Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Post by Fredrik, Allison's thoughts in italics.

It is 2pm on Tuesday December 4, 2012.  We have spent the morning with Kysa at the doctor, she is sleeping soundly and now we turn our full focus to Wynray. We pull up to a drab, non-descript government building somewhere in Addis.  Is this really happening?

It dawns on me as we ride to court, that this is a bit like going to the court house to get arranged marriage. We've stared at his photo daily for almost two months, we met him yesterday for less than two hours, and now we're committing to him for the rest of our lives. BREATHE BREATHE I start to freak out again and again, and then I summon the image of his sweet face and I regain confidence. Yes. I'm ready to say Yes to Wynray. Yes.

For 2+ years we've been waiting for this day, now we hope to be minutes away from legally adopting Wynray in the eyes of the Ethiopian Court.  Our minds are racing as we enter the building, walk on to the elevator and ride smoothly up to floor #3.  Kysa remains in my arms, asleep.  Immediately as we get off the elevator we sit down in a very small waiting area.  I'm facing the elevator.  Behind me an open window, sound of construction noticeable from across the street.

Emotions are ripe.  Yet, this is a time of sensitivity not celebration.  Sensitivity to the fact that floor #3 is for adoption cases.  Likely some or all the other Ethiopians waiting near us, there are perhaps 5-10, are there to relinquish a child of their own or their relatives.  Very sensitive indeed.  Also a time of anticipation.  What comes next?

There is a young mother, a grandmother, and perhaps a birth father or uncle all in direct proximity to us. They are all in distinctly different states of being and reflection. It is all I can do to hold back tears, I turn my face to the window and construction across the street.

Just a few minutes later, Tefsa (one of the coordinators for IAN here in Addis), tells us it's time.  Anticipation builds as we turn left and walk down the cool, gray hallway spying an open door to the left up ahead.  Turning the corner, it's another waiting area but this one looking more official.  Typically Ethiopian, the environment has feeling of great  pride but is tattered around the corners in not so subtle ways.  "Silent", "Silencio"signs are posted around but on the TV in the corner it's playing Ethiopian music videos.  I'm hooked, watching intently between thoughts of what is coming.  Are we really just minutes away from having legal custody of our son?  Oh... cool dance move, that head and shoulder shimmy is uniquely Ethiopian.

Allison is visibly much more rattled, much more raw in this experience.  Her sensitivity to those around us is still palpable.  Her thought of Wynray's birth family front and center.  Deep breaths and mantras are her tools of choice, gathering herself for the minutes ahead.

2 years of working and waiting, praying and hoping. I want to be fully present and soak in all that it means. I gaze at my husband, my tiny sleeping girl, I think of Wynray and his birth parents and the forces and circumstances that have brought us all to this moment. It's almost too much. I can barely breathe. I get drawn into the crazy music videos and Oh yes! know how to do that. Dang girl, you TEACH people how to use their breath. Right. 

I work to even my inhale and exhale. I add some mantra. om gam ganapataye namaha, the prayer to remove obstacles from your path. Ok I can do this. I may be the crazy white lady rocking back and forth, but I can do this.

Why are we nervous?  Do we need to be?  "This should only take 5-10 minutes", says Tefsa.  That doesn't seem so bad... how badly must one answer the Judge to be denied this approval given 2 years of exhaustive paperwork, notary signings, home studies etc?  Can't be too hard, I'm thinking.  Yet we do some final preparations, silently of course.  

< in a whisper >  Allison, "so if they ask about religion, let's agree to say we were both raised Protestant.... and, if they ask follow-up questions we can say that we are open to the good from many religions and will raise Wynray in a very spiritual home."  Fredrik, "ok, so we were raised Protestant.  Well that's true, we'll go with that."

Um yeah, the religious question has us a bit nervous, and we've been told to be prepared to answer it. Ethiopia takes religion very seriously and many are devout Orthodox Christians. I'm beginning to have my eyes opened to what true Christianity must look like in the kindness of her people. We want to be honest, but we don't want our honesty to be misleading. No we aren't involved or interested in organized religion, at least the way it works in our country, but we are guided by our hearts, spirit and love and believe we sit there for the same reason religious people are there. We were called by a force much larger than us, call it what you will. 

Yep. Raised Protestant. We'll start with that.

Fredrik, "so if they ask about how we plan to raise him, let's focus on Ethiopia in general not go too deep into discussing his tribal ancestry and culture given he is Gambellan."  Allison, "ok, agree...we'll focus on Ethiopian food, music, culture."

Another door opens, we are waved in... the first among those waiting silently.  We see a rectangular room, not particularly large or ornate instead more like an administrative office.  We sit immediately to the left of the door we just entered.  The judge is seated among piles of paperwork, on the far left side of the room.  Oddly, our chairs don't even face her... our necks swivel left for the remainder of our time in this room.  The judge is welcoming but to the point... she is perhaps 50 give or take a few.

Ok, Fredrik. That was bold. The judge is very beautiful and kind...a timeless beauty, and I have no idea how old she was. But I kept thinking that she was going to summon us to at least stand before her, or move herself to the table that was across from us. This perpendicular arrangement was just plain odd, and then I remember our coordinator mentioning how non-confrontational Ethiopians are and it makes a little sense. But it still bugs me, so I swivel my body towards her.

This part may be a bit of a blur, so I'll paraphrase a bit how this all went down.

Judge: "So we are here about the adoption for Wynray.  It is important that you understand all adoptions are final and not reversable under any circumstance.  Do you understand and are you still interested in adopting Wynray?"

Us: "Yes, absolutely" (we're nailing this... keep it coming, what's next?)

Judge: "Have you taken training to understand about international adoption?"

Us: "Yes, we have" (2 for 2 if I say so myself)

Judge: "Do you know other families that have adopted from Ethiopia?  It is important for Wynray to have a community that allows him to stay connected with his cultural heritage."

Us: "Yes, we know several families in the area where we live who have adopted from Ethiopia.  We will get together with them on a regular basis every few months.  We also have a large online community of support." (3 for 3)

Judge: "How do you plan on keeping his Ethiopian heritage alive?"

Us: "We hope to do that in a variety of ways from eating at Ethiopian restaurants, reading books, listening to music and being engaged in our Ethiopian community."  (4 for 4)

With Kysa still asleep in my arms and only about 2 minutes into this court appointment, I anticipate the tough or delicate questions are upcoming...

Judge: Motioning to Kysa, "Does your daughter understand what is happening?"

Us: "Yes"

Actually, Fredrik said "Yes." I turn into to a babbling idiot. "Yes, she's loves Baby Wynray. She met him yesterday. She thinks he's so cute. She's 2 1/2 and can say Ethiopia and can find it on a map. blah blah blah..." The judge has an amused look on her face when I realize a one word answer would have been fine. Allison, shut up.

Judge: "On this basis, the Court approves the adoption of Wynray to you.  Congratulations."

That's it?  Allison and I turn our heads toward each other, making eye contact... no words needed.  We look back to the Judge, "thank you."  We bow our heads and exit right.

Back through the waiting room, down the hallway, enter elevator, down to ground floor and out to sidewalk.  Now, breathe... peck on cheek... embrace (slightly).  Keeping in mind the constant sensitivity.

We briskly walk out of the courtroom, there are two other American looking families waiting as we walk by. Tears are streaming down my face. We stand by the elevator and Fredrik leans in to give me a quick kiss and I give him a short shake of the head. Not here. Behind us the waiting room was even more full of Ethiopian family members there to relinquish their children. I thought of Wynray's birth dad and wondered where he sat, and what he had been feeling only a few weeks ago.

I decompressed as we rode the elevator down trying to let it sink in. Wynray is now our son! And then we were on the street and allowed ourselves a moment of relieved acknowledgement of this long road we'd been on together. I kissed Fredrik and sleeping Kysa...and now I NEEDED to see my son.  

We are not blind to the fact that our joy masks another family's pain.  This isn't celebration, it is relief mixed with respectful joy.  We are now the proud proud parents of Wynray.  Born the son of his Gambellan parents.  Adopted as the son of a Swedish-American family living in North Carolina.  The baby brother to proud big sister Kysa (who is still sleeping).  This is all Wynray's new legacy and the cultural DNA of this young boy who we hope to make proud.

Enter IAN bus, depart.  Next stop: the IAN Care Center.  It's time to see OUR son... OUR Wynray.

/ fredrik


  1. The two of you did such a great job of capturing the court experience. I remember being overwhelmed by the emotion of it all, and sitting in that waiting room picturing Eli's mom sitting in that same waiting room just a few weeks before. The nervousness that we'd not answer the judge's questions correctly. Reading this takes me right back there.

    Congratulations to your family.

  2. i love these updates so much! i've been reading your blog on the IAN site for a long time now and am so happy you are finally there! i'm a random blog lurker, and we were an IAN family (we recently went on hold and don't think we will go off hold). i'm looking forward to continuing to follow your story. i really loved the blog entry "thankfully unexpected" by the way. :)