What Matters Most:
Adoption Through My Daughters Eyes
Sophie, as we call her in our family, is an amazing young lady. Her beauty is so much more than her lovely face. She has an inner beauty that shines through even though she has experienced more loss and grief in her short years here on earth than most of us will experience in our lifetime. Things that would make most people be bitter, angry and feeling hopeless has somehow made her compassionate and kind beyond measure
Her story began more than a decade ago in Ethiopia. A father, mother and 4 older sisters, all working together towards surviving each day. It’s true, life IS hard there. No running water or electricity or any of the first world conveniences that we enjoy here in the states. Things we say are a necessity would be considered a luxury there. Even though her birth family would be considered extremely poor, they were not lacking in faith nor a deep love for each other. Somehow in the midst of all that is hard, they had joy.
Daily her family would walk miles, without shoes, to fetch water. Dirty water that could and likely would make them sick. But without water they would not survive. It is eventually what caused her father to become ill and lose his life very quickly. Death, although very hard, is sadly commonplace in developing countries.
Sophie remembers, after her father passed away, waking up with her Mother and sisters in the same room of their mud and straw built home. Her Mother would rise first and start the fire to put on a pot of water to boil so that they could enjoy a bit of coffee to help the hunger pangs. They often only had one small meal a day.
Because Sophie was younger she spent her days playing with the other children in the village. She recalls a time when she saw a stranger walking through their village. He was stopping and talking with some of the adults. He shared how he could help their children get a good education. When Sophie first heard the nice man sharing about this opportunity to get an education she was very excited. You see, her family could only afford to send one of their children to school. Now she too would be able to get an education. Sophie’s Mom believed the man when he shared with them that this was their ticket out of all this poverty. Sophie desperately wanted to go to school and to help her family. She just did not realize what it would cost.
One morning stands out against all the others as it was the day Sophie took a long bus ride with her Mother and many other Mothers and their children. They had never ridden in a vehicle before and Sophie’s Mom found herself fighting nausea from car sickness most of the ride. The trip was long as they were headed on a journey towards Addis Abba, the capital city of Ethiopia.
Off and on the bus would be filled with crying and what Sophie described as strange moaning as the birth Mothers knew the time was drawing near to say goodbye to their children. Some Mothers would try to comfort their children, and themselves, by singing. Others would scold their children and tell them to be quiet and to be brave.
Sophie did not feel brave at all. Her previous excitement had long faded and the reality of what was happening was overwhelmingly frightening. She was trembling inside and wanted to cry but was so concerned about her sick Mother, not knowing it was motion sickness. All she knew in her heart of hearts was that she did not want to leave her Mother and her sisters. Nothing was worth losing her family.
Her first few days and weeks in the orphanage were terrifying. She did not speak the same language as orphanage staff and for some reason her hair was shaved completely off. She was bald, humiliated, cold and scared. Then the staff of the orphanage took pictures of her to show her new family in America. She was told to smile but she had lost all her hope and joy.
Life in the orphanage while waiting to be matched with a family was lonely. She longed to be back in the countryside with her family. She watched as the white families would come with gifts for their new child. They seemed happy and loving, but they were not her family.
Months had gone by since she had said goodbye to her Mother. She still held out hope that her Mom would show up and bring her back home. Instead, we showed up at the orphanage. We had played this moment over and over in our heads and hearts. The time had finally arrived when we would get to meet our new daughter. We brought a few gifts for her and soccer balls and shoes for all the children.
It did not go quite as we had imagined. Sophie wanted nothing to do with us. But could you blame her? She just wanted to go back to her family where she belonged – to the Mother that she knew and loved. But it was all out of Sophie’s hands. She was placed in our family and sent off to a land that was nothing like she had ever known.
Upon leaving the orphanage, the staff told her that we were her new Mommy and Daddy. To say “I love you” and to obey them. To make them happy.
I cannot tell you how we wish that we could go back and do things differently. We did not know what we know now about international adoption and how it all works. We believed what our agency told us, that we could not send her back to her birth Mom and support her there. The good we had set out to do by opening our home and hearts to orphans ended up tearing a family apart all in the name of adoption. It never was our plan to take a child from a loving Mother because we were able; because we had more money.
Fast forward three years now. Our daughter Sophie has been in our home and has put great effort into being a part of our family. She is kind, giving and loves much. She works hard in her schooling and hopes to make both of her mothers proud. She still longs to be home with her Mother and sisters and believes me when I tell her that my heart hurts for her and her birth Mom, for what was taken from them.
We wanted to make right the wrong that had been done however in Ethiopia once an adoption is finalized there is no going back and undoing the adoption.
I knew that there needed to be a connection, a way to stay in touch to hopefully bring some healing to this situation. I searched and found a birth searcher to go to the countryside and search for her birth family in Ethiopia. Thankfully we have been able to have contact with her birth Mom. We are able to send and receive pictures, letters and videos filled with tears and love. Her Mother tells Sophie to study hard and to not worry about her that she has Jesus. Sophie still worries. She still hopes that one day she can return.
This is what adoption looks like to our daughter. What does adoption look in your family?
Tricia is a wife of 19 years, Mom to 9 children (6 biological & 3 adopted from Ethiopia) who has gone from surviving to thriving, helping others find health in their body mind/heart and financially. Tricia has gone from having gone from her husband traveling all week every week to living a life they once only dreamed of and now they desire to give hope & support to those who are dissatisfied with their current situation. You can read more about her on TriciaDixon.com and connect with her on her Facebook page and Twitter @TriciaDixon.