The Earthquake Before the Earthquake

On Friday, the 11th of March, news reports began streaming across the airwaves of a cracked, broken, and mud-mauled Japan. The world witnessed the sight of millions of lives floating away on a sea of debris and destruction from our flat screen TVs, computers and smart phones.

The country’s Prime Minster called the 9.0 earthquake and the subsequent 23-foot tsunami the worst threat to his nation since the Second World War——a one, two punch that even Hollywood screenwriters wouldn’t have set together in a disaster film out of fear critics would call it hack hyperbole. Anyone who saw the images on news broadcasts, You Tube, and the front page of most newspapers now know a new level of epic, mind-mumbling destruction: cities entombed in mud, homes pummeled. Thousands dead. 500,000 homeless. And the counting and the collecting of bodies goes on.

But a few days before another earthquake struck a smaller municipality, yet one whose boarders reached around the globe. The shifting of foundations and earth left the same destruction across this land, its citizens frightened and angry.

On the 7th of March the Joint Council on international children’s services and the U.S. State Department released a statement. The Ethiopian Ministry of Women’s, Children’s and Youth Affairs had announced a reduction in intercountry adoptions by 90%. Effective March 10th.

That’s right nine, zero.

And it wasn’t a typo.

The new goal is to process “five adoption cases per work day,” reduced from more than “4,000 adoptions per year to less than 500.”

One might wonder, why, since I’ve brought my daughter home, would I care? Why I have lost sleep? Why have I sled tears rarely wept for my child and myself while we waited and waited?

Like a coal miner once trapped in a cave-in, although I and my daughter now breathe the same cool, clean air, I remember the hell of waiting. Waiting for the sunlight to reach us. To be dug out and given free passage to our new, conjoined lives.

If I weren’t a spiritual woman before I set out to become a mother, achieving parenthood, I believe, would have made me so. For two years I tried to conceive. The follicle sat, at first and goal, ready. The sperm was present at the exact, perfect moment. Yet, conception didn’t happen. In time I accepted that it wasn’t up to me, or Tom, or the Upper East Side fertility doctor. Or even Dr. M’s fancy, high-tech sonogram machine. God had the final say.

After I set out to adopt from Ethiopia the waiting time for a child stretched from nine months to twelve, to eighteen, and finally a whopping twenty-four months. My faith fortunately grew, instead of a clinical depression that loitered in the wings of my subconscious.

Again, I believed God had the final say.

Three years, and three months later, in January 2011, I brought my daughter home.

Now Julia sleeps soundly in her room with bright butterflies and colorful angels, but in the bedroom next to hers I still get down on my knees and thank God for that reality, in gratitude that we are no longer buried in the darkness of waiting.

Now I add a prayer for all the waiting families—friends and strangers— around the world who wait in the growing darkness of international adoption. I double the dose of determination for the thousands of waiting children in orphanages across the towns and cities of Ethiopia, the children I’ve seen first hand who study the faces of their loving caregivers, the doctors, nurses, social workers—any adult who comes close— with wondrous eyes. The children who keep watch for the one— the man, or woman— will stay with them, for life.

To help the Emergency Campaign for Ethiopian Children, please sign the petition to the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, Meles Zenawi at: http://www.gopetition.com/petition/43714.html

Thank You.

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