There are a lot of things that no one tells you before you adopt, and similarly there are a lot of things that you simply cannot fathom. No one told me that I would be so heartbroken over Zinashi being unable to stay with her Ethiopian family, while at the same time being so grateful that she is here. No one mentioned the struggle of wondering if there was something else that could have been done to keep Zinashi with her first family, and how that can tear a person apart. I know that Zinashi's family made their decision for good reasons. I look at her today, healthy and strong, and I know that if she were to waste away before my eyes, if she were to become sick and there was no care I could give her to help her, I would do the same. If the option were likely death, or even a lifetime of hunger, versus a life in which she would be separated from me but have everything she needs, and more, I would choose the latter. Because I love her. And then I would spend every single day of my life feeling the emptiness of the hole that she left behind in my heart, in my life. It would be excruciating.
I have struggled with the guilt of the rich, of those who know they have something that others lack. Zinashi is here because we have, and her family has not. I think it is appropriate that I carry that burden, that I never forget that it was privilege that built our family. The hardest part, I'm finding, is keeping it from interfering with being fully present as Zinashi's mother. Feeling as if I don't deserve her does nothing to further my mothering skills. So I remind myself that I did not make this world unfair. I did not cause the misfortune and evil that have brought an entire world to its knees. I cannot change what has gone on. BUT. I can change the now and the future, at least a little bit. I can change it for Zinashi personally by being the mother she needs, and I can change it for others by giving, by caring, by making my voice heard.
Adoption is not the answer to the orphan crisis or to the food crisis or the other crises that surround us. I want to be clear about that. We chose adoption because we wanted to build our family, and it felt right to us to be a family to someone who already existed who needed just that. But there is so much more that we can and hope to do for those who are not and will not ever be our children. We are thinking a lot now about what this means for us, how we need to expand and grow to be able to give much of ourselves to those who need us. Like so many others who feel this tugging at their hearts, we don't know what it means for our future. We see people who inspire us to do more and to do better, and we wait to find out where and to what we will be led. Maybe it will be a big leap, or maybe it will be small steps. We'll take either, or both. Whatever, wherever, whomever. In the meantime, we will handle with care that which has already been given to us for safekeeping.
For safekeeping, and, let's be honest here, for joy.