Today, we began the journey back to Ethiopia to make Malachi an orphan no longer. We received the call out of the blue on Wednesday while enjoying some time with favorite friends from out of town- the Kisers – at the happiest place on earth – Disney! Here’s a pic moments after the call. Excuse the crying bio son. He really is happy about Malachi, just not about pictures.
Two tickets to Addis Ababa and make it three for the return flight please! 60-ish hours and a beautiful, but blurry, stressed-out frenzy later, we were at the airport without passports. Mom brain. Fast-forward 45 minutes. We were at the airport WITH passports and saying goodbye to Maddox. Last picture as a family of three!
Now, we rest for the night in Washington D.C., waiting to depart tomorrow morning for Addis.
It’s been said it takes a village to raise a child. Today, we write an honest and open letter to our village. The time has finally come to explain what life will look like when we return home.
Adoption was the best plan for our family, but by no means is adoption the best way for a child to enter a family. The world is unbelievably broken, and we realize it now more than ever before. Malachi has experienced more hardship and loss in his 5 short years than most of us ever will. The wounds of hunger, separation, loss, and grief cut deep.
From an orphanage in Ethiopia to a family in Clearwater, Florida, Malachi’s whole life is about to change. We’ll introduce him to strange foods he’s never tasted. We’ll introduce him to doctors who will poke and prod. We’re exchanging a world where everyone looks like him for a world where some look like him. We’re replacing his sterile, yet familiar room, shared with eight close friends, for a colorful room that’s all his own. Malachi is leaving an orphanage that was his family, albeit 60 members big.
In a healthy biological child, secure attachment and trust forms when parents consistently meet the child’s physical, mental, emotional, and social needs.
Child cries. Parent responds. Child cries. Parent responds. Child cries. Parent responds. Over time, attachment and trust form.
Children who have lost or never experienced the love of a parent can often have difficulty trusting that their needs will be met. That means we may need to retrain Malachi’s brain toward healthy attachment. We’ll need to help him relearn the real role of a mom and a dad. Parents provide food and shelter. Parents provide comfort and security. Parents don’t leave you (and if they do leave for a short time, they will always come back). We get it, but for a former orphan (yes, former!), the concept is novel.
He’ll need time to develop a connection to our family and to trust that we are safe. He’ll need extra patience and love as the Lord heals the wounds of his past.
The Case for Cocooning
When we return, we’ll stay home with Malachi as much as possible, attempting to create an environment that is calm, predictable, and comforting. The adoption world calls this a period of “cocooning.” It will last as long as he needs to feel safe and secure and connected to our family.
Cocooning looks like this…
- We’ll avoid parties and large gatherings.
- We’ll introduce new people in moderation and only when he is comfortable with us. When we introduce new people, we’ll do so in small groups of one or two.
- We’re asking others not to pick up, hold, hug, or kiss Malachi. In the beginning, these displays of affection are reserved for Mitch and I.
- Only Mitch or I should give things to Malachi, especially food.
- Only Mitch or I should meet Malachi’s needs.
This all might sound over-protective, secluding, or like we’re over analyzing. But we’re following the advice of professionals who know the adoption thing way better we do. We want nothing more than for Malachi to be able to love and hug the awesome people who prayed and gave and prayed even more to bring him home. We just need to allow him the time he needs to get used to a brand new world and way of life. When he’s ready, we’ll widen the net and begin to look less like recluses. We’ll find our new normal in time.
The weight of the responsibility ahead is sinking in. Pray for us often. Offer to visit in small groups when he is ready. Text and call with encouragement – we’ll need lots. The same village that brought us to this point will bring us through the months ahead. Plus a whole lot of Jesus. Love to you all!