Our last day in Ethiopia had us waking up to beautiful weather. It was the first time all week that sun was shining! It started to feel a bit like our previous trips there. We called our driver and had him take us to a little street marking to do some shopping. We only spent about 30 minutes there because we already new what we wanted and had been to the same market on our previous trips. We got some wonderful items to bring home to Mareto and for Arsema as well. We swung by the hotel to drop our bags off and then we went straight to the transition home.
We spent all day with Arsema. We played, snuggled, fed her, rocked her while she slept, took her outside, kissed her, and snuggled more. We took lots of pictures and video… I knew those were going to get me through some of the most painful times of our separation. It was a beautiful time but I had this sinking feeling all day. It’s like my friend Sarah sometimes says… I felt like I had a little rain cloud following me. At one point we were sitting in the living room with all the nannies after eating lunch everyone was having coffee and Arsema had fallen asleep in my arms. Her nanny was sitting next to me she noticed that Arsema was asleep so she went to take her and said, “Oh she sleeps! You need to rest!” Meaning that I should rest my arms and let her sleep in her crib. I smiled but refused to let go and just said, “We fly out tonight… I want to hold her while I can.” Thankfully her nanny understood and I continued holding my sleeping girl.
One of the strangest things about this day was choosing the time we would get picked up at the transition home. We had a taxi drop us off and our driver needed to know when to come back for us. We looked at each other for minute finding it hard to decide. Everything in me wanted to say, “never! we’re not leaving her. the end.” But I knew that wasn’t an option so we settled on 4pm to give us enough time to get back to the hotel, pack, and leave for the airport. It was strange choosing when to say goodbye and I hated it.
Around 3:45 that afternoon Arsema fell asleep in my arms. We sat on the bed in her room just staring at her. I kept asking John what time it was, not wanting to be caught off guard. Finally someone came to tell us our driver was waiting outside the gate. I felt utterly helpless. Nothing about leaving your child on the other side of the world feels right. It’s a ripping kind of pain that tears at the deepest part of your heart. She was just sleeping sweetly in my arms and that was it. I handed her to John so he could say goodbye first. I wasn’t ready. He kissed her and said his goodbyes… then he handed her back to me and she woke up. I kissed her face over and over and told her how much I love her. I promised we’d be back and squeezed her to my chest as I wept. Then I had to let her go… I laid her in her crib, kissed her one more time, hugged the nanny, and walked out the door of her room. As I got halfway down the hall I heard her begin to cry and I couldn’t take it. I turned to John and said, “I can’t leave her crying” and went back into her room. I didn’t pick her up but leaned down to kiss her a few times and tell her it would be okay. She stopped crying and just stared at me so I turned and left for the last time. She didn’t cry and I forced myself to walk out the door of the transition home. We stood on the balcony for a few minutes while I tried to pull myself together. A few minutes later we walked down the stairs and out the gate… and we left a treasured member of our family in an orphanage in Africa and everything about that feels wrong.
That night I sat in the airport waiting to board our plane and thinking about how much I was looking forward to seeing Mareto. But when the plane sped down the runway and lifted off into the air I watched the lights of Addis Ababa fade into the distance with tears streaming down my face. She was there – somewhere in those flickering lights that were getting smaller – she was there sleeping and I wanted to turn the plane around.
Being forced to say goodbye to your child with no idea when you’ll be back is a cruel sort of emotional torture. Everything about it feels so incredibly unfair. So here we sit in this awful in between time. There’s nothing I can do to stop missing her, but if it gets really bad I load Mareto into the car and we go to Target to get her a gift… a onesie, or rattle, or socks, or a hair bow… just something small to make us feel a little closer to her.
I don’t know when I’ll be boarding another plane to bring her home – could be a month, could be 2 months, or (heaven forbid) it could be longer. We won’t know until a week or two before it’s time. We are so thankful for your prayers and support while we wait.
“I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.”