So . . . we met Arsema on Monday and on Wednesday we went to the Gladney care center for the long-awaited coffee ceremony. We went early as we had tons of pictures to take for waiting families and we also wanted to spend time with Arsema's care givers. We knew from the pictures we had received that there were a couple of care givers who she was especially attached to. Yes, that is a slight grin you see in this picture after two days being together ....... ah, the little victories. :)
She spent about five months in Gladney's care following being at Kebebetsehay orphanage. They nurtured her, loved her and helped get her strong and healthy as she waited for us. We are forever grateful to them for all they did for our sweetie. Gladney also has a full-time nurse, named Sister. She and Arsema knew each other very well since they spent so much time together with her being sick with TB. I had heard some stories so I was a bit prepared, or so I thought, for what we would experience.
It wasn't but a couple seconds and one of the caregivers spotted us and started calling for Arsema. Soon then another and they were insistent we would come across the street first to where she had been (the two houses are across the street from each other). So as we entered the gate about ten caregivers came running from every direction chanting Arsema .... Arsema ..... and the rest is about a blur. HA!
I had her dressed in a pretty little dress for this special day and I raised her up out of the sling so one caregiver could hold her. In a matter of literally three seconds or less she was stripped down ... at first I thought, oh no, they didn't approve of how I'd dressed her .... but no ... it wasn't that ... of course it was to change her into a dress that one of them had gotten for her.
So soon she was changed and they were all squabbling over who would hold her and get their photo. It was joyous craziness I tell ya! David started snapping photos and I went to pick up a couple babes who wondered WHAT ALL THE FUSS!!! .... they were not so happy the attention was on someone else. It was precious. So I enjoyed some moments holding wee-ones that I'm sure some of their mommies and daddies are following our journey.
I had heard how much the caregivers love the children, but can I be horribly honest with you? ... please no icky comments or I might cry .... but it just didn't bring me much comfort as we waited and we waited and we waited for our referral. I knew she was being cared for, but this momma's heart just broke that I couldn't be there. Seeing these young women with her, most of them having been orphans themselves ...... it was just beauty like I can't describe. There was sadness and rejoicing all wrapped up together.
What was especially encouraging was that just after two days of her being with us (remember my last post she was s-l-o-w to warm up to us) she was already showing signs of attaching to us. When she'd see someone she knew she'd just SQUEAL with delight and leap for them. I would love to see her like this and happily hand her over and just observe. It was such a wonderful morning there. To see her in the place that had been "home", in the arms of those who loved her. But watch out because unless it was a favorite of hers, she was not about to just go to anyone and would cling to me instead. Then the caregivers would just roar laughing as she was so picky and choosey over who could have her affection.
It was amazing how much was communicated that day without many words spoken. These young women are so thrilled that the children will have a mommy and daddy ... a family. I found they were so eager to show their affection .... many, many hugs and embraces were shared.
Then we went across the street to the coffee ceremony. Arsema saw "Sister" from across the room there and I knew right away where she was headed. It was wonderful. Sister got to take her around and spend some time with her and Arsema was just enjoying it so much. It was such a boost to her sadness and uneasiness. What was so precious was when Sister came back to us and Arsema could not decide who she wanted .... Sister or her new momma.
Back and forth she'd reach, until I just motioned for Sister to sit next to me so she could have both. Then it was time for snuggling, a bottle and a nap while we finished the enjoying the wonderful coffee ceremony.
Strong, delicious coffee with sugar and popcorn. A most unusual and wonderful combination.
We visited one more day before leaving and then that was it. By then Arsema was bonded even more and while it was SO wonderful to visit, she and I could only handle one last visit. It was time to say good-bye and embrace our new life together.
Some have asked what we call her now ...... Maleah or Arsema. After our time in Ethiopia, Arsema will always be a special name for her. They would sing her name to her in a little chant to a tune that is embedded into my heart. It still brings her smiles and dancing when I sing it to her. So the answer is we use both.
For you waiting families .... with the recent events and delays, I hope you can be encouraged to know that while your arms ache to hold your child . . . they are being loved and cared for by women who are truly devoted to them. They aren't there to replace you .... when you go they will be SO thrilled to finally meet you. I saw it in them as we delivered care packages. They LOVE seeing the family pictures and show your little ones your pictures and tell them MaMa, DaDa, brother, sister, etc. They are eager to see these children meet their forever families. I know the waiting and unknowns can be heart-wrenching. Keep holding on .... your little ones are counting on you to stay the course.