Wednesday 30 September 2009

Last days of coupledom, redux

Well, I thought that J and I had already had our last days of coupledom. You know, last month. We wanted to fill them with happy memories of when we were him and her rather than mum and dad, but to be honest they were mostly spent running around in ever decreasing circles, trying to pack and get ready for the trip.

But, as things turned out, here we are again, just the two of us.

So, what I want to know is: if you could have approximately a month before really becoming parents, what would you do with that month? Trips away are not an option, but I'm wide open to most other ideas. J is at work during the day, but I am not. Should I be sewing baby clothes? (Wow, it turns out baby clothes are really EXPENSIVE. Forget university education - this is what we should have been saving for). Should I be filling the freezer with defrostable meals? Should I be reading? Sleeping? And what should we be doing with our weekends and evenings?

Thing is, I don't really want to be in this situation, but since I am I don't want to waste it. I know that in a few months time, through a fog of tiredness, I will remember - I had more than a MONTH to fill, with almost no responsibilities. I want to at least look back and smile.

No word on court date yet, by the way.

Saturday 26 September 2009

What's with the background changes?

It has no doubt NOT escaped the notice of any of my regular readers that I did not come home from Ethiopia with babies. No, I did not. No babies here.


However, what I do have is approximately eight million and forty baby photos. I cant' show them to you yet, for reasons that you all already know, but boy oh boy I can sure spend a lot of time looking at them.

[You can't tell, but I just clicked away from this window for five minutes to look at them all again].

I have looked at them a lot since I came home. A lot. Even the un-favourite ones, eg where one baby is puking a little, are irresistible to me. And... there's no cool way to say this, so I'm just going to say it- I've started digitally scrapbooking some of them. Yes. I have. I have scrapbooked, and I am not ashamed.

(Okay, maybe a little ashamed).

It seems that the older I get, the less cool my hobbies become. Photography was reasonably cool. Sewing is borderline. Making my own beaded jewellery was pushing it. And scrapbooking... wow. I'm pretty sure that it is really incredibly uncool. (Sorry, scrapbookers. I'm one of you now, so I say this with love). I told my sister about this new interest, and she openly mocked me, which is never a good sign.

The one perk is that my new stash of digital papers (that's scrapbook-talk, y'all) can double as blog backgrounds! Now the text here actually contrasts with the area behind it - novel, non?

And actually, another one is that I've used my new hobby to solve a problem I've been ruminating on. I really want to tell you the babies' names, but after my last little experience with google, I've been very loath to type their names in any kind of searchable format. I've also been wanting to show you some pictures that don't break any rules (nothing that identifies the babies). So, without further ado, here they are in all their non searchable, legal, scrapbook-y glory:

[actually, in the end I decided to remove them, just to be on the ultra, uber safe side. I'll put them back up after court]

Her first name means 'precious jewel' in Amharic. Her second name was my grandmother's. And her third name is the name she had first. (When you see baby boy's name, you'll see why we didn't feel we could keep their first names!)

[same as above]

His first name (also Amharic) means 'Jehovah is Salvation'. His second name is my Father's name, and was J's uncle's name. And his third name matched his sister's a bit too closely for us to send them through school like that.

Come home soon, babies.

Friday 25 September 2009

Twelve and a half percent parenting

(Here's one I prepared earlier - I wrote this a few days before we left Addis. I've just re-read it, and it maybe doesn't make a whole lot of sense, so sorry about that. But this is what I was thinking).

At the moment, we get to see the babies for about three hours a day - two hours in the morning, and one in the afternoon. Out of a 24 hour day, that means we’re spending about 12.5% of our time together.

To be honest, this kind of tallies with how I’m feeling. I only really feel like about 12.5% of a parent at the moment. I’m really falling in love with them, and the thought of kissing those little cheeks goodbye in a few days time makes me feel physically ill. But. At the moment, I really feel my lack of being able to do anything for them. I sit and cuddle one, or the other, and one of the nannies comes up to me and whisks the baby away to be changed. I can either follow her, and stand around watching her change my child like a lemon, or I can stay sitting in my chair like a lemon. Either is… not great. I’m constantly reminded that I’m not yet really these children’s mother in any meaningful sense (to them). And I’m really not immersed in that 24 hour a day full time parenting thing yet. I can kid myself I am, sometimes, (I LOVE them 24 hours a day!) but… I’m not. This really stinks. And the worst thing? Sometimes I can go for whole stretches of time without really thinking about them. And I don’t mean when I’m asleep. I just mean if I’m watching an interesting DVD, or trying to navigate our way somewhere with an inadequate map, or moaning (yet again) about HOW GOOD the icecream at Kaldi’s looks and HOW MUCH I want some, and HOW SAD I am that it isn’t really sensible to eat ice here. You know, trivial stuff. And then I suddenly get a jolt of remembering - my babies, my babies! Only a few hundred metres away, and I can’t see them! I hope they aren’t crying! I hope they aren’t too hot! I hope they’ve had their milk! Mmmm, milk, that makes me think of ice cream. I wish I could have some darn ice cream! Hang on, ack, go away, ice cream thoughts, what about the babies?

Probably, the ability to still think about other things is actually perfectly healthy. I think my subconscious knows that really, these babies aren’t reliant on me yet. I just hope the right switch flicks somewhere in my brain once I actually have responsibility for these beings, because as things stand… I’m kind of worried I’m going to accidentally leave them behind in a shop.

I think about this, and I wonder: why do I feel so inadequate for not having my brain in 24hr baby mode? I guess it is just that I’ve observed enough new mothers to know that maternal obsession tends to come with the territory. After all, isn’t this why those of us in the ALI community have lost so many friends once they cross the great divide? We want to see our old friend, they only want to talk about whether Junior is too warm in his hooded top. Biological imperative or not, this is intensely irritating when it’s taken every molecule of love we have for this person to steel ourselves to buy them a baby present and visit. We have to accept the fact that for at least the next two years, we are only going to be able to keep this friendship if we, too, develop a keen interest in Junior’s thermal preferences.

And of course, I swore this would NOT happen to me. No, no, no. I would retain an ability to think about other things! And yet… I’m kind of skeeved that it hasn’t . That I’m still interested in ice cream, and wondering (even sometimes while cuddling the babies) what is going to happen next in the Gilmore Girls. Am I a mother yet? Yes? Sort of? Shouldn’t I have noticed when that happened? Shouldn’t I be a different person now? Shouldn’t it have been a bit more… transcendental than this? When friends have looked at me with shining faces and told me how DIFFERENT things are for them, now that they are a MOTHER, I have always smiled politely but thought: whatever. You are such a banana brain. I’ll never be like that. And I always mentally add to the conversation: a mother is not a different sort of person, a mother is just a woman who has been blessed with children. And when people use that old line about motherhood being about learning to live with your heart walking around outside your body? Again I say: whatever. Involuntary childlessness is like having your heart torn from your body and eaten by a pack of wolves. I’ll take the first option, please.

And yet, gaaaaah. It seems there was a part of me that wanted to be proved wrong about all this, to find out that I really was about to enter a secret and magical club. J and I were talking about how difficult all of this adoption nonsense is, and how the horror of the process makes you feel like finally achieving your end goal of parenting is some shining, shimmering prize. That when you get there, it really will be transcendental. When actually… parenting is one of the most ordinary things in the world.

The only way I can sort this out in my head is by separating out having a child from being a capital-M Mother. The first part, I want intensely. We’re almost there, and I can taste it. I’m just a little bit less sold on the magic implicit in the second part. Much as I want these children, I still don’t believe that I’m about to become a different person. Even when the 12.5% has become 100%, I don’t think I will - I think I’ll be the same me I always was, except blessed with children.

And hopefully I won’t leave them in a shop.

Wednesday 23 September 2009

I'm home

It's been 48 hours, and I'm still in denial. (As in, haven't really unpacked. Because the courts might reopen spontaneously! And our court date might be tomorrow, and we'd have to go back immediately and THEN I'd be glad my deodorant was still in the suitcase, wouldn't I?)

I'll probably end up posting stuff that I wrote while out there but was unable to send, so excuse any chronological confusion for the next couple of days.

Speaking of confusion, I'm really sorry (again) if I caused it by the privacy post that I wrote. All I meant by that post, really, was that I didn't want my work colleagues or my extended family reading this, because that would just be weird. I hope that makes sense. Everyone else is welcome. I think the google is gone, now, in any case, so hopefully all will be well and I won't have to return to this topic again. Thank you to my lovely sister for slaying the googles while I couldn't access blogspot.

Here's a random Addis photo to reward you for your patience while I go quietly off the deep end.

Sunday 20 September 2009


Yesterday, we had to say goodbye to the babies.

That STUNK. I mean, it really, really STUNK.

I feel like I'm still getting to know them, and then suddenly I can't anymore. And when we go back, these babies won't be these babies anymore - they will be almost twice as old, and the babies we met won't exist anymore - poof, vanished into thin air. When we see them again, I WANT them to be big and strong, and to have put on lots of weight, but then they won't be the same babies that I knew, and what happened to the babies in between? It feels like some kind of small death - we will never see these tiny little ones ever again.

I've no idea whether this is better or worse than what most US adopters go through (where you can't visit the baby at all until after court). I'm not saying this is harder. It just is what it is. And it really, really stinks.

Wednesday 16 September 2009

Too much to say, not enough bandwidth

That kind of sums it up. Internet here is much harder than i expected.

Biggest news is that I probably have to come home at the same time as
J, and then have about six weeks back in the UK before i return. Not
happy about this, but don't really have much choice (have pretty much
been told by lady who runs orphanage not to stay). NOT looking forward
to kissing those two little faces goodbye.

So I'll probably do belated posts when I get home to my broadband.
Which will probably be next week. Oh, so much do not want to think
about this. Moving swiftly on...

One piece of GOOD news though - both the babies put on 100g this week.
HUGE relief. I have been panickingly terrified about their tininess,
especially since i saw their growth charts (showing NO net weight gain
for baby boy since birth). So this is ... wonderful news. They are
still titchy, but they are titchy and growing.

I am on a computer at the reception desk of our guesthouse, so had
really better go. Not really able to answer the phone if it rings...

Many xxxs to all - i can see google reader some of the time, but can't
comment on any of your blogs because blogspot proper is blocked from
Ethiopia. I can't tell you how much your kind comments eased my heart
last week. I appreciate it so much. I think this is partly why I was
so freaked by what made me write the post below - I was feeling SO
GRATEFUL for support from others who understood what was going on, and
was NOT in the mood to have to make my blog private. I'm sorry if that
post seemed a little over-reactive. (errrr, a little?) In the end i
decided that, even if everyone I knew, even those I most didn't want
prying into my private thoughts, found what I had written - it would
still have been worth it to have met a group like y'all. Thank you,
from the bottom of my heart.

Monday 14 September 2009

My Privacy

Hi all (and maybe a few more than I realised...)

My very kind brother has just let me know that this blog has
accidentally become googleable, and he found it by accident. He didn't
read it, because he realised that if I hadn't told him about it, it
was probably because it was not for general consumption. He was right!
Aren't I lucky to have such a nice brother?

Anyway, if I know you in real life, and I haven't explicitly told you
about this blog, I would really appreciate it if you respected my
privacy, as he did, and didn't read it. It's my space to write out my
frustrations during this unpleasant process that we're going through,
and I would really appreciate it if you let me keep it private.

By the way, I have a stat counter on here, so I can tell which IP
adresses are reading. Don't make me track you!

No, really.

Thank you.


Thursday 10 September 2009

Three Days in Addis- updated

***updated in 2011 to add - blogger tells me that a few people seem to be visiting my blog by clicking on this page but never finding their way off it. Just in case that's you, you can get to more recent posts by clicking on the banner above that says 'my fascinating life'. Okay, now back to the original post....***

Here it is - warts and all. I started writing this just for me and then thought - huh, might as well post it. This will stop me writing a sanitised version later.
Tuesday 08 September - Day 1.

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).

Day 2

Everything looks much better today. These babies are really growing on me. Also we found some excellent coffee.

Day 3

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.

Saturday 5 September 2009


So, just a quick post to work out whether i can email to my blog. And I want to see if pictures work too, so here is a picture of a giant rabbit from google images. Because what's not fun about a giant rabbit?
If this works, I'll be able to post from Ethiopia.  And since I still haven't gotten around to the 'why the heck am I going out so soon, and why am I staying so long?' post, I'd better hope this works!
I am nearly done with the packing. I'm not really going to need shoes, right? Or underwear? Hmmm, okay. Probably better keep going...

Thursday 3 September 2009


a post that I just published has appeared two posts down. Look for it there!!

Wednesday 2 September 2009

Have I mentioned

That we leave on Monday?