Ash knows he has two mommies and two daddies, us and his Ethiopia mommy/daddy. He also knows we're here for good, that we're never leaving him, that he never ever ever has to worry about us going away. But sometimes in conversation he'll insist that he only has one mommy and one daddy, which leads us into a conversation with him about Ethiopia, his beginnings, etc, and then eventually he comes around to once again embrace the fact that he has two. Recently, however, the conversation started including increased interest in who his Ethiopia mommy and daddy are, specifically what they're called. He wants to know their names. He wants to personalize them. They're no longer "just" his Ethiopia mommy and daddy to him, rather now they've been launched in his mind in to being actual people that he feels inclined to care about. This is a big jump. A good jump.
We know her name but not his. We have many pictures of her saved to page through with him some night in the near future, but none of him. We received varied reports from varied individuals about his whereabouts when we were in Ethiopia so don't even know for sure the exact story. And now that he's asking, really really asking, I just wish we knew more. We know enough, I guess, I just wish we knew more.
Or maybe not.
I've read several accounts of orphans in orphanages lately that make me not want to know more. They make what I do know seem to be quite enough. We visited our son's orphanage and can picture him, 11 months old and barely 15 pounds lying in a dark sandy room the size of my bedroom jammed wall to wall with at least 10 infant cribs. The nearest nanny two rooms away trying to feed a room of toddlers single handed. And still this was a step up from what his birth family was able to provide. That picture burned in to memory permanently. Sometimes it makes me not want to know more.
While at the orphanage we also met our son's birth mother. Despite being obviously wrecked by the memory of her last moments with her child she was stunningly beautiful. I have a thousand questions that I wish I would have asked her. There's so much more to that part of his story that I wish we knew.
We'd be hypocrites if we wanted only half the details. We don't want half, we want them all, but it's still to this day hard for me to stomach the reality of what was his reality. It makes my heart hurt, and then enrages me that I haven't become a less selfish less indulgent human who didn't stop at one adoption but kept going, giving my all to help increase the quality of life for even one more child. And I'm not talking about keeping going as in keeping adopting. I'm talking about raising funds, donating time, being helpful.
I should be being more helpful.
My son wants to know more about his Ethiopia family out of curiosity and a longing to understand who he is. I want to know more of his story in part because it makes me want to be a better person.
"But what's her name mommy?"
Her name is beautiful. Her name is love. Her name is everything good in the world you can possibly imagine wrapped into the biggest embrace you've ever felt. Her name is tremendous strength and undying commitment to make sure you're OK. Her name is also extreme sadness, because the orphan crisis is real, more real to her than anyone, and we're not doing enough.
It's easy to slip in to the happy healthy cycle of the life that is currently ours and block the images we've seen. That's a big reason for why we value travel the way we do, because it forces the reality of the rest of the world back into our front view mirror and reminds us that we need to do more, to be more helpful. So, I need to do more. I need to be more helpful. When I talk to my son about his birth story I want to be able to say that we as people are doing everything we can to provide healthy environments and families to the world's orphans while working tirelessly to rid the world of the need for adoption in the first place.
I see so much of her in him. There's so much behind something as simple as a name.