Molly Fanaye at the guest house in Addis Ababa a day or so after we took custody of her, July 2007.
It's been a year. A whole year since we traveled to Ethiopia to bring Molly home. And a crazy year, with my new job and a whole lot of adjusting--Sammy had to adjust to being a big brother, Emma had to adjust to being a mini-mommy, and we all had to adjust to having a baby-now-toddler in the house again!
I'm writing this as Molly sits in her high chair--an increasingly rare occurrence as she'd much rather be sitting up at a big chair at the table--and eats some peanut butter on bread. She's nodding her head, her crazy/beautiful curls are everywhere, and she's looking at me with a very serious expression, nodding her head, and yelling "No, no, Abe!" Abe is our cat, and he hears "no" a lot.
I've been trying to figure out how to write this post without it devolving into triteness and cliché. It's going to be hard.
People ask us about the adoption, and what it was like, how Molly's adjusted, and all that. And I tell them, it was the most wonderful, amazing, and life-changing experience. But it's something that I also feel like I can't adequately explain to people without resorting to words like "wonderful, amazing, and life-changing." It's really a case of "you had to be there."
I can't imagine not having this little girl in our lives. She is gorgeous, smart, funny, and kind. She's a whirl of energy; she never ever ever stops moving. And she's stubborn and strong-willed and she knows what she wants. She is no pushover. She loves bubbles, and Teletubbies, and Elmo, and kitties, and dancing, and music, and splashing in puddles. And cheese. I feel like we're the luckiest family in the world, with the most wonderful children. Sometimes still, a year after she came home, I still look at her and I'm overcome by how much I love her, how incredible she is, how amazing. I still can’t believe I get to be her mother.
Molly turned 19 months old on July 7th, which was the anniversary of the day we first met her. (As Sammy likes to point out, we met Molly on her 7-month birthday: 7-7-07.) The whole family—Matt, me, Sam, Emma, my mom and stepdad, and Molly’s cousins, Belle, and Nicholas—celebrated “gotcha day” with an ice cream cake and a song for Molly. The first day we met Molly she was so scared and passive. She didn't cry, just stayed really still, staring with her big beautiful eyes. She did smile and laugh for her nannies at the care center but she was very wisely wary of us, these strange people who kept talking to her and wanting to pick her up. The first morning we met her I held her for hours but she wouldn't sleep, just sat tensely in my lap. Finally, Emma held her and after a long long while she drifted off. I didn't really see her smile much for us that whole first week in Addis.
What a difference in a year. Today, our Molly Fanaye is a joyful and vivacious little girl. So happy and ready to laugh. She is friendly but wisely wary of new people, although she warms up quickly. She loves her mama and daddy, adores her Emma and Sammy. When we brought Molly home at 7 months, she wasn't crawling or sitting up. But she sat up within a couple of weeks, crawled within a month and a half, and got up and started walking, as if on cue at 13 months. At her first checkup, she didn't even show up on the growth charts. But at her checkup on Wednesday she was 45th percentile for height and 30th for weight--within 2 months she popped right up on the growth-curve parabola and she's grown beautifully ever since. She's hitting all her milestones, she's so smart and funny and so beautiful.
Before we brought Molly home, and in those early days, I don't think we knew what we could expect. Whenever you have a new child, you don't know how they're going to develop, what issues you're going to face. Since Molly's first months were spent away from us, and since her earliest months became so traumatic, leaving her first family, I didn't know what kinds of issues we might face with bonding, attachment, development, lingering effects of nutrition--who knew? But if we could have ordered up a baby, we couldn't have had a more perfect little person to add to our family than Molly Fanaye. I just feel so lucky that I didn't get pregnant back when we were looking to have a third child. I can't imagine not having Molly in our family.
And at the same time, I think about Molly's birth mom every day. Especially now that we're celebrating our one-year famiversary. I have an unbreakable bond with a woman I met only once, and may or may not ever be able to see, talk to, write to, or hear from ever again. An amazing woman, to produce such an amazing girl. I don’t think there’s any way for us to express what a gift she gave to us, and although it’s a gift I would never wish she had to give away, I am beyond words with gratitude, respect, and love for her.
I wish that Molly's birth mom could see her now, and see how smart and beautiful she is. I know she wanted her to be smart and healthy and happy. I hope she would be happy with the job we are doing for her little girl. I know she would be so so very proud of her daughter.
We're not allowed to have direct contact with Molly's birth family. The reports that we send go to an office in Mudula, the town where Molly was born. Her birth mother can look at the reports and photos that we send, but we have no way of knowing if she knows that the reports are there, or has the resources to get to the office to see them. I hope that she does and that she can see what a gorgeous little person her daughter is. I wish I knew for sure.
In the courtyard of the care center on the first day we met Molly Fanaye. L to R: Emma, Molly Fanaye, me, Sam. Mom and Dennis are in the back. Molly was so tense, as you can see in her expression. When Molly was stressed sucked on her tongue--it's a calming reflex, like sucking her thumb. As you can see, she was sucking it hard that day. She still sucks her tongue when she's tired.
Fanaye, still in Addis, a couple of days later at the guest house.
Sam, Molly, and Emma. Although Sammy looks like he has the mumps, he's really just eating a tortilla.