  11. All I want to say is "bless your heart" which sounds so ridiculously small town Texan (which is me!) but it really is true. I think what you are doing is so incredibly hard, even under the best of circumstances...and you're just dealing with so much right now. I wish I could help in a concrete, tangible way, but for now just take my word that prayers for speedy court processes are coming your way, and also prayers for more bottles, and for your beautiful new family.

  12. This is totally overwhelming. You all just need to get through it and get home. Everything else will fall into place. Just be kind to yourselves. You guys are in emotional survival mode right now and I'm sure it all feels really crazy. It will sort itself out when you get home...take a Valium or Xanax or two and watch some t.v.

    The Blog world supports you and wants you to get home.


  13. Complicated is a great word. Yes you are in a beautiful country which is also your childrens birth country. But with that beauty and excitement come all of the problems of traveling to a third world country, especially when you're unaware of when you get to leave, what you needed, and are adjusting to being a family of four. You're not ungrateful, just overwhelmed.

  14. I'm going to come back and ready this post again and again. It makes so much sense and I'm not even there yet. I will be there from Nov 21st (late that night) until Nov 26th (late that night). Can I bring you some bottles and cheese (I'm not kidding)? I may be able to get a driver to drive me to your hotel/guest house early on Sunday if we meet Orange later in the day. Are you close to the Union hotel at all? Email me!


  15. This is helpful dear. 1) I actually did a NaBloPoMo post about travel (like, I want to see everything while we are there woopieeee post) that now I feel bit embarrassed by. I appreciate your perspective big time, since you are living it right now. 2) We will be doing the two baby thing. Make sure to bring more than 8 bottles, sounds right. This might be a tad personal, but I am curious as to why the visa thing is taking so long. See, we will be leaving 2 bio children at home, and I am comfortable leaving them being for 2 weeks. But not two months. Is there something about your process specifically making it such an unknown? I am having panic attacks here...

  16. PS, May I link to your blog so I can make sure to check in for pics of those delicious little bebes and your lovely writing?

  17. wow...having not yet begun our adoption journey but know that that is our path I read (and have been for a long time) many blogs. I find what you have written to be so much truth! One of the most important things in maintaining sanity is calling it how it is. complicated, hard, testing...these are the truths of where your at. I love what you said about how no one would expect a women who had just given birth to go out and "experience Ethiopia"!! this is soooo powerful mama! there can be a time in the future when you are there to experience Ethiopia, now you are going through one of the most intense, life changing experiences of your lives! All you *need* to do is hold those babes, meet them, smell them, learn their different cries, squirms, gurgles. Figure out the most comfy way to hold them, sleep them, change them, feed them.
    I always say to new mamas "enjoy your baby moon!" like, as in , from one full moon to the next, as in a least a month of expecting nothing from yourself except to bond with your baby, eat, sleep, bathe.

    So enjoy your baby moon mama! hunker down, this is your time!


Over to you!