Our driver arrived, and we traveled the short distance to the Holt office in Addis. We had a brief orientation, where Mesurak (one of the women that work at the Holt office) told us what to expect during court. We were surprised to learn that we would all be going into the room with the judge together. That she would ask us a few short questions, and we were expected to answer either "yes" or "no" in unison. And that after about 5 minutes of questioning, we would leave either having "passed" or "not passed"- this just means that one of the documents needed to pass was not present, so another day would be assigned as a follow-up court date. After Mesurak spoke, our lawyer spoke for a bit and just reassured us that everything would be fine and not to worry. Yeah, right! When he was finished, we were ushered upstairs to look over our files and our child's paperwork.One of these files is Aidan's (photo borrowed from another blog)! As we were looking over the paperwork, we came across a photo of a young woman. With shock, we realized we were looking at Aidan's birth mother! It struck us immediately how much he looks like her. She's beautiful and definitely passed her big eyes, flawless skin and perfect nose onto him. We stared at her for several moments. I can't tell you how surreal it felt to finally have a face for this woman that we share SO much with...the woman who gave birth to our son, the woman that loved him first. Words can never explain what we felt looking at her face.
With my stomach nearly in my mouth, we boarded the van that would take us to the courthouse. We climbed four flights of stairs and walked down a long hallway to a medium-sized room with a large row of windows.
Looking around, I instantly saw that we were in the company of both Ethiopians and foreigners. I had read on someone's blog that our children's birth families were present in the room waiting for their court appointment too. I was almost afraid to look around, for fear that I would see her. But I couldn't NOT look around, because I wanted to see her- so many mixed emotions. I recognized almost immediately another couple's birth father and subtly pointed it out to them. In the same breath as I was saying that I didn't see Aidan's birth mother yet, she walked through the door. My heart stopped. For an hour we sat there, trying not to look at her, but finding it impossible not to. Liam and I both felt a strong connection to her and I had to stop myself from flying across the room and giving her a huge hug. Can you imagine? We were so elated by the whole process of finally becoming legal parents to our son, yet so careful to hide those emotions, because it was a very difficult day for the birth families. Liam and I kept looking over at Aidan's birth mom and we'd see her glancing around the room, wondering, I'm sure who we were. I have NEVER been so nervous in all of my life. I kept asking Liam, "what if she doesn't like us?" "What if she looks at us and immediately thinks 'oh, I hope it's not them'". I wanted her to like us and kept praying that she would.
The birth families were called to the back room where the judge was waiting. They were in there about 5 minutes and then came out. Afterwards, they quickly left the room and then it was our turn.
We each filed into the room. The judge was in the front at her desk, along with her assistant. There was another desk in the middle of the room and then a row of chairs in an L shape in the back of the room. Don't even try to picture it, it's NOTHING like what I imagined from tv shows of our courtrooms. The judge asked for our passports and then asked a series of questions. We all answered "yes" or "no". She seemed particularly interested in one of the families that had adopted previously from Ethiopia. After about 5 minutes, she called out Aidan's Ethiopian name along with another child's. "You have passed, the child is your's", she said. Liam and I had been holding our breath, looked at each other, and started crying and hugging each other. We instantly realized, however, that the other two families in attendance had not passed, so we composed ourselves quickly. There was one paper missing from their files, but they were reassured that it would be there within a couple of days. Afterwards, we all shoveled out of the room and left to go to lunch.
The restaurant that Mulu took us to was called Top View. I've since looked it up on the list of restaurants in Addis and it was listed under "splurge". It was very reasonable, though, in price and the food was amazing. Liam had a traditional Ethiopian meal and I had, wait for it, PASTA! Below you'll find why the restaurant got it's name. It's up on a mountain and has the most breathtaking view of the city.
After lunch, we piled back into the van and went back to the Holt office for the birth parent meeting. I'm not going to say too much about that, because, well honestly, it's not our story to share. It's Aidan and his birth mother's story, and really the only thing that we can offer her (besides promising to love her son with all of our hearts) is privacy. I will say that meeting her was the most incredible experience of my life. She is beautiful and warm and funny. Through tears, we thanked her for the gift of her child, and she thanked us for giving him a home. We told her that he looked just like her, which made her smile, and when I offered her a photo album of all of the pictures that we had received of him, she started to laugh and kissed his picture over and over again. We only spoke for about 30 minutes, took some pictures for Aidan later on, and then hugged each other and said good-bye. I will never understand the deep sacrifice that she has made to give her child a chance at a better life. I only hope that one day Aidan will meet this remarkable woman that gave birth to him. She is part of our family now, and I have nothing but love and admiration in my heart for her. Each night before bed, I say her name and wonder what she's doing and hope for her a lifetime of happiness and love.
Once we left the Holt office, we did a bit of shopping at the market. We bought some things for Aidan's nursery. We had to rush, because we had very little time. While we were there, we were approached by several people begging. One woman held her daughter up to me and motioned that she was hungry. I've never felt so powerless in my life. What do you say to a woman that is holding her child out to you and begging you to help her? It's heart wrenching.
We went back to the Guesthouse and started to pack for our plane ride home. We had our last meal before leaving. You guessed it, PASTA (macaroni and cheese). Liam had a Middle Eastern meal- love how adventurous my hubby is.
We arrived at the airport about two hours early. When we got there, we were again greeted by people begging for money. One woman had a baby younger than Aidan, held her up to me, and said in broken English, "Save her, she's hungry". Africa will inspire you and break your heart all at the same time. We have left as different people. People more aware of the suffering of others, and our responsibility as humans to try to aide the Least of These as much as God will allow us to.