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  • Jillian Lauren

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face


On Thursday, January 15, we arrived back in Addis and met the nine other families in our travel group. The picture above is a shared meal at the guest house. We were a diverse group—churchgoers, rabbis, backpackers, cops, nurses, software engineers, artists...all of us waiting to meet our babies. Some of us were experienced world travelers and some had literally never left the state of Wisconsin. Throughout the week, I grew to feel close to all of them. There is something unifying about being in a group of people, each of whom is wearing their nervous system on the wrong side of their skin. You get to see people's softest and most authentic selves. It's a precious thing.

The next morning, we went to the care center to meet our children for the first time. The care center was four stories high and was clean, cheerful, and well-staffed. We all waited in a big living room on the ground floor as, one by one, the families were called by their child's name. About ten minutes later, each would walk down the stairs carrying their baby. It was the great honor of my life to sit in that room.


When they called Tariku's name, we walked up the staircase and into a nursery, where a group of about a dozen babies, all of them between six and twelve months old, played on the floor together. I recognized Tariku immediately from his photos, with his high forehead and big, gorgeous eyes. He sat in a little blue plastic seat smack in the middle of the room. Scott called it the launching pad. His nannies handed him to me and called me "mama." Scott and I both wept. Tariku looked at us skeptically, but then reached out his hand for Scott's face, as if to wipe his tears. Or maybe he just liked Scott's gold tooth, but either way that kid is a charmer. It was love at first sight.

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