Monday, March 26, 2012

Left Behind

I cannot recall our own journey home with Jacob without being haunted by the ones that we left behind. At Jacob's institution, the workers tried to keep us hidden from the other children. They guarded the doors when the kids walked by in the hallway. They even gently closed the door in my face when I was watching the boys pass by in front of the visitation room. At first I thought that they had something to hide. Were they mistreating the kids? Was there atrocities that they didn't want people on the outside to see? This just didn't seem to be the case. The older and more physically able boys were clean, well mannered and well fed. They even had art and music classes for them. Yes, their methods could be archaic and there was a understanding of the potential of differently-abled children that was about 50 years behind the times, but they genuinely seemed to care about the childlren. Then why all the secrecy?

I found out on the day of our court hearing. The two social workers gathered around me while we waited. Brad was sitting across the room since there was not room to sit right next to me. The ladies saw this as their opportunity to ask all the things they had wondered about me. My facilitator translated questions about what we eat, where we live, would our other kids be jealous, would Jacob ever walk? Their curiosity finally satisfied, the social worker from the institution told me through our translator that the other kids were very sad and upset that Jacob now had a mama and a daddy and they didn't.

"Why does he get a Mama and he is only 5 yrs old and I am 10 yrs old?"

They had been waiting so long and had given up hope and now miraculously, one of them had a mama and daddy show up. Could it happen to them? Why hadn't it already happened to them? Was their mama and daddy still out there somewhere and coming?

How can anyone possibly answer these questions? It feels like a crushing weight on my heart to just hear the questions, much less ponder the answers.

"You will probably never have a mama and daddy sweet child. There is no one coming."

How can we take away their hope like this? So no one answers them. The nannies hide us away from the kids and try to distract them from their sadness. After this I hide myself away too so that I don't contribute to their grief.

There are SO many orphans.

There are so many that are available for adoption and have people who desperately want to go rescue them but can't because, let's be honest, who has $24,000 just lying around?

Take a look at the pictures and see if maybe you see your son or daughter staring back at you. See if you feel moved to contribute to their grants to help their mama and daddy afford the up front costs.

This is Heath...he is 10 years old and has a family that wants him and would go tomorrow if they had the money.

This little guy is Brandon...he is 6 years old and will be transferred out of his baby house any day now to a mental institution.

This is Laurel...she has expressed her yearnings for a family to another adoptive parent. In about 6 months she will be 16 years old and will no longer be eligible for adoption. There are families that want to go get her but can't because of the lack of funding.

There are so many others. You can find out more about them or donate to their adoption grants at Reece's Rainbow website.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

So close but so far away

After all the embassy appointments and all the medical appointment and the months of waiting and visiting and missing my kids, we were finally done.

I recruited a new American friend who lives and works with orphans in Kiev to accompany me on the second and final visit to the embassy. She is again one of the steady stream of guardian angels that the Lord provided for me. My friend Jennifer, another adoptive mom who was in Ukraine the same time as us, found Karen through her blog and connected me with her. Being an American citizen, Karen could accompany me all the way into the embassy and provide an extra pair of hands with Jacob. We had to pick up his visa, which was his ticket into America. We had about an hour wait and before we knew it we were done. Eugene dropped us off at our apartment and then I just looked around and thought "Now what?" I had been in full frenzy planning mode for so long and now were were done. I had Jacob's documents all in order, I had packed our bags the night before. It felt like we were all dressed up with no place to go!

I was beyond restless. I just wanted to get on a plane right that second, but had to wait until the next morning. I could tell that Jacob was really stressed out, so I decided to give him a warm bath to help him calm down. Man, did that backfire on me! I ran the water in the tub and used my sheet of Russian phrases to tell Jacob that it was bath time. No sooner did I say "bath" than Jacob's little face just crumpled into buckets and buckets of tears. No amount of reassurance or warm water or toys could convince him that I wasn't trying to kill him. In hindsight I should have just put his clothes back on and said forget the bath! I finished as quick as I could and wrapped him in a towel. Unfortunately, with all the hysterical crying, along with a VERY congested nose from a chronic sinus infection, Jacob started gagging and vomited all over himself. I felt so horrible. I had to bath him again. More hysterical crying. Followed by more vomiting. Followed by (you guessed it) another bath and more hysterical crying. Third time was the charm and I managed to get him dressed and warm without needing another bath. I sure needed a bath though!

Jacob and I could both barely sleep that night. He was really used to being confined in a crib, so the wide open bed was really hard for him. He was very anxious and restless the entire night. I used sofa cushions to fashion a more confined space for him to sleep in and that helped him some. We both were up at 2am even though we didn't really need to wake up for another hour. I got us both ready, made certain I had all of Jacob's adoption and embassy documents in order and waited for out driver. My backpack was crammed full of changes of clothes, diapers and snacks. I left everything I could possibly live without in Kiev so ensure that I could pack everything in one checked duffel bag and one backpack.

I didn't even care that I had to be up so early with so little sleep. I was on my way home and I was so focused on that that nothing else mattered to me. Eugene loaded us in the car and drove us through the dark and silent streets of Kiev for the last time. Jacob was very calm in the car. It was almost as if he sensed that something big was about to happen. I had this feeling of deep sadness for him. This was the last time he would see him birth country for a very long time.

Before I knew it we were there and checked in and Eugene was saying goodbye to me at security. I had Eugene kneel down and tell Jacob in Russian to not be afraid and that we were going to get on a plane and fly to see his daddy. I am not certain he had any idea at all what we were talking about, but I wanted to a least try to explain things to him. I will miss Eugene. He is a good man and has such a good heart.

We made it through security and headed over to the immigration line that is the last big hurdle for Jacob to leave the country. I have dealt with a lot of grumpy immigration workers over the years, so I was not too worried. They seem to like to give adoptive families a little bit of a hard time just to make a point. I had to prove that I had in fact legally adopted Jacob and that he really is an orphan. Jacob helped me out here by deciding that he had had enough of sitting in the stroller without moving and began to protest loudly. That seemed to get the ball rolling a little faster and we were out of there in about 20 minutes.

I had about an hour to wait before my plane boarded, so I bought a water and fed Jacob a banana. At this point, he started to tantrum. Brad called me and I asked him to pray that I would be empathetic, calm and long suffering with Jacob. I realized that I couldn't control whether or not Jacob screamed the entire way to America, but I could ask God to help me control my attitude about it. I didn't really blame Jacob for being upset. I can't imagine what Jacob thought was going on. It had to be so scary and so confusing to him.

It was finally time to board and I handed the lady my boarding pass and turned the corner to see 2 flights of stairs down to the tarmac and another set of rolling stairs to board the plane. I kind of stared at it like "now what" and a young German man asked me in perfect English if I needed help.

I heard the Lord's voice saying to me "I know where you are. I know what you need."

Of course He does. I felt a deep sense of peace that God had hand selected guardian angels all along the way for me.

The young man insisted on carrying everything for me down the stairs and up onto the plane. Jacob was stimming a lot and I briefly explained that this was his first time outside of the orphanage and that I was taking him home to America. You will not believe what happened next. The young man told me that he used to work with orphans in Romania. he knew exactly what Jacob was going though. He took a whole new interest in Jacob and made sure we were settled in our seats before returning to his own seat. Jacob did pretty well on the first part of our journey. It was only a 2 hour flight to Munich. He rocked on his knees the entire time, but we were blessed with a seatmate who apparently can sleep through anything! :) After we landed in Munich for our layover, the young man then waited for me and carried everything off the plane for me! Such a blessing!

My travel agent had arranged for assistance for Jacob and I at every airport, so we were greeted with an assistant who carried everything for me and was my personal tour guide to the correct gate. Jacob again began to tantrum the moment I put him in his stroller. I have to admit that I was completely okay with this system. Quiet in the airplane...scream your head off at the airport. The other way around would have made us a lot of enemies.

I had a two hour layover, so I looked around for a place to get breakfast. I found a quiet restaurant with large open booths and not very many people. Perfect for Jacob. He needed the peace and quiet and a break from the anxiety that the crowds were causing him. I ordered the largest breakfast on the menu and paid $27 dollars for it. It was enough for Jacob and I both. He was so happy that I was feeding him and he giggled when I put the first bite of scrambled egg in his mouth. I even got him to say egg. :)

I felt like a new woman after my first real meal in days. I had been so busy with Jacob that I had not eaten much more than bread and cheese and yogurt since we got off the train in Kiev.

I went to our gate to wait for time to board the plane. It was a huge open space that I could let Jacob explore and play to his hearts content. He loved seeing his reflection in the shiny floors. I could just imagine him yelling "FREEDOM" inside his little head.

I was so happy when they finally called our name to board. We got to board first and get settled. I can not say enough good things about the flight crew for Lufthansa. I explained a little bit of Jacob's history and explained that while I was thankful that they reserved the bulkhead seat for me, I really needed to be in one of the groups of three seats by the window. Jacob needed the security of feeling like he was safe and away from everyone. His rocking was also very disruptive. It shook the entire seat. I thought in a group of 3 seats all by ourselves that we would all be happier.

My next guardian angel was a lovely middle aged lady who lived in NYC but was originally from Eastern Europe. She heard part of Jacob's story and offered to sit with me to help. I was so touched by her offer. I felt that Jacob would do better with just the two of us and thanked her profusely. She kept an eye on me for the rest of the flight though. She even got up from her seat once when I took Jacob to the bathroom to make sure I was okay and asked if I needed anything. Just her encouragement and knowing that someone was there if I needed them gave me such peace of mind. She was a Christian lady and kept telling me that God would bless me. I wanted to tell her that He already had blessed me by sending me her!

Jacob fell asleep for about 45 minutes and it was a wonderful break for both of us. I think he would have slept longer except we took off and his sinus infection made his ears hurt with the pressure change. He sure was cute while he slept though!

The flights attendants were so gracious and sweet. They took turns coming to us and checking to see if I needed anything. More water, more snacks, anything I needed. The flight really went way better than I had expected. Jacob rocked on his knees for 8 hours straight, which was a little unnerving. I was afraid he would hurt himself. It was really sad to see him so anxious and unable to accept any comfort from me yet. He rocked in a desperate attempt to sooth himself. The passengers around me were very gracious. I am certain that the constant seat rocking was unsettling for the lady behind Jacob. About 2 hours before we landed, Jacob became a little agitated. We had eaten macaroni and cheese for one of the meals that had a very strong garlic taste. Jacob only took a few bites, but it must have upset his stomach. He finally projectile vomited against the window of the plane. I know that sounds awful, and it was, but the miraculous part is that he vomited a LOT, but still managed to keep my clothes, his own clothes (except for one little spot), our back pack, and everyone around us, perfectly clean! Man was I thankful!! I only had to pick him up, change his clothes and move to another seat. All the ladies around me swung into action. The lady behind me ran to get the stewardess, the lady beside me passed me blankets and the lady who originally offered to help, ran up to tell me she was moving to another seat so that we would have enough room in our original bulkhead seats.

I realized that Jacob would be calmer if I sang to him, so I sang silly made up songs for the next hour and a half. "Jacob Aaron, I love you. I love you oh yes I do!" I invented every possible silly variation to the tune of the kids song, wheels on the bus. My throat was pretty sore when I landed, but Jacob was happy and quiet and that was all that mattered.

We landed and the stewardess asked me to wait for an escort who would help me through baggage and immigration. We were the last to leave and the group of stewardesses wished us well and our escort (a really nice lady who was originally from Greece) grabbed my backpack and purse and told me to follow her. She wanted to know all about and kept telling me "God bless you!" she was just so sweet and cheerful. It was a nice greeting to receive after being away from home for so long.

I didn't realize, but my friendly little Greek helper was my ticket to the head of every line. Immigration and customs had lines a mile long, but she took me to the head of each one. Praise the Lord. My stomach dropped when I saw the length of that first line!

Before I knew it, Jacob was a brand new American citizen. Welcome home Jacob!!

Now to go find daddy and to meet all his new family.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Embassy and Medical Appointment

My embassy day began innocently enough. Jacob and I arrived at our apartment and he seemed calm and happy to just be able to scoot around and explore. There was a small balcony so I stashed everything breakable outside and baby proofed the best I could. It was so fun to just see Jacob being an inquisitive little boy. He climbed on the sofa (a million times) tried on my boots, and drummed loudly on two empty 5 gallon water bottles.

We had to be at the embassy by 9am and before we knew it the time had flown by and our driver was there to pick us up. I packed my back pack full of snacks and diapers as well as folders full of documents and headed to our appointment. Traffic was terrible and the snowy roads were not helping matters. It took what felt like forever to arrive at the embassy. It probably was not very long, but Jacob was starting to be restless in the car. He was clearly close to his limit with all the traveling we had been doing in the last 24 hours.

The U.S. Embassy was a HUGE compound. My driver took me as far as he could, which was just inside the main doors. You have to have an American passport to get any farther inside. I was carrying Jacob and balancing backpacks (mine and his) and trying to get my coat off to go through security. One nice security lady finally took pity on me and just had me walk through with everything and scanned me with a hand wand. I set off the alarm because I forgot I had coins in my pocket, but thankfully that was quickly resolved. I was led outside across a courtyard, down two flights of stairs and into an impressively sterile building with rows of service windows and chairs for waiting. There was hardly anyone there but me. I was called to the window almost immediately and quickly realized that I had a serious problem on my hands. What was I going to do with Jacob?

I had to unpack several folders worth of very important and notarized documents...his birth certificate with his new name, the court decrees, proof that he was an orphan, etc…

I tried to balance Jacob on the ledge of the window and keep his little curious hand off the documents and listen to what the lady was asking me to give her. Jacob squirmed and fussed and pushed away from me and grabbed at documents and banged on the glass.

That is when my first of many guardian angels along with journey appeared. A Ukrainian lady who sitting in the waiting area came over and held out her arms to Jacob. She only spoke a few words of English but what she said next was music to my ears. “I am a grandmother.” She picked him up out of my arms, took the snack cookies I offered her and carried my overwhelmed squirmy son to the waiting area. I wanted to cry in gratitude and sheer relief. This was the start of what I call the great brain fog. I had very little sleep and felt like despite my best efforts, I just could not make sense of what the embassy worker was asking me. She was so nice and patient with me. Each time she asked me for a document I held up a piece of paper for her to look at...sometimes I got lucky and it was the correct one. Finally she suggested that I just give everything I had to her and she would find it. Sounded like a fabulous idea to me! I tried to listen and understand what she was telling me when she showed me each document that she was keeping and what she was going to do with it. Out of the corner of my eye I also saw my guardian angel grandmother doing her best to keep Jacob from flinging himself out of her arms in a desperate attempt to escape the building. (Have I mentioned that Jacob’s first autonomic response to perceived threats is ALWAYS flight?)

Finally it was over and she was handing me papers and telling me to be at my medical appointment by 2pm. I would have agreed to anything at this point. I collected Jacob from the miraculously still smiling grandmother who was now covered in chewed up cookie smears and thanked her from the bottom of my heart. I really wanted to hug and kiss her but wasn’t certain how that would go over.

Jacob and I climbed the 2 flights of stairs back up to the main security area and back out of the front door. It was freezing outside and I had not zipped up my jacket. Jacob only had one shoe on because the other would not stay on his foot. I rushed to where our driver had parked to drop us off and began to panic...he wasn’t there anymore. I walked back and forth up and down the side walk praying that he would see us. I wasn’t allowed to take my cell phone into the embassy with me so I couldn’t call him. We were starting to get a lot of disapproving stares. It was entirely too cold to have Jacob out with one shoe off and no hat...he had pulled it off and I didn’t have a free hand to put it back on his head.

Finally our driver rushed up the side walk yelling my name. Relief is too small of a word to describe what I was feeling.

He loaded us back into the car and began the trip to our medical appointment. Jacob crawled all over the backseat. There are no carseats in Ukraine and holding onto Jacob was proving to be a difficult task. He was agitated and overstimulated. It was good that we were barely crawling along with the bumper to bumper traffic. It was a miracle that Eugene didn’t get hit in the head with the toys and hats that Jacob kept bouncing off the front windshield.

We arrived at the medical facility and walked in the front doors. This is where time sort of stands still for me. I had Jacob in my arms and paused in the front foyer for Eugene to buy shoe covers we were required to wear. Jacob, who had been squirming and rocking in my arms suddenly went dead still. I looked at him and then looked where he was looking and realized then and there that we were in trouble. Jacob’s eyes looked panicked and glazed over. The women working in the medical facility had the same uniforms as the nannies wore in his institution. Jacob thought I was taking him to another institution. He clung to me in terror and I felt powerless to reassure him that I would never leave him. I kept repeating, “I am your Mama.” and “Don’t be afraid.” over and over in Russian. These were the only phrases that I knew.

As we walked further into the building Jacob (whose first instinct you remember is flight) decided that he was taking matters into his own hands and began desperately to try to get out of my arms. We were in a crowded and narrow hallway with floors wet with dirty melted snow. There was no way I could put him down. He pushed and twisted and threw his weight backwards out of my arms over and over again. He is not a large child for his age, but he is 30lbs. I finally just had to lock my hands together and hold on for dear life. I remember thinking to myself, I just won’t let go and we will get through this. It can’t last forever.

At the end of the hallway were 4 other adoptive families that I knew and I have never been so relieved. These were the same families that I had eaten dinner with at TGIFridays almost 6 weeks ago. Seeing their precious little babies in their laps was beautiful.

Five less orphans in the world.

I am sure I looked desperate. They kept telling me, “You are doing it!” and encouraged me to just hang on for a little longer. They showed me a small playroom and I was able (against my better judgement) to put Jacob down to play on the dirty but thankfully dry floor. I will wash his hands later, and who cares what all these people staring at us think!

Eugene was not only my driver, but also my translator for the day, and he came after what seemed like an eternity and told me the doctor was ready for me.

This next part is why this post is taking weeks to complete. It is why I am still walking around looking normal but still feeling traumatized. It might now seem like very much in the big scheme of everything, but it felt like I had an encounter with something very evil.

Eugene told me that this doctor was one of the good ones. At first I thought he meant compassionate but I realized later that I had misunderstood and that he really meant that she would not make it difficult to pass the physical and would basically sign off on anything.

I carried Jacob into the examining room and met a the doctor, a lady with very dark and dramatic eye-liner. It began with the normal height and weight check. She listened to his heart briefly. Jacob was still very panicked and the nurse watched him climb all over everything and try to tear down the walls to escape the room.

“Is he always like this?” the doctor asked me.

“No, he is just frightened.”

“Does he speak?” she wanted to know.

“Yes, but only a few words.”

“So he can’t speak then.” It was a statement and not a question.

I really didn’t know how to respond to this so I just stood there.

“Is he on any medication?”

“Not right now.” I went on to tell her that he had been on a sedating medication while at the institution.

What happened is still just so difficult for me. I am not certain why it was so hard. It’s not like I’ve never met stupid people before. I guess part of me was just not expecting it from a doctor...someone who is supposed to care about people.

She looked at Jacob with disgust and told me that I needed to sedate him again. She told me I was irresponsible and rude to have him around other people who might be bothered by his behavior. I tried to tell her that he was just afraid and that at the apartment he was actually very calm. She interrupted me to tell me that I needed to consider all the other paying passengers on the airplane who he would disturb and how is wasn’t fair to them for me to have him around them when he wasn’t sedated.

I realized that she was getting angry with me and started to be afraid that she would not give me the approval I needed to leave the country with Jacob. I finally stammered something about maybe I would try to give him benedryl to make him sleep on the plane.

I had heard about the intense prejudice and judgmental attitudes that many people in Jacob’s country have toward people with special needs, but I was just no prepared to have it so in my face. I felt and still feel, wounded by her words. I am heart broken for Jacob and all the other children like him who are seen as so worthless and hardly even human because of their special needs..

I took my papers and scooped Jacob up in my arms and walked like a zombie through the rest of my time at the clinic. I walked into the cafeteria where the other mom’s were eating with their kids and tried really hard to remain stoic. I knew that if I stared crying that I wouldn’t be able to stop. I took one look at all my Christian sister’s and realized that it is only because of the grace and mercy of God that I don’t have the same attitude as that doctor. Without Him I would be just as rotten to the core. Jacob was clearly out of control, but my sweet Sisters jumped into action. They were God’s hands and feet to me that day. One mom shouted encouragement from across the room, another told Eugene what to order Jacob and I for lunch, another plucked Jacob out of my arms to give me a break and gave me her sweet snuggly little baby boy who is blessed with an extra chromosome. He felt like a feather after holding Jacob for so long and I wanted to cry in relief. The muscles in my arms and shoulders were on fire from holding him for so long. Before I knew it, my food was in front of me and my driver, realizing how fried I was, opened my coke and poured it into a glass for me.

The Lord was with me. He knew I would need guardian angels and he sent me tons of them.

I finished the rest of my medical visit and arrived several hours later back at my apartment. I was so tired that I would barely climb the 5 flights of stairs with Jacob. I would climb one flight and lean against the wall with him. Then I would gather my strength and climb one more.

When I called Brad that night I think I cried for 20 minutes before I would even say any coherent words to him. I did it. I made it one more step. I survived.

Friday, March 2, 2012

The Overnight Train Ride

The train ride! Oh, have mercy the train ride! I can only imagine what Jacob must have been feeling...he leaves the institution, gets in a car, arrives at a strange (and not very baby proof) apartment where he plays for just a few hours, then he is whisked back into the car and onto a train. (With a brief stop where his new Mama runs into a grocery store to buy plastic bags containing our dinner...a breaded cutlet and football shaped mashed potatoes that we discovered were stuffed with onions and mushrooms.)

I opted for the first class compartment this time around. It had a padded wall behind the bunk and a lot more pillows and blankets to pad the floor. It was cold and slushy and we had to walk a long way from the car to the train, but we finally made it. My facilitator and her husband loaded us on and got us settled. I took Jacob out of his jacket and thought...Here we go! The first leg of our journey together. We were both really hungry so I made us a picnic and we shared the cutlet and mashed potatoes. The cutlet was wonderful, but the mushrooms were not great so we just ate the potatoes. I could tell Jacob was nervous, but there was really nothing he could hurt himself on so I just closed and locked our door and let him explore.

The lady who was the attendant of the car was not very nice, but I only had to see her to hand her my ticket. I had hoped that maybe she would be sweet like the lady Brad and and met on the way into our region so I could ask her to watch Jacob if I needed a bathroom break. No such luck with this lady...I decided to not drink very much water. :)

After dinner we played for just a minute but we were both tired so I turned out the light and tucked Jacob into his bunk. This is when I got my first glimpse into how Jacob puts himself to sleep. I had been warned about kids rocking themselves to sleep, but Jacob’s version looked more like a seizure with loud hissing noises. It was heartbreaking to watch. He would let me lay at the end of his bunk, but didn’t want be right next to him or touching him. I stretched out my leg along the edge of his bunk and every once in awhile he would stop rocking and I would feel this little feathery touch on my foot. My sweet boy making his first brave attempts to accept a mother’s presence and comfort while he sleeps. I sang made up songs telling him that I loved him and that he would never be alone again. Finally he drifted off to sleep.

I am not sure if the deep snow effects the train or not, but it was the bumpiest train I have ever been on. It was difficult to sleep. At one point we were almost bounced out of our bunks. We both slept fitfully. After one particularly hard bump, Jacob woke up and sat up in bed, It was about 2am. He just grabbed me and hugged me and cried his little heart out. I had never heard him cry before. It was heart wrenching. It took him almost an hours to settle down enough to sleep again. Again I stretched my leg out next to him and he would pat my foot this time.

The train arrived at 5:30am and it felt like I had been wrung out and hung to dry. I was tired and hungry and very thirsty. I have never been so happy to see someone as I was to see Nico, our driver. He carried everything but Jacob and we made our way off the train, across the platform and down many flights of stairs to the parking lot. Nico explained what I would need to bring with me in a few hours when Eugene, the other driver, would pick me up and take me to the embassy. I tried really hard to make my brain work, but it was so early. I finally decided that I would just bring everything and hope for the best. 

Nico stopped and ran into a small store for me to buy me some yogurt for breakfast. He came out with two yogurts and a loaf of case I didn’t have any and needed it later. Such a sweet and thoughtful man. I am guessing that he is accustomed to bleary eyed, shell shocked, overwhelmed adoptive mothers and was making certain I would have something to eat later.

Jacob and I trudge up the 5 flights of stairs to our Kiev apartment and got settled in before we had to begin what would be one of the hardest and longest days of my life. The embassy day...

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tues Feb 21st: Gotcha Day and Train ride

Gotcha day was a snowing, sleeting mess of a day, but I woke up hours before my alarm went off. I was just so nervous and excited that I couldn’t sleep. My friend Jennifer and her daughter arrived on the overnight train from Kiev bright and early (about 6am) and would be sharing the apartment with me for about 12 hours while they rushed around doing their own paper-job for her sweet Joshua. Having a new good friend in region was such a blessing to us. She was a sight for sore eyes after I had been alone for about a week. We had about 2 seconds to catch up and then I was heading out to finish up the last of the official business before Gotcha could happen. Every orphan is giving a government bank account with a small monthly stipend. I had to clear out the account before I could get Jacob. It is customary to donate this money back to the orphanage and this what I did.

The lady filling out our paperwork at the bank kept looking at me and finally asked Sasha to ask me why I was adopting Jacob and would he ever walk and talk. She wanted to know a lot about how I would get him therapy in the States. She was very kind and seemed touched and genuinely interested in my answers. Before I left, she approached me again and asked Sasha to tell me that her friend had a child with CP and did I know if there was any way for her to get treatment in the U.S. It was heartbreaking honestly. No wonder she was so curious about Jacob. I told her that sometimes there are hosting programs in the U.S., and that I would try to find something out for her. I really don’t know what is possible, but how could I say that I wouldn’t try. If anyone reading this has any ideas, please leave a comment for me. This mother kept her handicapped child against all odds and against huge pressure to abandon her in and institution. The least I can do is try to help her if I can.

Once I had finished the paperwork, the bank official said that she hoped God would bless me and handed me an enormous stack of money...about $1,300. The director of Jacob’s institution (a huge teddy bear of a man) and one of the ladies who has an official position as well, but I can’t remember what, met me at the bank. He wanted me to go with him to buy supplies for the institution so that I would know that the money wasn’t wasted. I really appreciated his integrity with this, but kindly refused and handed him the money. I didn’t want to waste any time when I could be going to get Jacob. He gave me a big bear hug and wished me well. He really was such a kind and fatherly man to me during my time in the institution.

We picked up Anna, the area social worker who had to be present for Gotcha day and headed to the village. I wish I could speak the language...Anna seems like a riot of a lady. She was one of our biggest supporters in court in favor of the adoption and I just really like her. She had never done an adoption before but was willing to learn how. She saw our adoption of Jacob as his only chance for a normal life. I will always love her for this.

We bumped and slide all down the road to the institution one last time. I was thankful that Viktor is such a good driver on those snowy roads. It was really a terrible day weather wise.

Once we arrived, I handed Natasha, the assistant director the gifts that I brought for the other kids, the nannies and the director and handed the main nanny the bag of clothes that I brought for Jacob. It really is like a re-birth for Jacob. He leaves naked, with not a single possession of his own. It is up to us from that point on to cloth him and feed him.

I signed a few more documents that transferred custody from the institution to me and then before I knew it, Jacob was there. He was so sleepy and seemed to be just waking up. How handsome he looked in his new little overalls and sweater. I felt like I was glowing from the inside out. He was finally ours.
We posed for a few pictures and then I opened the doors and walked out with Jacob in my arms. Welcome to our world sweet baby boy.

coming soon...The train ride (It deserves its own post)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Day ???: Who am I kidding, I am too jet-lagged to remember what day of the week it is!

The back story...the part where I try to remember and piece together the story of how I arrived in America with one little fast moving, food loving, louder than I thought possible for a mostly non-verbal little Ukrainian boy.

Part 1: The Great "Paper-job"
Monday Feb 20th: Paper-job Day
One of the drivers in Kiev who works for many of the adopting families always says paper-job instead of paperwork, so we have all affectionately began to use this term. My paper-job day began at 8:30am and was not over until almost 7pm. It was long and exhausting which I found strange since most of the day I just hung out in the back seat of the car trying to keep my feet warm and reading a book on my iPod. 

Sasha, our facilitator ran her butt off today and I was so proud of her. She went above and beyond the call of duty to get everything done for us in a day. It started with the court making a mistake in our court decree (they put Jan 7th instead of Feb 7th as our court date.) I knew something was up when Sasha ran in and didn’t come out for what seemed like hours. Thankfully they corrected it on the spot and got us new documents. From there we seemed to drive all over the the village to get documents at the institution, to the passport office to the place where they give birth certificates...everywhere! Every once in awhile, Sasha would dash and out yell, “Sarah come here!” and I would jump out, slosh through the snow, usually run up several flights of stairs and plop myself obediently in a chair outside of an office. My job this day was to do what I was told...sit where I should sit, stay where I should stay and sign whatever document they put in front of me. It was fast paced and crazy, but it brought me one step closer to getting Jacob, so I was willing to do just about anything.

It was really nice that I got along so well with Sasha and her husband Victor who was our driver. We stopped at a small cafeteria and had a Ukrainian lunch. I told Sasha to just order me whatever she was having and I would try it. It was a breaded cutlet with cheese and mushrooms on top and a side of mashed potatoes. REALLY good. We gulped it down and headed back out to the car for more running around.

Sasha had an agreement with the passport official that he would come in on his day off and issue me a one day passport for an additional fee. I was more than happy to pay it. Everywhere I went people wanted to know the same thing...why did I want to adopt this boy. No one could understand at all why I would want a child with special needs. I wanted to say that it was because his life is no less worthy than anyone else's; because I would be honored to play one small part in redeeming a child’s life; because he is so stinkin’ cute that I can’t stop kissing him even when it annoys him! I usually just said that it was because I could give him a better life in America where there are more services for special needs kids.

By the end of the day non of us could see straight. We stopped one last time to pick up some parting gifts for the director, nannies and the kids at the institution. I was so tired that I could not even count money. I finally just handed it to Sasha to count for me.

Once I was back at my apartment I just crashed. I couldn’t even eat dinner. I ate a few bites of yogurt and made a cup of tea. I just couldn’t believe that I was going to get Jacob the very next day. I had waited and planned and dreamed about it for so long. It was overwhelming. I didn’t even know how to pack. I finally forced myself to throw everything in my suitcase and then went to bed.