This is a tough one. When we started the adoption process I felt fairly certain we would have Zeni escorted home so we didn't have to leave Hayden. As we got further along, I was again quite certain that either I or Jeremy (probably me) would travel, and the other would stay home with Hayden. As we neared travel time, and Zeni was a real person, Jeremy and I felt strongly that we should both travel. We tossed around the idea of one of us going for the whole time, the other coming halfway through in order to minimize the time we left Hayden, but in the end we decided to both go for the whole time, leaving Hayden at home.
Taking Hayden with us was briefly discussed. He is an active kid (read: would go ape shit in an airplane for 20 hours) and I thought he probably wouldn't get to experience much of the country since he would be so screwed up and let lagged the whole time (something Jeremy and I mitigated with sleeping pills and this wonderful drug called provigil - not something we wanted to give to Hayden).
Our order of preference for the final decision was:
1. Hayden stays at our home with my mom
2. Hayden goes to stay with my mom in NC (my mom would have rather had him come to her, but we wanted to minimize disruption to him as much as possible)
3. Take Hayden to Ethiopia, and also take my brother along and have him take care of Hayden as much as possible. (This was a distant 3rd).
We are SO lucky that my mom was able to come here and stay with Hayden. We spent a lot of time talking to Hayden before we left, got him a (very) small present for every day that we were gone that came with a letter, describing what we were doing. We also put 10 large pieces of paper up on his wall and each night he tore one down, and he knew when there were no more pieces of paper left, we would be home.
Leaving him was without a doubt the hardest part of the trip. When we got back it was clear that he had missed us and felt insecure and angry - he was much more clingy, moody, didn't want to do things he had previously enjoyed if it involved being away from me. I have a lot of guilt about that, but I wouldn't have done it any other way for the following reasons:
1. The travel indeed would have been atrocious
2. It was really nice to have a few days (even if one of them was on an airplane) where it was just Jeremy and me - and we tried to enjoy kid-free living as much as possible.
3. If Hayden had been with us I would have spent all my time in Ethiopia worrying about and entertaining him, instead of doing what I did which was start to get to know my daughter and her country of birth.
Hayden turns 3 in December. I met people who were traveling with their kids ages 6+ who were doing great. Age and temperament obviously have a lot to do with the decision, as do finances, support network, and parentel temperment. Whatever you decide, it will be a trip to remember!