Over the last couple of years, many of you have asked me to write about how Abeh became my son. I didn’t think I’d ever actually write this, but after all your nudging and the time that has passed, perhaps it is a story worth telling, I hope you’ll agree.
When I met my wife Betsy at the age of 40, I envisioned my life full of freedom and empty of children. I’d been married for nearly twenty years prior and had kind of assumed that I wasn’t meant to be a parent. When I met Betsy, she introduced me to a beautiful little 2-year-old girl named Lily who would become my stepdaughter. That was the pivotal moment, the time that I realized I hadn’t been reaching my life’s potential. The most amazing part of this revelation was that Betsy was also open to the idea of more children.
Three years and one miscarriage later, not to mention the endless shots of fertility meds that Betsy had to endure, we were right where we’d started in the process. Yes, there was a wedding in there at some point, mostly for formality sake. Doctors called it "undiagnosed infertility," a fancy term for "there’s nothing wrong , just be patient." At nearly 45 years old, my patience wasn’t what I was afraid of losing. My stepdaughter was growing to an age that would make this change full of drama for her. That’s why we turned to adopting, with the idea that a child closer to her age would make for an easier transition. The jury is still out on that topic.
I learned early in the process that adoption is nothing like you’d imagine. After applications, interviews, home studies and fingerprints (yes, fingerprints), there was no bundle of joy turned over to us at a private meeting in a hotel lobby. Instead, we learned about the many adoption programs that we didn’t qualify for. Age, prior divorce, religious beliefs (or lack thereof) and Lily’s age removed many options from the list. Once paired down, one program that caught our attention was that of Ethiopia, where the culture puts children first before all. The thinking here is that Ethiopian children would come through the trauma of adoption without the expected emotional scarring, since they were so deeply loved and cared for while in the adoption process.
Two years and two trips to Ethiopia later, Abeh made the nearly 36-hour journey home with us. Yes, we were handed a small person who was told that we were his new Mommy and Daddy. Of course, the language barrier meant he had no idea what we were talking about, nor did we understand a thing he said. As it turns out, parents and children seem to have an unspoken understanding between them right from the start, regardless of language differences. At 2 1/2 old, Abeh’s language was still being developed. We made some small attempts at learning his language, only to find out that there are many spoken in his country and we had the wrong one. Instead, he picked up English in a matter of weeks. Now, at 5 years old, he scored in the 96th percentile in his kindergarten screening for language. He’s got some work to do in fine motor development, but the experts tell us not to worry. We aren’t.
In the 29 months since that journey home, Abeh has grown into an energetic, healthy, happy, loving member of our family. People often comment about his transition, about how kind he is, and about how well Betsy and I handled the whole thing. We both assure people that it was Abeh who did well. We are just the very fortunate parents to have brought this guy into our lives.