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Ethiopia Adoption

On Our Way to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


I am not sure where to begin our adoption story...as with most adoptions I suppose, it was not a straight line to our son.

My parents lived in China for several years in the early 90s, and I went to visit them twice. My father was working there, and my mother was not, so she began volunteering at an orphanage in Shanghai. This was when gan thinking of adoption.

The idea really faded for seveyears as I got married and had
2 healthy children. When myngest was 2 we began thinking
about having a third child.s is when the idea of adoption
came back up for me. Did I really want to go through 12 more
weeks of morning sickness?

Did I really want to go through the infant stage again (not really my favorite time in a child's life)? There are already so many children who need homes in the world.

I will forever be greatful I have been able to have children biologically, and wouldn't trade the experience for the world, but did it mean i HAD to have our 3rd biologically just because I could? Somewhat surprisingly to me, my husband thought adoption was a great idea.

So which country? We considered the Ukraine briefly--it might be easier for a child to look more like us--at least be the same race. Adopting from Africa just seemed to make more sense.

My husband and I had met in the Peace Corps in W. Africa. We had lived for over 2 years in rural villages (different villages--we were not together then). We knew many wonderful things about life in an African village. People often think of poverty and AIDS and war when they think of Africa, but I think of women dancing in the fields, making fun of their husbands when the men are out of earshot; of the children running, playing under a full moon as the adults tell stories of times gone by; of the kind of hospitality and graciousness and generosity I have rarely seen in the U.S.

We think of things we could tell our child about the wonderful things of life in Africa. I could read some books on life in Korea or Ukraine, but that is a far cry from having lived somewhere, learned the local language and some of the subtitles of life there.

Of course Senegal and Ethiopia are not the same--they are thousands of miles apart--but there are similarities in life in rural Senegal and life in Ethiopia. Many similarities. Ethiopia has the most stable adoption program in Africa, so it seemed the best choice for us.

Ethiopia has a very fast-moving program. We began our homestudy and signed on with an agency in August 2004. In less than 6 months, our son would be home. We requested a child under 18 months at referral, and after a one month wait, were referred a beautiful 5 month old boy named Mamush Bekele. We accepted the referral immediately. Escorting is an option for the Ethiopia program, but we chose to travel so in February 2005, my husband and I were on our way to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Our first day there, wet to the orphanage and saw Owen Bekele (Mamush Bekele) for tirst time. He was very ill, for
which we had not been prepared. He was listless, lethargic,
almost entirely unresponsive. We did not feel joyful elation (for which I felt so guilty). I could not get in touch w/our contact in Addis, and we did not know what to do. We managed to find our way to a hospital, and spent many hours there over the next several days. I was confused--had we been misled and he was not a healthy infant? Would he have lifelong serious developmental delays? What would we do? We dt feel equipped to knowingly take on a seriously developmentally delayed child.

Would we take him with us? Say we wonot take him with us?

It was very stressful. We kept hng him up, trying to get him to
bear some weight, tryto get him to smile, to cry--to do
anything! He was 8 months old now and we were getting no

So, once he began recovering our relief was almost palpable. It
also meant that we w be able to take the one trip I desperately wanted to take--a trip to the village where he had
been found, about 4 houway. If we were going to find anything out about his biological family, this trip would be the
time as we probably wouldn't be back for a number of years.

We had a taxi driver we'd been using who was very honest and spoke English, so off we went to Arsi Negele. We did not find out anything about his biological family, but the trip was absolutely worth it. We saw his villag took pictures. We did find the people who had cared for him for months before turning
him over for adoption. The husband's name was Bekele, and this is where part of his name was from (he was Mamush Bekele).

We have pictures of Bekele, video of the woman who nursed him as best she could. It wa incredible journey and I get some relief from knowing I found everything I could about his
past. I won't go through life wondering what I would have found
out, had I made the trip.

Owen Bekele has been home now for 3+ months. He is a happy, healthy, wonderful little boy. Our children, who are 4 and 3, love him to no end. This is not to say there haven't been home adjustment issues, especially for our 3 year old. It has been hard to lose the position of baby in the family. We are also dealing now with figuring out ways to answer questions people have about the adoption. There are some answers I give now, with Owen just 11 months, which I will not give when he's bigger. I have no doubt he will not want his personal history on display at every supermarket checkout as people pry into our lives.

The day to day reality has set in and we are ready for the challenges and rewards. We have a wonderful family and feel so very lucky.

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