a little and a lot

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Secret Weapon

I had a secret weapon with me on this Ethiopian adventure: my mother.  She accompanied me for the entire duration of our trip, and I could not have made the journey without her.

This was the biggest shock of my trip: I was weaker and wimpier than I thought.

Originally I had planned to make this trip alone.  It would be a wonderful time to soak up the Ethiopian culture and make unique memories with my brand new daughter.  And while it was just that, it was also much more challenging than I originally so naively and idealistically thought.  

To suddenly become the mommy of a busy, opinionated, always-moving, not-verbal-yet toddler is a culture shock in itself.  To do it in a third world country, with unreliable power and water, different food, living out of a suitcase, about 7-9,000 feet above comfy sea level...is an altogether larger challenge.

Those moments that try us most often cause us to wail out: "I want my mommy!"  Well, I had her.  :)

The day we took custody of Rhet (Tuesday, July 5th) was "the perfect day."  We brought her home, fed her lunch, and I rocked her in my arms in the hallway before putting her down for an afternoon nap.  Afterwards, we ate dinner, read some books, and I put her to bed in the same way.

You will notice that most of the pictures from this point fwd (until Nick arrives) will include a very blurry Little Lady

She looked adorable in her footie pajamas.  I laid on my bed, listening to the sounds of a breathing baby coming from the Pack-n-Play in the corner, and I marveled at the fact that I was the mother of this child.

With the exception of waking 3 or 4 times in the night and needing to be reassured that she was in the right place, everything was E-A-S-Y that first 24 hours.  What a sweet, quiet, shy, observant gentle lady my new little kiddo was!

A quiet, crusty morning-face
The next afternoon, three things happened:

1. I learned that the child Nick and I had visited in the month of May (as well as the child I had brought home with me to the guest house) was not the actual person inside of that little girl.  With a sudden turn during/after lunchtime, Rhet morphed into this adorable, wide-eyed, opinionated, wild-child with a BIG personality.

The non-stop baby babble took the place of shy side-glances.  She clearly understood what we were saying to her, and she felt that her string of babble meant something to us, too.  These conversations were usually accompanied by wild hand movements, the moving up and down of her expressive eyebrows, and lots of laughing.  She found her own stories hilarious.  (As did we.)

A multi-shoulder-shrug presented itself following questions or statements with which she disagreed or toward which she felt apathy.  Example: "Do you want to change your diaper?" {Shrug, shrug, shrug}  "Why don't you try this bite of injera?"  {Shrug, shrug, shrug}  "Please don't push the TV button--that's for grown-ups."  {LAUGH, shrug, shrug, shrug}

The famous "uh! uh! uh!" toddler-pointing also introduced itself.  These requests led to some sort of food about 98% of the time.  The other 2% of the time, the request was to leave the bedroom in search of food.

"Uh! Uh! Uh!"  {Translation: I dropped my snack cup!}

2. The second thing that happened: our agency rep came by and gave me an update.  Gail sat down in the guest house living room with me and told me she had heard from the US Embassy.  And there was an unfortunate surprise: our USCIS fingerprints had expired.

We did these fingerprints by appointment in the fall of 2009.  I had asked our agency twice in the last six months whether I needed to update them.  Each time, whomever was helping me told me it was not time to worry about them yet.

Unfortunately, now was the time to worry.  But I happened to be thousands of miles from home.  Oops.

This might delay things significantly, our agency rep warned.  She would try to see if I could get my fingerprints done "the old-fashioned way" (with ink instead of scanning) at the US Embassy.  Nick would need to get his done back home in the US, wait for my copies to be FedExed to him, and then send everything ASAP to USCIS and then on to the National Visa Center before the US Embassy in Ethiopia would clear us.

A sickening feeling coated the inside of my stomach as we spoke.  This was Not. Good.  This was a Big. Mess.  I had failed in making adequate preparations, and now it felt like we were in over our heads.

3. After our agency rep left the guest house, I was disappointed to discover that the sickening feeling inside was only increasing.  In addition to dread, disappointment, shame, and helplessness, the churning inside was being caused by something else that was about to ruin my life for the next 4 days...


Jane said...

Oh my goodness. I am in such suspense! I'm so glad you had your mom with you. I would have needed mine as well!

Adopting Rhet: Click on the timeline above to read more