Finally, an update from an exhausted mom of two...
I am home with my daughters and husband (and geriatric cat), but best of all I am home. I actually flew into Boston on the 10th of December, but could barely remember my name (you will see why below) so did not get to posting until today.
On the 2nd day of December, my sister and her boyfriend came to pick me up at home. We thought that it would be easier for Honeybun to just wave out the window like we do when I go to a meeting and the like. Hah. It was fine dragging my suitcases out to the car. Fine when I kissed DH and Honeybun and hugged them like a condemned prisoner hugs their loved ones. Fine when I got into the car. Fine when we backed out of the driveway. Then, as we drove away, Honeybun took off across the lawn screaming for me to come back. DH held her tight as she sobbed and fell on the grass. That is the image I had in my mind the whole trip. I can't tell you how much I missed my family from the moment I left until the moment I ran to them and hugged them in the airport on the 10th of December.
Ok, so I must pare down my descriptions or this will take a year to tell. The flights were ok, despite my thoughts of firey crashes (I am a seasoned traveller with years of extensive flying under my belt. It's different somehow when you have a family. Perhaps I have become a travel wimp.) I would not fly with British Airways again, however, though the staff was polite and friendly the company is awful. Schedules mean nothing and they would not feed my child. More on that later. Since our travel dates were changed to the most busy time of year for travel to Ethiopia by the agency, we had to pay a thousand dollars more per ticket and the time schedule sucked. Pardon the expression, but it did. We had a 10 hour layover in London on the way over, which generally would mean that one might be able to see a bit of merry old England or at least have lunch. Hah. Terminal 4 at Heathrow is in a league of it's own, security takes 3 hours in or out, leaving us with no choice but to risk missing a flight or staying in the terminal. Believe me there is not 10 hours worth of stuff to do in Terminal 4. For those dumb enough or desparate enough to fly this way, the terminal does have a place called The Holodeck that is a kind of rest spot/snack spot/computer connection spot. Problem is it costs about $30 per person for 4 hours. Needless to say, after 4 hours walking/sitting/shopping/eating junk we were willing to pay it. We comandeered a room upstairs with a lovely view of the runways and slept as much as we could. For me that was not at all, but my sister got to doze a bit. Flew through Egypt and over the Valley of the Kings (by this point, not having slept in 26 hours, I was thinking 'screw the Valley of the freaking Kings - GET ME TO ADDIS!') and into Addis at 4:25 am their time. Miraculously we were rather cheerful, in a bit of a hysterical way, but were nevertheless thrilled to see the agency driver (Mulat, an absolutely great guy that we met the first time and who loved Honeybun before she came to the US with us) there holding a little sign with our names on it. Got to the guest house at 5:15 am and fell into our bed (yes, we had to share an enormous bed) to sleep until 1:00 pm that day. Not enough, but ok.
Got up and were served a lovely meal by Sinadu, the cook at the guest house. She's a lovely woman, a very very good cook, and a person that I am lucky to have become friends with. Good thing my meal had settled a little though I was so excited to see my daughter, because very shortly after I downed my third glass of pinapple juice the van arrived from the children's home. My daughter was carried in by her loving nanny (who, I might add, referred to Sweetpea as her child). The very kind nanny tried to hold her out to me, I reached out for her with love in my heart, and she immediately began screaming and writhing like she was going to be killed. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. The nanny then forced her into my arms and ran to the van, which took off. Yes, I was the evil white lady that had come to take her from her family. Again. Long story short: the whole week was like this. She was to stay at the guest house with us, but hated us from the get-go. My sister and I were despised, no matter what we did. The families that travelled at the same time and stayed at the guest house with us were truly lifesavers, and held us close for comfort. I will always be grateful to all of them. Each night I emailed DH and Honeybun, and each night I wanted to call the airline and go home. Honestly, I felt (and I think my sister did too) that we were making a huge mistake, but decided to keep on going and try again to get through to the poor little girl. On the fourth day, she let me hold her, but only for a second.
I will not bore you with all the details. If you want to hear it, comment to me with your email and we can chat privately. Instead, here's a bit of advice for those going, planning to go, thinking of going, or just interested:
1.) Communicate with the in-country staff before going to find out about your child/children's personality and attachments or lack of. This will at least enable you to do some research and prepare yourself for possible problems.
2.) Read read read about developmental stages and toddler adoption. Not all the info out there is relevant to you or pertinent to your case, but it is helpful to be over prepared.
3.) Try to get LOTS of rest before travelling. Though it is an exciting time, get much more rest than you need beginning a month before travel. I didn't and I don't even remember what a good night's sleep is like.
4.) Pay whatever you have to to get business class. It is worth every penny.
5.) Whatever you find in Ethiopia, and whatever the emotional condition of your child, it will turn around 100% when you arrive home.
6.) No matter how tired you are, how much you feel like heaving said child out the cargo door of the plane after 12 loooong hours of screaming, or how shattered your heart is with rejection, keep on going. Give that extra hug or kiss. Speak softly and confidently despite holding a child rigid with tantrum-itis.
7.) I would not trade a second of my journey for anything. My baby is a sweet loving child that melts me when she reaches out for me to hold her or softly strokes my face as she goes to sleep.
The flights home were... interesting. We should have known something was off when we stood in line at the Addis airport check-in and the entire airport lost power! Barely made it to the plane (ran like the wind to our gate) and then off we went to stopover in Egypt. Sweetpea began screaming (and I mean with the pitch and decibel level of an opera singer in NYC trying to reach an audience in Kirgistan without benefit of audio enhancement). Smooth flights despite the shrieking child lashed to my body (Quick plug for the Ergo carrier. It was great.) and glided into Alexandria. While waiting for the plane to reload food and other passengers and continuous plodding back and forth in the isle with said child, a sweaty man boarded and sat fortunately (remember the power outage in Addis...) directly in front of our row. After a period of 2 minutes or so, the sweaty man became a projectile vomiting man and spread his previously ingested breakfast all over our carryon luggage. Of course, the plane, which was inching toward the runway at the time, hightailed it back to the gate area and stopped. We were informed that the man would be deplaned only when a dr. could examine him. Guess they would not let him off if he was, say, carrying the plague or something. Lovely. Finally got him off and sent in a poor guy with a bag of rags and what looked like Egyptian Pinesol. After an hour and a half of cleaning, we took off in a plane scented with vomit and Pinesol. Got to London - very late, booked it off the plane, ran to our other gate, and found that the flight to Boston had been delayed. Again, we were stuck in Terminal 4 at Heathrow. Too much, we'd had it, broke down, comforted each other as much as possible, called our families and sat down to wait. Finally finally finally, we boarded, took off and arrived in Boston 8 blessedly quiet (Sweetpea finally cried herself out and slept) hours later at midnight. She was very squirmy and whimpering and I prayed hard that she would hold off until we were away from the airport. I have to tell you I was surprised when we spotted Honeybun and DH, ran to them, and she quited right away and clung to Honeybun. (She had seen pictures of Honeybun for the past year and a half in her grandmother's house in Addis, so knew who her sister was.) They held hands from their respective carseats all the way home.
I was prepared for the worst when we took Sweetpea home. After the horrible time in Addis, after being rejected every single day, after having her choose to be held and loved by anyone else but me, after the screaming fits on the plane, she is a lovely, funny, affectionate child. Her personality is beginning to blossom, and she obviously loves her family. We are experiencing the typical sibling things along with the love of two sisters, and have been dealing with some sleep issues (thus my reason for not calling the people I so badly want to talk to = literally no sleep and absolutely no focus due to that) but also are cherishing our newly expanded family.