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.