Written by Katja Starkey, an adopting mom, after she and her husband Jonathan traveled to Ethiopia for their court date to meet their son.

There is no way to describe our first encounter with sweet Gadisa. I felt like I was walking into a dream world. This day of meeting Gadisa had finally come! We waited in a front room and one of the nannies brought him to us. My heart leapt when I saw his familiar dazzling eyes and natural smile, which we had seen in pictures. Our boy is ALWAYS SMILING!

with Joy Casey, Adoption Ministry Director

I nudged Jonathan to pick him up first. Gadisa went straight to him. It was a swirl of emotion. I’m sure I held him soon after, but I was just drinking him in—looking at him, being in the same room with him, seeing his personality— joy was bursting out of my heart.

I had learned how to say two things to him in Amharic: “I love you” and “Don’t cry.” I never needed to say “Don’t cry.”  He never did!  Jonathan and I took turns holding Gadisa or holding the camera. We took much video as well as photos to remember that initial day of meeting… knowing we would only have those videos and photos for many weeks before he came home.

The loving atmosphere where he is staying is incredible. It was not even hard to leave him because he is in such a warm, friendly place. He is getting a LOT of attention from everyone. Meseret was crying, thinking he was leaving that day and she loves him. I actually cried for Meseret when we got back to the guesthouse. I have been a nanny and I know how you really grow to love the kids.

A precious moment for me was holding Gadisa’s little hands and having him take a few steps. I have grieved missing out on so many little stages of his development, but I got to be there for that and we have it on video. This was the first day I actually felt like a real mom. This was my son. He is a treasure and a joy.

Many times in the months and years of waiting, I had sung a favorite song over my future child:

Don’t you know that I formed you
Before you were born I knew you
Can’t you see that my plans for you are good?
Don’t you know that I formed you
Before you were born I knew you
Can’t you see that my plans for you are good?
Look and see
I’ve engraved you on the palms of my hands
Child look and see
I’ve engraved you on my hands

I sang this song to Gadisa and rocked him. My precious baby boy fell asleep in my arms. This was a cherished moment.

Gadisa came and went easily to everyone—widows, nannies and to both of us. They said his disposition is very unique and that he is always in good spirits. He looked up and saw Abebe (YWAM’s in-country representative) and started crawling fast over to him. It was precious to see him crawling and also to see how he was very happy to see Abebe. Our son is well loved!

Before we left, one of the grandmas grabbed Abebe to translate for her. She was determined to say something to me. “You really are Gadisa’s mother,” she said. “From now on I am going to call you that.” What precious words – I felt so validated. They saw my mother heart. She kissed me on the neck on the left and on the right. I didn’t know if this was cultural or if she just couldn’t reach any higher, but I kissed her neck the same way anyhow. She said, “Enat” as she held me, which is the Ethiopian word for mother. These moments are like treasure of gold to me.

We are truly, truly honored to be his parents. We love you, sweet son…Gadisa Moses Starkey.