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Plymouth Mother Writes About The Joy, Guilt Of Adopting An Ethiopian Toddler

Inspired by the chance to give a child all the opportunities of America, Christine and Michael Ieronimo of Plymouth traveled to Ethiopia in 2008 and adopted a 2-year-old girl.

Six years later, Christine Ieronimo has written a book that weaves her love for her daughter with global messages about hungry children, the value of clean water and the haunting sacrifices of poor women.

"A Thirst For Home: A Story of Water across the World" (Walker Books For Young Readers) is set for release on May 20. The book chronicles the journey of a young girl from her impoverished homeland — where chronic hunger and long treks for water are daily realities — to a new home in Connecticut.

Ieronimo, 45, of Plymouth, is a critical care nurse and married mother of three other children. The first-time author recently talked about her book, the evolution of her thoughts on adoption and the lessons she hopes to impart to kids in this country.

Q: A major theme of the book is that water is precious and connects all people. How did you come to that theme?

A: After I returned from adopting Eva, it was the following day, a spring day in May, and it had rained the night before. There was a big puddle in my driveway, and she squatted down and started drinking from the puddle. I knew she came from a place where people didn't have access to clean drinking water, but that really hit home for me. It was powerful to see that my dear daughter at two was used to drinking from the ground.

Q: You first titled the book, "Through Eva's Eyes." Why the change in title?

A: It was a joint effort between me and the publisher, because if you read the book, it's about how she's connected to her homeland and her need to be connected to her homeland.

Q: You have said that you wanted to give an Ethiopian child "a great life," but the minute you met Eva's birth mother, you knew something wasn't right.

A: It wasn't until I actually met her that I realized that I was so unsettled and that the whole idea of this wonderful adoption came crumbling down around me, because I realized that there was a woman on the other end of it who had lost her daughter just because of her circumstances. That really weighed on my conscious.

This is a woman who was illiterate, who never had the opportunity to get an education, a single mother, and she was left with the option of either struggling to survive with her daughter, or giving her up for a chance at a better life.

Q: You adopted Eva during a period when many Ethiopian children were being adopted. So the scope of the issue — of so many women making such a difficult decision — was part of what bothered you?

A: I found that very unsettling. I was haunted by our meeting, and not a day went by that I didn't think about her mother and the unbelievable choice and sacrifice that she made.

Q: You've gone back to see the birth mother again, right?

A: I went back in 2012 and 2013. She was so happy to see me and to get information about Eva. She was waiting. It was just one of the happiest moments of my life because I had been thinking about her for four years. And now we keep in touch, and I consider us family. I consider her my sister. Eva has two mothers, and she knows it ….This book, more than talking about clean water, it honors courage and it honors her mother and her homeland.

Q: Do you think you can get past the guilt that you say you have felt about Eva's birth mother?

A: (Ieronimo said she is supporting the education of Eva's biological siblings in Ethiopia and helping the birth mother to launch her own bread making business).

Knowing that we're connected and that I can help her and and knowing that (Eva's siblings) are safe and not starving and going to school gives me peace.

Q: Your term for hunger in the book is "the lion" roaring in Eva's belly. Is that a term the Ethiopians use?

A: It was just the way that I was trying to explain the intense hunger that children have. It's a hunger that we don't understand over here.

Q: You said when we spoke in 2009 about the planned book that you hoped to raise awareness among American children so that some day, when they have the means to ease others' suffering, they will. Is that still a primary goal?

A: I want them to see what it's like in other countries. I always say in my presentations when people ask — "What was the hardest thing for you?" — coming home and living the way I lived, because I saw that people can live with absolutely nothing and here we have everything. This book is a way for me to show children, in a gentle way, what it's like for children in other countries.

Q: This is your first book. What did you learn about getting published?

A: You have to have a passion beyond what people say and think and never give up.

For more information about Christine Ieronimo and "A Thirst For Home," visit www.christineieronimo.com.

Copyright © 2015, CT Now
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