Sunday, August 06, 2006
Meet and Greet
I slept for most of the trip over (Thank you Ambien), woke up in time to stagger to the closet, uh, bathroom, reassemble myself and have breakfast. Looking back landing in Moscow, traveling to the other airport and flying 2 ½ hours to our region ,Rostov-On-Don is rather a blur. Foreign land ,foreign faces, foreign language. Then I realize, Moscow looks how I imagine NYC would, the people look and dress pretty much like ,well, Americans. Actually they dress better and seem to put a little more effort into looking good. Honestly, the women, I do not think I saw a woman that was not in full makeup, hair stylishly kept , bejeweled and high heels. Not a sweat pant, stretch pant or tennis shoe in sight.And almost no one is overweight. So glad I dressed for style instead of comfort My husband isn't minding the view either, Very short skirts, nylons and HIGH heels seem to be the outfit of choice. But I digress.
Plane-Aeroflot-Old but OK, sat in coach, (note to self), fly Business next go round. Our seats were not even together, I kid you not.
Land in Rostov , picked up by facilitator and two drivers in two very small cars. They know how Americans pack. We have Three large suitcases, two carry ons and a stroller. We then catapult out into the street, we are projectiles in a winner take all style of driving. Or may the best man win. Man is the appropriate term as we learn that less than 5% of women have drivers licenses. In the two weeks I would spend in Russia ,I never saw a single women driving. We arrive at our Group home. A pretty nice duplex in an upper middle class neighborhood .All the houses are surround by very high solid metal fences. We would come to refer to it as the compound. The first floor consisted of a foyer where all shoes are deposited. A small kitchen, a small den and dining area, glassed in porch, a small deck ,a bathroom where the toilet is in one room and the shower and sink is in another and two small bedrooms. Up a flight of the skinniest stairs I have ever seen are two rather large bedrooms. Ours has a small deck. I have no idea how they got our suitcases up those stairs. At the house is another couple who arrived the day before from New Jersey. They are adopting a 11 month old baby boy. Breakfast is at 8, be ready to leave at 9am. We fall in bed.
Breakfast- A huge meal cooked by the women who will stay and take care of us. Huge and filling. As all the meals will be. Fried eggs, thick slices of homemade bread with equally thick slices of bologna and white cheese melted on top, toast, a variety of amazing jams, fresh butter, sliced oranges, Hot tea and Juice.
We get to know our housemates. Two NJ Yanks and Two Alabama Rebels. We could not have been more different at first, more then alike as the days go by. Like us, they were first time parents, 35+. They were adopting a baby boy who had been born three months premature . They had already visited him once and he was a big healthy 11 month old.They prepared us for the meeting we were about to have.
I want to add that this couple has since evolved into our best of friends. In the 6 years since we met in Russia ,we have visited each other, vacationed together and been through three more adoptions between us. I truly believe that just as God choose our children ,he also had a hand in crossing our paths with them. I have spoken to him about how far he put us apart . She and I have laughed, cried, compared kids, development, parental mishap's and successes and truly she is the one and only person who can totally get it, when it comes to our children and our families.
The two weeks we spent together in the compound was filled with more laughter than I can ever remember. If you have the chance to stay in a group home or in a host home. Go for it. It will be a chance of a lifetime and a way to get to know your child's country like no other.
On to our son.
We drive for 2 hours to the town of Kamensk. Through miles sunflower fields and countryside that was really beautiful. We also drive by houses that looked as if they were built 50 to 100 years ago. Many with no electricity, no indoor plumbing. Outhouses behind almost all of them. Few had cars, we passed many buses. Kamensk is a coal mining town. Many tall apartment buildings in need of repair. Parking Lots almost empty. We passed many streets in town that were not paved. We pass through a gate and park at a large building, that looked better than most all we had passed. No signs at all of the children that reside inside. No sounds of children either ,we are escorted into an office that I am sure was furnished about 50 years before, at least. But despite the dismal first impression, I notice plants and flowers in the windowsill, it is immaculately clean and the quietest place I have ever been. We sit in silence, with our translator, who is a young man that speaks 5 languages and is very personable and talkative on the trip over. Once inside it is all business.
In walks a small petite woman with short dark hair, in a white medical coat and full of smiles. She is the Director of the Orphanage, and apediatritionrition. She picks up a large brown folder .Our translator tells us she will give us our son's entire history, at the end we may ask questions. .
She surprises us by telling us that she was on call the night our son was born and delivered him and that his Great Grandmother used to work as a housekeeper at the hospital. He had 4 siblings all healthy, BM had not been seen since leaving the hospital hours after he was born .He comes from tough stock, he was a 10lb vaginal birth. Medical , no surprises. As an afterthought she mentions that he does spit up a lot, but they will give us some medication to take with us to give him before we feed him.
Do we still want this baby and do we want to see him?
Those were the exact word's Are they kidding, YESYESYES
More slow torturous minutes pass, you'd think by now we would be Olympic Champs of the waiting arena. NO.
In walks ...who knows ,we are not looking at the caretaker, our eyes are glued on this small figure covered head to toe in many layers of clothes ,including a big thick knitted yellow and green cap. All we can see are big blue eyes and a thumb in his mouth. They hand him to me and he strains his neck to keep eye contact with the Russian ladies who are speaking to him , all I understand is Momma and Pappa. They are calling him Ivanya. All I can do is hold this precious bundle against my chest, kissing his cheeks and I cannot recall what else transpired. They all so reverently left the three of us alone. My husband quickly took off the hat and sweater. It was sweltering inside. Whatever luxuries and niceties Russians may lack, indoor heat is not one of them. We take pictures, OOH,AHH and COO over him for an hour. That's all we got. We repeat this visit, for the next two days, but they let us see him in a play room. A big barren room with no toys, a wooden low table with a plastic pad it, a piano and a wall of mirrors. No matter , we have brought enough toys to entertain several children at once. He never cries, cannot sit up by himself but does play with the toys and begins to interact with us. The last visit he falls asleep peacefully in my arms clutching a blue monkey we have brought him. Our translator takes polaroids of us with our son. Proof that we have visited him before court. Oddly, I have yet to see a single other child here. Or hear one. The explanation for that must be the very thick, solid concrete and plaster walls. I figured out our visits are right after lunch and during nap time. I think this is out of respect for the other children. For the ones not being visited.
Court Day.
Nervous, and Excited.
Look at the judge, keep answers short. Yes, it looks just like a court room look on TV. The judge is wearing black robes. The others in court are the Prosecutor, The Director of the Orphanage, The pediatrition of the orphanage and the regional director, a court reporter and our translator. The Regional Dir. stands and states that we have petitioned to adopt this child, they have no objections. The Director stands and gives a brief history of his relinquishment and that she has observed us with him and has no objections. The pediatrition gives his medical history, stating that he is very malnourished, signs of a serious GI issue and needs to be adopted by us and seen by our doctor at home ASAP. (Um,say what?). Then the judge eyes us, and asks who will speak for us. My husband stands, she asks him a few non personal questions ,then asks him why we want to adopt this baby, given his medical issues. My stoic husband dissolves in tears, the first time I have ever seen him tear up ,let alone cry. Pass the Kleenex, now everyone in the room is crying, even the Judge is wiping her eyes. So I take over.
Why this child, why this country, why now?
How do your families, communities feel about it?
Why not adopt from the US?
How will you care, provide, educate and entertain him?
I answer.
THEN she turns to the Regional Director. And an argument of sorts ensures between them, with a few eye rolls from the RD and a couple of finger points from the judge. By now, I am starting to have a meltdown. Is it just me or does anyone speaking russian sound mad and pissed off?
The judge then speaks to our translator and he turns to us, blood draining out of his face. It seems a piece of paper is missing from our son's dossier. Seems there is supposed to a signature from the BM or any relative stating they agree to the adoption. WHAT!!? How did we get here without that? I think the attitude the RD had peeved the judge. She assures the judge she can get it and the judge tells us to return in two days to complete the adoption. WE leave in shock. Back at the house , our facilitator, who is a childhood and long time friend of the judge assures us that all will be fine, that the judge is just trying to make a point with the woman. Since the BM's whereabouts are unknown, our facilitator and the RD must drive that night 3 hours to the Great grandmother's house and back. They leave at 5pm and return at midnight. A half sheet of paper with 4 handwritten lines from the grandmother stating that she does not know where the BM is and that she agrees the adoption. We have that piece of paper. The next day was hard for us because the other couple got to pick up their son. But it was a good distraction as we waited for our SECOND court date, as it took the 4 of us to figure out what to do with one baby.
2nd Court Day-Same crowd , RD had a much different attitude. Judge enters, peruses the paper ,then leaves. About 30 minutes later she return, reads the court decree that states that we are now the parents of Riley Will and she has waived our 10 days and wishes us the best. She is all smiles. Just another day at the office.
Thursday, Nov. 4th, a family is born.
Friday we get to pick him up.
We can now breathe, my husband faxes and I phone .
Add a new branch to the family tree.


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