Finding Our Way To Max, Our Adoption Story



Introduction


I am re-creating this story from a journal that Byron & I kept during this time. I swear, something has happened to my memory and I have blocked out so many things in my life! I am thankful that we took the time to write our adoption story in a journal. I am always struggling with the question of "how much is too much information". I can only assume that Max will one day read this journal, which is fine, because we have always been very honest about his background. I just want him to read this, when he is ready, on his own terms. This will be Max's cross to bare and I pray that my love will have been enough.



Chapter One


Byron and I were married in 2001. Soon after, he was accepted into Test Pilot School and we packed up and headed west. This was a great honeymoon time in our lives. We were living in the middle of the desert, I had just started training for a marathon and we were meeting some fabulous friends. We had talked about children before we got married. We wanted them but only one. You see, we are planners, and we had it all figured out. After about 1 year of marriage, we decided to start trying to get pregnant. It worked! It worked on the first try! All was good. I had the calendar marked, nursery planned, and college picked out (just kidding). I was sick, very sick. It felt like being on a boat with rough seas 24/7. I was pretty miserable. I was also very bloated. My stomach was already distended. I kept thinking that at the rate I was going...I would pop at 9 months! I continued to workout/run, with no issues other than throwing up. Finally, it was my 12 week/first check up (the Air Force likes to wait until 12 weeks). I was so excited. Byron attended. Unfortunately, the doctor did not find a heartbeat. He found a baby measuring 7 weeks but no heartbeat. I was devastated. The next morning I was scheduled for a D&C and labeled a "Missed AB". Since this was my first, no testing was done. It was all explained as the body's way of "taking care" of itself. What a terrible thought. I hate these words and hope you never speak them to anybody. I did not journal this part of my life. I am glad for it.

I am going to skip around a bit because the next 2 years was not that fun. We moved from the desert back to the beach. I worked, Byron worked. We remodeled our first house. Life continued on as normal as possible. I endured test, after test. Nothing. I could get pregnant very easily, I just could not carry to full term. All but the first pregnancy had documented heart beats. All but the first had genetic testing that resulted in nothing. I had nothing to blame. So I blamed myself, my body. I walked out of the Reproductive Endocrinologist's office in 2003. He had just finished telling me about some of his clients that had 10-12 miscarriages and then go on to have healthy pregnancies. When I heard this, I was out the door, never to return. I was on miscarriage #7. I was not going to make it to 10.

Byron and I had to make a decision. Do we live our lives childless, in lofts with careers, glamorous travel or do we look into adoption? Obviously, some of you know the answer to this question but of course our story would not be complete without several valleys and peaks. So sit back and relax...there is more to this story...


Chapter Two



We witness a miracle every time a child enters into life. But those who make their journey home across time & miles, growing within the hearts of those who wait to love them, are carried on the wings of destiny and placed among us by God's very own hands.


- Kristi Larson

Chapter Two brings you a time-line and witness to God's gentle nudge. It was during this time that I began to feel the miracle.


It was November and I had walked out of the fertility office with my bags packed. Byron and I both had careers and we were starting to enjoy our remodeled home. I had been pregnant for over two years. In fact, I can't even do the math, is it even plausible to have 7 pregnancies in 2 years? I was now in a funk and trying to detox from the hopes and disappointments. I had prayed so hard to God to spare at least one of my babies and I was feeling let down. I was not necessarily angry at God, I was just exhausted and did not want to talk to Him anymore on this subject. I was moving on.

Then, something started to take place. On Nov 4, 2003... We watched Adoption Stories on the Discovery Health Channel and it spotlighted Commonwealth Adoptions International. We were both very moved by CAI's love for these children. We got online and requested information from CAI.

Nov 10, 2003... We Received information from Commonwealth Adoptions International. They produced a wonderful book of stories from adopted families. We sat and read these stories over and over. There was a flier included with the book about an open house in Tampa that weekend (Nov 15). It was only 7 1/2 hours away, so we decided to go.

By this time Byron and I were doing all the research on international adoption we could find. I was reading everything about adoptions, reading blogs about adoptions etc. From what I could tell, an international adoption was going to cost about $30,000. Yikkes! My brian started to work overtime. How could I get that kind of money? Before we went to Tampa, we contacted Compass Bank on Nov 13, 2003, about a 2nd Mortgage. This was going to be expensive, so we wanted to have all the money upfront.

Nov 14, 2003... Tim Plummer came and did an appraisal on our house for the loan.

T
he weekend had arrived (Nov 15, 2003). The appraiser had been to our house but we still did not know the value. So we pushed forward and traveled to Tampa to visit with Commonwealth Adoptions (CAI). They had an open house where we got to meet the adoption managers and some of the families. It was a very positive experience. It helped us to decide to go with CAI as our agency. We were a little strapped for cash that month (spent too much remodeling the house!), but when we stopped for gas we found $80 in the parking lot of the gas station. We left our number at the gas station and no one claimed the money. What a blessing... it paid for our hotel room. God was winking at us.

After the weekend in Tampa and with much discussion, Byron and I decided to take a leap of faith. We are not leapers. In fact, faith is our greatest struggle. I am not referring to just any faith, I am referring to the close your eyes and take the hand of God and let him lead you where He wants you to go, faith. That kind. So on Nov 17, 2003, we signed the contract with CAI and sent in the initial deposit. We also made contact with Phil Boyd, a local social worker, to start the Home Study. We were told from CAI, that we would need copies of birth certificates, marriage certificates etc and to order them as soon as possible because the states can delay mailing these documents (which is bad if you are trying to accomplish a "timely" adoption). Within 3 days of ordering all documents, they came in the mail. God was not playing.

This next date is another miracle. On Nov 19, 2003, the appraisal came back on our house. We bought our house a little over a year ago at $104,000, being in real estate, I knew that our house had not appreciated that much. The market at the time was averaging 3% a year. We were just hoping for any amount to help off-set the expenses. The appraisal came in at $135,000. This was a 30% increase in this little house's value. Absolutely incredible. Our adoption was 100% financed with a line of credit. Way more than we could have hoped for. God was serious.

Just a couple of paperwork dates...

Nov 20, 2003... mailed "initial" BCIS form I-600A. This takes a long time to get processed, so we wanted it in the mail right away.

Dec 2, 2003... Mailed initial money and paperwork to CAI to start the Preliminary Package and Dossier Prep.

Dec 6, 2003... We met with Amy Jamieson (a dear friend) at her office to get all of our Preliminary Package documents notarized. We are very grateful to Amy for all the work she was doing for us. There had been a lot of documents and she notarized them all, without charging us. Seriously people, over 100 documents. God was placing angels among us.

Dec 7, 2003... Phil Boyd came to our home to do the Home Study. He sat with us for several hours and just talked about our lives. Phil is a great person and also an adopted parent (another Angel placed with us). He was going to China that next week to pick up his second adopted daughter. We were very nervous about the home study, but Phil made it easy. He basically just wanted to get to know us and make sure we knew what we were getting in to (Ha, much more to this story).

Jan 7, 2003... We Met with Phil Boyd in Pensacola to review the first draft of the Home study. We saw pictures of his new little girl and she is gorgeous. This made us so excited for our adoption experience!

Jan 23, 2004... Received the final notarized copies of our Home Study.

Jan 27, 2004... We drove to Tallahassee to get all of our documents Apostilled. Some of the documents weren't correct, so we had to redo them. We bought Susan Hawkes some cookies and brownies because she was so nice in helping us. She became a great advocate for us and we worked directly with her during some "last minute" rushing. Another Angel.

So basically from the date we signed the initial paperwork (Nov 17, 2003) til the day we mailed in the last document (Jan 27, 2004), it took us 10 weeks. People, this alone is nothing short of a miracle. It takes months to get all this paperwork done and we did it in weeks.

FEB MAR APR... ENDLESS WAITING. NO NEWS. We had one typo on the home study that we had to redo, but nothing big. We called our Agency every Monday. We wanted to hear from them every week. Even if it was just for them to say "No News." We liked knowing that we were still on their minds. The waiting continued...Be still my heart.


Chapter Three




The waiting can seem daunting. Then when you least expect it...the phone rings.
-me

Chapter Three is about the waiting being over and the beginning of a tough lesson in Russian medical. May 21, 2004...(Written by Byron) Christy and I have been in Dallas since Friday, May 14th visiting family. We drove up to Oklahoma City, for a brief visit with Christy's Grandfather (JaJa) and others on her father's side of the family. We are now back in Dallas and I am taking the opportunity to go visit with Barry (Christy's stepdad) and his company CAAP. I am considering leaving the Air Force in a year, so I wanted to talk with some of the young guys at CAAP and get their take on the corporate world. Anyway, as life would have it, Christy and I were on our way to Plano, TX to spend the day with my family and the last thing on our mind was the adoption. Of course isn't that when it always hits you...when you least expect it? We got a call from Christy Malone at Commonwealth Adoptions and she said we had a referral. She explained him to be a 7 month old baby boy with black hair and green eyes. His name was Albert. We were so excited we had pull over and stop the car to catch our breath. We couldn't believe it was true. We rushed to my mom's house to download the picture. He was beautiful.
The info we received was very minimal. Basically it was this picture (faxed and then emailed) and a little info about his family. There were several sentences about his health and it was all Russian medical terminology that didn't mean much to us. Our agency wrote a letter to the Ministry of Education in Russia requesting more details. We spent the day on the phone with international pediatricians getting their advice. We used Dr. Jenista and Dr. Aronson. Since there are a few health concerns this is definitely not a sure thing, so we have to stay guarded. We have had so many ups and downs, but this feels positive...
May 24, 2004... We received the full medical file on Albert today. It helped answer some questions we were worried about but there are still some things unanswered.
May 25, 2004... We have been on the phone with our Agency and both doctors trying to get as much information as possible. The good news is that we got some color pictures and Albert looks very healthy. Dr. Jenista called this afternoon and reviewed the medical file with us. There are a few risk factors to worry about and Albert has had a tough life so far, but overall he is doing well. We have decided that we want to commit to this child. We called CAI and said we are ready to accept Albert. We know that this could not work out, but we are already getting very excited. I think God means for us to be together... By the way, we were looking in a baby name book tonight and found out that Albert means BRIGHT. It was meant to be...
May 27, 2004... We sent a letter last night to Russia requesting our travel dates. It will take a few days to get a response. We probably won't hear anything until after Memorial Day. We are hoping to leave within 3 weeks, but we just have to wait and find out. We don't know yet if we can do the trip to Russia in one or two trips. If it is one trip, then we will probably be gone for about 4 weeks. If it is two trips, then each trip will be about 10 days with 4 to 5 weeks in between trips.
Chapter 4...we are off to Russia.
As I look back on this journal and I think to myself..."Nothing is as it seems." I still don't understand why Byron and I had to experience this part of the adoption. However, I do believe that in time, God's plan will be revealed to us. Our true test of faith was still to come...




Chapter Four
Don't worry about anything. Instead, tell God about everything. Ask and pray. Give thanks to him. -Philippians 4:6

Jun 1, 2004... Today has been a hectic day. Commonwealth Adoptions called and told us that we need to be in Russia by June 15th. This means we will probably leave on June 12th. That gives us just 11 days to get everything together...AAAGH!. We still don't know how long we will be there or if it will be one or two trips. Tonight we have been working on more paperwork. We are sending in our visa applications to the Russian consulate tomorrow. We also have about 10 other documents that need to be sent to the Florida Secretary of State to get apostilled. We are feeling a little overwhelmed tonight. We haven't even made any of the travel arrangements yet. We did find out today that Albert is in an orphanage in the town of Votkinsk. Votkinsk is 60 km (38 miles) north of Izhevsk, Russia. Votkinsk is a small town with no hotels. We may have to rent an apartment or travel each day by car between Izhevsk and Votkinsk. Traveling by car is hard because the roads are rough and the car is unreliable. The good news is that we have heard very positive things about the orphanage in Votkinsk.
Jun 2, 2004... Another day closer to Will. We managed to get ourselves booked on a 36 hour flight to Moscow! Yes, this is what happens to travelers who get little notice they are traveling. Additionally, our 36 hour trip from ATL to Moscow cost just as much as our 40 minute trip from Ft. Walton Beach to ATL! CRAZY! Byron has described this day as "I feel like the faucet has been turned on my wallet and all the money is flying out." Or as my mother so eloquently said "Welcome to parenthood!" Other than FedExing (we use this word as a verb) our life history to the Secretary of State for Apostilling (another verb now), picking up every "just in case" prescription for Will, ordering "clean" money from the bank (Yes, as opposed to dirty...Russia will only accept bills that are younger that 1992, unmarked and they have to be crisp...which by the way the entire city of the Ft. Walton Beach banking community has never ordered), and re-checking our many "to-do" list...this was a normal day in the life of someone adopting internationally. How are we holding up? My face looks like a connect the dot kid's activity, I have a 3 day headache, Byron's jaw muscles are aching (we think he is grinding his teeth while sleeping) and we are completely thrilled to be experiencing every moment! I feel like the best Christmas in the world is just a couple of weeks away. How amazing this is going to be. The miracle of birth...a birth from the heart.
Byron and I have been so touched by the outpouring of support. When you are pregnant, your physical symptoms are shared with everyone and anticipation of the birth is celebrated. I felt like I was missing out on some of the attention and closeness with our family and friends...but this web site has made us so proud to share our moments with everyone. We are truly blessed.
Jun 4, 2004... Now we are just waiting for our Visas to return. The associate in Russia emailed and said she had booked us a hotel in Izhesvk. Here is an excerpt from the email:
"Today I was busy arranging the hotel reservation for the Brights. I refused to make room reservation at the health-hotel Metallurg , because several difficulties arisen over their with the foreigners registration. In Volga-telekom rates are too expensive, and I was thinking about it as about one of the options. I made reservation at the hotel Okolitsa for June 14th. It is a little beautiful (it has only 8 rooms) hotel with it s own fenced green area. Rooms are very good; there are WC, shower, TV, phone, fridge, water boiler, conditioner, bedroom, room for rest and third room verandah with the table, where you can eat on a fresh air. Everything is cozily furnished, and it has a home atmosphere. As for as I think, the main plus, is that food is available at any time when the guest requests, which is not like this in Metallurg. This will be convenient for the Brights and for us, because we ll arrive late from Votkinsk, so there will be no need to go to another cafй in downtown. Breakfast is included, for lunch and dinner has to be paid separately. Room for two like this costs 2500 rubles ($86-87), for reservation they take 25%, this is not taken in other hotels. So the following Monday I ll have to pay for the first


day of staying. If they don t come, then I am loosing the sum paid, it is not refundable. There is Rusian banya (sort of sauna, but as opposite to traditional Finnish sauna Rusian banya has not dry but wet steam), where the Brights can sweat out with traditional birch Russian besom and go to the swimming pool as well. This is certainly, for additional pay. It's a pity; I didn't find this hotel earlier (I would prefer to place families in there). The only minus of this hotel, is that it is situated in not prestigious part of the city."


Another day....Another dollar....a little closer to Will...
Jun 7, 2004... Yesterday we spent the day packing...packing again...re-packing...weighing our luggage...removing packed items...weighing again...OK, you get the point. I'd like to challenge anyone to pack for Russia for 5 weeks, for an infant, for two adults...my point again.
In all seriousness, I have been very worried about Will. I don't want to discuss too much of his medical information for the world to read, but I am very concerned about FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome). This is a very devastating disease that affects a person developmentally (Autism, low IQs, cognitive thinking). Due to Russia having poor prenatal education and the availability of alcohol, Will is at risk. The pictures we received from the orphanage are not conclusive in diagnosing him with this disease. So, Byron and I are left with the task of taking pictures and emailing them to our Doctors. I've been playing the "what if" game for two weeks now. What if Will has this nasty disease? What will be my reaction? Can I adopt this child knowing that he could require a lifetime of special care? My answer embarrasses me. Why can't I be a stronger person? Yes, I know that I am crossing that bridge before I need to be on the other side...but "what if". Sometimes I think that I feel this way because of the miscarriages that I have suffered. Just as soon as I start to feel "safe" about a pregnancy...I would lose a baby...maybe this is just a natural reaction to protect myself...just in case I were to lose Will. Sometimes I feel like I need to add a disclosure when I talk to someone about Will..."Yes, we are adopting a son, BUT everything still could go wrong and we might not adopt him". I asked our agency what happens if Will is diagnosed with some awful disease? What are our options? The agency has told us that we do not have to accept Will. We can request another referral and that they would do their best to match us with another child while in Russia (sounds awful). Well, this is what keeps me awake at night. I just want what every mother wants...to hold their child safe in their arms.
Disclaimer: Byron did not write the above journal entry. He says that he's not worried about Will having FAS. Mom, he says that you can send the Xanax, now.
Jun 8, 2004... After Christy's sappy journal entry last night, I have banned her from the computer... Today we received our Visas from the Russian Consulate in San Francisco. As well as our final apostilled copies of the last documents. Our airline tickets should be here Thursday (yes...Russian airlines still use paper tickets...no e-tickets yet!). Christy "robbed" the bank and got our "clean" money today. She also bought some gifts for our Russian friends ... ties, jewelry, cologne, makeup, etc. Mostly trinkets to us, but it means a lot to them. By the way, what do you buy a Russian judge you've never met (that has the authority to keep you in the country indefinitely)?
Jun 10, 2004... Today started with a 7am walk-up call...My first thoughts were, "God, this can't be good", then I thought, "This better not be my Dad", then my last thought was, "Surely, Saint & Malisa are not calling about their house again!" However, it was our adoption manager, Christy M. informing us that Russia did not like the form our Medical Letter was on. So out of bed we sprang...downloading another form from Christy M.'s email, calling Amy (our Angel) to notarize and making an appointment with the Secretary of State's office to get the Document Apostilled. Now, I know this sounds easy, huh? IT'S NOT!! NOT only does the medical letter have to be signed by a doctor...NOT only does the Russian gov't want us to have TB, Hep, HIV tests...NOT only does the Doctor's signature need to be notarized...NOT only do we have to drive to Tallahassee (Sec. of State's office, 3 hours away) and FINALLY the documents must be scanned and emailed back to Russia for approval! Needless to say the crisis was over and done with by 2pm. Whew, we have absolutely ran out of time (we hope) for any more last minute document fiascos. We did receive our plane tickets as scheduled and some great words of encouragement from The Otts and my Aunt Bobbie. Time is once again at a crawl...we're almost there...
Philippians 4:6 - Don't worry about anything. Instead, tell God about everything. Ask and pray. Give thanks to him. Thank you Nikki, for all your words of encouragement...I will keep them close to my heart.
Jun 11, 2004... Tonight we were looking through some old cards and notes that friends and family had sent over the past few years during our miscarriages. We realized that Christy's last D&C was October 9, 2003...THE SAME DAY WILL WAS BORN!!! Here we were in our darkest hours, but God had a more miraculous plan. Life is full of God's grace. Off to Russia we go...



Jun 13, 2004... (We think this is the right day!) We have arrived safely in Moscow. We had a tight connection in Germany, so our luggage didn't make it. We waited almost 3 hours in the Moscow airport for the next flight to arrive with our luggage. Luckily all the luggage made it and a very nice Lufthansa employee helped us get through customs with no problems. We are staying in the Radisson in Moscow and the room is very comfortable. We bought our tickets to Izhevsk. We leave at 6:55 pm June 14th. Our internet access is probably costing $5/min with a 33K connection, so the journal entries will be short and not spellchecked. A special thank you to the Carey's and Miller's for the wonderful send off in Ft. Walton Beach. We love you guys.


Jun 14, 2004… Ok, I know we told you that we’d be “roughing it” for a while but this is how our first day in Moscow turned out…Our day started at 5am (we still can’t get the time change worked out), we ordered room service (American breakfast with a side of French toast) and ate in bed while watching CNN. Then we went to the gym and worked out (well equipped gym and spa). After taking our time getting showered and dressed, we went walking around Moscow. It is very beautiful today (approximately 70 degrees with 30% humidity…my hair looks good!) We walked to a “tourist” street and did some shopping and ate lunch at the Hard Rock Café. While walking on the street we met a couple from Missouri (Jason & Janelle). They had just adopted 3-year-old Alex. He was adorable, very big and healthy looking. It was sweet to watch him interact with his new parents. We leave tonight for Izhevsk (6:55 pm), it’s about a 2 hour flight. This is the flight that has weight & height restrictions on our luggage (keep your finger’s crossed). We meet with the Ministry of Education tomorrow…just think we might be meeting Will for the first time…what a glorious day it could be!
Jun 15, 2004…I know that any minute we are going to run out of steam. Byron and I have yet to sleep for more than 4 hours at a time. It is now 5 am on the 15th. We have arrived in Izhevsk, but not without a story to tell…The plane ride to Izhevsk was a harrowing experience. First, the plane tickets we bought the day before had the wrong flight listed (they don’t use computers to issue tickets…everything is manually typed). Our driver had to sort out “the mess” and we proceeded to board. The plane was a scary sight. It was a large jet, but it needed paint, and it smelled like sausage and B.O. (body odor). The interior was in shambles. We were packed in like sardines (and no one spoke a word of English). The flight itself wasn’t that bumpy, but we felt like the pilot had had one too many vodkas for the day. The flight attendants passed out barf bags like pillows and blankets, and when we finally touched down in Izhevsk everyone clapped. We were met at the airport by our agency associate, Alfia; our translator, Yulia; and our driver, Alex. They were very warm and welcoming people. We felt very comfortable and safe with them. They drove us to our hotel (about 30 mins from the airport). Our impression of the city was not that great. It is a very run down, poor area. The buildings all look very dirty and poorly maintained. However, our hotel is very nice. (It’s not as good as the Radisson in Moscow). The hotel is much more like a Bed and Breakfast. The building is in a gated compound. Our room is actually like a small suite. There is a living area, small bedroom, and small eating area. The hotel staff was very welcoming. We didn’t arrive until after 11pm, but they cooked us “dinner”. The menu was in Russian, so we just ordered a Ham sandwich and a Cheese sandwich. We got one small slice of bread with two pieces of “spam” and a small slice of bread with butter and a piece of cheese. Not exactly what we expected, but it was sufficient to hold us through the night. It is definitely not like western standards, but it is probably the better than any places that the locals live. Overall, we are very happy. We go to the Ministry of Education at 11 am today and then we go to meet Will at the orphanage. We should find out today if we can do this in one trip or two. We are very excited and nervous about the day. We know that everything is in God’s hand…We get to finally see and hold our baby.
Jun 16, 2004… (7am) It has been the hardest 24 hours of our life....why, God, why?

Chapter Five


"God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage. If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it." Unknown




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Outside view of the Baby Orphanage in Votkinsk, Russia
It is the morning of Jun 17, 2004 (7am) and this has been the hardest 24 hours of our life. Things did not go well yesterday. We went to the orphanage to meet Albert. First, we spent some time with the orphanage director/doctor and reviewed his medical file more thoroughly. We can't tell you how shocked we were to find the orphanage in the state of poverty that it was. The smells made our stomach turn and on several occasions I could feel my gag reflex doing flips in the back of my throat. During this meeting with the director/doctor (in her office), I tried to intently focus on the Russian words she spoke. Our translator would then look to us and do her best to translate the Russian medical terminology to English, all the while holding a medical dictionary in her lap. We found out that his mother had “abused alcohol” during the pregnancy. We were already concerned about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, so this confirmed our fears about his exposure. We also learned that his mother had a viral infection during the 15th week of pregnancy. We aren’t sure exactly what kind (lost in translation), but suspect it was a STD.
Right in the middle of learning about Albert's history, they bring him in to the hot cramped room to meet us. We were shocked and taken off guard at first and then my heart instantly froze. It was his initial appearance. It is hard to go into detail in this journal, but needless to say, his facial features did not appear normal. We got to spend a couple of hours with him. He was a very sweet boy. He did not cry and he seemed to take a liking to us. We went through a series of “developmental” screening tests that the doctors had given to us (i.e. Can he turn over, can he pick up toys, does he react to sounds, etc.). He did ok on some and poorly on others. We took many photos at various angles and a little video.
When we left the orphanage, we were very concerned about his development. He is now over 8 months old and was unable to crawl (he can scoot) and he still does not sit up. He has difficulty lifting his head all the way up. The right side of his face seemed slightly out of proportion with the left side of his face. Needless to say, we were devastated at our first meeting. We had fears anyway, but we assumed that those fears would melt once we met face to face. It just got worse.


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There are approximately 100 babies under the age of 3 living in this orphanage. There are usually only 5-8 caregivers.
We returned to our Hotel room and spent the remainder of the day and night talking and emailing photos to our international adoption specialists. They agreed with our assessment and advised us to decline this referral. This is not something that we decided lightly. In fact, we have cried and prayed and questioned everything about ourselves and our faith in the last 24 hours. Albert was a sweet child, but we fear has severe medical issues that we are not equipped to deal with at this time. This has emotionally scarred both of us, but what do we do now? We could go home and give up, or we can stay here and try to find another child. It sounds so callous to think about getting another child at this time, but we have to think about what is best for this child. This is an extremely poor area of the country, worse poverty and living conditions than we have ever witnessed. There are many children here that need help, and we can’t help them all. We feel like we must stay and try to find a child that we can provide the best environment too. We pray that the staff at the orphanage will care for Albert. You can tell that they really love all of the children; it is just a difficult situation.
We are not doctors, so there is always the possibility that Albert will grow up and be fine. Or he may be adopted by another couple who is better equipped to deal with a special needs child. We have to just pray that he will be cared for and that somewhere in this mess God has a plan. At this time I don’t see it…

Our Translator & Russian Associate are going to talk to the Ministry of Education today and see if there is another child available. If not, we may have to transfer to another region in Russia. Keep us in your prayers…




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Baby Orphanage's playground.
Jun 18, 2004… The past 48 hours have been a nightmare. We received another referral, a baby boy with brown eyes and brown hair. This baby boy was at the same orphanage as Albert. I instantly bonded with him. He seemed very small for his age but all the babies were small for their age. We spent several hours with what we thought was a healthy baby boy and later found out from our Doctors that they believe he is severely growth retarded and has what appears to be Microcephaly.
Are we idiots when it comes to children? Why couldn’t we have noticed this? The pictures we took of him are precious; we would never have expected this diagnosis. We are sleep deprived, emotionally exhausted and I am suffering from a painful sore throat. After several discussions with our agency, they want us to move to a different region…not to give up. We are continually asking the question of “why us”? Is this normal? Are there any healthy children in Russia? Why have we read hundreds of success stories and not horror stories? Excuse me for being self-centered/self –absorbed…whatever…but we deserve a happy ending. We are going to take a day off and rest. We think we need some time to get our heads clear. We are going to just stay in our hotel today and get some sleep. We think we need to take care of ourselves physically and emotionally. This will also give the agency time to work.



Chapter Six


" I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him." 1 Samuel 1:27



Jun 18, 2004… Our adoption facilitator has come to us with one more baby boy to consider. This baby is in the same region and orphanage. As you can imagine, We are very apprehensive. We requested not to meet the child until we could get a preliminary medical report reviewed by our Doctors. While in country this is not the normal process because there are medical privacy issues protecting the child. However, due to our circumstances, we got a peek. Our Doctors reviewed the report and discussed some risk factors associated with premature births, they recommended visiting with the child to gather additional information. Having been in the country for a week, we now have a better understanding of the Russian medical-adoption process and are continuing to evaluate this child. This afternoon we sent pictures and data to both our Doctors for review. We are now in waiting.

June 19, 2009 We have taken the opportunity to meet Maxim. Byron and I were so "detached and guarded" during this first meeting with him. You see, we are not allowed to photograph the children and Byron and I desperately needed to take photos to send to our pediatricians. So we would take turns posing Max for photos while the orphanage workers would come in and out of the room. It was so nerve racking! In the end, we took pictures and filled out a developmental assessment. After spending only about an hour with Max we headed back to our hotel room to email all the information to the Doctors and wait. Here are some of our first pictures taken with Max. Yea, totally terrible. No smiles, just clinical faces of worry and heartache.


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(These pictures are just terrible! I am glad we can laugh about them now but looking back, it was such a stressful time. Poor Max, he had no idea what God had in store for him!)
June 20, 2004...Today, we had our second meeting. And enjoyed every minute. Maxim is a healthy looking baby boy who was born Nov 27, 2003. He was premature at approximately 32-35 weeks, but weighed 4.5 lbs at birth. The medical data supports the diagnosis of prematurity and with that in mind, he is in the 25% on growth charts. Maxim has continually showed great growth numbers each month. Because of his “prematurity label,” he has not had the developmental attention needed for infants (What we mean is that because he was preemie, the caretakers look at him as more fragile and don’t handle him as often). Maxim’s developmental stage is about 1 month delayed for preemies. He is very strong in some skills, but weak in others. All of which we hope can be easily corrected with proper care.
Maxim is a very serious baby. He was a little unsure about us at first. You had to be really goofy to get him to smile. He "took" to me pretty well, but he is still unsure of Byron. He has never seen a man before. So this adds to his uneasiness. We will be visiting him several times a day over the next couple of days. We will use this time to strengthen our bond with him.

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(Some of our first days with Max: getting him to smile, holding him and bonding.)
Jun 22, 2004… We have spent the last two days visiting with Max. Each day we are noticing new personality characteristics. He is starting to recognize us and be more comfortable around us. At the orphanage, they are on very strict schedules. We are only allowed to see him from 10:00 - 11:30, 2:00- 4:00 and then again from 6:00 to 8:00. We have to drive over an hour each way to see him, so we generally just see him once (or twice) a day. The drive is an experience in and of itself. The roads are very rough with lots of potholes (more like craters). There are no centerlines or road markings on the road, so it is a free for all when it comes to traffic. There are a lot of slow trucks with thick exhaust fumes. The car is very small with 5 of us packed in it. No A/C and No seatbelts. Christy gets carsick, so this is quite fun to watch. The next two days, Max must go to the doctor to be checked out and released from the orphanage. We will hire a driver so he can make this same scary trip (with no car seat!). We may not be able to see him during these two days of doctor trips, it just depends on the schedule.
An additional big hurdle is feeding Max. We must be able to show that we can feed Max before they will allow us to leave with him. This may sound easy, but feeding a 6 month old premie solid foods is an experience. It is hard to describe. They eat a puree of vegetables and potatoes (and sometimes meat). Along with this mixture they get a bottle of brownish liquid. This liquid is made from boiling dried fruits. They way it works is that you SHOVEL a spoonful of food into one side of the mouth and then popped the nipple of the bottle into the other side. The bottle causes Max to suck and then the food goes down with the drink. If you don’t time it PERFECTLY, then he chokes and spits out the food. It is the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen!! The caretakers can single-handily feed an entire bowl of food in under 2 minutes and not waste a drop. We have yet to master this skill.

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(This first picture is one of the Orphanage workers feeding Max. See how peaceful he looks? Now look at the second picture, see how red is face is getting? I was choking him with the food! It's hard to see but the meat & potato mixture is in the bowl and there is a bottle with a boiled fruit mixture next to it on the table.)
Still no real news on how long we have to wait here. We think it will happen soon and to be real honest, these people are sick of us and all the drama! This could work to our advantage on leaving early.
Jun 23, 2004… Today Max went to the cardiologist for a follow up. They said everything was normal. But he was completely worn out from his trip to the doctor. When we got to the orphanage, he had not had a nap, so he was exhausted. We then had to take him to get a passport photo in town. The weather here has been extremely hot, it turned into summer overnight. Getting Max bundled up for the car ride was not a happy experience for him (or us). He fell asleep during the car ride, and he was so precious. When we got to the passport office, we were able to completely undress him and put him in white clothes without waking him. He is an extremely hard sleeper (thank heavens). He woke just long enough for the photos and was a precious angel. The rest of the time he pretty much stayed Mad Max.

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(Max did not want to ride in the stroller! The next picture is me caring him to the passport office. The orphanage made us bundle him up and keep his head covered. It was over 90 degrees that day!)
Tomorrow we have a long day. We have a preliminary meeting with the judge, so we hope to get some information on what our future schedule looks like. And we want to go do some shopping for the orphanage. They literally have nothing, so we don’t even really know where to start. They have not asked for anything, but we just feel like maybe we can do a few small things to help. They have a very difficult job. Max also has to go back to the doctor to get his medical clearance so that we may proceed with the adoption. Oh yeah, Christy still has to pass the feeding test. Because of the schedule we haven’t had a chance to try again.
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(The orphanage would not take cash from us, so we went to town and bought cribs, tables & chairs and all kinds of stuff they needed).


Jun 24, 2004… We got word that Max passed is medical evaluation with flying colors. They actually seemed surprised that he was so healthy. We are still worried about his developmental delays, but hopefully once we are home we can help him catch up. We also met with the judge for a few minutes yesterday. She just went over our rights and the procedures to expect in court. So, Today we go to court! The session starts at 1:30 and I have been told it will last until 5pm. This is a long time to be on the “hot seat”. During the court session we will find out if the judge will waive our 10-day wait period. I can’t imagine staying in this country 10 more days. Our journal entries will not be updated until we get to Moscow (unless we don’t get the waiver). If all goes well, Byron, Max and I will be in Moscow Friday evening (yes, we have to ride that awful Russian airliner again). Max will need to have a check-up from an American Embassy Doctor in Moscow and Monday & Tuesday we will spend the days getting all his documents. HOPEFULLY, we will start to head home mid next week. So, if you don’t see a journal update for a couple of days…smile…we are on our way. We love you…

Almost home...




Chapter Seven
Legacy of an adopted child

Once there were two women who never knew each other
One you do not remember, the other you call mother.
Two different lives shaped to make yours one
One became your guiding star, the other became your sun.
The first gave you life, the second taught you to live it
The first gave you a need for Love, the second was there to give it.
One gave you a nationality, the other gave you a name
One gave you the seed for talent, the other gave you an aim.
One gave you emotions, the other calmed your fears
One saw your first smile, the other dried your tears.
One gave you up, it was all that she could do
The other prayed for a child and was led straight to you.
And now you ask me through your tears
the age old question through the years,
"Heredity or environment, which am I the product of?"
Neither my darling, neither,
Just two different kinds of Love.

Jun 24, 2004…IT’S OFFICIAL…WE ARE THE PROUD PARENTS OF MAXIM!!!  We had court today.  It was another adventure.  The paperwork we needed from Moscow didn’t arrive, but the judge agreed to go ahead and have court anyway because the social worker and orphanage director had traveled from Votkinsk (2 hours away).  The court started at about 1:30 and lasted until 5:00.  They asked us all kinds of questions about our finances, house, parenting experience, etc.  Then we went one by one through all the documents.  In the middle of court, the judge was interrupted and decided to adjourn the court until Friday.  Well, the social worker couldn’t make it Friday, so it looked like we weren’t going to finish until Monday or Tuesday (UUGH!).  Then after about an hour everyone came back in and the paper arrived from Moscow, so we were able to finish.  The final motion was us asking the judge to waive the 10-day wait period.  (Thanks Debbie for getting us the doctor’s signature, that helped).  We were approved as his parents and the 10-day wait was waived.  So, tomorrow we go pick up Max at noon.  We were going to try and take a 5 pm flight to Moscow, but the flights are full, so we might not get out until late Saturday.  Once in Moscow, we will be there for 3 or 4 days before heading home.  So if all goes well, we will be home by the end of next week.  We’ll keep you posted.  Now the hard part begins…traveling in a foreign country with a baby that’s never had real formula…should be another adventure!



Jun 25, 2004 … Today was a great day!  We picked up Max from the orphanage!  We spent the morning running around to about 10 different government offices getting adoption decree, birth certificate, Russian Passport, etc…  After that, we headed to the orphanage in Votkinsk.  Max had just woke, so I got to feed him his last meal of meat and potatoes.  I passed the test with flying colors.  Not even a drop spilled.

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Max was great in the car ride from Votkinsk to Izhevsk.  He never cried once. We couldn’t get a plane out today, so we won’t leave until tomorrow at 5 pm.  That’s good though, it gives us a day with Max for him to get used to us, new bottles and new food.  The Hotel put a crib in our room for him and he is trying to sleep now.  We are not sure how long we will be in Moscow.  My best guess is that we will be there Sun-Tues.  Hopefully, we can be home by Wednesday.


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Jun 27, 2004 …Our first night with Max was probably like any parent’s first night.  We didn’t sleep much.  Every time he coughed or whimpered, we would both jump to check on him.  He actually slept for about 6 hours straight, but we could never fall asleep without worrying about him.  Max is a little sick.  He has a bad head and chest cold.  The orphanage reported the Max had bronchitis in early June, so we are not sure if it is a relapse or a different virus.  A lot of the kids at the orphanage had colds (Christy and I caught them too…).  He has a runny nose, cough, and his breathing sounds raspy.  He is eating very well and plenty of messy diapers, so we are not too worried.  We are required to see a U.S. doctor tomorrow before leaving the country, so we will see what he thinks. 


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The flight from Izhevsk was an adventure.  I think we saw all sides of Max.  He screamed, pooped, ate, slept, and laughed… And that was only a 2 hour flight.  The flight home is going to be crazy-all 20+ hours!

We are at the Renaissance Hotel in Moscow now.  It is a nicer place than the Radisson.  They also had a small crib for us to use.  Since Max basically does nothing but sleep and eat, we haven’t gotten out too much.  We did go for a short walk today around the Hotel.  We stopped in at a McDonald’s and then walked around an open Market.  Max did really well, but tires easily because of his cold.  We didn’t want to keep him out long, so we have just been hanging out in the room and eating room service.  After the doctor tomorrow morning, then we go to the U.S. Embassy on Tuesday.  Then we are headed home!!!!!!  I am not sure what the flight times are yet, I am waiting to hear back from the travel agent.  But we should be home sometime in the evening on Wednesday.  Almost over…

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Jun 29, 2004…Well, we thought we were headed back home!  All the flights out of Moscow are booked solid until Friday (July 2nd) and the flight we have managed to get on is from HELL!  We leave Moscow at 7am, have 2-3 hour layovers in Germany, Washington DC and Atlanta, and we don’t arrive into FWB until 10:30 at night.  My stomach gets upset just thinking about this.  How are we supposed to do this with a sick infant?  Do you realize how much formula, diapers, wipes, change of clothes, toys, medicine, and bottles I am going to need?  Can you imagine what Byron & I are going to look like after this experience?  I am not sure I want my friends and family to see us get off the plane after all this…it could be a very scary sight!

Today we go to the US embassy to get Max’s Visa.  Hopefully, we can go by the grocery store on our way back to the room (we need to restock Max’s supplies) and pick up some snacks etc.  We are currently at about a $300+ daily burn rate with lodging & food.  So, we really need to get home ASAP!

 We miss everyone and are so thankful for the outpouring of support.  We’ll keep you posted on our exact arrival time into FWB.

Jun 30, 2004...WE ARE HOME!!!  We showed up at the Moscow Airport about 30 hours ago and were able to change our flights to make it an easier trip.  We only had to go from Moscow to Germany to Altanta to Ft. Walton Beach.  We got to Atlanta earlier than previously planned, so we changed our tickets and came home Today (June 30th). 

The trip has been very tough on little Max.  He is exhausted.  We haven't slept in about 35 hours, so if you need us email is the best.  We are going to try to get some much needed rest.  Thank you for all the great support and prayers.  What an amazing family Max has come home to . . .


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XOXO-


(I will try to post each chapter of our adoption story every friday during the Hooked on Fridays blog party, celebrating things that make us happy. Because ultimately this story makes me happy and has helped define who I am today.)

To read from the beginning...click here.

1 comment:

chocolatedogstudio said...

This sounds so much like our trip in 1999 to get our daughter from outside St. Pete. Thank you for sharing your story.