Monday, May 31, 2010

Referral Number 2

This event occured on March 30th.
After declining referral number 1, signing the formal papers, we had the afternoon to do what we wanted. Our translator, Natasha #1, took us to some shops to buy souvenirs and told us some history of the buildings we passed.  It was very interesting to me to hear about an area that used to be German heritage, then after World War II became Russian heritage, to hear all that the people went through during those times and to hear about what was destroyed during the war and rebuilt.  It just brought home how incredibly fortunate we are in the USA and how we shouldn't take our country for granted.

We saw a shop that had an incredible amount of items made out of amber.  Amber is a natural resource and the largest mining of it is in the Kaliningrad region. We thought the prices were very reasonable and Beth bought a few things for her family. I bought a set of nesting dolls that had Grandfather Frost on them as well as a Grandfather Frost Christmas ornament.  In my past travels, I started a collection of Christmas ornaments, one from every country I visit.  I was lucky enough that Beth spotted the ornament and it was only $6!  Grandfather Frost is a Russian traditional figure during their Christmas season.  He acts like a Santa Claus, distributing presents, and has a granddaughter that assist him. I will be getting a book on him to instill this tradition in my child, it appears to be a wonderful story.

The next day, March 31st, we go back to the Dept of Education to see the information on the second referrral they found for me to see.  We got the basic background and medical information, again it seemed acceptable, and I agreed to go visit the second little girl.  Ironically, I remember seeing this girl when we were at the orphanage the day before. This girl was 32 mo. old, her birthmother drank alcohol while pregnant, but they told me that the child's therapy was progressing quickly and there were no effects from the drinking.  I was hesitant but off we went to the same orphanage to see this other little girl. We again met with the Director and Doctor who told us that she was a little behind developmentally but was progressing quickly in her therapy, she was their "little angel", had a sweet disposition.  I asked more questions about her medicals but they kept insisting that I should see her first and could then ask more questions later. That rang a warning bell in my mind.

She came into the room and after about 5 minutes, was interacting with me wonderfully. I was so excited because this was the exact opposite of what happened with the first little girl.  We played while I got her to do all the activities/motions that were on the developmental milestones list the US doctor emailed to me that morning. My excitement grew! She was smiling at me, let me hold her and at one point when we were kicking a ball back and forth, she kicked the ball, followed it running toward me and jumped into my arms. Yes I melted and thought, "this is the child I am meant to have." As we left, the Director and Doctor were gone for the day so I could not ask any more questions, but I was flying high with happiness it did not matter.

The next day we returned to the orphanage with the independent doctor I had hired from Moscow.  This is something that most everyone does and in retrospect, I now tell people it's something you absolutely MUST do, is to hire a doctor not associated with the orphanage to do a medical evaluation of the child.  "My doctor" spoke with the orphanage doctor for a bit, in Russian, then asked for the little girl to be brought in. Beth and I were both looking at the doctor when she was brought in and the second she saw the girl, we knew by the look on her face that something was wrong.  She looked at the girl for no more than one minute, turned to me and told me that she has severe classic fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and that I did not want this child. I was crushed, especially after having such a good experience with her the day before.  I at that moment I felt a light go out in me, I had lost hope right then.  My doctor then questioned the orphanage doctor and caregiver for a while and then we left.  I asked my doctor what was said and she told me that the doctor did not disclose the child had FAS and just kept pointing out her good qualities. My doctor told the orphanage doctor that it is her obligation to be objective and tell prospective parents everything about the child. She was not happy and told me that unfortunately this was common.  I asked what situations would I be up against with a child who has FAS.  She told me: behavorial outbursts that will not recede; cognitive and learning difficulties; continual physical and speech therapy; more than likely the child will not be able to live independently as an adult.  As a single parent with the finances and resources I have, I could not accept this child either and the tears flowed again.

My doctor called Natasha #2 to tell her that I could not accept this child.  Back at the hotel, the doctor reviewed the medical conditions again, trying to comfort me in saying that it would be a difficult life for both of us and provided words of comfort and sympathy for my situation.  Natasha #2 contacted the Dept of Education to see if any other children were available to see, but the only other child had even more medical issues than the first two I had already seen. So my journey for now was over.  It was more emotional, frustrating and discouraging than I thought it would be, but as the people on the adoption message boards are constantly saying, "adoption is not for the faint of heart."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Precious Ducklings

This event occured on March 29th, 2010 during my first visit to the orphanage.
In telling my adoption story to someone today (May 25th) it reminded me of an event that I still think about often and is the reason for the change in my role in adoption.

As I struggled to connect with the little 22 mo. girl (my first referral), the orphanage workers decided to take us to the playroom to show me how she interacts with the other children.  They thought this might calm her down and I could observe her social skills with the other children.  We followed them through the large entry room through the children's bedroom area.  The drapes were drawn, with a little streak of light slipping through the thin material onto four rows of tiny cribs, lined up end to end, three cribs long. It was surreal, seeing those cribs like that, something I had imagined come to life.  They were precious yet looked forlorn at the same time. We passed through a small half kitchen area and walked up to a half height door, the kind where the door is split in half, the bottom closed acting like a gate while the top was swung open.  As we walked up to this "gate" we could see about a dozen children there, ranging from around 18 mo. to 36 mo. old.

The minute they saw Beth and I, they all swarmed toward the gate, their cherub faces uplifted, eyes full of question and longing, covering the sadness.  The sharp intake of breath at the emotion this scene caused, is still with me today, two months later.  They were smiling, some babbling in Russian, telling us things we couldn't understand, all seemed to be vying to gain our undivided attention.  My eyes roamed over them, taking in every detail, fighting the urge to gather them all up into my arms at that very moment.  Oddly, I felt a bit of guilt for watching them, instead of my little referral girl, like I was betraying her somehow.  The constantly shifting path your emotions are forced on during this process amazed me and still does.

My little girl would not leave the caregivers arms and just watched us from a distance.  I was also concerned if I gave a child too much attention, looked at one too long, smiled at one too long, that is might confuse them and I didn't want them to think I was there for them when I wasn't.....but truly wanted to be.  Each child was beautiful in their own way, some showing physical challenges they will face the rest of their lives, as well as carrying whatever emotional challenges as well.  Their lives are just beginning, already struggling, but demonstrating hope for a better future filled with security, acceptance and love.  They are like the left sided angel; marred, incomplete but graceful and reaching toward God.

We waved as we left, telling them "goodbye" in Russian (one of the few Russian words I know), smiling and moving slowly as we didn't want to leave them.  They were pressed against the gate, faces upturned like little ducklings, telling us goodbye in those sweet soft child voices.  We took a few steps and the translator called out to us to stop and look back.  That was my undoing.  Several children were on their tiptoes, their little round chins just barely sitting on the top of the gate and with their chubby little hands, were blowing us kisses goodbye.  Our hearts broke and even though it was two months ago, tears are running down my cheeks as I type this, remembering.  I had to fight the strong urge to run back to the gate and gather them up in my arms for the biggest hug I could offer, but the orphange worker urged us to move on.  Beth and I both had tears in our eyes as we left those angels behind.  This moment changed my life.  I started out wanting one thing, a child of my own. But after my experience that day, I am working on ways to become involved in the adoption community. I am formulating a plan to start a business that will raise funds to: provide orphanages with supplies, food, clothing and developmental toys; organize mission types of trips to the orphanages; create financial aid tools for pre-adoptive parents; facilitate tools to educate the public, schools and families on the adoption process and challenges people face.  I want to be involved and do what I can to make a positive difference in the lives of the children in the orphanages that have yet to find their forever families.
I pray to God every day for the money to come in whatever manner to allow me to complete my adoption and start my company that I feel so compelled to do.  I pray I have the tools, intelligence, energy, support and that the finances will come to help make the angels whole again.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Clinic Doctor

This event occurred on March 30th.
I forgot to mention in the previous post that as we stood in front of the orphanage, we noticed a stork's nest on a decorative finial on the highest peak of the house.  It was a beautiful symbol to us.
We returned to the hotel to our peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bottled water (hot tea for Beth) and my stash of M&Ms.  I sent the videos Beth took to the international doctor back in St. Louis to review along with a short description of what I noticed, the child's behavior and questions.

That night I prayed that this was the child for me, the medical reports would come back manageable and she would warm up to me during the afternoon visit.  The next morning I felt sick to my stomach as I read the St. Louis doctor's report on the videos I sent. She noticed several large issues with the movements, milestones and cognitive reactions and stated this 22 mo. old girl was more at a 7 mo. old level.  My heart fell and with a lump in my throat we went to breakfast where Beth tried to cheer me up and to stay positive until we talk to the clinic doctor that morning.  As usual, we were on time (be ready "sharp") waiting for Natasha #1 and Sash to pick us up and they were 10 minutes late again.  We drove across the city to the clinic with Natasha telling us all about the buildings and historical facts.  When she wasn't answering our questions, she was "rapid fire", non-stop talking to Sasha in Russian and we were convinced she didn't breathe for a full 10 minutes as she talked....made us laugh.

We arrived at the city clinic where the orphanage children are seen twice a year for routine checkups.  My little girl spent the first 11 months of her life in the hospital before being moved to the orphanage, so they had thorough records and good tracking points for development.  We were seated in the clinic director's office which had hard vinyl flooring, one small window, dirty plaster walls in need of paint and a dim light overhead.  It was clean, it just looked like something you would see on TV from the 1920s in a poor facility.  A stout dark haired woman, about 55-60 yrs. old greeted us unsmiling through thick eye glasses.  She and the translator took turns telling us about the little girl's history, family, past and present medical conditions and future outcome.  The first few sentences was information that I already knew, but my heart stopped as she continued to describe her situation.  My fears were coming true with each word she uttered.

To summarize, this child is from a "social family"  which Russia describes as families that are poor, undesirable, drink alot, and make poor life decisions.  The birthmother was "like a child herself" as were all the other four siblings. Defined later, they are all mentally retarded (sorry to be not politically correct, I don't know the correct term), the siblings have all been in special schools, therapy and now live in special adult homes, never being able to live independently.  The child is severely delayed (the 7 mo. diagnosis was correct), would need constant intense therapy her whole life, would have severe motor skill issues and cognitive issues and would never be able to live independently.  My throat was aching as I fought to hold back the tears. The doctor said repeatedly that she did not feel, being a single mother, that I would be able to handle this child.  She also said that the judge may not award the child to me, because I was single, and they may feel that it would be too much for me.  The doctor spoke kindly and warmly now, seeing how upset I was, disappointed and a little devastated actually.  We thanked her and made our way to the parking lot.

Sasha and the two Natashas went to the side to talk.  I knew the answer but needed to hear it said out loud, as I asked Beth what she thought. She told me that it would next to impossible for me to handle by myself, that this is not what I want and she knew that I felt bad about it.  I was shaking and started to cry as Beth gave me a hug and Natasha #1 rushed over to me.  I said brokenly that I could not accept this child and started crying again. I felt so incredibly sad and for some reason, guiltly.  Even though I knew the truth, I somehow felt that by declining her, I was saying I didn't want her because she was broken.  It was such a strange and emotionaly moment, almost like you weren't even talking about a child but more like an object.  Both Natashas and Sasha talked to me, telling me that it was alright if I declined this child and not to feel bad. They had been distant and business like up until now, but as they each hugged me to console me, that barrier was broken.  They were so supportive and understanding which made me cry even more.  This was such an emotional trip and experience! They told me that my child was out there, waiting for me to find them, and that this child just wasn't the right one. They told me that this child's parents are out there to and will find her and take her home. They believe so much in fate and destiny and I needed that reassurance at that moment, whether I believed it or not, and I'm still not sure what I believe. I do believe that God has a plan for me and that this happened for a reason and that MY child is yet to come to me.

So I formally sign the declining document and Natasha #2 "goes to work" to see if there is a second child referral available for me to see while I am there.  Beth and I head to the pizza place again, eat the same thing (because we knew it was safe to eat) while we wait to be taken back to the hotel.  We walked around the neighborhood by the hotel, up to a park, and took in the culture and area while we discussed what happened and how I felt.  It was such a God send to have Beth with me, I don't know how I would have handled all that emotion by myself. Thanks again Beth, for leaving your own family for 8 days, for being there for me, and for being a great you!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Side Note

Responding to a few comments from readers.
First of all, THANK YOU for reading my blog, I hope it's interesting and you find some humor in it too.

I am currently using the Children's Hope International adoption agency.  I believe they have offices in several cities.  I really like the staff and the Russia coordinator, Anna, is a native Russian and wonderful.

I accepted to travel to meet my first referral and was in Russia from March 28th to April 2nd.
I was unable to accept the first referral (which my blogs will tell the story), met a second referral, which I was also unable to accept.  I returned back to the US to wait for another referral, only to find two weeks later, the poor decision on the Tennessee mother's part to send her adoptive 7 yr. old son back to Russia on a plane by himself.  That delayed adoptions while the US and Russian governments had talks to form an agreement between the countries to protect adopted Russian children.

When this agreement is complete and in place, I hope to be getting a referral soon after and pray it is the child that God intends for me to have.

First Orphanage Visit on 3-29-10

This is retroactive and the event occured on March 29, 2010 - my first visit to the orphanage.
We observed the countryside on the 1 1/2 hour drive to the orphanage, saw stork's nests on top of telephone poles, lots of run down homes and the roads were so rough my back was killing me by the time we arrived.  We wove our way through the drizzling rain, over brick streets with our driver manuevering like a NASCAR dodging the pot holes, while we gasped as he darted back into our lane before a collison occured.  It was a little unnerving and all I could think was I'm going to end up in a crumpled metal pile along the roadside before I even get to meet my daughter.  Beth and I groaned as our bruised bodies bounced around on the hard car seats and all we could do was roll our eyes and giggle.

My first view of the orphanage was one of disbelief, followed by sadness then inspiration. It was a huge old mansion that was the former home of the captain of the railroad years ago, that was converted into an orphanage. The paint was peeling but it stood proudly projecting a shadow of it's former glory. My designer's mind reeled with the possibilities for restoration and the images raced through my mind, being brought up short to reality when I saw the children's playground area.  I took a deep breath as I drug my sore body out of the car and tried to absorb every detail around me to commit my first moments to memory.  As we walked around the building to the entrance, I keep repeating my prayer, "God please let this be the child that you mean for me to have, let her like me and grow to love me." I know believe when people say their knees knock when they are nervous because mine were the whole band percussion section!

We met the orphanage director and orphange chief doctor, in the office area, where they relayed through our translator, the little girl's background, medical history and personality.  I asked several questions, asking more details about the girl's extended family's medical history, sibling's histories, type of personality and what level of developmental delay she was at. The result was that she was a "little behind but making fast progress." They called her their "flower", she was outgoing, loving and was behind in her speech.  We moved into their therapy playroom, they brought her in, she took one look at me and freaked out.  I did not move toward her because I didn't want to scare her.  She stayed back from me, only interacting with the orphanage staff, did play a little with the blocks I brought and watched the bubbles a little.  I was about 4-5 feet away from her the whole time and any move toward her would send her into a bit of a tantrum.  I was disappointed and felt inadequate that I could not get her to interact with me at all. I understood I was a stranger and she was scared but I couldn't help feeling disappointed a little.  Beth took videos for me to send to the US doctor for evaluation.  Being a parent, I looked helplessly to Beth and asked her if she had any ideas on how I could reach her but she was at a loss too. After an hour we left the orphanage to drive 1 1/2 hours back to the hotel.

My agency rep tried to console me by saying she sees this alot and by the second or third visit, the child usually comes around and is used to the parent.  So I felt better and said a few more prayers that tomorrow would be a better day for both of us.  I read the adoption message boards of people's experiences on how well it went for them and wanted that for me too.  I think that was the cause of my disappointment, I didn't have that perfect first visit, but later realized I should have been more realistic and prepared for a not so great visit. I was still hopeful the second visit would be better and prayed that the meeting with the city medical clinic doctor tomorrow morning would reveal a positive thorough medical report and off we would go for the second visit.  Sadly, that was not to be the case for me.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Yard Sale

I had a yard sale yesterday as a fundraiser for the adoption.  I tend to be a packrat so I had alot of things that I was able to put in the sale.  I have never had a yard sale and BOY! they are ALOT of work :)  I couldn't find anyone that wanted to help me so I was on my own, pricing things into the wee hours of the morning, packing them up and hauling the boxes around.  My two cats were extremely interested in what I had in the boxes so I spent every other 5 minutes shooing them off.

The day of the sale I woke up at 6:00 and started setting up the tables.  A side note, not that I don't trust people, but I live in St. Louis on a busy street and was concerned, being by myself, of setting items out as I ran back and forth into the house getting other boxes, that something might get stolen.  So I moved all the boxes by the door, then moved them out onto the porch so I could keep an eye on everything, and then out to the tables.  This seemed like a good idea at the time until I realized how many times I was bending over picking up boxes!  A little sore today :)

My sale was 8:00 a.m. - noon, which I posted on some signs I taped to street poles at a couple of intersections.  At 6:40 a.m. I had three unpacked boxes sitting on tables and three people showed up already.  They asked me what kind of things I had, I told them, and they asked to come into my house to see them.  I told them I would open at 8:00 and they were a little insistent about coming into my house to see the items right now.  Now I am not an overly paranoid person, but am cautious and private, so I was not comfortable with them coming into my house. I politely declined, thinking they were rude and pushy, and they left angry.....oh well.

By 7:20 I had everything placed on the tables, while selling things when more people showed up early, and plopped in my chair, already tired, for my big sale day.  By 8:00 I already had 18 people show up and had sold $44 worth of stuff!  I was hopeful this was going to pay off and be worth all the time and hard work I had already put in.  It was 60 degrees and fairly windy so I was cold and had to chase a few items that had blown across the yard, but people still stopped by to see my wares.

People are interesting I have found and you just have to laugh or you would be insulted. I had a little old lady come over to my "pay stand" and tell me that she didn't like anything I had to sell and walked off.  Then I had several people tell me they didn't like my prices and this was "supposed to be sale!"  Yes ma'am this is a sale and everything is already 50% off....geez!  Then I got the ridiculous offers where someone wanted to pay $5 for a $20 rug, that was 8x5 in good condition.  Mind you I had signs on the tables stating this was a fundraiser for adoption too.  People amaze me. So I ended up selling quite a few items, but still had ALOT left over.  I made $181.50 which I was ecstatic about!!! I had a few "big ticket" items that helped this dollar amount which was great.  So at noon I start packing back up and as you would guess, people stopped and wanted to pay even less because "it was the end of the sale and I should give more money off," as I was told by another rude person. I gentley told her that things were already 50% off and this was indeed a fundraiser.  She very rudely informed me that "this is a sale and these aren't the prices you should be charging."  Oh I'm sorry, I didn't have time to read the rules and regulations on yard sales (you old bat.).  I just told her I'm closed and off she went. Come on, unless it was 10 cents she wasn't buying so I didn't care if I lost her sale.

So I consider my yard sale a success and may even have another to try to sell my remaining items...still considering my options.  As I sat there, in the wind and cold, I contemplated all the "interesting" people I met at my little yard sale.  Several were rude and I guess don't realize that these are your personal possessions you are selling, that you liked at one time which represents your personality, and that by saying you don't like anything, they are actually insulting you and can hurt your feelings.  But as my Mom always says, "it's moments like these that will make you strong."  In my younger years I didn't always keep my temper in check and would probably have said something equally rude back.  But now that I am more mature (and yes have been through some difficult times that HAS made me stronger) I politely smiled and told them, "thank you for stopping."  I think Mom would be proud that her words sunk in and I hope that I can provide words of wisdom to my child someday and that Grandma will be there  to help me out.
Happy Mother's Day to all those amazing women who have given of themselves to protect, support and love their children!


Monday, May 3, 2010

Sorry for the Confusion

May 3, 2010
So I realize, based on some comments that I've received, that I have confused people a bit.
My "Introduction" post stated that I was backtracking in my adoption process to tell people what I have experienced so far. I think my posts have led people to believe that they are occuring now, when in fact they are in the past. So to eliminate any more confusion, I will indicate the date in on the posts of when the events occurred.  Actually I am almost up to date and will be in "today's time" real soon.
Thanks so everyone who is reading these!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Digress - Great Truths Children Have Learned

I digress from my regular postings about my adoption process to post this. I received this email, thought it was cute, and wanted to share it.  The comments in parentheses are mine.
1. No matter how hard you try, you can't baptize cats. (you can't bathe them either, they instantly have 12 legs!)
2. When your Mom is mad at your Dad, don't let her brush your hair.  (I have a pretty tough head now though)
3. If your sister hits you, don't hit her back.  They always catch the second person. (just wait and ambush her when she least expects it)
4. Never ask your 3 year old brother to hold a tomato (or an egg!)
5. You can't trust dogs to watch your food.  (but they're good for eating the stuff you don't like)
6. Don't sneeze when someone is cutting your hair. (that could put an eye out!)
7. Never hold a Dust Buster and a cat at the same time. (cats getting a bad rap again)
8. You can't hide a piece of broccoli in a glass of milk. (give it to the dog)
9. Don't wear polka-dot underwear under white shorts. (ok, where was your mother on this one???)
10. The best place to be when you're sad is Grandma or Grandpa's lap.  (you usually get candy, cookies or ice cream if you show the crocodile tears).