Monday, January 12, 2009

Aching for a Past

(My little Christmas angel - self-decorated of course!)

For some time now, Abi  has been telling  us lots of stories about when he "was a little baby in Ethiopia".  Sometimes these stories are triggered by Hana's - Hana will occasionally tell us stories of her mother and *S* and her oldest sister.  Her favorite one to tell involves puking all over the bed her family shared.  Ah, kids.  Abi often follows this up by trying to take her story and make it his own.  But he knows it doesn't quite work...I know he is jealous of Hana's stories, her memories.  These stories really picked up after his little cousin was born in September.  Something about seeing a newborn baby really sparked his interest in baby stories (Abi also loves babies as a general matter).  Usually his stories are quite entertaining.  Sometimes a bit irritating - they often involve giving a reason why he should not have to do/eat something... (he's very creative)

But these stories always make me sad.

The truth is, he  has no memories of when he was a little baby.  Actually, I'm not sure he has any active memories of Ethiopia at all.  Most of them seem to come from photos or stories we tell.  Mark has noted more than once that it is like his mind was wiped clean when we stepped off that plane - a blank slate here in America.

(Our first 2 photos of Abi - taken when about 2 1/2?)

Sometimes I can't help but be just a bit thankful for this- he hasn't experienced the terrible grieving that some kids must go through.  He's spared some of the pain.  But yet, I am concerned he is missing that step - how terrible that he can't even properly grieve such a loss in his life?   

Mostly, I am sad. And helpless.  I don't have stories to tell him.  I am thankful that Hana has some stories of her own - few though they are.  But Abi?  Abi's past is a relative mystery, a treasure that was stolen from him.  We know so very little about his life before the orphanage.  And even during his [nearly] two years at the orphanage, we have only a handful of pictures and scattered stories to tell his tale.  Mostly tiny morsels from prior traveling parents about how cute and charming he was (is).  How he loved dogs (still does!) and cars.

It's not good enough.

How do I make that up to him?  How do I give him access to a past that may be lost forever?  How do I help him grieve this loss?

I thank God every day for international adoption.  I thank God every day for the chance it brought me to parent my wonderful, loving children.  But so often I can't help but follow such thanks with a question - WHY.  Why do such terrible things exist (disease, famine, poverty) that steal the very lives and histories from so many, while others have so much? 

Why was my little boy robbed of his past?


Wendy said...

Those same thoughts run through my mind about our son Kaleab as well. He does not seem to have a memory of Ethiopia which most people here seem to think is a blessing however it makes me incredibly sad.

I know where you are coming from.

NatalieEbigScott said...

Oh, Cat. This is a heartbreaking post. There are no easy answers, but given that you are so cognizant of his loss so early on in your shared history, I know you and Mark will do everything in your power to help Abi understand his past and embrace his future in a way that makes him an outstanding individual.

I love you guys.

Wendy P said...

Shelly's daughter Celeste has recently been talking about "when she was a baby in China" too. She was only about 10mos when their adoption was final, so she doesn't have a recollection of her past situation and we don't know anything other than the day she was born.

I'm sure they recognize on some level that they are "different" than other kids and are trying to find common ground. Being aware of the situation is half the battle and doing what you can to help them understand how they came to you and how you all became a family is a big first step.

Holly said...

Yes... it's hard. Bereket grieved in a similar way the other week when she was looking at a photo album filled with baby pictures of Ellie. She wanted baby pictures of HERSELF too... she at least has memories of her first family, but even these I'm sure will fade with time. And we can't get those back. It's sad.

Denise said...

Oh, it is sad. We know nothing about Sarah's past and I so wish we knew something to pass to her. But we don't, she's a "clean slate", but I don't want to act like her life started when she went into the orphanage. Even if we don't know facts, we can still talk to her, like say "you're so smart, I'll bet you started talking when you were 9 months old!". Hmm?? what stories we can dream up?


There is a great book to help "figure out" a bit of our children's past. It is called, "Before You were Mine." It is a really neat way to honor your children through a life book. I looked up things on the internet like what day Aleena was born on (according to the birthdate we were given), I can tell her it was during the rainy season, etc. It isn't much but it is something. It is hard to trust that God knows what He is doing but sometimes that is all we have. Are your son and daughter biologically related? I can't remember. I will pray when your daughter comes home from Ethiopia she will be able to share some of her memories esp. with her sister. God Bless.
jen in mi

Farmboy and Buttercup said...


Our twins, like Hana, have some memories, but I am quite sure their little sister will have very few, or none, also. It is sad, one of the awful things in life, and I think very common for kids brought home Abi's age or younger.

As parents, I guess we just need to be there and help them when it does get hard and disappointing for them, as they try to grieve a past they can't even remember. It will certainly be a new road for us all to walk. How awesome that Abi will be able to do this with such loving parents.