Day One: When We First Met.
Barely two weeks lapsed between the moment we passed court and the moment we hopped on a plane to Addis via Dubai. All those months of waiting and then suddenly-BAM! 14 days to getitalldown! Thankfully I had wonderful friends who sat me down and said, "buy this, pack this, do this." Without them I'd still be in Target deciding on a bottle brush.
We really wanted someone with us for this journey. Someone we loved. Someone we trusted enough to share this moment with us. Someone who would enjoy and appreciate all this trip would be. But mainly we wanted someone who had experience with babies (since we didn't have any!) and who could take good photos. And who could leave their own family for a week. That narrowed our choices down to my sister-in-law (mom of two boys, great photographer) and my BFF (mom of my godchildren, great photographer). My SIL couldn't get out of work sadly but my BFF jumped at the chance to go with us. Having her in Addis was a cherry on an already overflowing sundae. You know how sometimes when you are at your most joy-filled you catch yourself looking around to see if anyone else has noticed? Sometimes you just need someone else to witness the happiness to make it feel real. They are the pinch on the arm that you aren't dreaming. Our totem if you've seen Inception. That was Lori for us on this trip.
We became a band of three at the Dubai airport. Spent the night at the airport hotel (note I did not say "slept at the airport hotel" because there was no sleeping for me that night.) Got up at the crack of dawn the next day and headed back to the airport to catch our last flight as people-with-no-children.
The flight to Addis was surreal. Ok, so what hadn't been surreal since the referral phone call...but still, suddenly we were flying over our children's birth country. I had no idea what part we were flying over but perhaps we were over their village. Perhaps someone who knew them was looking up at our plane. Crazy Crazy Crazy.
And then suddenly, we were ALMOST THERE and things felt even more unreal if that is possible.
We cleared customs quickly and were met by Travis, the Gladney rep, and Solomon, our driver. Solomon had been our neighbors' driver a few months earlier so I had specifically requested him because I knew he had a van and there would be six of us including him. Ok, let's think about this: 4 adults and two INFANTS. Infants in arms. We did not need a van. A car would have been just fine. But a car wouldn't have given us Solomon. And meeting Solomon was one of the greatest gifts of our trip. Family is the closest word I can use to describe this incredible man. He is family. More on him later.
Now I have to backtrack a bit. When Mary, our Gladney case worker, called us the day before we traveled she mentioned the babies would be brought to us as soon as we arrived. Wait a minute. What!?!? I instantly said, "oh no. that's not necessary. We can wait till the next morning." To me that was a perfectly normal, wise, adult choice but I have come to realize I am the only one who sees it that way. Mary asked several times if I was sure, and I insisted I was very sure. It was not a decision The Esq happily agreed with but nevertheless he let me talk him into it.
So flash forward two weeks and there we are, in the parking lot of the airport in Addis, with Travis and Solomon and Lori. Travis says to me, "so... you don't want to meet the twins today?" The other families who had just arrived to pick up their children all visibly shuddered at that. Nope, I said. Tomorrow morning please. In my mind it just seemed crazy, not to mention unsafe to simply hand over infants to people who had been traveling for over 48 hours, had NO experience with babies and who most likely still had Ambien in their system. Surely it was wiser to bring them to us the next morning after we had slept, showered, had coffee. We were exhausted. We smelled. Also, I was very aware that this was our last time as just us. This was the last time we would ever have as just me and The Esq, The Esq and me. It wasn't that I didn't want things to change--I was overjoyed to become a foursome, but I just wanted to savor my last bit as a couple. I had been planning for 2 weeks to meet the twins on the 17th and for right or wrong that was what I needed. I needed my last night to sleep and dream about the rest of our lives. I needed one more night of anticipation and excitement.
By the time we got to Ayat Guesthouse (which is where almost all of our LA adoptive friends have stayed, another lovely little link in our chain of friendships) it was the middle of the afternoon, August 16, 2009. Travis came over to drop off a take-out menu folder, a cell phone and a schedule for the week. As he left, he breezily mentioned that he probably wouldn't have time to bring the twins to us until late Monday afternoon. Over 24 hours away.
The Esquire looked at me. "Tomorrow afternoon." Lori politely excused herself to go ponder the daily power outage. I saw the look in his eyes but I held firm. This was too big to let myself get talked into something I didn't want. No. No. Tomorrow is fine. Yes, I would rather it be first thing in the morning. Yes, that was what I had assumed when I made this plan. Yes, 24 hours from now does suck but I already had it on the blog's sidebar "Meet Twins Aug 17th!" Today is the 16th. No. I have to do it this way. I need our night. I need one last night before we start this adventure. No.
I went upstairs to unpack. I opened the windows for some air and then I heard it. Babies. Lots of them. Laughing. Cooing. Crying. Caregivers with sing-song voices loving them. The Ayat House backs up to some of Gladney's baby houses. From Lori's bedroom window you could see the little bitty baby laundry hanging on the line. One of those houses was OUR babies' baby house. I froze. Was that my son's cry? Wait, is that my daughter laughing? I wish I could claim that I'm being dramatic for effect but this is really how it happened. My heart seized up. Screw the blog's sidebar.
Travis seemed a bit put out when I called him to say we had changed our minds, that we wanted the babies NOW, but he was a good sport. Later he said our sudden decision had thrown the care givers into a panic because THEY also thought they had One More Night. One more night to cuddle our twins.
Thirty minutes after I called Travis, Lori yelled from the garden, "They're here, they're here!" What did The Esq and I do in that half hour? Washed our faces. Found the cameras. Sat on the bed rocking.
We met them in the driveway. Travis was holding Baby Boy and Christie, a volunteer, was holding Baby Girl. And then we were holding them.
We were Holding. Our. Children.
They were wearing the little outfits we had sent in our care package and were so much smaller than I had imagined. They both looked us right in the eyes, with strong, direct, curious, and perhaps slightly befuddled gazes and never cried once. The Esq just kept laughing. I just kept saying, Oh my. Oh my. Oh. MY.
After about 15 minutes Travis and Christy departed. They left us with the babies and a piece of notebook paper listing their feeding schedule. That was it. Two babies and a piece of notebook paper. Again I say, crazy crazy, crazy.
I like to believe that both babies felt right at home with us from the first moment. They certainly seemed content and calm. Other than a few glances around to make sure the other was close by, they just snuggled down into our arms and let us examine their little faces, fingers and toes.
We just kept laughing. I mean, it was nuts...suddenly, with very little fanfare in the actual moment, suddenly we had babies! Humans that belonged to us, with us. We had spent almost two years working towards this moment; I couldn't help thinking even then that there should somehow be fanfare. Fireworks. Dancing. Jugglers. A theme song at the very least.
After an hour or so, Lori did her job as Experienced Mom and mentioned the babies probably were hungry and it was their bedtime. Oh. Right. We have to DO something with these guys other then play with their little bendy ears. So we made our first ever bottles and fed them.
And we changed our first ever diapers and put them to bed. Baby Girl was fussy when we tried to rock her but fell right asleep as soon as we laid her down. Baby Boy was fussy until we rocked him to sleep. From the get-go she fell asleep easier on her own and Baby Boy needed a tiny bit more cuddling. They are still that way.
Ayat has one crib which worked perfectly for us. The twins fit together like little puzzle pieces and went soundly to sleep.
After an hour or so of decompressing we went to bed...if I remember correctly without bothering to have dinner. Solomon came back to check on us and we were all passed out. Which was good because according to the VIPoNP (Very Important Piece of Notebook Paper) we had to feed them again in three hours!
And that was what happened on our first day as a family of four. It was funny and exhausting and sans fanfare or theme music but nevertheless miraculous in every way. These two incredible beings were handed to us and finally we were able to physically confirm what we already knew in our hearts, that we four belonged together.
What a day. What a glorious day.
ps-for the record it turns out that lots of agencies make you wait until the day after you arrive in country to meet your children so I'm not the only one out there thinking this makes sense. But I have to admit I am soooo glad we met our kids on Aug 16th. I can't imagine having one less day with them. Once again, dammit, The Esquire was right.