Thursday, February 22, 2007

Our Journey - Part 10

(If you are just joining in, you may want to start at Part 1. The links to all parts are in my side bar.)

The Hilt case was only one of many recently reported incidents of abuse reported within adoptive families that broke at or around the same time. Combine that with rumors flying around Russia about American families wanting to adopt children for body parts, well things didn't look good for those of us in the middle of the adoption process and waiting for court dates.

It was easy to feel angry with the judge as she turned away American family after American family. Demanding excessive and ridiculous amounts of paperwork. And yet, if I had approved an adoption to a family that I thought would provide a good life for a child, I know I would feel partly responsible and maybe I would feel like I had been fooled by people pretending to want to provide a loving home. Maybe it would cause me to mistrust all families that would come before me in the future.

In any case we waited. Month after month passed by and no other American families were successful in getting court dates. The Judge retired and we celebrated! Finally a new judge and a new hope! That hope was short lived however, as the new judge was said to be even more against Americans adopting. We then started hearing that money was now being offered to birth families if they would come take their children back. One by one families were notified that birth families had returned for the child, and that their chosen child was no longer available for international adoption.

One night I dreamed: Large balls of fire were raining down from the sky. I jumped out of bed and ran to the window. The sky looked angry with fire balls flinging in all directions but aimed at the earth. A voice boomed to me "The end is near, time has grown short. Do not fear for you have done well, REMEMBER I love her more than even you. Do not fear for I am here!"

I bolted upright, drenched in sweat my heart feeling like it would burst through my chest and my entire body trembling! I ran to the window, more than half expecting to see the fire! There was none. I sucked in breath trying to make sense out of my dream. Was it a dream? It was so incredibly real, it felt real. My body still shook from the hugeness of the voice. I fell to my knees and prayed to God, my Father, the One who loves me more than anyone. My heartbeat became more bearable and I could finally breathe again, and a peace came to my heart.

Over and over I thought about this dream. What does it mean the end is near? THE END? I hoped not, but the end of what?

It was only a few weeks later that we received the news. Nastya had been taken from the orphanage by her birth family. We could no longer adopt her. I hoped it was true, even though they had never even went to visit her the entire three years she had been there. Maybe her mother had turned her life around and found a new "profession". Maybe it was someone else in her birth family that came and got her, or maybe she is still there. There is no way for us to know. I can only trust that God does love her more than we do, and ultimately he will take care of her. I think of her and pray for her daily still after all this time. In my heart I still have a child out there, a child that I may never hear of again. I miss her, I long for her and with all my heart I hope she is happy!

We are done, DONE, with adoption! Obviously we were not really meant to adopt. Perhaps I had a lesson (or many) to learn, maybe it was a test of obedience, maybe I "heard" wrong. Whatever it was, we had reached the end of the road.

Two of my friends had recently adopted from China. I joined a group so that I could share their experiences. One thing led to another, and I saw a face...

Something stirred inside me. Silently I leaned in closer to the screen. "Oh my gosh" I whispered to the screen "Is that you? Is that really you? Are you my daughter?" I flashed back to another dream from my childhood when I am calling to my child. As she turns to smile at me, her jet black, straight hair falls over her beautiful Asian eyes...

(click here to skip forward to our trip to China)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Journey - Part 9

(If you are just joining in, you can find the links to parts 1 - 8 in my side bar.)

It was with heavy hearts that we spent our last few minutes with our girl. We knew that it would be maybe six months before we were able to come back for our court date.

I held her tight knowing that I had to let go. Silent tears slid down my face and Nastya gently touched them. Finally I pulled myself away and we watched her slowly walk the hallway leading to her group of kids. For the first time in our visit she stopped and turned back. She stood there motionless and staring at us as if she was trying to take us in, so that she could remember. She knew we were leaving this time, she knew it was different and my heart broke again at the somber expression on her face. The guide spoke to her in Russian and she pulled her gaze from me and glanced at him. Without any words she hung her head and turned back and made her way slowly down the hallway. It took all of my self-control to not run after her. I clung to Pat as we made our way out to the waiting taxi. In silence we rode back to the hotel.

Even now these words are hard to write and the pain is still there.
We flew back to Irkutsk to finish up some paperwork and do a little exploring. We bought several gifts that we would be able to give Nastya as she grew older. Keepsakes from her home country that we hoped would be special to her.

When we boarded the plane for home, it felt like the whole world had changed. Had we only been here for a week? After a loud, smoky and liquor filled (the other passengers - not us) flight back to Moscow, we were more than ready to get back home.

As I stood on the tram in Chicago I couldn't help but compare the two places. I had the sudden urge to jump out of the tram and kiss the ground in thankfulness for being back. The grass seemed so much greener, all of the colors so vivid and the beauty seemed shocking to me, as if I had never noticed how abundant our lives were.

The next several days felt like drifting through fog, and the fog was filled with crying babies. One day I sat on my couch trying to come to terms with everything and thought, how can I do this? How do you go back to a life that is so easy compared to what you now know is reality for so many children. I wondered if selling my house and sending the money to the orphanage would help. But I knew that it wouldn't, money would not give them love and nurturing and family.

And I became angry with God. How could he allow this? These children were innocent and did nothing to deserve this life!

I was gently reminded by a friend that it was our sins that put these children here not God. The lives that these children have is a result of the life choices that all people have made. God did not create life to be this way, but we chose it. Now it is our responsibility to advocate for, love and pray for these children. They deserve hugs, kisses and the warmth of a family!

It wouldn't be long before I would find out exactly how one persons choices can effect so many lives. When the news broke, I felt like I had been physically kicked in the stomach! Please let it not be true I cried, but it did and the news changed so many lives:


Investigators began looking into the adoption of [2 year old] Nina Hilt after the girl died earlier this month in Virginia. Her adoptive mother, Peggy Sue Hilt, 33, of Wake Forest, North Carolina, was arrested last week and charged with the girl's murder, reports the AP. The Interfax news agency reported Monday that Russian prosecutors found the girl was adopted with no violations of federal regulations. Hilt's arrest came just weeks after Russian authorities stripped three U.S.-based adoption agencies of their accreditation, saying they failed to monitor the children's well-being in their adoptive families. About 20,000 children are adopted in the United States each year, with Russian children accounting for some 25 percent of their total number. At least 12 adopted Russian children have died since 1996."

So many of us in the adoption community were scouring the web looking for details of the case and hoping against hope that somehow things would be okay, that justice would come. How we wondered, could we prove to the Russian officials that this is not the norm for adopted families?

And then we found out that the judge that had approved the Hilt's case in Russia, was the very same judge that we were assigned to...

To be continued...

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Journey - Part 8

(If you are just joining our journey you can find the links for parts 1 - 7 in my sidebar.)

The second day with Nastya was less tense both in her interaction with us and in her muscle clenching. I was determined to get to her laugh and had finally done so by doing what we were now calling "upside monkey girl". She loved to be tipped upside down and tickled - it really seemed like her first laugh surprised her because she looked startled at the sound that had come out of her! Nastya was also studying my face so intently and trying to copy my smile. It took many times before she got it right because she kept sticking her lower jaw out and it looked more like she was bearing her teeth than giving us the smile she was working so hard at! I looked around at the workers, but there were no smiles. The only sounds of laughter were coming from us and the other couple that was there with their twins.

As she relaxed and learned how to play with us, she became more comfortable and open. The tension started to leave her face and the spasms became less and less. By the time we had our last visit with her she was laughing, smiling, squealing with delight and not twitching or having spasms much at all. We gave her so much food and love and exercise and the transformation in her in such a short time was truly amazing!

She melted my heart by the way that she would lay motionless in my arms, so intently staring at my face while I rocked and hummed to her. She smiled from ear to ear and seemed to barely breathe, as if she didn't want to break the moment. There were many times that I could hardly hum past the giant lump in my throat and the tears dripping down my face. As I looked into her eyes I knew in my heart that no one had ever held her this way before.

Ecclesiastes 4:1-3

“4 Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun:

I saw the tears of the oppressed-
and they have no comforter;
power was on the side of their oppressors-
and they have no comforter.
(2)And I declared that the dead,
who had already died,
are happier than the living,
who are still alive.
(3)But better than both
is the one who has not yet been,
who has not seen the evil
that is done under the sun.”

The entire time we were there it took a tremendous amount of effort to try to block out the endless crying coming from the baby room that was located right next to us. All of the babies were put in this room each morning. They would end up piled by the door with no care taker all day, in a room by themselves. We could see their little hands stretching under the door, reaching for anything...or maybe for anyone. Baby laying on top of baby. Sometimes one, two or three would get lifted out by an arm and taken to one of the pots to sit on, or to lunch, or maybe outside. They were never held close, always carried by a limb usually three to four babies carried at a time, never smiled at and never nurtured.

We went for a walk one day around the outside of the orphanage and as we walked by the older child section of the building we heard a loud smacking sound coming from inside the building. Like a belt repeatedly striking something and then we heard a child scream. My husband and I looked at each other and my stomach lurched as I realized what we were hearing. I knew that whatever might be wrong with our little girl, I absolutely could not leave her here.

We saw many of the children during the week we were there. You could see in their eyes, that some of children’s spirits had been broken. But some of them had not. We noticed several times that a little boy kept peeking at us through windows and through a door that led into the room we were in with Nastya. We asked our guide about this boy and on our last day we asked to spend some time with him. We brought Valera some gifts and some treats for him to eat. He took the treats from us with a smile, but did not eat them himself. Instead he immediately took them and ran back to the door to share them with his friends. A few of the boys were hiding behind the door trying to peek through and watch us with Valera. This sweet and gentle five year old boy took everything we offered to him and gave it all to his friends.

When we were getting ready to leave Valara cracked open the door and called my husband over... Da Da, Da Da (which means Uncle in Russian)... motioning to him with his hand. Pat went over and knelt in front of him. He reached up and kissed my husband on the cheek. The most beautiful and pure offering of sweetness coming from such an ugly place. My husband’s shoulders shook from the effort of holding back a sob. My control was quickly slipping and I had visions of myself huddled on the floor weak from sobbing. We were told that this child had not been adopted because when he was 2 1/2 they removed his tonsils with no anesthetic. He screamed anytime any one came to visit him after that. Now he was five and too old they said, to be wanted now.

Before we left Russia we signed papers that would allow us to adopt Valera too, if we could not find a family for him on our own. It would not be necessary however, because after we returned home I was shown again how amazing our God is as a family from our church stepped forward to claim this little boy as their son. I was reminded in a very personal way of the great love that our Lord has for each of us, even one little forgotten boy living 5000 miles away in a Siberian orphanage.
To be continued...

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Journey - Part 7

(If you are just joining, you can find the links to Parts 1-6 in my sidebar.)

We woke early the next morning and decided to venture down to the small shop located on the first floor of the hotel. English was not well known in the remote area we were in, so trying to communicate with the girl at the shop was proving to be difficult. No matter what we said the girl behind the counter kept trying to hand us warm bottles of water. Finally a man in the shop took pity on us and asked us "eggs?". We really wanted to have coffee but we couldn't seem to make anyone understand us because apparently we are not very good at charades, and all of the Russian that I had studied and tried to memorize was nowhere to be found. The helpful man just kept repeating eggs louder while nodding at us. Finally we agreed and said "Yes, eggs please." The man beamed his approval at us and spoke to the girl behind the counter. He waved us over to a small table, so we took a seat and waited. Soon we received two plates with fried eggs on them. Every time we saw the man after that he would smile, nod and say "eggs". We decided it was the only English word that he knew.

We were ready to go before it was actually time, so we paced around our room and tried to settle our nerves. Finally it was time to meet the taxis. We were joined by the other couple that was there for their court date to adopt twin girls from the same orphanage. The taxi ride cost about $0.50 for the fifteen minute ride to the orphanage. We made nervous small talk with the driver but were really just anxious to catch our first glimpse of the orphanage.

We pulled up in front of the large, pink building and looked around at the barren playground and stark surroundings. As I glanced at the windows I noticed children peeking out from the dark windows in various rooms throughout the orphanage.

Immediately when we passed through the door we were hit with an incredibly strong smell. It smelled of years of continuously cooking cabbage mixed in with the new plaster they were putting on the walls going up the stairs. Everywhere we went we could hear the echoes of babies crying. We were led in to a large room and told that we were to wait there while our guide went to get Nastya. The room was large and had several doors off of each side of the room. There were several colored pictures taped to the walls, a piano and small chairs lining the parameter of the room. One of the doors had a curtain instead of glass in it and we could hear babies crying from within that room.

Finally a door opened and the smallest little girl walked in looking as scared as could be. Her hair had been shaved and she was wearing a dress that seemed to make her fidget a lot. We showed her all the toys that we had brought and she closely examined every one of them. She was so fascinated by the ones that made sounds.

She did not seem to be scared of us but was definitely timid. She didn't make any sounds or talk, but just looked at us and at the toys we had brought. She looked a little bit stunned and unsure to be here in this room with us. Her little legs kept flexing and she was having muscle spasms that moved up her body and ended with her clenching her jaw. These happened so much the first day that I stated to feel worried about what could possibly be wrong with her. We spent the morning playing with her and she warmed up to us, especially after we gave her food. She quickly swallowed without chewing everything we offered her. I was scared that she would choke, so I started only giving her small pieces of food at a time.
We went over her medical information with our guide which stated that they had diagnosed her twitching as hyperactive syndrome and that she received regular medication for this. This did not sound completely right to me, but there was nothing else in her file about it. I mentioned it to my husband, but he had not noticed anything, mainly because he was busy falling in love with this little girl.

Pat was beaming from the moment that he saw her. It was the strangest thing to me, because he could see nothing but this scared little girl and I could see nothing but the twitching and flexing that she was doing. When I look back at the pictures his face is radiant - just glowing, and I am studying the muscle spasms and going over in my mind the many possibilities of what it could be and what this would mean for us all as a family, if this was more than hyperactivity.

This was not the way it was "supposed" to be. I was the one that was going to be head over heels in love with her the moment I saw her and he would be the one that would have doubts.

We were asked if we wanted to give her lunch, we said definitely we would love to do that. They brought in a small chair and table and sat her down. It is an understatement to say that feeding her was a horrible experience.
It was a frantic shoving of hard bread, extremely hot, steaming tea and porridge that ended in about 2 or 3 minutes. She crammed as much food as possible down her throat without chewing and forced it down with the burning hot tea, the whole time her tiny body was shuddering from the scalding temperatures of the tea and porridge. I had never experienced such desperation in my life, and have not seen it again since. It truly broke our hearts to watch! I could not bring myself to feed her a meal again the rest of the trip.

As the day went on she started responding to us more. She would start walking backwards from across the room and then when she got close enough she would plop down on Pat's lap and snuggle into him.
At one point she kept trying to walk down a hallway, but we kept calling her back because they had told us to keep her in this room with us. Pat put her on his lap again and was showing her a book when all of the sudden he sat up straight and lifted her off his leg. There was a large wet spot where she had been sitting. It explained why she kept trying to do down the hallway, because now I noticed the little buckets that were lined up in the hallway.

When it was time for us to go, Nastya went off with the staff and never looked back. We watched her until she was out of site and then we were ready to leave. My head was pounding and the babies were still crying, and really they had never stopped the whole time we were there.

We went back to the hotel and had dinner with the other couple, that had spent the day with their girls, and our guide. We all had a wonderful time and we were able to laugh and enjoy their company. After such a stressful day, it felt good to be there together and talk over our day and my concerns.

That night I again lay in bed, praying my heart out. I was scared and wanted reassurance that I was up to the task before us and at the same time I was upset with myself for being scared.

To be continued...

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Journey - Part 6

(If you are just joining click here to go to Part 1, or click on the links in my sidebar to catch up)

April 16, 2005

We arrived in Siberia to find bitter cold winds and poverty the likes of which we had never seen before. There were houses made from tin and stacked side by side, many without glass in the windows to protect them from the frigid air. As we neared our apartment my husband was relieved to see that we would be housed right beside the “police station” which had what seemed to be fully decked out soldiers on guard wearing machine guns and, in my opinion, excessive amounts of ammunition strapped to them. My husband mentioned his relief to our guide who quickly responded “NO! Do not look at them, keep your eyes down, they are not your friend!”

We were warned to never look directly at the "police" or speak to them. We were also told that if they took our passports they would demand money to get them back, and we would have no choice but to pay. Those were definitely not comforting words to hear and showed such a great contrast to our own country. Fear settled a bit in the pit of my stomach as I tried to absorb my first impressions of our little girls country.

We pulled up in front of an apartment building that was to be our "home" while we were here in Irkutsk. As we made our way up the dark interior wooden stairway, it was hard to believe that this was all real. Paint peeled from the dark green walls, the heavy doors contained multiple locks on them and bits of Russian conversation drifted through the hallway. Once inside the tiny, shabby and sparsely furnished apartment we were left on our own for the night. We stood there unmoving and staring at each other as we both fought back our own emotions that were threatening to take over.

I studied the surroundings outside our window and noticed the complete absence of color. Everything was gray – the sky, the houses, the icy ground, it looked so sad. An old women walked by carrying a small bag of groceries, she was wearing a heavy scarf over her head and a cane in her hand. I pondered what her life must be like as she slowly made her way across the ice covered parking lot to one of the rickety houses with no windows. The sound of laughter interrupts my thoughts and I turn to look the other way. I see several small children playing on a playground. The playground has what looks like a rusty old teeter totter, a slide and some squeaky swings. The children are playing and chasing each other. I look around for the parents, but don’t see anyone.

As we prepared for bed I was preoccupied with my thoughts and my anticipation about meeting our child. Tomorrow we would purchase tickets and get on another flight that would take us to the city where the orphanage was. I slowly drifted off to sleep but was startled awake by a thumping sound. As I became more aware I could tell that it is coming from inside of our tiny two room apartment. I asked my husband what he was doing. “I can’t sleep worrying about every little sound” he said as he continued piling our bags in front of the door. I told him that I did not think there was anything to worry about and blocking the door probably wasn’t really necessary. I didn’t think we were necessarily in a dangerous area - “the bad side of town” - but that this just WAS the town. There were kids playing outside unsupervised, people walking alone – not dangerous just barren, poor, colorless and sad.

Sunday we flew to the city of Bratsk. As we made our way out of the airport we were swarmed by a group of men fighting to get our attention and carry our bags. We said "no" which apparently meant "yes", but our guide quickly stepped in and rescued us. Most of the men carried brown bag wrapped bottles in their hands and most had a cigarette dangling from their lips.
Our guide got us safely through the crowd and took us to the hotel where we would stay for the week. We settled in to our new room, with our two single rock hard beds, for another restless night of strange noises and barking dogs.

Tomorrow we would meet Anastasia (known as Nastya by the orphanage staff). Questions swirled through my mind as I tried to force myself to rest. Would she come to us... or be scared? I had absolutely no idea what to expect.
To be continued...

Saturday, February 17, 2007

The Journey - Part 5

(If you are just joining in, click here to start with Part 1 of our journey.)

We took a few days to digest what had just happened, to let the fact that Nadia was not going to be our daughter sink in.

What to do now? Which direction do we go? This agency that we were with was not one that we would have chosen, had we not found Nadia first. Once we did, we had no choice but to use that agency but the mixed reviews were unsettling to me. If we were going to change agencies this would be the time to do it.

I felt deep in my heart that we still needed to move forward. I believed without a doubt that we still had a daughter waiting for us in Russia. But we had just lost the only child that would move Pat's heart towards adoption, and I wasn't sure he would be willing to continue.

I had made a new friend that facilitated independent adoptions from Russia and had even adopted two children from the same area that Nadia was in. Pat and I discussed leaving our agency and he told me that we could do whatever I felt most comfortable with. We met with my friend and her husband and decided to make the switch.

I had the necessary changes made to the paperwork that we had already completed and finished up the few remaining forms. On April 2, 2005 we received an email with a new referral. I anxiously waited for my husband to get home so we could open it together.

Here is the information we received:

"Anastasia, date of birth is January 29, 2003. She's been in the baby
home since June 2, 2003.

She was abandoned by her mother at birth. She was not able to keep her
due to poor financial conditions.

At birth the weight is 2500 gr., height is 47 cm., head is 31cm.,
chest is 30 cm., it was the mother's 4th pregnancy and the second
delivery. it was a 40 week gestation.

Apgar scores were 7 and 8. July 6, 2004 her weight was 8600
gr., height was 73 cm., She has umbilical hernia (it does not require any
surgery), delay in speech, mental and motor skill development
(positive progress is development is noted). She is aware of the
strangers. She plays well, but attention can still be short. She knows
her name and she responds to it. She eats from the spoon. She has good

In silence we read the email and study at her picture. I am holding my breath wondering what Pat is going to say.

When I finally turn my head so that I can see him, Pat is looking at me. He takes a deep breath, gives me a half smile and says "Well, I guess we should go meet the little monkey, don't you think?"

I am a little bit hesitant, only because I am still dealing with the loss of Nadia. But I agree with him, we need to go meet her.

We quickly made plans to join another family that was traveling for their court date. We wouldn't have to wait long to meet her because we would be leaving in only 13 days! We would be flying out on April 15th, 2005.

To be continued...

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Journey - Part 4

(If you are new to our story, please click here for part one.)

We worked diligently over the next two months to get our paperwork ready to send to Russia. We found a local agency to do our home study and quickly started all the interviews, gathered reference letters and all of the other required official documents and took our pre-adoption training classes. Things were going along pretty well and the excitement and nervousness were building as we anticipated meeting Nadia sometime around the beginning of April.

It was somewhere around the end of January while attending Sunday service at our church we were singing a worship song and the following words struck deep in my heart:

"Every blessing you pour out,
I turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in, Lord
Still I will say...
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your name
Blessed be the name of the Lord
Blessed be your glorious name
You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, Blessed be your name"

As hard as I tried to sing along, every time I got to the "You give and take away" the words would catch and I had to blink back tears.
I knew something was coming, and I knew that I had to prepare my heart to praise God even in whatever was to come. I prayed that it not be Nadia... Please God not her, please don't take her!!!
But still... His will - not mine.

Valentines Day, 2005
I receive this email:
"Dear Dawn and Patrick,
I wish I could give you some encouragement but this morning we received the following news.

While one of our families was visiting their child on the first trip, our repres
entative took the video of the children who have been signed for the other families. When our representative was going to take a video of Nadya we received the following news. A Russian local family arrived in the orphanage and this family saw Nadya among the other children. The family arrived with the officer from the department of education and the director was obliged to show all the girls from 1 to 3.It was the 25 the of January.

We did not know for sure if the local family chose Nadya and we were hoping that it would be some other girl.
Sometimes local families are uncertain and change their decisions. Our representative was checking with the department all these days on the decision this local family made and we did not have any news until this Monday. The local family started the adoption process of Nadya and it means Nadya is no longer available for the adoption.
I was asking why it happened and my representative said the following.

The Russian parliament has passed an amendment to the adoption law in Russia that revokes all the financial and living standards restrictions for Russian adoptive families. It was done to motivate Russian families to adopt orphans.
What options we have now.
1. You are almost paper ready. You can go to Irkutsk any ways and choose a girl for yourself .We are not able to take pictures of all the children who are available.
We have a video of a little girl Lena T. Here is her picture ... -
Please look at her.
2. You can go to Omsk region where all the process takes about two months after you have arrived for the first trip. However this is the region where families are represented by the accredited agencies so the adoption in that region is currently " on hold".
3. You can go to Ukraine where you will be able to adopt a girl starting with the age of 18 months.It can be done within one trip which will last about three weeks total with the interview at the Embassy.After the Dossier is submitted there will be about two months and a family can travel.We have a family who adopted from Ukraine and there is another family who are going to Ukraine soon. You can talk to them and find out about their experiences.
We are waiting for the session of the Russian parliament which will start in April. The members of the Parliament will be debating which of the three ministries ( Ministry of education, Ministry of Foreign Affairs or the Ministry of Justice will be responsible for the International adoptions).
Please call me at your earliest convenience to discuss the situation.

The first time reading it through I am in shock, the second time through I am in tears and I am angry! She is telling me this in an email AND they went to look at her in January??? Why didn't they tell us sooner, but at the very least why didn't they call us to tell us over the phone instead of delivering this news in an email??? AND then to send another picture in the same email - like saying "Oh you can't have her, but how about his one?" I am heartbroken and nauseous and I think I might throw up. I print out the email and go downstairs because it is almost time for my husband to get home for our Valentine's dinner.

He knows something is wrong immediately as he pulls in the garage and sees me standing in the doorway clutching the printed email, tears streaming down my face and my five year old dancing around me wanting to know why mommy is crying!

To be continued...

Saturday, February 10, 2007

The Journey – Part 3

(If you are just joining in you can read Part 1 here and Part 2 here)

Are we really doing this, I wonder?
One week ago we were perfectly happy, content to raise our daughter and love on our grandkids. We have grandkids for goodness sakes – should we really think about adding another child to our family?

We talk and talk about adoption, how this will change our family, what it means for the future all the while we work on completing the paperwork.
The following Sunday we attend our Church service. We have not yet mentioned anything to our family or friends about our plans. The sermon this week just happens to be focused on stepping out on faith and embracing Hope. “HOPE” is he really talking about Hope? By the end of the sermon I am fighting back tears and he announces that they are planning an adoption workshop for later in the week, if anyone would like to attend.

We look at each other in total amazement when the pastor says “I am going to do something different today…” He pauses and I swear he looks directly at me. “I want to ask anyone that has Hope on their heart today to come forward. We want to pray with you today.”

Through blinding tears, I make my way to the front of the church. As I kneel in front of hundreds of people I feel hands touch my shoulders and back as we pray together for this precious little girl named Hope.

After Church we do our usual lunch at Big Apple Bagel. Right after we sit down a family comes in with two little girls that were adopted from China. We kept sneaking peeks at them as they enjoyed their lunch. The girls were so cute and obviously loved by their family. Over the next few days we suddenly found ourselves surrounded by all things adoption. Families with adopted children were everywhere, conversations that we overheard were about adoption, commercials, pieces of random papers with adoption agency ads... Finally Pat raised his hands, looked up to the heavens and said “I already said yes didn’t I? I get it, really I do!”

A few days later, Pat asked me to call the agency and tell them we had completed our paperwork and that we had decided that we want to move forward as quickly as possible. But I hesitated to make the call. When he got home from work that night he asked me if I had called them yet. When I told him I had not, he asked me to give him the number. I watched in amazement as he dialed the phone and told the agency that he wanted to make sure that they were not going to let anyone else adopt this child that we want so much!

Who is this man? This person that always insisted that he would never adopt a child, is now on the phone with the agency, insisting that they guarantee this will be our child. He does not want to lose her!

The woman promises that they will do everything they can to assure that Nadia is ours. However, she will not be completely ours until we go to court and Russia approves the adoption. She can assure us though that no other American families will have the chance to adopt her, that she will be “held” for us.

Thanksgiving Day, November 2004 we FedEx our official application to the agency, and we tell Hanna that she will have a sister! She is thrilled to find out that she will get what she has been asking for forever – a baby sister!
hanna and daddy3553751-R1-006-1A

Click here to go to part four.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

The Journey Begins – Part 2

November 2004 (If you are just joining in, click here to read Part 1)
“Her name is Nadezhda”, the women on the other end of the phone informs me. “She is from Irkutsk, Russia (Siberia) and was born on 5/9/2002. Nadezhda translates into English as “Hope” and she is called Nadia by the people that know her.”

My heart was pounding so hard in my chest that I was having trouble breathing as I stared at Nadia’s face on my computer screen.

The women on the other end of the line pauses, I am having a little trouble following her thick Russian accent. “She lives in a city orphanage that is called “A Baby Home”. She is near Lake Baikal and has only recently been made available for international adoption. An agency representative was at the orphanage recently and met Nadia. She said that Nadia is so beautiful and that she just melts your heart when you look at her.” They were allowed to take pictures of her and promised the director that they would try to find a family in America for her. The director described her as a sweetheart, shy and a bit timid. Nadia was born to an HIV positive mother, but currently had no other health concerns. “Would you like to fill out the prequalifying application? I can email it to you right now. Once we have the application on hand she will be held for your family.” Yes, YES! I tell her, please send me the packet.

She tells me some other things about how even though their agency is newly formed, they have multiple years of experience doing adoptions both in Russia and the US. She continues on with the agency details as I ponder the vague information that I have been given about Nadia. I realize the women has stopped talking and I tell her that I will look for the information to be sent to my email, and I end the call.

I received the prequalifying application, filled it out and sent it back to her. Once our pre-application was approved, we were sent the full application along with several other forms. We have a few days to decide if we want to continue. During this time they will tell any other inquiring families that she is seriously being considered by a family.

During the time we have been given by the agency, I start researching. I research Irkutsk, adoptions from Russia, the agency (mixed reviews), children born to HIV mothers, but mostly I pray. I pray that we make the right decisions, I pray that she is being well taken care of and I pray that she will love us, because we are already falling in love with her.

We spent hours looking at pictures of orphans on the internet. So many that were waiting and hoping to be adopted. After looking at hundreds of these pictures Pat said that I had found the only little child that he could love, even if she isn’t biologically his own, the only one that tugged at his heart. Maybe it’s because she looks like his girls when they were little. Maybe it’s because if she was smiling and had a twinkle in her eye she would resemble Hanna. We don’t know why, but we think she looks like she belongs in our family.

If she is not adopted, she has very little chance of making it to adulthood. She could be adopted by another family, but we already have it in our hearts that we are the ones that want to bring a happy sparkle to those sad little eyes.
Click here for part three.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

The Journey Begins - Part 1

November 2004

It was just a normal day, like any other day, when I was sitting at my desk working in my home office with the radio playing softly in the background.

While working, I would usually listen to WCSG Christian Radio (Grand Rapids, MI). I was distantly aware that they were speaking about November being National Adoption Month. For some reason I started tuning in to what they were saying and realized that they were discussing a website that had pictures of thousands of older children that were waiting to be adopted. They were talking about how these toddlers and older children just wait and wait for families because "everyone" prefers to adopt babies as young as possible.

Out of curiosity, I typed in the website. Over one hundred pictures popped up on my screen, as I scrolled down the page one little girl with hauntingly sad eyes jumped out at me. When I looked into Nadia’s eyes I could no longer breathe. It was as if she were the only one on the screen and her eyes held mine, pleading with me. My heart was beating fast and I told myself stop it, stop it – enough already! With trembling hands, I closed the screen.

For two days I tried to put her out of my mind. Every time I closed my eyes she was there, with her pleading eyes and haunting beauty. As I lay awake at night, my husband sleeping peacefully beside me, I prayed.

Please God, you can’t be asking me to do this can you? I will do this if you are asking, but Pat will never agree. You know what is in my heart and I will do anything you ask, but you will have to change his heart.

He will never agree to adopt a child, of this I am 100% certain. I had dreamed of adopting from a very early age, but when I married him I knew that he did not have the same dream and I had accepted that.

Her eyes continued to haunt me for two days before I even mentioned her to Pat. When I did he reminded me that although he greatly admires people that can adopt, he is not the type of person that could love another child as if it were his own. I told him that I knew this about him and that was the exact reason that I had not brought it up earlier. I was only mentioning it now, because I just could not get her out of my mind. That night I thought about her again as I lay awake in bed, wondering about her life and the deep sadness behind those beautiful eyes. When I did find bits of sleep, I was dreaming about her and in my dream she stretched out her arms as tears threatened to spill over her lashes and run down her porcelain cheeks. I ached to take her in my arms and comfort her in her distress. Suddenly I was wide awake with the words from James 1:27 echoing through my mind “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress…”

I could not eat, I could not sleep and I could not focus on anything else so the next day I went into my office and pulled up her picture on the computer, I stared at her for several minutes but just could not let it go. I told Pat that I needed to show him what was haunting me. I needed to put this to rest and to do that I needed to hear from him, after he saw her picture, that I was crazy to even be thinking of such a thing. I knew he would tell me to forget it; it was never going to happen.

For several minutes he stared at her silently. I stood in the doorway watching his back as he stood unmoving but looking at the picture on the screen. I could hear a clock ticking in the background and vague random noises as I waited for endless minutes. I knew he was trying to find the right words so that he would not hurt me when he told me that he was unmoved by Nadia’s picture.

When he finally spoke it was with a raspy voice and he said only three words “make the call”.

Click here for part two.