8/30: What Have Your Kids Done for You? Part II

November 8, 2010

in Adoption, Experiences, Travel

This is continued from yesterday’s post, Part I.

After we came home from Vietnam, beat to hell, exhausted, sick, worn out and full of happiness over being Matty’s parents, I realized exactly how changed I was.

Stupid, right?

It took me 27 years to open my narrow fucking mind to experiences outside the safety of the borders of my country.

A lot happened between the time we arrived home and the time we sent our dossier to Ethiopia. Part of the blessing of being able to let go of control and experience life allowed me to travel back and forth between home and Washington, DC. Matty and I spent at least two of the ten months after he came home there. Ed spent a whole lot more there, but that wasn’t voluntary. We went to St. Louis and Chicago and Kansas and Virginia and Maryland. We flew on 30-ish flights, many of them just Matty and I. I learned to be flexible, comfortable, unstructured.

I never would have done that a year prior. Ever. And as a result, I experienced a whole lotta life on the other side of my own country.

And, of course, there was more. At least a hundred hours of discussions on the kitchen floor, well into the morning hours, occurred. Night after night. People don’t like to talk about discussions that they had — or I certainly hope they had — about adopting children of other races.

The discussions we had when we decided to adopt from Ethiopia, after adopting from Vietnam, covered a lot, but much centered around adding a child of another race to our family. What it would mean for our kids. What their lives would be like. Where we could live. Again, another post. And it will happen. Because if adoptive parents aren’t having these discussions, their homestudy agency sucks (what? whoever heard of such a thing?) and they’re doing their future children a huge disservice.

No part of these discussions revolved around whether I’d travel to Ethiopia. Of course I would. Despite doctors telling me it was a bad idea, that I would get sick (and holy shit, did I get sick), that I should let Ed go or we should escort, I. was. going.

We decided to spend four (or five?) days in Dubai on our way over. Why not do the time zone switch in a five star resort for free, courtesy of Ed’s hellacious travel routine from the previous year.

And I was excited. So excited. Because the opportunity to see more of the world was one I never thought I’d have, take or appreciate.

(There’s a nice long multi-post series here about how Ed was laid off two months before travel, while we still had $10K in adoption fees due, while we had to book and pay for all of our travel, etc., but you know, another day.)

So we arrived in Dubai.

Excess, anyone?

There’s nowhere to begin.

I had my picture taken by a fake fire, in a fake ski lodge, at an indoor ski slope. Huh?

I learned that American Barbie doesn’t have to be such a two dollar whore. I mean, for real.

I saw local life

I saw excess

And even though I didn’t particulalry love the place, I was so grateful for the experience.

And then I got to see so much more.

When your plane lands here, you know you’re out of you comfort zone

We passed on the Big Name Hotel so that we could stay in a guest house and be with Molley. Running water — that wasn’t clean, anyway — and electricity were unreliable and often out. As it turns out, showers don’t really matter all that much. For real.

I rode in a rickety boat (that took on a lot of water…that required bucketing out of the boat), with no life jackets, and a baby…have I mentioned how much I fear water?…all the way across a lake

so that I could get so close to hippos (mommies and babies) I could nearly touch them.

We drove up windy roads, to 11,000 feet, where I (always) get awful altitude sickness, to walk five miles to a monestary built in the 1600′s. Along the way, we saw lots of things, like this:

The zoo has never been the same since.

And, of course, I became a mom again.

I did get sick in Ethiopia. Very sick. I caught some sort of intestinal bug that I thought might kill me. After laying in bed with it for just one day, I felt like it had been ten. It was an awful kind of sick – the kind of bug that your body isn’t used to having. The kind that attacks a weak system with a vengeance.

The kind of sick where I laid in bed and prayed that I wouldn’t need an IV…because there wasn’t anywhere for me to get one. An international medicine MD was in our travel group and he said, “If you get much worse, don’t wait. Go back to Dubai.” Awesome. Fortunately, something that never happens to me…happened  (I’ve needed too many IVs to count when I’ve been sick). I got better. Well, not better. But well enough to sort of function. The rest I sucked up. So I got to do more.

I didn’t eat for a week. I lived off of  (real, non-High Fructose Corn Syrup) Coke. I had a hanful of scary blood sugar incidents. I came home unbeleivably sick. I had every test under the sun run, from Malaria to things I can’t pronounce. I dunno. It took a few months. Cracked ribs, separated ribs, coughing that made the time I had whooping cough during college seem fun.

I ended up with pneumonia, Mono and a few other viruses and infections, some of which were never ID’d. I’m very susceptible to pneumonia now. I’ve had it three times in the past 18 months.

I would change exactly nothing. I can’t wait to return.

My kids opened my eyes to a world that I’d only seen in magazines and on television, one that was always slanted and one that I didn’t know I had wanted to see. I experienced life in a way I’d never dreamed…because I’d never bothered to dream.

Some people want to win the lottery so they can buy a $10 million home on the beach and drive cars worth five Ivy League school educations. I’d love to win the lottery so I could pack my kids up and move to a developing country for six months, see, travel, experience, do something real, make a difference, and then move to another.

I used to be that person. I would have bought the house on the beach.

(I should really buy a lottery ticket one day.)

When random people — people who are sadly misinformed and don’t understand what adoption is about — tell me how lucky my kids are, they have no idea how lucky I am. Besides getting to be their mom, which in and of itself is enough, look at what their existence has shown me.

I’ll never be able to give them what they’ve given me. They’ve opened my heart, made me raw, showed me what unconditional love feels like, and made me feel pain, fear, excitement, adoration, frustration, exhaustion and love like I never knew possible.

So, sure, introducing me to the world and giving me a desire to see it may seem small, but to me, it’s anything but.

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

kerryanne November 9, 2010 at 5:37 am

Beautiful part 2, Laura. xx


laura November 9, 2010 at 8:09 am

Life changing and settling at the same time international adoption is multifaceted and hard to capture in words. Thank you for your eloquence!


Kelley O November 9, 2010 at 9:16 am

I love this!! I’ll win the lottery too and we will travel with you xxxx


Terry Webb November 9, 2010 at 10:51 am

Because that is what kids do to and for us and while we are all so different, we are also so similar. I love your H20 experiences in both countries-babies and boats, now that is conquering your fears. Thank you for sharing.


Jill November 9, 2010 at 11:37 am

What an awesome way to change your life. You are so totally blessed!


Jena November 9, 2010 at 1:26 pm

phew- I think the biggest change for me is/was in my perception of adoption itself… When we first started the journey, I had the total messiah adoption complex… thought EVERYONE should be adopting….
not so much anymore…

adopting opened my eyes to adoption, and to the very ugliest parts of the human condition- child trafficking… not sure if much gets uglier than that…

Adoption helped to change the way I see different facets of my faith(along with some other fun life circumstances), and my role as a mother, friend wife and human-at-large(no pun intended)…

Adoption made me rethink “discipline” and choose to discipline our children very differently than most of the people around us.

Adoption made me realize how much I can love, and how very little I know how to do it well…

Adoption introduced me to people I now consider my friends- who I have learned from, and been challenged by….

While, like you I realize that adoption is not about me, it has changed me, and I am grateful.

(sorry for the hi-jack)


Laura November 9, 2010 at 2:41 pm

Not a hi-jack, Jena. Thank you!!! I’ve been struggling so much with the National Adoption Month garbage (sorry…but it’s too much to take) and I was getting very caught up in the hard parts. which, of course, I need to be caught up in, but not to the point that I was. Thinking about the great changes — not just the very necessary but hard ones — is allowing me to keep my head above water. Thank you for sharing yours. xoxo


Jena November 10, 2010 at 5:07 am

National Adoption Month/Sunday…
that is a loaded topic…
Care to write about it so I can send friends to your blog to have an educational read?
I just can’t muster up the energy or the right words myself…


Kathy November 10, 2010 at 10:23 am

This is why I love you! You are amazing. And open. And honest. You’ve taught me so much in the short time I’ve known you. Adoption has introduced me to some of the most amazing people I’ll ever know. Just one of the many things I am grateful for.


Laura {{A(n) (un)Common Family}} November 15, 2010 at 12:47 am

I love you, too, Kathy!! I couldn’t agree more about adoption bringing incredible people into my life. xo


Kelli K November 10, 2010 at 5:57 pm

we have the same “when I win the lottery” dream. I should really start playing. Although I’ve already decided that if education in my state keeps getting worse, the first place I am looking for a job is Vietnam…


Melissa November 11, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Beautifully written.


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