Friday, March 25, 2011

Now That We're Home...

We've been home with Evelyn for four days now, and as Zach put it today, "she just came home and now I can't remember life without her." Evelyn is a real sweetheart - eating well, sleeping well, and always with a beautiful open-mouth smile on her face (usually with a big belly-laugh accompanying it!) We feel so unbelievably blessed.

Though we haven't put up our blog entries about our trip yet (oh, they're coming! lots of pictures too), we wanted to let all of you in on some critical information about what is going to happen now that Evelyn's home.

Just like other significant life-cycle events and experiences, our adoption of Evelyn has been beautiful, meaningful, and overwhelming. All the more so, this process has been very overwhelming for her. Many adoption experts explain that children who are given up for adoption, regardless of age, experience multiple levels of trauma – particularly feelings of loss and abandonment. Evelyn has experienced this significant trauma many times in her one year of life as she has moved from her birth family’s home to an orphanage to a transition home and now to our home. Each move reflects the loss of loving caregivers and familiar surroundings. Although it is clear that Evelyn loves us and Zachary, her world has dramatically changed in the last week – going from a small crib in a dimly-lit room in an orphanage of a third-world country to traveling close to 8,000 miles to her new home, spanning three continents, three countries and five states before ending up in Rockland County. That’s a lot for even the most seasoned traveler, and all the more so challenging for a very loving but scared and confused baby.

Without a doubt, our experience with adoption has been incredible, and we credit much of our success to doing thorough research on this process, listening to much of the advice from others who have taken this journey, and respecting the process outlined by our adoption agency and social worker. We are constantly reminding ourselves to be patient and take things very slowly because it is of paramount importance that Evelyn understands that we are her “forever family” - that she can trust us, that we will never leave her, and that we love her unconditionally. And like all things important and worthwhile, this takes time and must be done correctly with the proper love, attention and dedication. We are confident that over the next few weeks, and certainly in the coming years, we will provide Evelyn with a healthy foundation to grow physically, emotionally and spiritually. We love her so much and just like Zachary, we want her to thrive!

We appreciate everyone’s sincere wishes and desires to meet and interact with Evelyn. She is truly special. However, over the coming weeks it is important that only Morrie, Zachary and I (and a few rare exceptions) hold, feed, hug and kiss her. The experts explain that in these first few weeks or longer, adopted children struggle with the concept of attachment. They feel very overwhelmed, confused and scared from the unexpected change of their surroundings. And as a result, they might try hard to attach themselves to any loving hand that reaches out to them. We know that each of you possess incredibly loving hands and want to reach out to Evelyn. And we are certain that once Evelyn starts to establish this important bond with us, she will then be able to branch out to other healthy relationships with you. But for now, Evelyn will have what may seem like a lot of structure, boundaries, and close proximity to us. Although it may appear at times that we are closing her off to you and others, we have been advised to follow this structure, as we must meet her needs quickly, consistently, and confidently. She may show her grief and confusion in many ways, and we are prepared to help her through it and prove to her that we are without question or reservation her “forever family”.

Please know that our decisions were made with the help and support of trusted adoption mentors. We are doing what we believe is the best to help Evelyn heal from her abandonment trauma and to help her develop healthy relationships and attachments to those who love her.

All of this is important for you to know since in many ways you have taken this journey with us. And of course, you are a vital and important part of Evelyn’s growth and development. Evelyn will need to learn that our lives are filled with many wonderful people who are loving and trusted family members and friends. Please understand that we want nothing more than to have Evelyn hugged, cuddled and cherished by ALL of you. We are confident that will happen – but it will have to happen a pace that she sets and that Morrie and I are comfortable with. Until she has a firm understanding of our family and her primary attachments, we respectfully request your patience and understanding as she makes her debut slowly over the next several weeks.

We thank you so much for all of your support and kindness over the past two-plus years of our adoption journey, and we look forward to the new beginning of our lives as a family of four - as Zach says, the chapter of our lives known as "-ed" (as in "adoptED")!

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Final Phone Call!

Life for us the past couple of years has involved a lot of waiting for phone calls. There was the "your dossier is submitted to Ethiopia" phone call, then the "you got your referral" phone call, then the "hooray, you got a court date" phone call. This week, we got two of my favorite two phone calls - first, the "the Embassy has approved you to travel" phone call (on Tuesday), and then the "hey guess what, you have an Embassy appointment!" which came the following day. Our appointment is on Wednesday, March 16, and we'll get Evelyn's passport and visa two days later.

This is it! The end! As Zachary puts it, "When you come home, we won't be adopting anymore!" That is such a powerful statement... It means much more than the end of a process, it means that our family is finally complete, after many years of many various struggles. When we decided to adopt, we said that someday there will be a baby at the end of this journey. And oh what a baby she is!

We will be driving to Washington, D.C. on Saturday night and leaving on Sunday direct to Addis Ababa. Danielle and Matt Bilen, who were with us on our first trip, are on our flight! We'll arrive in Addis on Monday morning. Then we'll reunite with Heidi and Ben Hartter, also from our first trip - and of course we orchestrated that we're all staying at the same place, Ethiopian Guest Home. It is an amazing, relatively new guest home created by an American adoptive family. EGH works closely with (and our stay there supports) many local organizations that help the people of Ethiopia. I'll share more about EGH's work when we get there!

We're not sure when we get custody of Evelyn, but it'll be Monday or Tuesday. Embassy is on Wednesday. CHI has an itinerary of destinations for us to see - museums, the merkato (market), a few other places - and we'll be going to Numan Orphanage, where all three of our children were relinquished. It will be wonderful to see Ethiopia outside of smoggy Addis Ababa! We also plan on going to the Kechene community, the congregation of Jews living in Addis. Hopefully we'll be able to be with them to bring in Shabbat on Friday evening and/or on Sunday to celebrate Purim!

We will leave - with Evelyn! - on Sunday night, arrive in D.C. on Monday morning, and drive back to Suffern to greet Zachary, Baba Marilyn and Zayda Chaim (and of course, Munchkin and Dodo) with open arms and our beautiful baby girl!

Stay tuned to this blog during our trip, as we actually have WiFi access!

See you on Monday, Evelyn Sisay Zimbalist! We love you!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

4-6 Weeks...

... that's the amount of time that CHI told us we should expect between our court date and our embassy date - the "second trip" when we actually get to bring Evelyn home! That six-week mark will be March 8th. And guess what. We'll still be here.

The wait between submitting our dossier to become a "waiting family" (#96 on the list, if you recall) till the time we got that wonderful phone call with our referral was 14 1/2 months. That seemed like forever. The few months between that phone call and our first trip to go to court and legally become Evelyn's parents seemed like an eternity. But these five-plus weeks since our court trip have felt like time has just stood still. We've filled that time with lots of activity - putting together her room, a little baby shower, work, play, and so on - but the time has dragged on more than ever before.

Part of what has caused much of our anxiety over the past month or so is that we have watched six of the other families in our original travel group - six of the other nine - go to Ethiopia, pass the embassy interview, and bring their children home. We've followed their journeys daily on Facebook and through their blogs. While we are so thrilled for them, I'd be lying if I didn't say that this has been exceedingly difficult. We found ourselves wondering why we weren't the lucky ones, why we - who were among the first to receive our referrals out of the group - were now last to bring our daughter home.

As it happens, the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa had requested additional information about Evelyn's living birth relatives, which took some time and extra effort on the part of the CHI in-country representative, the Numan Orphanage director, and the embassy. All that extra information went to the embassy on Thursday, so we're only assuming that they have everything they need now and can approve us for travel and get Evelyn's visa all set.

Interestingly - maybe coincidentally - two of the other families that haven't traveled yet also have children from Numan Orphanage. The third family is adopting two older children who are in a different part of the country, and they are also having background-information issues.

I'm not sure what this all means, other than that we really hope to be receiving a phone call early this week with our approval.

In the meantime, my cousins Neal and Jenni are in Ethiopia meeting their son "Baby Y" (whose name and photo can be shared once they pass court), and hopefully doling out some love to little cousin Ev, just two cribs away. We cannot wait to welcome Y into the family - he's already such an important part of it! - and to show you some of the pictures of the two cousins together. They are such jokers together and are clearly good buddies. After all, they've been living together for about half of their lives! Our cousins, and four other families there now or traveling this weekend, will be sending us more photos and videos of Evelyn so we can admire her from afar, knowing that we'll be reunited - this time, forever - with her so soon!

Thank you all for your support on this lengthy and emotional journey. We can't wait to share Evelyn with you!

And she can't wait to meet you too... here she is, sending you a big kiss.