It was over 2 years ago that we recieved Tessa's referral and the photo above of our sweet girl. I knew she was meant to be our child. On that day I read her referral and I knew in my mind that she would have many questions for us one day about what I was reading. The fact was that there were so many empty spaces and unknowns in her referral. Those unknowns made me feel a deep sadness, one a mother imagine's for her child. I knew I wouldn't be able to answer those questions. I might be able to answer a couple of those questions imagining the context of her birth in Ethiopia at that time in history. We would just have to imagine.
Until a couple months ago I didn't even realize it was even possible to search for our daughter's birth family in Ethiopia. All we knew was she has been "left to be found", she didn't have any sort of known birth history. It was through this big blog world, that I saw another adoptive family had done a birth parent search with "Ethiostork". I checked out Ethiostork's blog www.ethiostork.blogspot.com and I couldn't get the thought of a search out of my mind. Knowing that we could at least try.....we might find out more about her history and her birth family.
There is also the realization that 2 years have passed. That is 2 years from the pain of it. But that also means 2 years where information could be fading or lost. I realized I didn't want any more time to pass. That NOW was the time to search.
I think it might be a common feeling as an adoptive parent, but I felt a bit vulnerable in this process. I didn't want someone to take advantage of us and our desire to connect to our daughter's history. I saw Ethiostork's website and all the resources that they provide for Ethiopian adoptive families. Conducting a birth parent search is just one aspect of their service to adoptive families. After researching, conversations about the process with Duni, founder of Ethiostork, making sure it was all legitimate, talking with other families (via email) and then doing some soul searching, I new the time was right for us to do a birth parent search for our daughter and took the leap.
It was a bit of a leap of faith. But I trusted that Ethiostork would represent us well, and do their best to find out any information possible. While I never thought this process would ever be possible, I had fantasies that I could one day search for her birth parent....but we know full well that "I" couldn't just waltz into an Ethiopian village and start asking very personal and sensitive questions. It takes the right Ethiopian person, who knows the culture, the language, the systems to do that investigating and to ask those really tough questions.
I knew that in this process that the information we had could lead to a dead end. Of course, it would be impossible for Ethiostork to guarantee that a birth parent would be found, but they did say they have had good successes. So, this process was about trust and hope....that if we sent an Ethiostork investigator out into our daughter's village that he/she would be able to uncover some information that would lead to a birth parent or relative. If there was a dead end in the process more than anything I wanted to be able to tell Tessa that we tried.
Of course, each person's birth parent search is bound to be very different. There may be painful realities. I can tell you in our case it just took the right person to ask the questions to get to the truth. The truth that was right there below the surface. It didn't take long at all to find out the treasured information about my daughter's birth history and first family.
I know now that things in Ethiopia aren't always as they first appear. Sadly, people are so often in desperate situations and are forced to create stories to bring children into care when they can't care for them. It is a fact....a very sad fact. It is also a fact that Ethiostork helped us uncover the truth. They have given our daughter the answers. She will know names, she will know context and will even know the treasured face of her first mother because Ethiostork created a DVD of their interview. It is an incredible gift. I am so grateful I listened to my instinct, trusted and took the leap to search for our daughter's first family with Ethiostork.
This is our daughter today.....
today she will point to her shirt and say "Africa". I ask her, "Where were you born?" and she says "Oo-pia". Some day she will know even more and will have answers. Having her story she will be able to have a better understanding of her past. Her story is apart of our family today and for future generations, and we are so grateful to know it.
If you are reading this and would like to talk more about our journey with Ethiostork and our birth family search in Ethiopia, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.