Above all, Julie Meyaard is a mother. When the Meyaard family decided to adopt from Ethiopia for the first time, they were already parents to five children. Before long, their family blossomed to 10 children; four of which are adopted from Ethiopia. Julie never expected she’d share her children with anyone—especially her adopted daughter’s birth mother. The Meyaard’s unexpected journey of love and acceptance is one that every family can learn from.
When the Meyaards first traveled to Ethiopia in 2009 to adopt Myla, they also met her birth mother, Ethiopia, at a birth family meeting. Suffering from Polio and concerned for her daughter’s well being, Ethiopia had decided to give Rutta (Myla’s Ethiopian name) up for adoption. Julie remembers Ethiopia sharing her wish for Myla with their family; “she prayed that Myla would have a Christian family with a dad,” Julie said. Her wish came true, but that didn’t mean the adjustment was easy. “Myla immediately bonded with my husband, Steve. She was so excited to have a dad, but felt less excited by me,” Julie said. “It took longer for us to bond because she had a great mom who loved her and cherished her before me.”
After the Meyaards returned to the U.S. with Myla, Myla’s birth mother would often send messages and photos. “I didn’t share a lot of it with Myla because I felt very protective about forming a relationship with my daughter,” Julie said. In spite of her fears, Julie made an effort to visit Myla’s birth mom the next time they returned to Ethiopia to adopt their son, Desmond, two and a half years ago. “We met her at a store that she worked at. She is a very sweet, selfless woman,” Julie said. “She has polio, which is a huge part of why she gave Myla up, but she’s doing really well now. The church has helped her a lot.”
This time, when the Meyaards returned home with Desmond, there was a Facebook friend request waiting. “Ethiopia had asked to be my friend on Facebook. I felt weird about it, but God worked on my heart and I said yes. It was the first piece of me letting go,” Julie said. Little did Julie know, this was only the beginning of their journey with Myla’s birth mom.
When Julie and Steve set out to adopt two more children, sisters Melat and Rosina from Ethiopia, they received an adoption grant from Joseph’s Dream Coat ministry in Texas. “We asked them if we could bring Myla to Ethiopia, so she could meet her sisters and possibly some birth family. And they let me bring her,” Julie said. After they picked up Melat and Rosina, they decided to give Myla’s mom a call. Julie worked to prepare Myla for the reunion and told her how much her birth family had prayed to see her again. When they arrived at Ethiopia’s house, she was running to greet them, “with a look of sheer joy on her face,” Julie said. “Everyone was screaming Myla’s Ethiopian name, Rutta.”
When they entered the house, they were surprised to find all of Myla’s birth family gathered there. “There was no way I could prepare myself to walk into that room. All of Myla’s birth family was in the room because they also happened to be celebrating Myla’s birth mom’s graduation day,” Julie said. “The celebration and happiness in that room felt like a glimpse of what heaven would be like. It was like God was telling me that once I let go of all my worries God would show me so much more than we could have hoped for.”
The next day, Julie, Myla, Melat, and Rosina went back to Ethiopia’s house to say goodbye. “She kept looking at me and saying, ‘I’m so happy.’ She was so sweet and humble. I just felt like we were all family,” Julie said. The experience was a life-changing lesson in the power of acceptance and letting go. “I worried that all of this work with Myla would go away,” Julie said. “But those fears were not warranted. It was a great thing for Myla at the time. She was ten and had established great relationships with family and church. She saw how hard life was in Ethiopia and saw her birth mom crying and saying that this is what she wants for her. She knows we’ve been truthful and haven’t hidden anything from her.”
Through this experience, the Meyaards also realized the importance of these family ties. “We’re all family now. I held Myla’s birth mother at arm’s length and now I feel like it’s our daughter together and ultimately God’s daughter,” Julie said. “The more we let go and trust God, the better things are. It has changed our relationship in the best way.”
Today, Myla’s birth mom is able to see and read about the daily happenings of Myla’s life through Facebook. “For her to see Myla on Facebook running a 5k and doing all of these wonderful things, it’s a story written by God,” Julie said. Julie gained a lot of closure through Myla’s reunion with her birth mother. “After I adopted Myla 6 years ago, I never thought I’d go back. It was so hard. I had no intention of staying in contact with her birth family or adopting more children. God worked on my heart a lot and said I wanted this to change your whole life,” Julie said. And it did.