We awoke the next morning at 5:30 a.m. to the sound of chanting at a nearby mosque--big reminder that we were far, far from home! I don't think we fell back asleep, we were so nervous/excited/anxious about getting our sons!
Gail picked us up about 9:30 and drove us over to Layla House, AAI's orphanage. It was a very short drive from the guesthouse. I was amazed by the wonderful facility they have there. We showed up to a game of whiffle ball! Everything was so cheery and spacious and the children seemed to be playing and having a good time.
We were introduced to Merrily, the head/founder of the adoption agency who happened to be in Ethiopia the same time we were. It was fun meeting someone that you've been emailing/speaking with for the last couple of months.
Gail and Merrily led us over to the part of the compound for the younger children and babies, called Wanna House, where a little toddler immediately took my hand. Then they led us into the nursery. Babies (and caregivers)everywhere, but I didn't really pay attention as I was looking for our little guys! Gail saw Biniam first, and pointed him out. He was sitting in a crib, and I went over to him and he held his arms out to me to pick him up. He was just so tiny, but sooooo cute!!! They were still looking for little Yosef, who they found a few moments later as he was sitting on a wooden shelf! Kevin scooped him up and we just held them for awhile. Quite the surreal experience!
We found some chairs to sit down in and just held the boys awhile. A caregiver gave us two bottles so we fed them. Meanwhile Kevin took some video of some of the toddlers at snack time--they LOVE getting their pictures taken and being on video! He was seriously mobbed the minute he pulled the camera out!
Pretty soon Gail and Merrily came over and said we should head back. The boys were showered with kisses from the children and caregivers as well, as we headed back to the van. We piled in only to find that the van wouldn't start (which of course for the Heldts is nothing new!), so Merrily stayed at the orphanage and Gail, Kevin and I walked back to the guesthouse. Not too long of a walk, but carrying the boys, I was glad to get back and sit down!
Once back at the guesthouse Kevin asked Gail if she could tell us the details of the "other family's" deciding they didn't want the boys afterall. Gail chuckled and said that her story of what happened differs from the family's story, but she came into our room, sat down, and explained in detail everything that had happened. I was so glad she was willing to do this for us, as we feel like this is part of the boys' story and they deserve to know someday as well. Basically the adoptive mom felt overwhelmed, didn't want to do it, and is blaming AAI for it. They were indeed holding the boys as leverage, refusing to sign off on the relinquishment papers until they got what they wanted, until they got their lawyer involved who most likely told them what they were doing was terrible and that they needed to free the boys up for adoption.
While Gail was talking we put the boys down for naps, she left, and we took a good, long nap ourselves! When the boys woke up we gave them baths, got them dressed in the clothes we'd brought (Yosef had come wearing some rather feminine sandals, which Kevin very eagerly took off him!), and spent the rest of the day getting to know them! Biniam woke up first so we got some good one-on-two time with him. He had the reputation for wanting to be held all the time, but he seemed to enjoy playing with the toys, walking around holding onto the coffee table, etc.
The cook at the guesthouse made us lunch that day --"pancakes," which are not really our type of pancakes but more of an egg dish that had some vegetables in it (sort of like a quiche maybe but didn't taste like a quiche.) Kevin loved it; I thought it was okay but the flavors there take some getting used to. Everything tastes sooooooo different and like nothing you've ever had here.
That day was one of the strangest in our lives. We'd felt like we knew and loved the boys before we went over there, but once they handed them to us, we realized, oh my goodness, we don't know them at all! They have personalities and likes and dislikes and ultimately felt like strangers to us! I think we realized that ultimately, this is a process, and it would take time before they really felt like "ours." We loved them and cared about them, but found out that first day that parental, unconditional love is a thing that grows and matures and of course is always growing. It was different than we expected. It was both more difficult and also less difficult--harder because we didn't feel instantly bonded to them, or at least not as bonded as we thought we would, and easier, because I think I worried a lot about what it would be like having three kids but these guys were pretty easygoing and I realized that kids are kids, and that they would fit into our lives so wonderfully.
We didn't really eat dinner that night as we were so tired and woke up from our naps so late. We put the boys to bed, (they are good little sleepers) and went to bed ourselves. Biniam slept all night, but poor Yosef kept waking up with this mournful cry, like he was having nightmares or something. I think we ended up just putting him in our bed.
All in all a crazy day...it felt so good to be united with our sons finally! And at the same time we both felt a little shell-shocked: we were in Africa, our family had just gone from three to five, and we were just trying to process everything that had happened.
And we've been home for a week and a half and I think we're STILL trying to process everything! It is safe to say this has been a wild ride, but we are discovering new blessings each and every day. We feel so blessed that God doesn't let us stay in our comfort zones, but that He wants to grow us and change us and show us new things. We have been humbled and strengthened by this experience already and every day is a totally new adventure. I will continue posting about our trip and hopefully some shorter posts about the day-to-day type stuff going on now!