"The inside of the care center was immaculate, and we truly felt like the guests of honor as we were led to take off our shoes and head inside. This particular care center is Holt's "transitional center," where children are moved once parents have a court date or are close to passing court."
(On a side note - we did have the chance to visit the child intake center in the southern, more rural part of Ethiopia later in the week, which is where our daughter (and most of the children) first came into care. Mikayla was in the southern facility for about 4 months, and was then moved to this facility in Addis Ababa where she lived for about 2.5 months. The care that the children receive in both locations is just amazing, but the difference in facilities is very evident, just due to the luxuries available (or not) in each region. I will post more about the intake center when I write about the Durame trip.)
The winding staircase greets you as you walk inside the front doors to the center"We were told upon being taken inside that we were going to tour the center first and then meet the children. This proved to be partially true :) We toured a few rooms and then upon walking into the baby room, one couple was handed their little baby girl. My heart almost stopped at this point because I knew at any minute we could see our daughter. The group shuffled down a little hallway, and another door was opened. I was toward the middle of the pack, and a fellow adoptive parent made eye contact and motioned me toward the front... I knew this was it! A little sign on the door greeted us as we entered the "Pre-School Age Girls" Room." :)
"Micah walked into the room ahead of me and saw her immediately. She saw him too and ran straight into his arms - then into mine! She knew exactly who we were. She knew we were mommy and daddy! We had not seen a picture of her smiling up to this point, so it was wonderful to see her first smiles in the midst of that moment. I honestly was not expecting our first meeting to go like this. I was prepared to have a little girl who was crying and entirely scared of us, but instead we were greeted truly with a fairy-tale-like greeting. It was an exhilerating moment, and honestly I can't even remember what was happening to anyone else around us during that moment. I guess we were just lost in our own world, which is how it should be right?"
Fortunately, we do have some of our first meeting on video... but that will have to come later because I've barely had the energy to get the images off our digital camera at this point!
Here's the three of us, together for the first time with beautiful Mikayla Aynalem
"We took her downstairs and blew bubbles, played balloons, tickled, laughed, read books, and just started getting to know one another. We took lots of pictures and she really enjoyed seeing them on the digital camera. She would laugh every time she saw a picture of herself. We stayed through lunch - the nannies helped feed her in jera with meat & veggies - she ate slow, but ate a TON! She even gave me the first bite of her food." :)"Mikayla shared a room with 6-7 other girls ranging in age from 2-8 years. There were not enough beds in their room to accommodate every girl, so she and another little girl shared one together (I guess because they were both small!). Eli's birthday card that we sent last month was taped up over bed, which was so fun to see! Before we left we helped lay her down for her afternoon nap. Then we headed back to the Holt office to fill out more paperwork needed for our Tuesday appointment at the U.S. Embassy."
"Fortunately, we had the chance to go back to the care center again later that day to play some more with Mikayla. The children were all getting their evening baths, and put into their pajamas. Micah introduced her to a game of sitting & bouncing on a balloon while he held her hands, and then flinging her high up to the ceiling. She just squealed and wanted to repeat it over and over again. We spent a lot of time playing with the balloon, as well as looking at picture flashcards, books, and stickers."
"This time when it was time for us to leave the care center, there was a noticeable change in Mikayla. Her body kind of went limp as I carried her upstairs to her room, and the tears just started rolling down her face. She suddenly withdrew from any type of interaction or eye contact, and I had to hand her off to a nanny while she was still upset. That was hard :( On the other hand, it was a good feeling to know that she was forming an attachment to us and actually wanted to us to stay with her. Yay! We left knowing that she was of course in good hands, and we would see her again tomorrow. All in all, it was truly a wonderful first day together - couldn't have asked for it to have gone better. Later that evening we walked about a mile from the hotel to have dinner at Kaldi's Coffee (somewhat like a Starbucks), where we enjoyed burgers, fries, cokes, and ice cream. It was a wonderful way to finish our day!"