Two years ago today we woke up in Ethiopia, just hours away from going to pick up our new, 16 month old son. We were full of wonder. How I would feel that first time I saw and held him. Would he attach to us? Would he like us? Would we like him? How would he look? Would he be sick? How about his leg- how bad would it be? Would he be sitting up? Crawling? So many questions tumbling around that don't even seem like they were directed at the same boy who is now my son.
We'd been waiting for him for months, examined the few pictures we had of him hundreds of times. Mountains of paperwork were completed and processed in order to get to this point. He was legally ours and we even shared the same last name. I loved him deeply in a way I hadn't loved before. And yet, I had never even laid eyes on him, held him in my arms or touched his soft curls.
Now it feels like he's just always been with us. Like there was never a time without him. This all feels completely normal in a miraculous sort of way because God ordained it to be like that.
And most days I settled into that normalcy and forget what was before. If I'm honest, “normal” is important to me because I don't want outsiders to doubt our family. To think this family- my family- is second-choice or second-rate or is so different or something they could every do or relate to.
But them some days, especially anniversary days like today, I like to center down and go back 2-3 years and recount all that has happened.
It's painful to think about the days between December 14, 2004 and May 8, 2006 because I wasn't there with him. I couldn't help him. I don't know any of his birth statistics or growing milestones or his first smile or what made him laugh. At the same time, I am deeply grateful that he had almost a whole year with his Ethiopian family. I believed they played a significant role in who he is today. He was obviously loved and cherished. I imagine that he was held all the time and the center of attention.
The part I can't really go to yet is how difficult it must have been to take him to the orphanage. How did they decide? How did they know they couldn't provide for him? With his birth parents gone, did the grandmother just try her best until she couldn't do it anymore? Until he was too sick to thrive anymore? Was it mostly his leg, knowing he'd have no opportunity there- most likely not even school, a job or a normal life?
He was the size of a 5 month old. Medical records show he was sick in subsequent months with pneumonia, mono, bronchitis, and some atopic dermatitis that caused bumps and scabs over his whole face and head.
But we saw pictures where he was smiling and playing. He learned to sit up. He was held a lot. The question in my mind most often was, “Does he even know?” Across the oceans, thousands of miles away are a mom and dad, head over heels in love with you, counting the unknown number of days until they can hold you in their arms.
And now he's here. Sitting at the kitchen table, slurping his cheerios from the bowl, spoon and cup that he picked out himself and carried to the table.
This story- all the known and unknown details- is his. All embodied in this little three-year-old.
Elias Leul Brown.
I have deep respect and honor for you, Elias. And carry great responsibility as your mother, for I know God has destined you for significant works for His glory.
Your story gives us so much perspective and inspiration. We are immeasurably blessed to have you as our son.
Family Day 2008
Family celebration last night at Ethiopian restaurant in Austin.