Ethiopia: It’s time to start believing

For months I’ve been telling people that I’m going to Ethiopia. In some small part of my mind I wasn’t sure I really believed it.

I guess I’d better start believing.

On Wednesday, I got the message I’ve been awaiting for more than a year. Brian and Keri deGuzman, the Paradise Valley couple adopting two babies from Ethiopia, have a court date.

I first met the deGuzmans on March 26, 2009, during a photo shoot for RAISING ARIZONA KIDS magazine at which I asked a lot of questions about their two children, Jesmina and Muse, who were adopted from Ethiopia. I learned that the deGuzmans hoped to adopt two more children from Ethiopia. And I was invited to come along when they did.

Keri warned me then, and on several subsequent times, how tedious and overwhelming the process can be. During the last few months, headline-grabbing international adoption scandals have forced additional delays and scrutiny on adoptions worldwide, including those in Ethiopia.

It can be a real roller coaster ride of emotions — euphoria when one new hurdle is cleared and despair when another arises. Through it all, in every conversation I’ve had with Keri, she has remained positive. She trusts that these children, and the timing of their arrival in her home, are in God’s hands. Both her eager anticipation and gnawing frustration are tempered by that confidence.

But now we have a date. On May 11, the Ethiopian government will officially declare the deGuzmans legal parents to two babies whose names they know and whose pictures they’ve seen but about whom little else is known.

I’ve seen them, too. Keri invited me to her home to watch video footage of the babies shot by Christian World Adoption founders Bob and Tomilee Harding.

“I’ve probably watched this 100 times,” enthused Keri, whose wide brown eyes and glowing face remained glued to the screen as I watched the video for the first time. Like any new mother, she laughed as her soon-to-be son spit up part of a recent feeding on the shoulder of his loving caregiver.

“He just discovered his hands!” she remarked as we watched his eyes fixate on the movement of his wrists. “Look at how big his feet are!” she exclaimed as we speculated what that meant about his eventual height.

Her soon-to-be daughter is just a month younger but very petite — tiny compared to her brother, who is not a brother by birth but a child born in the same village. She is also extraordinarily calm. “Look at how relaxed she is!” Keri said as she watched how easily and trustingly her daughter nestled into her caregiver’s arms. “I hope she’s like that on the plane trip home!”

Keri has asked the staff to keep the children together as much as possible so they get used to each other. Wisely, she knows this will help ease their transition as a trans-Atlantic flight looms and two eager older siblings await at a new and unfamiliar home.

So when is this flight? The deGuzmans are estimating that we will travel at some point six to eight weeks after the May 11 court day. That puts the trip at late June or early July, right in the middle of the country’s rainy season.

The exact timing “can speed up or slow down depending on the [American] Embassy,” which must issue visas for the children before they can come home, Keri told me.

Additional hurdles could still loom. But for now, Keri and Brian are “going to just focus on getting through court and getting birth certificates processed after that.”

One patient step at a time.