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Our Ethiopian Adoption Experience: Part 2


A brief word about Ethiopia before continuing with our story.

From my brief time there, I found the Ethiopian people kind, gracious and good willed. Despite the visible poverty — people/families living under blankets or shacks made of tin every 50 feet for so throughout Addis — we were never molested by beggars. And I never feared for my safety. As one of our drivers explained, “The crime rate is low here because most Ethiopians are very religious.” I believe it.

Now back to part 2 of “How was it?”

We thanked God Olivia had survived the night. Though honestly our spirit of thankfulness was fleeting. We were too exhausted from travel, lack of sleep, sickness and caring for four children (one of whom was still extremely ill) in inconstant living conditions to sustain a grateful spirit by praying or reading God’s Word. Or so we believed.

All we could think about was getting home.

Our return flight was just a day and half away. But we didn’t know if Olivia would be well enough for the long journey home. So we took her to the hospital (the one that closes early and opens late) to confirm the “on call” doctor’s diagnosis; and to ask about the risks of traveling with such a sick baby.

The X-rays confirmed three pneumonia spots clustered together in Olivia’s right lung. But her breathing had improved and her fever was manageable. She was getting better. And the hospital doctor believed she would improve enough by the following evening to travel.

I really don’t remember much about the rest of our stay in Ethiopia before we left for the airport the next day. Mostly I remember feeling sick to my stomach and worrying that we hadn’t spent enough time with the two older kids to prepare them for such a long trip.

We left for Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa at 7:07 p.m. on Thursday, January 22nd. We arrived in Colorado Springs at 5:26 p.m. on Friday, January 23rd. We had traveled just over 32 grueling hours, 19 of which were spent on one flight from Addis to DC. I won’t give a play by play. But here are a few highlights.

Olivia had severe diarrhea in reaction to the strong antibiotic we were giving her. Her bottom was raw and it seemed the Butt Paste Diaper Rash Ointment only made things worse. So unless she was sleeping, she was screaming because of the pain … and probably because she had pneumonia. And since she needed to be changed about every hour or so, we ran out of diapers.

We also ran out of formula.

Olivia and Oliver were only given formula their entire lives in the orphanage. So they were hungry about every two hours. We ran out of formula four hours from landing in Washington DC and had to borrow a Wal-Mart brand from another adoptive family. Both kids rejected it and vomited all over us. All of us were soaked the rest of the flight.

We were delirious for most of the trip. Seriously, I mean out of it. We were extremely ill mannered toward one another and pretty much everyone around us. But I didn’t care. I was empty. We both were.

For me, it culminated in a moment of pure exasperation at Dulles airport when I turned the diaper bag upside down, emptying all of it’s contents on the terminal floor in front of masses waiting for our flight, looking for an alternative to the ineffective Butt Paste to sooth Olivia’s inflamed bottom.

I was talking to myself out loud. And blaming my wife for not packing the right ointment, out loud. I’m pretty sure I used profanity. But I’m fuzzy on that detail.

Sensing I was losing it, my wife texted me, “You’re scaring me. Are you OK?”

I know how all this must sound. And it’s not like there weren’t discernible blessings along the way. Like, for example, the fact that our two older adopted kids were mercifully well-behaved and self-reliant. A look, a gesture and a few Amharic words and phrases were all we needed with them. But even though we recognized it, we couldn’t appreciate it.

I now wonder if our focus on salvaging what we could of our physical needs rather than depending on the supernatural is what did us in. Meaning, we craved sleep, health, good food, cleanliness, etc. And we spent most of our spare time — time we weren’t giving to the kids — catering to those needs. I wish I hadn’t. I wish I had forsaken the physical and attended to the spiritual.

I wonder if the power found there would have been sufficient for both.


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