Hearts for Haben: Our Adoption Story

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Hearts for Haben

 

Aubrey helped coordinate an airport party with the help of the family.  We had invited some family members and a few close friends to meet us at the airport to welcome our little guy home forever.  My brother Roger, who owns a screen printing business, helped make "Hearts for Haben" t-shirts for us and the welcoming guests. With catching an earlier flight we weren't sure if it would work out.  

 

To our surprise, there was a big crowd that arrived to welcome Haben!  It was so emotional for us to have so many there to witness the wonderful moment of his arrival.  All were wearing the t-shirts and there were posters, banners and lots of cheers.  The several kids included cousins, friends and some of the children that we have met that have also come home from Ethiopia (even a special girl Elsa that was at the orphanage previously with Haben, a recognizable friend came to give him a kiss).  Searching to find our kids in the front, we ran to give hugs and introduce their new brother.  Liam had a twinkle in his eyes and was more than ready for the introduction and the girls came in slowly for a hug.  Aubrey quickly got her hands on him and she was ecstatic to see he didn't mind at all being held by her.  It was a glorious feeling to be home, to show off our newest family member and see our amazing family and friends! 

Posted by jdunn on April 17, 2011 at 12:00 am
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While we finished up our last few days in Africa, we focused on bonding with Haben.  We sent emails home that included excitement and some frustration.  He did so well during the day when we were out and about (especially enjoying eating out), smiled often, played and had limited crying and sadness.   Communicating with him was not a problem at all and we learned he was speaking words in two different African languages, Tigrinia and Amharic.  (He was in two different orphanages in two different areas, his hometown and then the capital city, which is common in the process.) He picked up about 6 new English words or phrases while we were still in Africa including Da da, Mommy (sometimes May-me...how cute!), beep beep (for cars), all done, and bye.  We could tell he was a smartie about a lot of things as he mimicked our moves and picked up things easily. 

 

Unfortunately, I was getting exhausted with his refusing to be put down, refusing to go to anyone else and not wanting me to sit down with him unless we were eating. Reverting to an infant stage is an early adoption attribute and this was probably his way of building security.  He was also having some food and trust issues that were so new to us, but we quickly learned to limit the food visually so that he wouldn't feel the need to eat everything in sight and helped him realize that we were not trying to take his food (he often felt like this as we tried to help with the fork or help peel a banana).  The same went for the toys. It was hard for him to understand that we were playing with him and not taking his toys.  As far as sleeping, he typically went down well but had a few times where he screamed and it took us almost an hour to get him to sleep, possibly overtired and overwhelmed. We felt intimidated by the issues but noticed they decreased a little each day.

 

We wished we could explain to Haben that it was his last day or two in his home country as if to say goodbye.  Ethiopia is rich with culture and we know we cannot do it justice to share the experience and know we probably won't plan to bring him back to visit until he's much older.

 

Friday was our last day and we headed to the airport that evening excited to head home with our new little guy, however very nervous for the long flight home with a toddler that did not speak our language.  We got off to a bad start with a moody dinner at the airport with some unusual screaming and food issues at the restaurant. I could tell he didn't feel bonded with us for that moment.

 

As our plane took off at 10:30 at night, an awake Haben began to scream and William and I began to panic (William especially as you might expect).  After a good 45 minutes of misery, we felt comforted by some kind words to us from passengers and we were thankful to some sweet ladies that spoke to him in his language that helped calm him down.  He finally crashed and slept an unbelievable 10 hours straight!  Sprawled out on both his seat and mine, he slept away and I didn't care much at all that I was left with hardly any space....for it was quiet.  I thanked God every passing sleeping hour, for Haben's sake and ours.  He woke happy and we fed him and walked him around for the remainder of the 17 hour flight to DC with great success.

 

As we arrived on American soil in DC, we met a whole new Haben.  A light switch had turned on with his security, trust and spunk.  For the first time, he went with William, got down out of my arms and ran around and was free-spirited like the happiest toddler on the block. He was doing somersaults in the terminal with his beloved Mickey Mouse backpack full of toys (the same backpack that I gave to him on my first trip and his only possession he took away from the orphanage) and putting many smiles on the weary travelers. I guess all the work in Africa and that long flight put our relationship in the comfort zone Haben needed.  We had a threesome of smiles as we waited standby for hours to catch the earlier flight home.

  

Posted by jdunn on April 16, 2011 at 12:00 am
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Tuesday was the day we headed back to see Haben and keep him for good.  The visit consisted of his usual crying and not liking us too close.  We felt really anxious about what was about to go down as toddlers are known not to transfer to their new parents well at first.  Fortunately, the visit was short because others in our group had other errands to take care of and we knew the best way to move forward with Haben was to just get him and get started with our new lives together. 

We made sure he got some lunch not wanting him to leave with an empty stomach.  He was served beans and injera, a usual.  Afterwards, I let Yeabi (the favorite nanny) know that we would leave soon with him as the driver had arrived.  She took Haben and changed his diaper and dressed him in one of the outfits we sent previously.  He cried, we cried, Yeabi and the other Nannies cried.  He knew.  Yeabi gave Haben an Ethiopian bracelet, gave William and I one and sent a bag full back for family, specifically named Grandma (my Mom that she met on the previous trip).  She also gave a picture of herself and contact information.  We left the care center with him screaming as we expected and loaded into the van with the other adoptive parents.  After a few minutes he looked out the window quietly and zonked.  We were thankful for the peacefulness of his sleeping as it rested our worried souls.  We knew this would be so hard on him; bittersweet to say the least.  It was wonderful to hold him and feel like he was ours for the first time.

 

The rest of the day went so much smoother than expected.  He slept in my arms for a couple of hours and had a few times that he cried and mourned.  Specifically, when he saw his bracelet given to him by Yeabi and then two other times when he came across her picture.  (This was by accident, he found it in a bag and then playing on the I-pad...oops.) Other than that, he ate three bananas, he played with toys, had a wonderful Ethiopian dinner, let us feed him, played games at dinner with William (Peek a boo under the table, a favorite), and even smiled and giggled.  He is very clingy to me and even though he won't let William or anyone else hold him, he worries if William leaves and can tell that he loves to play with him. And by clingy, I mean he will not let me put him down.  We gave him a bath, had a little more playtime and then put him to bed which went very smoothly.  He did, however, need to sleep with his shoes on but we felt this wasn't too much to ask.  He probably wanted to be prepared in case he needed to get up and go.  After that, we kind of stared at him sleeping, processing that we just adopted an adorable Ethiopian toddler.  Were there really little black arms and face snuggling in our bed?  He is sooo dreamy and we know everyone is going to just love him. 

 

He was a little sad waking up to find us again Wednesday, but was pretty easily distracted by his toys.  This was a big day for us because we had our Embassy appointment which is the final step to make Haben officially ours and a US citizen to bring home with us.  After breakfast, and when Haben ate every crumb of eggs on his plate, we headed out for our big appointment.  After a 30 minute wait or so and chatting with other adoptive parents, we got called up for our window interview.  After a few short questions we were congratulated by the US Embassy employee!  Yippee!  This is such a great day.

 

Haben is doing so much better than we expected and he is such a brave sole.  He is sooo adorable and we can tell he is such a smart boy.  God is so good!  A cute milestone of the day was when he said, "Dada", (another word we were unsure of) and then pretended to blow his nose as William was in the bathroom doing so.  He's a cutie!

 

Love to all!  We are really missing the kids and hope they are all doing well.  We know they are going to enjoy their little brother so much!!!

Posted by jdunn on April 13, 2011 at 9:50 am
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Flew out to Mekele yesterday to visit Haben's home town.  Absolutely amazing day!!!!  William and In had the best experiences and loved it.  We started our day heading to the care center, the orphanage where Haben was previously.  We we shocked to find a welcome party, singing for us from the kiddos, signs that said "Welcome Jeanie & William," and pictures of Haben on the walls.  The kids were all precious and such a treat to visit with.  The nannies even served us lunch.  We learned that Haben had a favorite Nanny at this place as well. 

 

William was amazing! He jumped right in and wanted to help with donations.  He asked what they needed and made it his mission of the day to get those items.  They needed new mattresses and sheets.  He also couldn't resist buying something for the oldest boy in the orphanage who was very down that day.  The staff told us it's hard for the children sometime when families come but aren't the family that is taking them home.

 

Heading out for some shopping with our driver, our tour guide who works with the agency, and the orphanage social worker, we found a shop and bought six mattresses and then we headed to a fabric store to buy the sheets.  We found a sports store and got a soccer ball for the older boy who was sad.  William couldn't wait to bring it back for him. Amidst our travels, we ironically stumbled across a Dental Office that the door read, "Haben Clinic." Crazy!!!!

 

The main purpose of our visit was to see Haben's home town Adigidom, so we headed about 40 minutes north to see it.  This was such an amazing part of the trip.  We felt like it was a scene in biblical times.  The homes were all huts made out of straw or rocks.  We saw babies in the street without clothes.  Haben was one of these babies abandoned on the strettes last Fall. It is quite remarkable to see where he once was and the contrast of where he is going.  Our eyes were amazed and saddened to see it all.

 

Our hotel was nice and the restaurant was great.  We enjoyed our final quiet evening and couldn't stop talking about Mekele.

 

 

 

Posted by jdunn on April 12, 2011 at 9:32 am
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We arrived in Ethiopia safely this morning.  The flights weren't too bad but we had trouble sleeping.  As soon as we arrived at the Guest House (hotel), we met three other couples from our agency who were ready to head to the orphanage.  We didn't want to miss the ride so we changed quickly and jumped in with them.  Haben's favorite Nanny opened the door when we arrived and greeted us with a huge smile and hug.  She yelled for Haben and he was brought downstairs to meet us.  William went in first and Haben come down the stairs.  He stared for a bit and then started to cry as he saw us, his usual.  The nannies quickly tried to pass him off and we quickly dug out treats and toys from our bag.  He took a few, but refused to let us hold him and screamed when we tried.  This attempt went on for a couple of hours.  We giggled about it and didn't have any hard feelings.  Playing with the other cute kids was distracting us from being upset about it.  William was so cute with the girls at the orphanage.  A couple were snuggling up to him and playing with him, adorable! 

After the coffee ceremony, a midday ritual, Haben was hungry.  He slipped away from the favorite Nanny and fought for a spot to sit on the floor where they usually eat.  I was surprised he was doing great to feed himself the Ethiopian meal, scooping up beans with the injera (spongy bread), unlike last time I saw him.  I slipped down next to him on the floor and was surprised to find he would let me feed him.  I wasn't a pro but he didn't mind the mess.  William got it on video and we were glad we had a least one bonding breakthrough for the day.  He did end the visit with handing William and I cookies and toys as the Nanny requested for him to bring it to "Mommy" and "Baba...Daddy". 

We leave in the morning to fly to his hometown, Mekele.  Tuesday we go back to the orphanage to keep him for good.  We are worried about the transition and for him to say Goodbye.  Not to mention the screaming that will more than likely take place for quite some time after we leave.

Posted by jdunn on April 10, 2011 at 1:41 pm
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Emotional wreck!  Can't describe this day better than with those two words.  William and I are so thrilled to be saying that we leave tomorrow to go get our new son Haben from Ethiopia!  The day is finally here.  The feeling is surreal.  It's still not a reality.

The emotions of leaving the kids for 8 days are heart-wrenching.  The schedule doesn't stop just because we leave. T-ball games, soccer games, cheerleading competitions, dance class, birthday parties, school info, sleeping habits, medicines, high school activities, the dog and frogs, school lunches, Book Fair, rest time rules ... I think it's all covered, phew.  I'm exhausted just writing out the week.  The grandparents will do fine I'm sure, but they will definitely wonder how we'll handle another.  I'm sure covering my Mom duties is nothing to the work William put into rescheduling a weeks worth of dentistry with help from his wonderful staff.

But on the grand scheme of things, we are flying over 20 hours to bring home a new family member which is the highlight of our lives right now!!!  We are overjoyed to say the least.  I pray William gets to enjoy and learn some of the wonderful Ethiopian culture as I did on my court trip in January.  We are so thrilled to have the opportunity to travel to Mekele.  This is the city where Haben is from and I have heard so many wonderful things about the culture and historical significance.

We pray for Haben.  We pray that he will transfer without great anxiety, fear and sadness.  This poor child is so much braver than he even knows.  He will be moving to his fourth home at the age of two.  English will be the third language he hears and begins to learn.  He will be plunged into a culture so different from his own; food, people, noises and sights will all be new and different to him.  I can't imagine the adjustments he will need to go through to get to a comfort zone where he can feel loved and secure.  We pray for Haben and all of our children that they will bond as siblings with God's love and adjust to all feel a secure part of this new family God has created for us.

A few of the pictures below show our packing for Haben and all the wonderful donations from friends that we are proud to bring over.  Haben will be given to us with only the clothing he's wearing.  We packed different sized clothing, shoes, toys, cups, snacks, diapers, wipes, toiletries and all the necessities for a toddler.  

One of the pictures shows Kaylee preparing for Haben in her own way.  Although I noticed she often chooses the darker skin baby dolls (taking after her Mom), I wasn't ever sure she realized any difference between all of her dolls until this day.

We pray the long flight home is less than miserable with a toddler that doesn't speak English.  We are so blessed to have this opportunity to go get him as a couple.  Our friends and family have made this journey even more amazing with all of the love and support in so many uncountable ways.  The amount of well wishes and offers for help we have received have been truly unbelievable.  We are so thankful to have such wonderful people in our lives. 

We just can't wait for our "Gotcha Day!"  Here we come Haben!!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by jdunn on April 7, 2011 at 11:59 pm
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See video

Found this on my friend Heidi's blog.  I believe it was made by another family fundraising for their adoption.  The video puts things in perspective of what is really going on in that world so far from ours.  The statistics help me to describe what I saw in Ethiopia but could not put into words.  Poverty at the worst that I can fathom.

Posted by jdunn on April 7, 2011 at 11:38 am
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I've been meaning to do this post for those curious.  I wish I would do it justice to describe the emotional aspects of it all but I know I couldn't.  The excitement, the waiting, the confusion, scares, the joy, the new friendships, and the blessings aren't to be forgotten though.

May/June 2010~ We started the process of researching agencies, learning about the process, talking to others and exploring the world of adoption, and choosing a country from where to adopt.  We began by completing a Home Study from a recommended Social worker (loved ours!).  This was easier than I thought it would be, no need to clean out closets, more importantly...review the reasons your marriage is so great ... was thinking there would be parenting questions, but forgot about relationship type of questions.  We attended a short adoption class as well.  We started gathering paperwork requested by the social worker; birth certificate copies, background checks, lots of that kind of stuff.  We needed all of this information for our Dossier which is what you submit to the country you adopt from.  We decided on an agency.  We went with International Adoption Guides, www.adoptionguides.org, a smaller agency who knows you when you call, moves you through the process quicker, but is accredited with successful adoptions and wonderful compliments. 

August 2010~ We send in our Dossier to our Agency

September 2010~ We get word our Dossier has arrived in Ethiopia

November 2010~ After review of a medical report, we accept a referral of our new son to be.

January 2011~ Jeanie goes to Ethiopia for Court Date, Haben is officially our son!

April 13~ Embassy date to bring Haben home forever!

My life dreams have been/are to marry my best friend, become a mother, adopt, encourage someone else to adopt (143 million minus 2+).  I've done 3 out of 4 so far.

I will say two things.  If money is the reason you can't adopt, don't let it be.  The Lord will fill your pockets and even the government will send you a large tax credit in most cases!  Money has come from everywhere!  The moment we decided to accept the challenge God placed before us, God has come into our lives and changed us.  Secondly, if you want to do more, give more, volunteer, be more....take the first step and He will bless you ten fold.

 

Posted by jdunn on April 6, 2011 at 10:33 am
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The wait continues and I try very hard to be patient but the calendar at my house is moving slower than normal I swear.  I am so blessed to have some new pictures sent of our sweet little Haben!!!  Tears came rolling down when I saw the first one.  Ok wait, a little back story.  Amazing enough, I somehow have met some other families in the area also adopting from Africa, also from Ethiopia, and also through my agency.  The few girls that have helped guide and inspire me have now helped me meet others sharing a similar journey.  This is the crazy part.  There are five children hanging out together in the same small square footage orphange that are coming home here to Florida very soon!  This is such a gift from God to have the support of others that are in the same process with us on our journey.  Haben will have friends that will be like family for life because of this.  Back to the photos.  One of these wonderful friends, Jessica, was in Africa recently for her court date and delivered a package for us to Haben.  I tried to limit the donation to only necessity items but it was too hard not to send a treat and toy in that teensy gallon zip lock bag.  I printed out some blown up pictures of Haben and me, hoping the nannies would put them up on the walls for him.  So as I got these pictures and saw him see me and even KISS the picture of me, I melted.  You see, all the work on showing love was so one sided when I was there that this made me feel so special.  This process from court until Embassy has been estimating to take 10-12 weeks which puts us going to get him some time in April.  We almost have 4 weeks down so far but this is so much harder than I thought.  I know it's all in God's timing and me fracturing my pinky toe was a great time consuming obstacle for me (ha ha) but another 6-8 weeks sounds like forever.  We did get word that we have been given our court decree and the next step is getting Haben's birth certificate and passport.  Yall cross your fingers those whip together quickly.  You know he's getting more attached to that sweet nanny he loves everyday.  Just kidding little one...bond away.

Posted by jdunn on February 23, 2011 at 11:22 pm
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You think you know what to expect but WOW, I wasn't totally prepared for what I saw.  There were so many beggars on the streets including a child not even two years old...children thin beyond belief, asking for food from my grocery bag...a frail mom with hungry babies on her back and front...a very malnourished sweet little baby boy at the orphanage that clung like a monkey and held on so tight with his head tucked tight on my neck...people working and walking everywhere...animals everywhere...  dirt and rocks everywhere. 

I never felt unsafe.  The only concerning part was the risk of being bombarded if you offered to give out something....understandably.  It broke my heart not to help so many times!  Hopefully when William and I go back I'll be able to pass out food or coins more comfortably.

About the people.....

I just loved the people.  I'm almost afraid I'll miss them.  By culture, everyone is reserved, respectful and kind. 

The men...

The men I encountered were wonderful.  They were protectors and gentlemen-like.  I kept getting in trouble for trying to lift and do things without allowing them to help.  Tips didn't seem expected either.  My favorite: they are all so amazing with the babies and kids.  It was the coolest sight to see them snatch up the babies, love on them and be so playful.  Side note:  It is customary for people to take your baby so you can eat...helllo!....amazing concept!

The women.... 

It seemed to me it's a cultural trait to love and care deeply for the children.  I was floored and thrilled by the care given by the Nannies at the care center.  I could not be more impressed by the love, attention, discipline and care they receive.  This makes it a tiny bit easier to leave Haben until I'm able to go back for my Embassy date and bring him home.  I can't say enough about how thankful, appreciative and lucky I am.

The children....

It was an absolute honor to spend time at the care center with the Ethiopian children.  They were all so wonderful.  They were respectful, loving, fun, appreciative and so poised with self-control.  It was truly one of my biggest highlights of life to get to know them and spend time with them.  Many are awaiting adoptive families and I know each family will be some of the luckiest parents on earth.  I'll never forget their, "Tank you God for my food" said so sincerely before any meal.  (I believe they eat breakfast and then just one other meal a day.)  "Tank you Mommy," several times for each small gift or treat I shared.  (All ladies seem to be called mommies.)  Their wonderful hugs, their excitement to see me, the dancing, the hair braiding (lice was worth it! but true apologies to those next to me on the flights home... I guess the shampoo needed more than one treatment!)  Oh, and those lovely young ladies are going to be wonderful mommies some day.  They were incredible with my sweet Haben especially when he wasn't so sure about his new mommy.  Just my luck, 25 or more babies and kids in a care center and my little guy seems to be the only one not loving me....but this mommy is patient.

The babies....

Ok so what baby is not dreamy?  But my babies were so different than these.  Given everything from the start, every need reached immediately, every comfort met, food, warmth and love a plenty.  How is it that these care center babies seem happier?  More content, more independent, more appreciative, more quiet, more settled, overall just easier.  OK, I'll stop there.  But wow, how can lives and upbringings be so different and effect us all so differently?  Please God help me to show my children some of these wonderful gifts in life of contentment and to be appreciate of God's gifts.

Overall, I just can't wait to go back to Ethiopia in 8 weeks (hopefully).  Not only to bring Haben home forever but to be there again, in the culture, with the kids and most importantly for William to see what I've seen and feel what I've felt.  I know William's probably worried right now about me being changed forever by the experience.  Wanting to save another life (given), wanting to do more to make a difference, wanting to change a lifestyle that's so comfortable.  It's all such a challenge....a mind boggling chore to change, to reach out, to step out of the box, balance needs and wants, to want to spoil yourself and your children or to fulfill God's call.  To hold a homeless child, to look at a starving child in the eyes, to walk next to a desparate mom, how can I not feel different....forgive me William.  I cannot stop here.

 

 

 

Posted by jdunn on February 6, 2011 at 10:37 am
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