Fathers’ Day is fun. This morning I got to stay in bed till 7:30, which counts as sleeping in at my house. I woke up to a delicious breakfast of bacon, blueberry pancakes and hash browns. Shawna gave me the Nike+ running attachment for our IPod. And my two oldest boys each made me a card.
Xander’s was written in mysterious symbols that constituted a secret code. He explained to me that it meant “I love you – poop!” Then he laughed hysterically.
Oscar’s card was covered with bright orange dots. “They’re bombs, and when you open the card they explode,” he said. “And then you go in the toilet!” Then he laughed hysterically.
But beyond presents and breakfasts and precious extra sleep, Fathers’ Day has a special meaning for me now. It was a year ago today, on Fathers’ Day 2009, that I met my daughter for the first time.
We met at a Catholic orphanage in Kigali. I flew to Rwanda with friends of ours who were adopting a boy who’d just turned three, and the nuns led us to a little room and brought us the children who would in a few short days be ours, officially and forever.
Holding that tiny little girl named Teresita (we added ‘Maliah’ later) for the first time was both exciting and surreal. It wasn’t like meeting the boys at all. I had talked to them in the womb, seen muddy ultrasound footage of them swimming around, felt them bump and jostle all over the place before they ever came out. Yet here was a nine-month-old girl who already had a personality, likes and dislikes (she started slurping on my thumb right away), a whole routine I didn’t know. And she was about to be my daughter.
It was scary. Becoming a parent for the first time is scary too: I remember the night Xander was born, waking up to the sound of him crying at 1 a.m. and thinking, “Oh my gosh, this is actually my kid! What do I do now?”
But this was totally different. I was about to spend three weeks in Africa with a baby who was still a stranger to me, while racing around a foreign city jumping through a ridiculous number of bureaucratic hoops. It was a whole new level of terrifying. I suspected it would be the hardest thing I’d ever done. And I was right.
But that Sunday afternoon in Kigali isn’t really the beginning of our adoption story, or the end. I’ve been wanting to write out the whole thing for a while, and now seems like a good time to tackle it. So stay tuned over the next week or so for installments of our African Adoption Adventure.