March 12, 2008.
After a brief stop in Khartoum to refuel where we could feel the 93 degree heat in the airplane, we landed in Addis Ababa about 10pm, disembarked from the airplane, and made our way through the terminal to look for customs. This is when the tears began for me. After the two month wait for our appeal, and then the extra day wait due to our eagerness with a touch of idiocy (see my March 11 post), the reality of being so near to our son began to hit me. I stood in the line waiting to get our passports stamped and fought back the tears. I was in the same continent, the same country, the same city as my son. That fact constricted my throat, made my heart pound, and my eyes burn with the tears as desperate to get out as I was to get to the babe.
Travis picked us up from the airport and as we drove through the dark night streets, the adrenalin started pumping. I couldn't believe we were in Africa. I stared at everything we passed, squinting my eyes through the dark. It felt a lot like the day I first landed in Budapest, my first time out of the United States at age 23. I was in a state of shock and wonder at my surroundings. There is nothing like this feeling of seeing, for the first time, another country, and I was happy to get to experience it again driving through the streets of Addis Ababa.
We arrived to the Ayat House, and after a short beep from the car horn, Wegayu came out to open the gate and let us in. He carried our bags upstairs to the bedroom, and I don't remember much after that except falling asleep.
We woke up the next morning, March 13, 2008, around 7am after drinking in that luxurious jet-lagged sleep for hours and hours. Travis and JoAnna picked us up again in the morning and took us to our first trip to Kaldi's for breakfast. What an amazing place. I've heard of some parents going immediately to meet their children on their first day in-country, but I am so glad we took that hour to put food in our bellies and caffeine in the bloodstream. I needed it. Truly, the machiattos that can be had in Ethiopia are like nothing in the entire world. A couple of those, along with mixed juice (hello, pureed avacado!) and scrambled eggs made Lori a happy woman.
We made the drive back to the Gladney home, and Travis beeped the car again to be let in the gate. As we pulled in the drive and caught our first glimpse of the home is when I started shaking. A few of the beautiful caregivers greeted us at the front door and showed us in to that famous living room to the right of the front door, the room I'd seen in so many photographs of first meetings. The shaking in my bones grew stronger as the reality of what was coming grew closer and closer. Travis, with a huge smile on his face, went upstairs and left us with JoAnna and a few members of the Gladney team who were there at the time visiting.
A heat started to grow in my chest and my palms started to sweat. Travis had taken the video camera upstairst with him so he could film the entire walk down. My heart was pounding harder and harder as I heard noises upstairs. Before I knew it, I heard the thumping of Travis's feet coming down the stairs and the moment he appeared around the corner, the dams BURST.
I lost it. Totally, 100% lost it. I saw that huge smile of Travis's above the head of a tiny baby wearing blue striped pants and an orange sweatshirt. He handed Abe to me, and nothing in this entire world will ever, not in a thousand years, compare to this moment. I held in my arms, this tiny, very limp bundle of a boy who was so much lighter and floppier than I'd expected. I smelled the top of his head over and over and felt the tears soaking up my chest.
Abe looked up at me with his bottom lip tucked in, his shy look that he still puts on when he meets new people. He studied me. He stared from me to Ted and back again. I finally was able to stop the tears long enough to give him to Ted, who immediately held him straight above his head in a show of exhileration... a manly "finally!" that made everyone in the room laugh.
We spent the next half hour or so changing his clothes and studying each other. The next few hours felt surreal beyond measure. We toured upstairs and met the many children of the friends we'd made through the blogging community. We took photo after photo. We thanked Abe's caregivers. We saw the bed where he'd spent the last several months. We officially began life as a family of three. I was full.
I was a mom. Ted was a dad. Abe was a son.
There is a Redeemer.