This winter I have been swearing by elderberry syrup, which has mostly kept me healthy, despite the fact that I never sleep through the night. But elderberry syrup was no match for this one and it even took me down.
So this is to say that I had big plans of sewing a very special birthday dress for Tia and I did not get it finished in time. I made peace with it. :) I asked Tia if she was okay getting her birthday dress a little late and she was perfectly fine with it. She had a bowling birthday party and didn't need a fancy dress anyway. And Indigo let me off the hook for her birthday dress, too. She said that since she was taking a friend to an amusement park, she wanted to wear the comfortable knit dress that I made here.
It reminded me of how much pressure we unnecessarily put on ourselves as parents sometimes. They were fine with it. (And they know there are always dresses in the pipeline.)
The dress is now finished and I dare say it's the most special dress I have ever made. The fabric comes from Tia's birth city, Harar, Ethiopia.
Initially, I was unsure about using it. There was a part of me that wanted to save the fabric for something really special. So I asked on Instagram and it was pretty much unanimous that I should use it now. Dan (and others) suggested I could always save the dress for one of Tia's (hypothetical) children someday. Which I most certainly will do. I also held onto the fabric I didn't use, thinking I may be able to incorporate it into something special when Tia is older.
It's hard to put into words how important this fabric is to us. Dan and I had both hoped to travel to Tia's birth city together when we were in Ethiopia. But, at the time, the US Embassy had issued a travel advisory in that area, meaning that government employees were not allowed to travel there and tourists were strongly discouraged from doing so. Dan grew up in Liberia (West Africa) and decided he felt confident traveling there with a guide, but I stayed back in the capital city with Tarikua.
Dan chose this fabric for us and it's one of the only tangible items I have from her birth city.
Some may call it coincidence, some may call it miraculous or meant-to-be, but a significant part of Tia's story took place in the main sewing district of Harar. We were told people traveled from all over Ethiopia to have garments made there. And that's where this fabric is from.
When we were in the adoption process we were required to go through 12 hours of adoption education in addition to doing nearly 1,000 pages of reading and writing a required almost 30 page (typed) essay on what we had learned. One thing we learned during that process, something that was emphasized over and over, is not to share our child's first story. Their first story and the reasons behind each adoption are theirs alone. These stories are private and in a sense, sacred. So there is so much more to this story that I wish I could tell but for Tia's sake we have chosen not to.
In Harar Dan was able to see the first photo of Tia ever taken, when she was just 1 month old
Social media has allowed people to share very private things to a very wide and public audience. For awhile, there was a push toward 'being authentic' and 'telling your story'. I get that it can be therapeutic for some people and I have learned a lot from reading people's stories - adoption stories, birth stories, mothering stories. But I think it's good to balance that by remembering that not everyone is comfortable sharing their story and not all stories are meant to be shared. A person who shares is not better or more honest than one who is more private. And we certainly aren't entitled to hear other people's stories. They don't belong to us. I had an a-ha! moment about this a couple years ago when a friend shared how much it hurt when people asked about her birth story.
We recently talked with Tia about how the day might come when someone will ask about her 'real' mom. (That terminology can be hurtful to all people in the adoption triad : children, first parents, and adoptive parents). I asked Tia what she would say if someone asked who her 'real' mom was and she looked puzzled and then enthusiastically exclaimed "Rachel!". I guess she thought I was quizzing her to see if she remembered my first name. I told her some people use that term when asking about someone's first mommy. She said "Oh, well, I don't want to tell them that story." We told her that's okay, that she doesn't have to. We practiced saying - "That story is private."
I hope that children (and adults) will respect that and allow her to guard her heart in that way.
On a lighter note, onto some of the dress details!
This fabric was the most challenging I have ever worked with.
It was thin and gauzy but shifted a lot, like a linen might shift. When we go back to Ethiopia someday, I may need to ask if I can take lessons from the seamsters in Harar.
This is the Hanami pattern, which I had planned to pair with the Geranium View B pleated skirt like this dress I made that was too short for Indigo, but now fits Tia perfectly.
It turned out that this fabric was too lightweight to hold pleats well, so I gathered it instead.
Tia is quite petite, so I cut the bodice in a size 4. Then I cut an inch off of the bodice to shorten it just a bit. I think I've done this to most of the Hanami dresses and hybrids that I've made.
And that is the story behind Tia's birthday Harari Hanami dress!