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!
This post brought tears to my eyes Rachel. Tia is suc a beauty and I love the dress and story behind it. Such a beautiful fabric - the collar is my favourite too! Hoping everyone is on the mend in your home and you're all feeling well xReplyDelete
Happy birthday. Here's to beautiful healthy children in gorgeous clothes and not over sharing! Did you decide against waist trim in the end?ReplyDelete
This dress is so beautiful and will be something to keep. Thanks for talking a bit about adoption and how this is a private story. One of my sisters has adopted two children and the other has a foster daughter. Their stories are heart breaking and very private, too. Something that they have to decide whether to share ot not...ReplyDelete
It's a lovely dress and post. I loved seeing the photos of the sewing district and especially the first photo ever taken of Tia. That fabric is special indeed and you did well by it.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Masha! We love that photo so much! <3Delete
Beautiful girl & beautiful dress! That's such a special story about the fabric too, and I love the photos of the garment district.ReplyDelete
I hope you're all feeling better now.
Thank you, Suzy! I think we are mostly on the mend now! :)Delete
Gorgeous! I love both. I am sure Tia will treasure these, especially as part of her heritage.ReplyDelete
Man, you are a wise woman. I always feel myself nodding when I read your posts. What a special dress to a special girl. Beautiful!!ReplyDelete
beautiful post Rachel as ever. But this is one is even more special, just like this dress. Tia is so lucky to have you as her mom : you are so wise and loving.ReplyDelete
As an adopted child, I've often thought that the world needed a little more education about asking a person's birth story and using the term "real mom". Whenever asked who my real mom was I always gave the name of my adopted mom. People were often confused by that, but she is, indeed, my real mom. The realest mom I could have. The woman who raised me, nursed me through sickness, and who chose to give me a home and a place in her heart. Few people know my birth story but I've always found that people are very respectful when I tell them that it's private. I know that your daughter will cherish this dress for the rest of her life, as she will cherish you.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Bernadette. Wow, your words! Totally made me cry. How beautiful! Thank you.Delete
Rachel I am just happy that you shared the story of the dress fabric. It became even more beautiful to know the story. I am so glad that there are people like you in this world who are able to love and take care of children like Tia. You are one amazing, real mum.ReplyDelete
Aw, I love it - real mum! Thank you so much! <3Delete
Your words are so true, Rachel. It is private and they will choose to share it - or not. My son (13 years) never says a word about his adoption. Never. It is his secret and his private story he wants to keep for himself. Tia will choose too. Any way, I love the story of this fabric and what you made with it.ReplyDelete
Your thoughts on keeping Tia's first story private really struck a chord with me. I"m amazed by the amount of pre-adoption work you had to do, and wish that our social worker had educated us to the degree you obviously were. I very clearly remember receiving Katie's referral picture from the agency and taking it to church the following Sunday to show all our friends. As all we women were clustered in a circle looking at her picture, someone inevitably asked what her "story" was. Not having had the very sage advice you had (and perhaps because this was a few years earlier than yours?), I started sharing the story of her birth mother. Before I got too far into the story, another adoptive mother from our church took me aside and gently shared with me that I may not want to share Katie's story in the fashion that I was, and that it was HER story to tell when and how she wished, not mine to toss around to sate the curiousity of those around. Her very wise advice has stuck with me through all these years, and now when people asked what we know about her "story", I am much more cautious to answer. And Tia will one day decide when and how much she shares as well. Parenting is always a learning process; perhaps even more so when you have the adoption triad in place.ReplyDelete
And I'm so glad you decided to use the fabric for her birthday dress. I know you will not regret it, esp. as it's so beautiful! Perhaps save a fabric swatch for a scrapbook? And hoping that everyone is continuing to heal - what an exhausting week for you!!
Tia is the most beautiful child. She is blessed to have you both. I'm sure she brings you much joy. Thanks for all the pictures. What a journey! I hope you can go back one day. It would be an emotional trip. Blessings on your Sunday,ReplyDelete
Such a special birthday dress, I adore it. As for the adoption story: having adopted three kids myself I am sometimes horrified by the questions people ask me. Private things. I never get into detail, it's not my right to tell about my children's birth stories. I always tell people to ask my children when they're old enough, theu usually get what I mean. I think if my kids want their stories to be told, they will in their own time. If they don't, everyone should respect that.ReplyDelete
Gorgeous! The dress is just as beautiful as it is meaningful.ReplyDelete
Rachel. When I saw the picture of Tia and her dress I thought "What a beautiful dress!" Now, I think it's gorgeous. Love to read your thoughts and heart. And thank you, because I'm one of that curious person who ask sometimes more than they should, just for curiosity. It's a great lesson.ReplyDelete
Wow, that is really insightful and humble of you. Truthfully, I had no idea about most of this either! I am so thankful for adoption education! It really helped me learn so much!Delete
Tia is very lucky if she did not get questions or remarks until now. My little one is having a hard time (she is 6 1/2) currently because children at school tell her EVERY SINGLE DAY that I am not her real mom etc... We talk about it A LOT, but it makes her sooooo sad and she is soooo fed up. She talked to her teacher and asked her to discuss that matter (what is a real mom ?) but she declined.ReplyDelete
Sometimes I am really angry about all that stupid people...
I am so sorry to read this. It makes my heart hurt. I don't know what to say except that I am so sorry. No child or parent deserves to be treated in that way. :(Delete
Beautiful dress and beautiful girl! I loved seeing the pictures from the city she was born.ReplyDelete
Sorry, I read this post on my phone and got all verklempt, and haven't come back to comment until now! What a beautiful post, a lovely tribute to Tia's birthplace, and an even more beautiful Tarikua. She comes from such a rich culture, I hope she will always be so self-possessed and assured in her sense of selfhood as she clearly is now ("I don't want to tell that story.")! She just RADIATES. There's no other way to describe it. :-)ReplyDelete
Glad you're all on the mend now! Sounds brutal!
What a great post, Rachel! She will cherish this dress forever, I'm sure. The fabric is so beautiful- and Tia really does glow in it!ReplyDelete
A beautiful dress for a beautiful girl. I was adopted by my step-father as an adult. Most of the people I have known in my adult life don't know this. I guess it is "my" story to tell but I just don't share it with people. I never thought about it as being my story. Thank you.ReplyDelete
I love the dress. The knowledge of where the fabric came from just adds to the beauty of the dress.
I came across your blog fairly recently for the first time and was just kind of wandering around it when I came across this post. I'm not adopted, nor am I planning on adopting, at least not in the foreseeable future, and I don't even know very many people who are adopted, but I wanted to thank you for your very wise words on sharing your story, and how one who shares is not better than one who chooses not to. I've been very private for most of my life, and am still very careful not to overshare on my social media, but over the last year I've been sharing my story in person and in writing more widely than I ever have before. In most ways sharing it has been freeing, but it has also made me appreciate more the importance of being careful who you share with, and being careful to hold some things sacred.ReplyDelete