Today marks three months since a judge in Ethiopia told us that Elvie was ours, and we took her out of the care center. Our daughter, forever. Some of my memories of that day are a little fuzzy, but others are crystal clear.
I remember arriving at the courthouse a little later than the specified time, which didn’t really matter. We rode up in the elevator with the judge. We waited in a room outside the judge’s chambers for a what seemed like a short time while other families went in and out. Another little girl shared stickers with Zinashi. We went in and the judge asked questions, almost the same as what we were asked on the day we said yes to Zinashi. We walked out, officially Elvie’s family, and Zinashi said something equivalent to, “That’s it?” I think she was expecting more pomp and circumstance. But it was done, and then we took our baby in our arms and walked out the gates of the care center as a family of four.
It wasn’t until later that night that we would undress her and find out just what bad shape she was in. It will be a very long time before I can think of that moment without the feeling of that moment coming back to me. It was like the room got darker, and I fought not to cry. I wanted my baby to see me smiling, not crying. But I was so scared I could hardly breathe. My hands shook as I took photos to send to our doctor in the US. It was a hard, hard night.
And now we have come so far. The baby in the photo here barely resembles the baby we took from the care center. She is so chubby all over, and we’ve even reached my goal of significant thigh chub. I joked that I wanted thighs suitable for dousing in gravy by Thanksgiving, but we’ve achieved that already. I am so grateful every day for this baby, who is happy and thriving despite her hard beginnings. I am so thankful for the past three months, and what they’ve taught me about hope and help and the kindness of strangers.
Three months in, I feel like I know this baby well. Her personality, hidden behind the weakness that malnutrition brought before, shines brighter every day. She is happy and alert and eager to grab a slice of life. She is into everything she can possibly reach, and we long for the day when it is possible for her to reach more. Her joy, determination, and resilience will serve her well as she moves closer to her big surgery and all that will come after. We are so very blessed and lucky to be her family, to have known her and held her these past three months. I cannot wait to see what the next three months will bring.