Our Adoption Story
(View Pictures in Dawson Photo Album)
Family Greetings from Los Angeles!
It’s just us, Richard and Kim Dawson; son of Richard Dawson and Gloria Mae Rowan; great grandson of Roger Rowan; great, great grandson of Buck Rowan; and finally great, great, great grandson of Ed Rowan.
We’re the California couple who generally attend the August Rowan Reunion as often as our schedules permit however I must admit that we have been a bit remise as of late, although not intentionally. I’ll explain.
Kim and I have been together for over twenty years, sixteen as husband and wife. We met in the highly charged atmosphere of an Adult Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory in a downtown Los Angeles hospital. I was assisting a cardiologist during a delicate coronary angioplasty procedure when Kim put her head into the room to ask my partner a question. I looked back from the operating table because I didn’t recognize the voice; took one glance at her; turned back around and said, “ she will be the mother of my children.” Something I never say even in jest.
I didn’t sleep for three days. I called my mother for advice. She stated, “she must be the one.” Gloria Mae was right because since that time we have never been apart.
Now fast-forward a few years as we pursued our professional medical careers. We had decided that we’d been responsible long enough and that the time was right to start our family. Easy enough you might say.
Well, months went by without success. Each month of expectation was met with severe disappointment. Growing increasingly frustrated, we elected for medical intervention and together we investigated every faucet of reproductive technology from artificial insemination to in-vitro fertilization. I must admit that personally I found the science absolutely fascinating but I cringed each time that I had to inject Kim’s badly bruised bottom.
Kim took a break from the IVF therapy to visit her gynecologist and noted that a number of his childless patients were adopting international orphans. She later told me that it was as if a “lightbulb had just turned ON in her head,” suddenly she felt totally at ease knowing that this was the right thing to do.
We immediately contacted the Adoption Advocates International organization based in Washington state, expressed our desires, begun the voluminous paperwork and soon were reviewing monthly VHS cassettes of parentless children from East Africa.
Month after month of so many young faces hoping for a new family, how does one choose? I didn’t want that burden. “Who am I to choose a life?” The video search continued until May 2005 when I was home alone, reviewing a 20-second snippet of two little sisters from Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia, so newly arrived at the Wanna House orphanage that their names didn’t even appear on the enclosed child roster. “I have found our daughters!” I shouted to Kim over the phone. Without hesitation, Kim said to contact AAI immediately. I did. Thank God they weren’t chosen yet. Instantly they became ours!
Four months later, a skinny bright-eyed little girl, dressed in shabby clothes and run down patent leather Mary Jane shoes came running toward us with open arms. “Mommy I knew you’d come,”Lydia said through her heavy Amharic accent. Moments later, a small uncombed head with the most infectious petite smile slowly peeked from around the doorjamb. Megdelawit with her distended little belly and pigeon toed right leg meekly strolled in the room with fingers in mouth. We immediately swept them up into our arms as we fought back tears of happiness.
We stayed in Ethiopia for a total of two weeks to allow time for bonding; farewell celebrations at the orphanage; the celebration of the Ethiopian New Year of 09/11/1998, as well as Kim’s birthday celebration. Although seasonally it was autumn, it was also the end of their annual rainy period. Between showers, Kim and I had the pleasure of meeting with the children’s biological father and immediate in-laws. I had taken extensive photos of our home, immediate family members, the dog, and the girls’ room for just this eventuality. Dad like so many others in Sub-Saharan Africa was diagnosed with HIV. Their mother died from complications from AIDS shortly after giving birth to their younger brother Noah. Thank goodness the girls are healthy however Baby Noah’s (18 months) condition is more guarded. We are currently making plans to return to Ethiopia at the beginning of 2007 to bring Baby Noah home.
We wearily arrived at the LAX after an exhaustive 24-hour flight from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia through Amman, Jordan with a stop over at London’s Heathrow Airport. The girls are such little troopers! As luck would have it, two of their little Wanna House buddies, Bereket and his sister Mona Lisa were on our same flight. Those guys kept everyone amused with their singing and dancing.
Now here it is eleven months later and we’re arranging for gymnastic classes during Lydia’s summer break and wondering if Kia (Megdelawit’s pet name from the Wanna House orphanage days) will continue to excel academically within her new pre-school environment. Both now communicate between themselves in English versus Amharic. Lydia is even composing her own sentences in English and excels in mathematics, which makes sense because mathematics is the universal language.
The girls’ transition from developing world to Los Angeles has been seamless. I don’t know if it is due to their young age or our “old school” parenting skills, perhaps a combination of both….plus luck. Our philosophy is not to “sugar coat” any situation. We present the facts simply with the necessary clarifications for their understanding then we let them draw their own conclusions. We maintain a very structured daily routine where they know what is going to happen next and what will be expected of them. Daily homework assignments are applauded. Television is reserved for the weekend. And weekends are “Family Days” when we get out to experience new sights, new sounds and new attractions, which I have long since taken for granted. These little ones with their new eyes truly give a fresh perspective to an old picture.
The adoption agency calls it the “honeymoon period”, the first six months between receipt of the children until the novelty wears off and emotional conflicts become the rule. Well, the Dawson family is very proud to report that we are currently entering our “Second Honeymoon” phase and all is quiet on the western front for now, that is. Stay tuned.
Richard, Kim, Lydia, Kia and Baby Noah