A Letter to Our Village

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.

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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!

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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!

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Takeoff Round 1

The last 6 days are a blur. Since that call on Monday, a beautiful flurry of activity has made us busy bees. I thought I was ready, but there were tons of little last minute to-dos to prepare us to cross the Atlantic. Malaria pills, medical authorizations, flight booking, travel insurance, donation packing, and on and on. And then my getting-ready time was cut short when my work trip to Baltimore became 2 days longer than expected.

So I landed in Tampa on Wednesday afternoon, and the packing commenced. The suitcases were a hot mess, and so was our bedroom. When it came to clothes, we went with the bare minimum so we could have space for the important things. Puzzles, play dough, legos, and games to play with Malachi. And snacks. Lots of snacks. The Kuhns aren’t very adventurous with foreign foods. I’m prepared for forced weight loss, and if they have my pizza and mac & cheese staples available, I will be pleasantly surprised. The biggest packing debate was whether or not to tote my laptop. My life is in that laptop. My opinion prevailed, and it came along so I can feel like a whole person.IMG_6998

The suitcase situation gradually got better as Sunday departure day neared. We ended up with 4 overstuffed bags and 3 carry ons. Mitch and I packed super light, I swear. It’s the orphanage donations that make us look like hoarders. Thank you friends who gave so generously for supplies for Malachi’s orphanage. Can’t wait to introduce those precious kids to brand new clothes, socks, undies, and more.

T minus 18 hours to departure. This is what “I have so much to do” + “My whole life is about to radically change” looks like.

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We dropped Maddox off with Gigi and Papouli on Saturday evening. He was happy to go with them which made saying goodbye easier. But boy oh boy, I already miss that little guy. Let’s review his handsome face.

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Sunday morning, and it was time to load up and leave.

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A sweet friend gave us some airport blow money to fund Mitch’s coffee habit. Thank you Laurie Tarbox. You just enriched our marriage.

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So now we join you on Sunday morning via in-flight wi-fi on the first leg of our voyage.

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I’m blogging, and Mitch is having church.

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We’ll spend the evening in DC, and then depart for Addis tomorrow morning.

We’ll visit Malachi on Tuesday and Wednesday. Then on Thursday, we will have court, and Malachi will legally become our child. Oh beautiful day. On Friday we say goodbye. Ugly day. We then wait 4 to 6 weeks for the US embassy to process Malachi’s paperwork and prepare him to immigrate as a US citizen. Then, we’ll return to pick him up.

Adventure awaits.