This past Sunday marked two years since Geoff and I met Seth and Lizzie for the first time, at the orphanage where they were living at the time. We were in Ethiopia for our court trip, attempting to become the legal parents of the children; and one of the prerequisites of the court was that we meet the children before committing to the judge that we would like to become their parents.
I cannot remember too many days in my life when I was more excited than on that morning (kinda how I felt the day Matthew was born!), when we were picked up at our guest house to drive two hours south of Addis Ababa to the kids' orphanage in Adama/Nazret. It was an incredible moment, meeting the children we hoped the judge would declare the following day to be ours. We were not able to tell them that we were their intended parents, because they were not legally ours yet, but we enjoyed an hour long visit with them and a number of other children who were in the room with us.
We were not allowed to hug them or pick them up, but I savoured the brief moment Lizzie Senait plunked herself down into my lap before being plucked off of it again by the orphanage director who frowned at my audacity in allowing it to happen. As Geoff taught Seth how to kick one of the soccer balls we brought with us (little did we realize in that moment the kind of super-athlete he would become!), I relished seeing Seth watch the interactions between Lizzie and me a few feet away; he was intense, watchful, protective...my quiet observation of him that day could not have proven more accurate, knowing him now the way I do.
They were so incredibly tiny, my beautiful children, their tininess being remnants of the severe malnutrition that they had experienced. It's hard on a mother's heart knowing that her children have suffered to that degree. Lizzie, at 3.5, looked like a girl who was barely more than a baby, tottering and wobbling on infant-sized feet with no sign of being able to run. Indeed, when we took custody of the kids exactly four months after that day of meeting, she wore size 18 month clothing. And Seth, though 5.5, looked like the two year old that we dressed him as four months later.
The next day, we stood in front of a judge in the superior court of Ethiopia and committed with pleasure to the care and custody of the children we already loved. Sadly, the rules of the Ministry changed just that very morning of our court appearance and we were not able to pass court on that day - a hard, hard day for us. We didn't learn until we were back in Canada a week later that our day in court was the very day that the Ethiopian Ministry of Women's Affairs (MOWA) decided to cut adoptions by 90% in order to examine more closely the details of each adoption in an effort to reduce the fraud that was increasingly becoming an issue during adoption processes.
The six weeks following our February 11 court date were the worst of our whole adoption experience; we were told that it might take up to a year before our adoption was legally finalized. In our quietest moments, we despaired that we would ever bring home those beautiful children we had met that day.
But six weeks later, on March 24, we received the joyous, miraculous news: The judge and the federal minister had signed off on our adoption and the children were ours! Suddenly we were a family of five and we had only to wait for Canada Immigration to process the kids' visa applications before we could bring them home. We could hardly wait!
Who would have thought that these children we met two years ago would, two years later, be home for twenty months and flourishing in every possible way? Despite (many) difficult times adjusting as a family, Seth and Lizzie are happy, lovely, engaging children who take nothing in life for granted and whom we must never take for granted either. Those tiny children we met in Adama, Ethiopia have totally woven their way around and into our hearts.