Saturday, August 19, 2006
The millennium.
New Frontiers and all that.
Well for most of the world the year 2000 was pretty much like 1999.
For us it was A Brave New World.
The first 2 months of the new year my world was an explosion of change and my son, well he was just exploding. He gained a pound a week for 16 weeks. He went from boney to skinny to lean to mean to chubby and well, down right fat. And sweat. And drool. Almost every picture of him during those first 6 months he is shiny with perspiration and a big wet lake of drool on his shirt. I felt like I should have been wearing a raincoat when in close proximity of him. But like all mothers, none of his bodily fluids bothered me. I think there must be a gene yet to be discovered in all mothers that makes us immune to such. Our doctor told is all was well, just his metabolism was in overdrive. The combination of plentiful food and intense catch up growth, my little blue eyed engine that could was in overdrive. It would all soon level out and it did, when he was about 2. Meanwhile, I was really getting to like this stay at home stuff. I tried not to think about the end of my furlough that was coming up in Feb., right after Riley had his first birthday. I had a good day care lined up and I had made the decision to change shifts at the hospital to better suit our family and lessen Riley's time in daycare. I was going into a 7on/7off 11am-9pm slot. The week started on Wed and ended on Tuesday. So I took Riley to day care at 10:30am and this gave us some morning time then Dad picked him up at 5pm. 3 days of this and then he had the weekends with Dad, then back to day care for Mon. and Tues. then 7 days home with me.This worked out great and gave him and Daddy some amazing bonding time. The weekends also gave Dad 10 straight hours of being on Riley duty for two days in a row. Dad gained a whole new appreciation of Mom's 3 months off . It was really 3 months ON!
March,April, May,June, July, August all speed by.
Riley reached his milestones, some right on time, some a little slow. He was only belly crawling until he was 18 months old and then on Aug.18, stood up and literally ran across the den.In the last 7 years we have seen this all or nothing approach to the world from him many times. He was talking ,slept great. Really an easy child.
All was fine until late August when Dad picked him up from daycare and saw a large child sized bite on the back of his neck.
The phrase "All Hell Broke Loose" would be an understatement.
That night my husband issued the only ultimatum he has ever uttered to me.
"Tomorrow turn in your notice at work"
That night was probably the only time in 24 years of marriage I have ever ,without comment or input, followed the "Obey" part of the marriage ceremony.
The next day I handed in my resignation and for the next two weeks I worked out my time, my mother and sister kept Riley.
I had been an at home Mom ,then a working Mom. I had spent time on both sides of the fence. For my husband and I and especially for my son, this was the absolutely best decision. It did not come without sacrifice or some tight financial moments. But it was always the right choice. Our grass was greener at home.
And 6 years and another adoption and daughter later, it remains one of the best things I have done for them.
I do think that God lead us to that decision because he must have known what the future would soon reveal for Riley and how much he would need my extra time and attention.
We were blissfully unaware that Riley's speech and some quirks were early indications of language delay and sensory integration dysfunction. I was not one of those competitive Moms, I was quite content to let Riley move at his own pace. I think when you have a child that had such a rough start in life and was probably closer to dying than living at one time, you tend to be so grateful that he is just there, you magnify how far he has come and you tend to skim over the areas where he is behind, I mean look how far behind the start line he was at the beginning. That he was still in the race was deserving of a medal.
Also our country and the world had been through 9/11. Shall I mention that 9/11 was also the day that we received the call from our agency that they had referral for us in Russia. At the exact moment the second plane was crashing into the WTC, my phone was ringing.
Joy, terror, excitement, fear, anticipation, trepidation all rolled up into one, me. We left 11 days later to meet our daugter ,then returned 7 weeks after that to bring her home. We were gone for 20 days and Riley stayed behind with my sister, Mom and my niece. Once home, like most Americans, we gathered our family around us and gave thanks and began to really appreciate the small simple moments of our life.
That is until you get the note from the Preschool Speech Screening test that said in so many words,
"RUN, don't walk to your nearest elementary school and their Early Intervention Speech Therapist."
Some Moms might have cried, some may have gotten a second opinion, some may have not done anything.
I RAN to the closest elementary school with my screaming 3 year old son who wanted nothing to do with it.
Should I mention by now I also had a 14 month old daughter that had been with us for a mere 2 months at this time, in tow.
Here is where the second chapter of our life begins.
I hope that this will be a tribute to everyone who came to work each day at this school and has helped us in the last 4 years and the many years to come because while
a woman I will never meet in Russia brought him to life ,
while my husband and I gave him a life,
But there is a group of people who are giving him a future, more than just employees just doing their job at SES.
The journey has been hard, heartbreaking, physically demanding, emotionally taxing and even frightening.
It has also been joyous, surprising,funny and endlessly rewarding and ever hopeful.
They are angels, heroines, life savers and they have given my son the wings to soar and solid ground to stand on.
It truly has and does take a VILLAGE.

Monday, August 14, 2006
We are Family
Let me try and not give every detail. I will hit the highlights. We spend 5 days in Moscow. It is cold and snowing. A novelty at first for us Southerners which will turn into a validation of why we choose not to live in the north. We shop, we eat and in between we became parents. We fell in love with Russia, the history and people. We can hardly sleep the night before we go home. Could be anticipation of 11 hours on the plane to New York, then another p lane to Atlanta and still another to Birmingham. In all we will travel for 20 hours before we arrive home at midnight. We pack our carryons with every imaginable item we might and probably would never need for our son. We say a tearful goodbye to our new best friends. Thanks to our travel agent who suggested we forgo the baby bassinet and spend the money on a regular seat ticket for our son. I truly believe that was the secret to our flight home. He ate, slept, played, pooped (Yes, we are toasting each and every one) and we had a wonderful flight. In fact, we breezed thru INS and through all the flights. To this day he is still a great traveler, be it a 10 hour car ride or the many plane trips we have taken. We make a promise to him and ourselves to return to Russia one day and show him his birthplace.
Arrival at midnight to a horde of friends and family, balloons and signs. No child could have been more welcomed into a family. Looking back at those pictures, I can not imagine what they were thinking. We thought he was the most beautiful baby we had ever seen. He wasn’t. He was skinny, had pink eye and looked pitiful. Beauty is the eye… or maybe Love is blind.
It was our dream come true.
I am now reminded of the saying “Ugly in the cradle, pretty at the table” and that has held true.
Our families and friends ,thankfully waited years to tell us how worried they were when they first saw him. We are surrounded by the best ones, friends and family that is and they have supported us emotionally, physically and enthusiastically for the past 6 years. I could not imagine doing it without them.
I was pretty impressed with myself as a new mom of 39. For the firsts 24 hours home. That is until my sister saw my ”Baby schedule” on my fridge. She laughed until she cried. You see, the orphanage had given us the daily schedule our son had been on. Being the well informed adoptive Mom , I had gleaned from others that keeping your child on a familiar schedule and gradually changing it helps in transition and attachment. Obviously my sister, 4 years younger but a veteran Mom had not been told.
Here was the source of her merriment
6am bottle
8-9am nap
9:30 breakfast
10-11 play
11-1:00 nap
1:00pm lunch
2-4pm nap
4pm bottle
5-6pm nap
6:30 pm dinner
8pm nap
10:00 pm bottle
10:30pm Bedtime
Ok, now it does seem a little, Stepford….More disturbing I actually did this…for about 5 days. The worse part was having to admit that my sister was right. Yes, Beth ,I said it in print to the world.
You were right.
Adoptive parents who may read this and have yet to bring their child home,listen up. Transition and change are inevitable. Be it sooner or later. But a happy, relaxed Mom who is tune with the schedule is by far the most important ingredient in a happy and attached baby.
I saved that infamous computer generated schedule and put it in his baby book. It is still good for a chuckle now and then.
I totally LOVE being a Mom and being at home. I had been a dedicated career woman since graduating from college. For 18 years I had worked a 40 hour week and then some, taking call and arriving at the hospital in a flash- day, night and holidays. I had my first job at 16 and worked weekends and summers ever since. Not because I had to but because my Dad instilled in us the drive to always be able to take care of ourselves. I was the Poster Child for Working Women Everywhere. We were the upwardly mobile couple, unencumbered by offspring. We were the Captains of our own Ship.
The thing is, it wasn’t a ship, it was a dinghy or a catamaran, maybe even a canoe. Something built for two and built for speed. Easily driven and didn’t take a lot of planning or fileing of a flight plan.
But now, our house was a home and we were a family. My husband was Captain of the ship and I was happily First Mate.
I did not miss work, stimulating conversation or adult companionship. All a little too highly rated. But until you have something to compare it too, ya just don’t know.
How can you describe chocolate to someone. You can’t really know how delicious chocolate is, how once you taste it you must have it and how nothing else compares…without tasting it.
To me, becoming a parent was the same.
At the end of my life it would be the only thing I would have regretted not doing.
It is the best decision I have ever made and the most important j ob I have ever had. And the one accomplishment I am most proud and also most worried about doing a good job.
There is no manual and too many grading systems. I tend to grade on the curve.
Some days I curve up towards heroic ,some days merely great and others, well ,lets just say my kids are young and maybe they won’t remember those days.
Memory is a funny thing because I can’t for the life of me remember much before my name changed from Kim to Mom.
Some days Mom feels like a four letter word.
Luckily, most days the four letters spell LOVE.

Friday, August 11, 2006
Where's the Poop and other Special Firsts
I will get to that in a moment.
It is a day more important than the day we got married, really it is. We take champagne, a massive box of chocolates to the orphanage to pick up our son. Our SON. I love saying that, even now 6 years later. The new never wears off. We also take a case of formula and a case of disposable diapers. Not that I ever saw one on my son, but this is what they asked for, I would have delivered the moon if they had requested it.
We dressed up for the occasion. Always dress nice when pictures you will look at for eternity are taken, you will be glad you lugged panty hose, knee high black boots and your husbands wedding/funeral clothes across the ocean.
We walk in sign a paper and they take us back to the playroom. They had instructed us to bring everything he would need for him to wear and for the 2 ½ hour trip back to Rostov. We were basically getting a naked baby, no dowry included.
His primary caretaker brings him to us, gives him lots of kisses on the forehead and I am sure her Russian words were, “be happy, love him well and send us some photos.” With shaking hands we removed about 3 layers of clothes. No diaper just a long swath of cloth wrapped endlessly around his ,well, diaper region. Oh, My God, how skinny, light as a feather and doesn’t smell too overly good. Sorta vinegary. Thus my first discovery of the many uses of a butt wipe. I wipe him down, massage in some baby lotion and we proceed to diaper and dress him. He just watches with those huge baby blues, thumb ever present in mouth and utters not a peep. Can he tell we have no idea what we are doing? His clothes swallow him, not in length because he is along baby, but in girth. Shoes too big, so we end up tucking the ends of his pants into his socks. Coat and Hat, a requirement for children in Russia. More pictures with the Director, Kodak moment of our new family of three on the orphanage steps and we leave, while a large group of caretakers wave bye to us. In and out in 30 minutes. So quick and simple it was almost anticlimactic after the court ordeal.
Driving back he takes turns sitting on our laps(no car seats here) he looks around, cries softly for a few minutes then goes to sleep for the remainder of the drive.
That night the four of us celebrate with big Russian cigars and Russian beer. Christine and I try and figure out how and what and when to feed them, when to change them. Their son Patrick, who is older and much large than ours, will only drink formula, is not interested in a spoon or any food. My beanpole son, 3 months younger, will eat anything that gets anywhere near his mouth. Baby food, cookies, mashed up veggies, pulverized meat etc. They both require that their formula is HOT and the nipple has a hole in it so large that the liquid simply pours down their throats.
Riley does spit up often but not a big amount, we religiously give him the clear medicine in the small glass ampoules that they gave us before each meal. The only time he cries now is when we are finished feeding him. He opens his mouth like a small starving baby bird for more. I have no clue as to how much food I should feed him. That evening I put him in the bathtub with me for his first bath. He seems to enjoy it and gets a few “that’s my Boy“s from his Dad who is hovering over us. Dad is in charge of drying off, lotioning up, diapering and PJ’s. We finally put him in his crib beside our bed with his blue monkey and I stare at him until he goes to sleep. Which is quickly. Ok, I took some more pictures also. We creep down the stairs because, unlike Riley, who could and still does sleep very soundly, Patrick will wake at the merest hint of noise. He is also still like that today at age 7.
With our babies sleeping, us four new Moms and Dads sit for the first time and really relax. Which leads to endless giggles over what has transpired in the compound. The hysterical (to Us) naming of the ironing NUB( a small oblong piece of wood we iron on), which has snowballed into a whole new language among us in the last 7 years. We are the Nub Club, our kids are little nubbers and nubetts, we have a nubbin good time ,if your feeling amorous you want to get the Nub On, and after a particularly gruesome accident, John is now our mascot with his Nub finger. OK, you had to be there. We have an equally funny yet you had to be there story about my husband’s use of the word ”HOOOOOSH”, a word our friends Yankee ears had never heard and will now never forget.
Over the weekend we get to know our sons ,fall more in love with our sons and try to get this parenting thing down.The four of us bond in the sharing of this magical happening in a way we can with no one else. It cements our friendship for life. There are no other two people I would have wanted to share this journey with, John and Chris Hackett. Even if they do think the South is another country into itself. Only one thing is missing. POOP .Yes, Poop from our son. He has eaten us out of the house, peed extensively, but no Poop. Not a rabbit pellet, not a squirt not even a little gas. Nada. So I mix in some prunes with his food and give him apple juice.Two known instigators. Nothing. He is in no discomfort, no big or hard belly. He is just happy.
We have now begun the parent toilet patrol and news anchor. All parents can relate. Did he go, when ,how much and what did it look like? With only Pee to report, it gets pretty boring.
At 5:00 am the next morning we find ourselves standing on the tarmac ,in freezing snow and falling sleet waiting to board the plane for Moscow. We are at the back of the crowd, because in Russia , two women with infants strapped to their chests and ice hanging off their heads are no reason to let us up front or out of the weather. We finally climb icy metal stairs and claw our way to our seats. 4 seats in 4 different parts of the plane(again, fly business).
I pray , as I am bundled up and crammed into my seat to the point that I can only unbutton my coat so my son can breath, that he does not choose the next 3 hours to unburden himself of the treasure he has been holding on to for the past 3 days. I manage to give him a bottle, and he sleeps the entire flight.
Ah, Moscow, one step closer to home. We descend upon The President Hotel. It is opulent, huge, gorgeous as are our rooms. We have an hour to refresh and its off to the American Clinic for the medical exams for our babies. Moscow is amazing , the driving scary. At the clinic, an American doctor doing a fellowship in Russia exams our son and his medical report. Neurologically he is fine, underweight. When we show him the medicine they gave us he make s face and throws it in the garbage. He tells us there are only two things wrong with our son. He is a baby that spits up and he is lactose intolerant. Feed him as much as he wants , when he wants. The Poop, it will come. His body is just getting used to the new food and new quantities. This causes either constipation or diarrhea. Give plenty of liquids, be prepared.
Back to the hotel. We order in Pizza delivery, take baths and marvel at the amazing view of the Peter the Great Statue through our wall of windows in our room. Riley is happy laying in his crib and playing with some toys we have strung across the top.
All the months of waiting and worry have vanished like smoke into thin air, we are having the time of our life.
Do you smell something? I look accusingly at my husband as wives will sometimes do? Yes, but it wasn’t me , my husband insists. We turn and look down at our son who looks at us like ”What?”
Could it be finally, he has made us a present? Yes, that is the stupidest thing I had ever heard parents say and yet it is so right. We lay him on the bed for the unveiling. Wipes and fresh diaper at hand. Big Daddy slowly rips the tabs and there it is..
He laid a wooden egg as large as a Faberge.HUGE,Like an ostrich.
No way that huge thing came out of that tiny butt with out some major screaming and writhing in pain.
But Riley just looks at us and smiles.
We erupt in laughter so loud and so long and so hard that I, a women of 39, of class and sophistication, not only had tears running down my face but pee running down my leg onto the antique rug under my feet. This illicits more laughter. Then we realize it really does smell bad and no way can it stay in our room over night. So we wrap it in a plastic bag and my husband ventures out to clandestinely get rid of it. I never asked how, I had my own stuff to contend with.
My only regret is that I did not take a picture of that egg. I am sure one day my son would “not” have appreciated the moment as we had.To the Embassy and then
Home again, Home again , Lickety Split.

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.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Two days later we became parents, sorta. Well…yes, in the way that other parents-to-be feel after seeing that first ultrasound and confirming ,the “it” has a face, arms and legs, a beating heart..a life. Never before had a slim white FedEX envelope held so much promise, trepidation , hope and a future for 3 people. My husband, a tad too slowly for my nerves, opened the envelope and out slid 3 sheets of paper and a plain black video cassette. No fanfare, no drums rolling. Just a faint tingling of the spine. The front sheet was a color picture of a 7 ½ month old baby boy, in a pink floral shirt and light pink overalls (A Boy right?) being held by a floating pair of arms, hair sticking out all over his head. And the largest, roundest, lightest blue eyes and chubbiest cheeks we had ever seen. Be still my heart. Next was two pages of ,quite frankly, horrendous sounding medical stuff. Taken a bit calmly because we had studied Dr. Downings explanation of Russian medical diagnostic procedures for newborns and medical terminology. My 20 years in the medical field also helped. And my endless hours reading and researching every thing every written or experienced about children adopted from Russia. We were ready, willing and able to tackle whatever came our way.
Baby Ivan was born on Feb 3, 1999(the exact day we sent in our application,-now cue the chill bumps). At full term he weighed 10 lbs and was 22 inches long and had a 7-8 APGAR. Big , healthy baby. Negative for all Diseases. Heart, Lung, Limbs, Motor ,Eyes, Ears, Abdomen-All Normal.
Nervous System- Perinatal CNS Disorder and Myatonic Sydrome.
Two Russian terms common on most all newborn medicals.
Only illness since birth- a small rash and a cold.
Examinations of him from 1 thru 6 months-all normal.
At 6 months he weighed 14lbs and was 27 inches long, normal head size. Only health note was a change in feeding directions.
I would hope so, only gained 4 lbs in 6 months, Jeez. Now on to the video. It began with a middle aged Russian lady holding a very cute, but now shaved head baby boy. No mistaking those eyes and cheeks. He looked around , smiled grabbed toys held out to him as someone off camera spoke Russian baby talk to him. While keeping his other thumb firmly in his mouth.
Then, much to our surprise, they stripped him naked and laid him on his stomach on a couch, circa 1950.
Mom and Dad, I have nothing to hide.
He was a loooong and skinnnny baby. You could literally see every rib and every vertebrae in his spine. But I knew some grits and gravy would fatten him right up. That loud crash you here is us falling in love , completely and unconditionally.
We immediately faxed our acceptance to our agency and began watching and rewinding this 5 minute slice of heaven over and over and over and over…well, you get the picture for the next 5 weeks, until we got our court date. Ok, we take time out to get his room ready. And shout it from the roof tops. You might think our first referral experience would have made us a little hesitant with our emotions or protective of our hearts this time. NOPE, That shouting from the Rooftops you heard was us. But at quite moments or late at night my mind drifted back to that first little boy and the guilt and hurt that remained . What would become of him???
Then our agency called my husband at work and told him we would leave in 2 weeks , Oct 28 to bring our son home. Court was on the Nov.3, home on Nov.13th. Then the flurry of buying him clothes, not to easy to fit a long skinny baby. Which by the way is still a long skinny 7 year old. Then of course is the packing, unpacking, repacking of our stuff. For a southerner to be packing for cold Russia does not come naturally. I read so much crazy stuff…Take your own toilet paper, take your own food, only wear black, don’t wear jeans. Don’t Drink the water, run from Fruits, beware of vegetables, question the meat. So that leaves beer, vodka and what? And then baby stuff. At least when you give birth things start our simple, the smallest clothes, the smallest diapers, First step Formula, no food, tiny bottles, just socks no shoes… even the First Timers can get it mostly right.
But we First Timers were starting with a 9 month old. What could or should he be eating? What would he eat? How to bathe him? Everyday? Did he need shoes? What size? Toys? Stroller?
Diapers? Too many brands, too many styles , too many choices of Everything!!!! Shampoo, soap, powder ,lotion, butt cream,-When , where, how much?? Medicine-Will he need it and what kind and how much to give? Will I over medicate or under treat-Zonk him out or Rev him up? Will they know we are just winging it, Does On the job Training count...Do they take off points for that, can we fake it long enough to just get him out of the orphanage ? And you thought the paperwork and financial part of adoption was the hardest.
I worked in the Operating room as a radiographer and they gave us a very nice shower. I was taking 3 months off with my son. Returning to work right after his first birthday to a 7on/7off position instead of my M-F 7-3, so he would have the most time with us and the least time in Daycare.Husband’s company said, Go, have Fun, take your time and we’ll pay you for it and congratulations.
Here’s my passport ,
Here’s my ticket, All aboard.
We climb aboard Delta to JFK then to Moscow. I carry a diaper bag full of cameras ,snacks and reading material and my husband carries a stroller with no baby and a carry on filled with copies of every piece of paperwork we had assembled, info from our agency, Russia guidebooks and cigarettes he will not be able to smoke for many hours, several time zones, thousands of miles and a world away..
Stewardess, bring me a drink, turn on a movie.
I HATE to FLY. There were no boats to Russia. Feed me, ply me with liquor keep me occupied so I won’t think about crashing into the ocean or crashing into parenthood. All of a sudden I cannot remember what my husband and I had been doing for the last 20 years we have been together. Really what? My life now consists of everything from this moment forward. It is as if I have just now at 39, started living or living my life. No one could have every told me or made me believe it would feel this way or that I would be here, hurdling through space on my way to Russia and to a baby boy.
Who goes to Russia, who do I know that has ever adopted?
We have become Pioneers of our families,
Explorers to our friends.
Mom and Dad. To Ivan
Soon to be Riley Will….

Friday, August 04, 2006

Thursday, August 03, 2006
The Conception....
And so it began, our journey into pregnancy. While the OB did not probe my physical self, our social worker probed everywhere else. Our childhoods, our parents, our finances, criminal history, medical stats, our friends and our house. Did we have an indoor bathroom, really therew as a space for that.
What was our discipline style?
Didn,t know then, not sure now. Depends on the day of the week and time of the month.
Plans for educating our children?
Your supposed to have a plan even before you have a child. Ummm O.K. The school down the street.. I am hoping for a plan now ,say by the time they are in High School.
How will you teach them about their heritage?
Umm , how will I teach myself about their heritage.
Anyway, she thought we would be fine parents (she did have a degree in this ya know) and all the other paperwork got done pretty quickly. Helped to have a friend who was a Notary and pretty much notarized everything , no questions asked. We started assembling our dossier in March, sent it off to Russia in May. We did have to answer some questions about what type of child we wanted. A question many seem to struggle with, but were quite simplistic about it. Didn't care what gender, not too strict about health, wanted as young as possible but open to any age really. Did not plan on using an adoption specialist to evaluate our referral. Made the only decision about ethnicity we would make in choosing Russia. Pretty open to anything. We were ready to be parents, knew a child out there was ready for a family. Just connect the dots.
Our families and friends had no inkling of what was brewing in our life. It felt like a delicious little secret, besides other than the paperwork we had done, not much to tell yet. But when we were getting close to getting a referral, we thought we better let the proverbial cat out of the bag. So at my sister's one night, when the family was gathered, my husband nonchalantly stood up and announced were adopting a child from Russia.Pandemoniumium did not ensue. Why weren't they shocked that we, married 17 years, 38 and 42 years young who were quite verbal and happy about our choice to not have children and not having endured years of infertility, had just decided out of the blue to go to Russia to adopt. I still can't figure out why they took it so calmly. They were excited, they were supportive , they waited anxiously for any and all details. They threw me showers and treated me just like any other expectant Mom, they just weren't surprised, so it seemed. Maybe one of them will post here why it seemed to them a natural thing for us to do. Never once then or since have they really questioned us why then or why adoption? Why expensive adoption and not much cheaper Bio? They just accepted it and our children as if they had always known this was what we would do. It was at the same time wonderful and yet perplexing in their reaction. My husband's parents and family also took the news excitedly and my father in law could not keep from telling everyone, and I mean everyone, that he was getting a grandchild from Russia. And as a footnote, let me add that my husband was the only male in all of his side of the family to carry on the family name. Now in some circles this may have caused some genetically based stirring, but they were genuinely thrilled that our yet to be met son would be carrying on the family name. Put that in your Bio pipe and smoke it, I say.
So now we wait...June, July, August. August first , THE CALL.
They were sending us a video of a 15 month old little boy who they thought had a palate cleft. Meaning it did not involve the lip, or teeth, just the roof of his mouth. Sure we said, we could fix that, send it on. The next day, I sat on my sidewalk waiting for the Fed Ex man, A company I would form a close and personal relationship with during the coming months.
5p.m. video delivered. I wouldn't dare open it until my husband got home. A true test of patience and virtue.27 minutes later he arrived. We read the medical first about a little boy named Roman. Then we anxiously watched a 5 minute video of a little boy with a head full of curly brown hair, crawl, pull himself up and eat some soup from the largest spoon I have ever seen. No evidence of a cleft anything. We immediately called our agency and accepted his referral, then called everyone else. We made copies of his pictures, posted them everywhere at our house and everyone else's. And he had a very large circle of family and friends who loved him from thousands of miles away.
We begin the wait for our court date.
Then on August 20, as we were getting ready to leave the house to attend my brother's birthday party, the phone rang.
THE CALL, just not the one we had expected.
Seems our son, that is what he had become to us in the three weeks since we had first seen him, was no longer eligible for adoption. The world stopped turning, birds went silent and my pulse was deafening in my ears. Seems he had been not so much been abandoned as much as left behind when his mother was arrested for something and did not tell anyone about her son. She had been released from jail and showed up to claim her son 8 months later.
Devastated, does not begin to describe what I should have felt.
Had every right to feel. Shock, Anger, Heartbreak.
Our agency felt as bad and as shocked as I was. But I also felt something shielding me from much of the pain, God maybe. Looking back, God definitely. Because the next words she spoke were the ones that really changed our life. She told me that she knew we would need some time, but along with the news about Roman they had received another referral for an 7 month old boy. She gave me some sketchy stats on him and told us to think about it and let them know if we wanted to consider him. He was very underweight but otherwise healthy. And as if someone else was speaking for me , I said , yes, go ahead and send us his info and video. And that is really where our story begins.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006
In the Beginning.........
I no longer drive a two seater sports car.
I no longer set my alarm and rush to the office.
I no longer have weekly dinner dates or monthly mani/pedis.
I once used cloth napkins folded into Martha Steward inspired shapes and I actually cooked from Epicurious.
I now serve ketchup at every meal.
I actually teared up when they announced a SuperWalmart was to be built in our small town,tears of joy.
I unashamedly love my minivan, can't remember the last time I used my tub and I actually think toys strewn all over the floor are a security measure in case anyone breaks into my house they won't make it past, well .....anywhere.
What could possible have brought about these changes to a perfectly planned out life.
Loss of job, loss of husband, loss of mind.
Nope, just three trips to Russia in a two year time span, $50,000 cash and two of the most incredible children ever.
I find myself soon to be celebrating my 46th birthday.
I have a 50 year old husband of 24 years and a 5 and 7 year old.
Yes , I am fashionably a "mid life" parent, I prefer late bloomer. And yes, most of our long time friends have kids in college and even grandchildren. We are all celebrating empty nests of some sort.Theirs the "kids have flown the coop" kind and me the "no kids from 8-3" kind as my youngest starts kindergarten next week. A few are still waiting for that celebration, having unwittingly raised kids that seen to never want to leave.

I worked for almost 20 years as we lived the life of upwardly mobile 20 and 30 somethings, lived well and traveled at a moments notice and snickered at friends carting kids and stuff everywhere, big cars that could accommodate more people and stuff than I cared to travel anywhere with. They juggled work and money and aged beyond their years.
They salivated over the idea of a good cheap reliable babysitter.
What were they thinking.
They were in the Prime of their life.
Or so they thought.
Or so we thought.
We were DINKS and happy with our choices, our 401K, our poodle and our successful birth control.
Then we built our dream house. Then, we looked at each other and I said now what? My dear husband looked at me warily. A few days later , during a quiet dinner of Standing Rib, rare and wine, listening to some Bruce Hornsby,
I uttered that 4 letter word that would change everything.
KIDS. Kids, he whispered. Yes. I said. KIDS
We have been together 20 years, married 17 .We have worked, traveled and built. What are we going to do from now on?
He looked puzzled.
And then he smiled, I smiled and it was decided.
Well , almost.
Because although at 38 and 42 we were certainly not over the hill or out of fertility range.,but for some reason or preordained kismet we both thought that the usual get pregnant/give birth scenario had been done time and again by friends and family.Old news.
We thought adoption sounded much more..Fun...Exciting..More us.
We immediantly started researching our options: foster,domestic and international.
We went to a Foster Parent meeting, left knowing that wasn't our path. Too iffy.
Domestic seemed too much of an advertising contest, left a bad aftertaste. Too iffy.
We loved to travel, so international it was. We were honest in knowing we did not want to be an ethnically diverse poster family and did not live in a very ethnically diverse region.
So on Feb.3 1999 we sent in our application to adopt an infant from Russia. Let the games begin.