October 4, 2011


On my way home from Uganda this past summer, I decided to stay a few days in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Addis Ababa was a lay over city on our flight back to the states and it is also very near to the birth place of our daughter.  There was no way that I could just sit there in the airport without getting out and exploring…and search for my daughter's birthmother.  

The last time I had been in Ethiopia, Brandon and I were busy with our Embassy appointment and getting to know our six month old baby.  We had created a long list of questions a letter and a photo album for the woman who brought our baby into this world.  We drove the almost hour drive to a village outside of Addis Ababa.  We didn't speak a word to each other because we were both overwhelmed at the opportunity to get to meet Marley's Amaye (Amharic for mother).  All I wanted was a picture of us together so that Marley would have a picture of both of her mothers.  When we entered the little orphanage where she was taken at 12 days old, there seemed to be confusion.  As if they had no idea that we were coming.  Our agencies staff argued with the orphanage staff for a few minutes and then looked at us and said, "Sorry, no here."  

What?!  What do you mean she's not here!  "Sorry,  no here" is all she could say in her broken English.  We toured and video taped every room in the orphanage, but all I wanted to do was get back to the guesthouse and cry.  How would I get answered questions for my daughter?  Would the woman that gave her life know how much I loved her?  And I don't have the picture that I've dreamed of for years!  
After being back in the states for a few months, a friend of mine recommended an investigator.  We hired a man in Ethiopia to locate her and translate a letter we wrote and answers some questions.   It was amazing seeing her face for the first time…what a resemblance!  She answered all the questions we had and received all of the letter and pictures.  But I still didn't have a picture of us together!  

When I finished serving with my mission team and we got off the the plane in Addis Ababa, I went through immigration, picked up my luggage and found a man holding a sign with my name on it.  Melke, a driver many American friends of mine had used, waited with a huge grin.  He knew many of my adoptive family friends and that set me at ease. It was night time and he drove me to Melkam Guesthouse, where Brandon and I stayed when we picked up Marley.  I gave him the phone number the investigator had given me for Marley's birthmother and he dialed it.  My heart was pounding out of my chest!  Disconnected!  Oh no!  He dropped me off and said we would try again in the morning.  All night I feared that I had made this trip for no reason.  Would I ever get to take a picture with her?  

The next morning, he drove up and told me, "Elisa, I have good news!  She wants to meet you!"  Ahhhhhh!  Really?!  Was this really going to happen?  Well yes, it did!  I got to meet the woman who carried my child in her womb.  The woman who loved her so much that she realized that she could not provide for her and allowed her to be adopted.  The woman that gave me so much! 

Melke talked to her on the phone and she told us to meet her by a bank.  We sat there for about 30 minutes. It felt like hours.  We were waiting for a woman to walk up and find an Ethiopian man and Ferengi (white person) together.  I had seen a picture of her, but would I really recognize her?  Melke got out of the car and went up to ask a woman if she was the one.  She nodded yes and I jumped out of the car and into her arms!  What an amazing experience!  We held each other and cried.  There was this unspoken bond we shared, like we had been long lost sisters!   She marveled over Marley's pictures, kissing each one, all while hugging my neck with her free arm.  And guess what?  I finally got that picture!

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