I have good intentions of re-posting our Ethiopia travel journals here someday, but that is not what this is. Today is remembering that life-changing moment, three years ago, when I met my daughter. It is engrained on my brain as much as my son’s birth story. I thought today, on Cocoa’s third Gotcha Day, I would share a little more about our journey.
The journey to this moment was not an easy one. It was one of heartbreak. Of loss. Of waiting. Twenty-two months of waiting, to be exact. It is easy for me to celebrate having this amazing little girl in my life. But I also need to acknowledge that while this was a moment of celebration and joy for me and my husband, there was pain there. Though she was incredibly young, there was an indescribable pain in her eyes. It came and went, but it was present.
I remember walking into a room of crying and babbling babies. I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of them. Beautiful faces, longing eyes. Many of them I recognized, but none of them were mine. When a special mother pointed us in the direction of our sleeping beauty, my heart raced. This was it. The moment I would meet my daughter. I was immediately shocked at her tiny size. In the photos friends had sent us, we had noticed her weight gain with joy. She was gaining some baby chub, much needed baby chub. But I never imagined she would still be this small.
When her tiny eyes opened, she was completely unaware of what was going on. She accepted all the attention and even smiled, much to my delight. Oh, how I had longed to see that beautiful smile. Looking into that perfect little face, I was overflowing with love for this precious child. Our child. It was instantaneous. There was never a moment where she didn’t feel like ours. Even when her reality set in that we were sticking around…
As I tried to feed her a bottle and rock her to sleep, I could see the fear and uncertainty in her eyes. I cried with her, at the gravity of her loss. I gleaned any advice I could from her special mothers. I learned how she preferred to be held. Whispered familiar Amharic in her ears. Patted her bum and covered her face with a blanket to mimic everything she had come familiar with over the last few months. She eventually fell asleep, but when she woke she was even more afraid.
It was a long road to a peaceful night’s sleep in our home. And although our Cocoa is a completely different girl today, there are still times where I see a glimpse of that scared little girl in her eyes. Every day I am thankful for her beautiful presence in our lives. For the unbridled joy she brings to every situation. Yet it hurts every time I get a glimpse of the pain she is forced to continue to work through for the rest of her life. Its simply not fair. But by God’s grace, she will never be alone to work through it.
***Note: While we were in the adoption process and even immediately after, I often looked at things with rose-shaded glasses. But as you watch your child heal and learn to trust, you are forced to look at the good WITH the bad. Although I desire to share our journey with a complete transparency, I struggle to find the balance between doing that and over sharing. However, I feel that only sharing one side of the journey does a complete disservice to any prospective adoptive parents out there. So I ask that you be patient with me as I continue to process what we’ve learned while still protecting my daughter’s story.***