Chapter Four...Our Adoption Story

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 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 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 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 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? {Next Friday I will post what every soon-to-be International Adoption parent fears the most and we experienced it twice.}


To read from the here.

(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.)


Amanda @ Serenity Now said...

On the edge of my seat sure know how to keep a reader hooked!! ;) Visiting from Julia's party this time. :)

DesignTies said...

Whoops, I missed last week's installment -- now I'm all caught up :-)

Wow, this all sounds like quite the stressful adventure!! But you obviously made it through intact, so that's a good thing :-)


Claudia said...

You have given me a tummy ache in anticipation.

Waiting to hear the rest.

TTFN~~Claudia ♥ ♥

Maria Killam said...

So inspirational, the lengths you've needed to go!