Our second major milestone this summer was marking the 5th anniversary of Mesfin’s adoption. Five years doesn’t seem like a long time, yet I can’t really remember a day that Mesfin wasn’t with us. Not only that, but he was almost 6 when we picked him up, so he has still logged in more time in Ethiopia then in America. He seemed so old when we saw him (his paperwork said he was only 3 – hahaha) so when I look at this picture I can’t even imagine he was that little. Those are not my memories.
Mesfin has taught me a lot about myself. Some of it is really ugly I might add. His adjustment was difficult and I in no way handled it with grace. This blog isn’t addressing all the yuck that bubbled out during that time. I’ll save that for later. Or you can adopt yourself, make a mess of it, then call me and I will reassure you I did it too.
Part II – What my first adoption taught me.
#1 – God has a plan
We filled out our paper work for a child under the age of 4 because Will was 5 and our agency was very firm on their policy not to break birth order. Our referral sent us a picture of the beautiful boy above and gave us a birthday making him 3. As I mentioned, he wasn’t. We met his birth mom and she told us his birthday and that he was about to turn 6. Say what? There might have been some freaking out as we huddled in a small guest room at the orphanage, during rainy season, with not enough clothes (I just couldn’t fathom bringing a sweatshirt to Africa – stupid), while the city carried out random periods of blackouts to use less energy. It gets dark in a city with no power.
When we arrived home I mentioned that the adjustment was difficult. Not just for Mesfin, but for Will too. He would go to bed crying “I never told you I wanted a brother.” But a few weeks after we arrived home Will told us “I’m so glad he’s older. I was praying for a brother that was older because I really like being the baby.”
Mesfin is such a perfect fit for our family now. It’s took so much time for us to realize that while we were trying to control the situation through paperwork and what we felt was best, God had a young man picked out for us and he was bending information to put him with us. God’s plans don’t always work out in such a way that makes sense to us, but He is always orchestrating the details of our lives.
#2 – Adoption isn’t about saving a child
I’m going to say it: A child is better off with their biological mother in their native country than anywhere else. But our world is broken so it can’t always work out that way. Mesfin loved his life and it was brutally interrupted by adoption. He had a mother that loved him and there was no way to reconcile the massive issue of HIV in Ethiopia. For him, it was so much more like a kidnapping. The rivers of gratitude weren’t flowing when we arrived home. It was more like being dragged through the sewer system. Adopted children have no choice. They do not owe their parents anything. Not love, not gratitude, NOTHING. It is with love that we enter into this and that is our choice, so we owe them that plus a lot more. Not the other way around.
#3 – This journey can be the most difficult in life
Living with a grieving child was beyond what I expected. Mesfin’s first full sentence he strung together in English was “I already have a mom in Ethiopia so you will never be my mother.” What does someone do with that? Well I locked myself in the bathroom for a long and fruitful cry. He had moments of anger, violence, uncontrollable sobbing. All emotions to the extreme. We hated each other a few times. I recall crying out to the Lord I’ve wanted to adopt since I can remember! Why would you give me a child that hates me?! The grief for Jon and I was ever-present. Our motto was “Love is a verb. Fake it ’til you feel it.” There were times I prayed for a way out. (remember I said above I did not handle this with grace and beauty) When we enrolled him in kindergarten school had already started and I sat down with the teacher to talk about Mesfin. The first thing she asked was “Tell me what is so great about Mesfin.” I blanked. Couldn’t say a word. I was in such a state of emergency dealing with our house that I was unable to even see the good.
It was an honest full year of struggles. Gradually getting better, but I don’t think I let my guard down until after that first year. It can take some time.
#4 – Wounds remain
Although Mesfin is a happy and fully a Zabrocki boy, there are wounds that will always remain. Sometimes I forget he’s ever had a life before me, but he doesn’t. Last year I asked him if he was ready to go back to visit Ethiopia and he said “Mom, you just don’t get it. If I go back I will want to look for my mom, but she will either be dead or, if I find her, I won’t be able to talk to her. Either situation is unbearable.” Loss never disappears. It just softens over time. There will always be a hole in his heart for the life he had before me.
#5 – Forever will never be long enough.
He is my son. The love of my life. Sometimes I want to tell people I had an affair just so that I can claim him as my biological son. Mesfin is loved no differently. In some ways I love him more fiercely than the others because of all that he had to go through and because of the crazy sense of protection I have for him. I don’t want people to see my “adopted” son. Just my boy. Beautiful. Serious. Funny. Smart. Sensitive. Clumsy. Silly. Handsome. Oh to have the chance to go back and tell that kindergarten teacher what is so great about Mesfin. There is an endless list of things. I think about his Ethiopian mom so often. I can. not. imagine. I’m sure if she was sitting in front of this computer, writing about her son, she would also say forever will never be long enough. But for reasons out of everyone’s control, I get the rest of forever. That is so heartbreaking, and beautiful, at the same time.