I can't believe Lucy Melat is ONE! In a way it felt like suddenly saying a two month old is one and throwing a party...since that's how long she's been a physical part of our family.
We had a fun day celebrating our precious girl. We started out with the traditional trip to Build-A-Bear with Grammy...she takes every grandkid on their first birthday for a new friend. Lucy picked a sweet grey kitty. Then later, we celebrated at the park with family. (Tip for new parents of Ethiopian little ones, we've found that Lucy does much better in a new environment if it's outdoors. The noise isn't so overwhelming, and generally, kids are running around playing and less is focused on Lucy. We've opted for a few new places when it's outdoors and passed on ones that are inside...although we've still hardly been anywhere with her.)
I found myself throughout the day, feeling pretty emotional (and I have tears now as I type this!). Several times I found my mind wandering back to this place, the hospital in Gondar where Lucy was born. The room where she entered the world.
I thought of her birthmother, what her first moments with little Melat in her arms would have been like. I'm sure she was pretty tiny (in comparison to my biological 8lb 11oz and 9lb 12 oz boys!), when we first saw her picture at 4 months old, she was just over 11lbs! Jack was almost that big at birth. I thought about how her birth mother would have nursed her, and had those blissful moments a mother has when the life she's carried inside her for 40 weeks, is finally tangible and in her arms. How you look in eachother's eyes, and marvel at how your sweet little one seems to know your voice, and it soothes them so much to hear you speak. *sigh*. Those are some beautiful moments that a mother cherishes in her heart all of her days.
Honestly, I didn't and don't feel sad that I missed those moments in Lucy's life, because they were not mine to have. I did feel sad that here she is, one year old, and her Ethiopian mother is not here to see the joy on her face as Lucy dug her long fingers into the frosting on her cake (although, I don't think they have frosted birthday cakes in Ethiopia, anyhow). I was thankful for the gift of Lucy's life, that only her birth mother could have given. She would not be Lucy otherwise. If I'm totally honest, I even had a few conflicting thoughts as I rocked her last night, savoring the last few minutes of our special girls first birthday. I thought, "this isn't fair! Sweet girl should have her first birthday with the one who gave her life." Those thoughts were followed by, "But, our amazing Lord, has a plan for her life. When life happened, and her birth mother could no longer be in her life, he gave her a new family." The good news is, our heavenly Father is a redeemer. He can redeem terrible situations, and turn them into blessings. We are thankful everyday, Lucy Melat is no longer an orphan, but a member of OUR family. The verse came to mind all day yesterday, "God sets the lonely in families" (Psalm 68:6). Often when we introduce Lucy to someone new, they (the new person) will say, "She is so blessed to have you." Which I instantly reply, "We are ALL blessed!" Everyday, we are blessed to have the opportunity to parent this amazing girl.
As I rocked her, I marveled at the amazing courage and resiliency our girl has. From her perspective, her life in Ethiopia was comfortable to her. We arrived, dragged her thousands of miles away to a new place, with new food, new smells, new people, new sounds. She has embraced it all with generous smiles and few tears. I am literally amazed at how well she has taken it all. Don't get me wrong, there are hard days....change is hard for all of us Keslers. But, Lucy, has been so strong. We are the 5th set of "caregivers" in her short life. Changing of the caregiver is not new to her, sadly. But, she has embraced us. She calls us MaMa and DaDa. She lights up when we walk into the room. She claps when she's been away from us for a few minutes and we come back. I dare say, she loves us (and holy moly, do we love HER!)
I struggled, just before going to Ethiopia, about changing her name from Melat, to Lucy Melat. Melat was all she had. Melie (May-lee, was how Ethiopians sweetly sung her name!) But, after a few months of knowing her, and daily seeing her resilience and courage and joy, Lucy "bringer of light" feels more and more perfect. Melat, I've since heard (since being in ET) means "wonder"...the combination feels so right. She brings so much joy and light into our home. She literally lights up, when we say "Lucy-girl!" and we often wonder at how amazing she is handling all the change.
Lucy Melat, you are an amazing girl, so strong and so sweet at the same time. You bravely enter new situations, and every day you trust your new anchor (our family)a little more, and let it sink a little deeper. Your smile melts us. Your new laughter is emerging...you've always been generous with the smiles, but true belly laughs are now surfacing more often (especially when your brothers are pretending to be quads). We cherish everyday you are here with us, and look forward to every day with you in our family!