The most frequent response to telling people we are adopting is, “From where?” When I answer, Ethiopia, the next question in line is almost always, “Why Ethiopia?” There are two routes I could go to answer this – the long and the short. Lucky you, I decided to write on both.
Ethiopia was not even on our adoption radar a little over a year ago. After our first IVF failed, we attended an informational meeting at our agency dead set on adopting from Guatemala. We researched the programs on-line for about a year beforehand and had spoken with a few agencies about their programs. Our decision had been made and we settled on CHSFS. Now we just needed to attend the meeting and as soon as our 2 remaining IVF’s would inevitably fail we could get our process moving along. Or so we thought…
As with international adoption, things can change. This is a simple way of admitting there are certain things in the process that you have little control over. Guatemala was going through some revisions in their adoption process and after attending the meeting we were scared, confused, and now without a clear path. In our state of adoptive upheaval we fortunately took away some information about a few other programs. On the drive home, M. announced that he was no longer interested in Guatemala, but rather preferred Ethiopia. I wasn’t ready to change my mind.
About a week later, I sat on our porch with all the program info in my hands and access to the Internet on my lap. In the week that passed, M. was increasingly certain about “our” change in countries. I wasn’t. In the process of selecting a country, race had not been an issue, but all of a sudden it was the only factor I could think about. I was not able to think about anything other than how to successfully raise a black child as a white mother. The prospect made me think, a lot. Could I handle it? Would I be forever inadequate? Am I setting our child up for a lifetime of questioning their identity walking the line between two worlds?
That afternoon I finally looked at all the details of the Ethiopia program and realized M. was right. We would most likely get a referral of a young, healthy infant. Our agency owns the care center in Addis and employs a pediatrician & medical staff and touts a care ratio of 1:3 for infants. There is a possibility of meeting any birth family members and possibly staying in touch through our agency. Our child would be presented with a life book that could help to fill in details of their life story before we were part of it. The country and culture interests us. The program moves relatively fast. The country embraces adoption.
How had I overlooked it? The program contained all of the components we desired. With international adoption, a few programs have been around for a while, but the selection of countries is always changing. Even the stable programs have experienced changes, like the extended wait for China, the looming threat that Korea may close, Columbia closed, Russia recently announced they would halt international adoptions. Some countries have tightened who can adopt, adding BMI, income, marriage, and age requirements to filter out families they deem unsuitable. Other countries only allow older children to be adopted. When we started looking, Guatemala was the “hot” program and Ethiopia, processing fewer than 200 adoptions a year, was not even on the mainstream adoption radar. At the time of our informational meeting this had changed but since our minds were set we had not even looked into other options. Our agency was 1 of 4 adoptions agencies allowed to operate in Ethiopia. Families abound were praising the success of the program and the care of the incredibly beautiful children. The meeting convinced us it truly was a fit.
Though, it still bothered me that I was putting so much emphasis on race initially.
What had not occurred to me until later that Saturday was that this was a good thing. It was good that I was assessing my fears, weighing my perceived inadequacies, and addressing the obvious. Regardless of what country we adopt from, we will be different from our child both by birth culture and race. Our differences can only be properly addressed when identified. I have identified them and they now occupy little of my thought.
In my haste of answering this question, I often forget the most utmost reason we chose Ethiopia: it just feels right. It sounds simple and juvenile, but having children is a biological process and biology relies on intuition. My intuition tells me it is right and I trust it.
I can confidently say that our baby is somewhere in Ethiopia, either breathing air or swallowing amniotic fluid. The connection has been made. We see our family with one or two children from Ethiopia. I am not predicting utter bliss, but proceeding prepared and excited. The challenges are with in our ability to handle them. There is no turning back, only moving forward.
Above was the long answer.
In short, adopting from Ethiopia just feels right.