As I was changing Yonas' diaper to get him ready for bed, I saw his face look up at mine and I was stopped in my tracks. My heart on pause, my eyes on his. I felt such a profound sense of loss for his Ethiopian parents. They don't get to change his diaper. Or get chatted up about how funny the dog is. They don't get to see his goofy faces, feel his sweet kisses, watch his life expand and unfold. I felt like I could weep. And I felt angry. Angry at a world where children and parents don't always stay together. And a weirder, shameful anger, one that is hard to explain, but mama-bear anger on behalf of my son for the Ethiopian parents that did the hardest thing anyone could do and made a choice for the life of their child, one that I will never have to face, but still it is there.
When we were Ethiopia we drove through Yonas' village. The one he would have grown up in. We saw the field he would have played soccer in; dusty, happy boys running free in the sun. I often think of what Yonas' life would have been like if he'd been able to stay in his village. These "what-ifs" don't serve much purpose I think. Or maybe they do, if they keep us remembering what our children have lost.
As much as I believe Yonas is where he is meant to be, as much as I believe every child deserves a family, as much as I believe he will have opportunity here that he wouldn't have had in Ethiopia, I can't escape what he has lost. What Ethiopia has lost. What two parents have lost. This lovely, chaotic boy that is so full of love he can't contain it sometimes. This lovely, chaotic boy that I claim, that claims me.
At the good-bye ceremony in Ethiopia, the children that were leaving with their families were dressed in traditional Ethiopian clothing. Yonas was subdued and wide-eyed. The children that were staying cried for the friends, brother and sisters really, that were leaving. They chanted the names of each child that was going home. Each family was asked to speak, to put into words what they were feeling. Erik and I were the only ones that didn't. I waited for the transfer to be made, from nanny's arms to mine, I looked around the sea of Ethiopian faces, my time spent there burying itself into the deepest places of who I am, and all I could think was: he's losing so much.
They chanted his name, those resilient unforgettable souls, they chanted for their brother, and I couldn't say a word.
What’s the In? What’s the Out?
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