The directors of the House of Hope in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (where Ash lived prior to our arrival) are in the US visiting CHI families and we have the honor of hosting them for the NY portion of their trip. We've been looking forward to it for quite a while now, however I had no idea that just one tiny conversation during our first lunch together would have such a profound impact on my heart, my perspective, my... everything. See, Ethiopian adoption regulations include a requirement to send post-placements updates to the orphanage after 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months at home and then annually until the child is 18 years old. These reports include pictures and details about family life, how the child is developing/attaching/etc... and serve many purposes, one of which is to update the birth family with these details. I've read several stories from other families that led me to believe that (for many different reasons) birth families are sometimes unable to obtain and view the reports. We discovered today, however, that this is most certainly NOT the case for our family.
Apparently Ash's birth mother not only travels to the orphanage to retrieve the reports, she complains (loudly) if they're not there on time and in more than one instance has demanded that the orphanage call the House of Hope to find out when the next report will be arriving. It's gotten to the point where when the phone call is made the House of Hope employee will say to everyone, "It's Wondemu's mom, when is her next report arriving?" and everyone knows exactly who they're talking about. She's not only getting them but she's reading them, and I'm sure doing her darnedest to live them and feel them and love them.
As thrilled as I am that I now know she is receiving these updates it also lays heavy on my heart. It makes me sad to think about her reading the reports, viewing the pictures, thinking about what must have been going through Ash's mind when they were taken. Longing for a change in reality so that he could still be with her and giggling to her tickles and cuddling in her arms. It's not right that she's over there and he's over here. The more I think about it, the fact that she actively pursues, waits for, embraces our reports makes me question whether we did the right thing by taking him from her. We knew the circumstances, we knew the reasons behind her decision, we met her and shared what we felt was a deep understanding and connection that far surpasses any other we'll ever have. But we'll never fully understand why life had to proceed as it did, no circumstance will ever fully 100% explain the ending to this story.
So, I'm happy. I'm happy that the story we'll one day share with Ashton is one of extreme love and pain and sacrifice and hope. Hope, because we will one day take Ashton to Ethiopia and we now know it will be possible to meet her again. And, I'm shattered. Shattered by the reality of this, knowing that the fact that I lose sleep wondering how she's doing absolutely pales in comparison to the agony she must feel at night living the reality that she's there, and he's here. And finally, I'm ready to share. Talk openly with Ash about his birth mother and share pictures and stories with him with a renewed confidence that I can end our conversations with...
"And when you meet her again one day, you'll remember her amazing hugs. They're the best hugs ever. They feel just like this."