November 4, 2012

The Helper

I recently took a gifting test and discovered that I have a gifting in "helps". This gifting is described as assisting others by freeing them up to do what they need to do. Typically someone with this gifting can see when someone needs help before the person in need sees it. One website calls my Myers-Briggs personality "The Caregiver" and "The Nurturer" (ISFJ/ESFJ). I find so much fulfillment in helping others. I don't necessarily have a service gifting, I am not the first person to get a job done. But if I see someone in need I would jump up at the opportunity to help.

One of the most important days of my life was October 6th, 2010 - the home birth of Henri Cooper (my dear friends Sarah and Stephen's little boy). Since that day my life was never the same. One of these days I will put into words that experience and the shift it created in my life, but it is still a moment that I am trying to process. I have participated in two other births since then, March 2011 and March 2012. I was the role of a doula. Doula is Greek for "female slave". It is someone that walks alongside a mother in labor, like a birth partner. It is a long and laborious process (and I am not even the mother) and yet one of the most rewarding things to go through. I've found that to be true about all things I do...the most rewarding tend to be the most trying. I absolutely love walking alongside women in labor.
Sweet, new baby - March 2011
Timing contractions - March 2012
This last week I had the amazing opportunity to go with my coworker and close friend, Autumn, to Ethiopia to pick up her son Mihretu, after 15 months waiting for him. It is interesting that the process of adoption is similar in many ways to pregnancy, especially in the 3rd trimester. Waiting for Embassy clearance is like waiting to go into labor. When you pass that due date it just gets so hard to wait any longer. I remember Autumn saying, "I am ready to induce" ;). In this adoption I functioned as a doula, on call, ready to walk alongside a new mother.

The email came from the Embassy Tuesday, October 23rd and we were on a plane to Ethiopia on Friday, October 26th, just three days later. The four days we spent in Africa with Mihretu were incredibly special. Autumn got to take part in so many firsts with her new son. It was magical and I feel so honored to have witnessed such a miracle. This little boy whom I met twice in the last year, that I prayed for every day for 15 months was now in his mom's arms. It was like witnessing a birth. It was holy and precious. And let me tell you, Mihretu is amazing! That boy is so smart, brave, funny, and he knows who is mother is. I really love him.
We also got to see couples meeting their babies for the first time at the care center. It was intimate, like being in the ultrasound room as the parents hear the heartbeat for the first time or discover the gender of their child. One dad that joined us with their little girl at Embassy was sharing his heart for their children. He said, "All my children, both biological and adopted, are gifts from God. God has entrusted us to raise these children. My biological children are no more mine as are my adopted children. I love them all the same." What a beautiful picture! Adoption is a glimpse into the heart of God, that God chooses us to be sons and daughters. Michael and I definitely want to adopt - after working in orphan care, I can't imagine not choosing adoption.

(Side note: Today is Orphan Sunday. If you haven't experienced what it feels like to have a heart for the orphan, I highly suggest going on a short-term trip. It will change your life forever. Consider what sponsoring, fostering or adopting might look like in your life. Yes that was a plug for Visiting Orphans ;)

Then it was time for the flight home or to continue the analogy, active labor. I was helping Autumn here and there in-country but she really was doing great with the transition. She could still 'walk through the contractions'. But boy, 40 hours of travel is another story. One of the hardest things I have ever done. Confine a toddler to a seat for three flights, one of them lasting 11 hours. Now add the fact that this child does not speak your language, barely knows you, has hardly left his care center, experiencing so many new things, time change, jet lag, and pure exhaustion. This was the final stage of the adoption pregnancy. This is when Autumn needed me the most. And at one point I didn't think we would make it...but we did. We landed in Nashville and Autumn and I lost it, emotionally and physically we were done. We did it! He is now home. Such an emotional moment.
Although there were a few trying moments, Mihretu did great!
He is perfect :)
And now Autumn is starting the path of parenthood as all parents do after birth. I am so incredibly proud of her. When she saw her little boy the 'mom switch' turned on. She is a natural and I just loved watching her care for Mihretu with such patience, love and grace. It really was inspiring. Waiting for court, paperwork, Embassy, the ups and downs, all prepped her for this new season. God gives parents 9 months (and a lot more for adoption) to prepare. It is a long and hard journey leading up to coming home and that is just the beginning. But it is in our weakness that God is made strong. I don't know if we are ever really ready for parenthood but I think this is part of entrusting our children to God, to lean in for direction, strength, grace and peace. It is a partnership with God. And I absolutely love watching and sitting at moms' and dads' feet as they "figure it out" one day at a time.

Michael and I hope to step into this season of our lives in the next year or so. Whether through birth or adoption, I am grateful to have experienced that intimate moment of transition when a family is formed. I am so excited to experience that moment for myself and to share that with my husband. But until then I plan to continue to walk alongside others in this special time of their life.
Welcome home dear Mihretu. You are one loved little boy!

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