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Adoption Story (part 2)

The trip to Russia was long and tiring and we didn't know what to expect. Once in Moscow we were picked up and taken to a family to get some sleep and food and then to the train the next day for the day-long trip to Nizhniy Novgorod. We arrived in Nizhniy in the early evening and we were picked up by Olga and Eugene, who took us to our hotel. Checking in to a hotel is not so easy; you need a passport, visa, traveling papers etc; a credit card is not sufficient rather, you need a reason to be there. The next morning we were off to the Ministry to start the process. You first go to the Ministry of Education to receive the proposal officially and then off to visit the child.

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Adoption Story (part 2)

Leyla was still in the children's hospital because there were no beds in the orphanage. We went directly to visit her and took with us a Canadian medical doctor who was living in Russia to conduct the medical examination, a requirement of the process. I decided very quickly to sign the papers to adopt Leyla. While there was no pressure to do so, I really believed that I would learn nothing else over the course of the next few days that would help me with my decision so I just took that 'leap of faith' that everything would be okay.

There wasn't much to do between visits and other notary items so it was just lots of waiting. We visited Leyla for the next two days and that was the end of the first trip. It was shorter than expected. We took the night train from Nizhniy and arrived back in Moscow early the next morning. I was awake most of the night in our compartment; the lights were broken and the windows sealed shut. It was hot, stuffy and smoky. I can say it was memorable. The rest of the trip home was mostly uneventful

Once home we had to re-do all the forms and paperwork, get new medicals and security clearances again and wait for a court date to return. It was 13 weeks between the two trips and the wait was agonizing. I worried about what Leyla was eating, that she was delayed physically, that she'd never been outside. I just wanted to bring her home. It's been a roller-coaster of emotions: tears, fears, frustration and joy all mixed together but it's now the last piece of the journey. Had I not been delayed, I would have never found Leyla so the process was worth every hurdle, every obstacle that I had to overcome.

What would I say to those contemplating? Never give up on what you want but know when to give up because it doesn't impact your ultimate goals. Keep your eye on the prize, keep focused. Take heart from the well-wishers and ignore the naysayers.

Its a few weeks later, we have the court date and will be leaving for Russia next week on July 6th. Last time we got double entry visas (good for 3 months) to cover both trips; since we were delayed, we had to get them again. Getting your visa is a good proxy for the whole experience - 'hurry up and wait'. Do these quickly and then wait for weeks and weeks for something to happen. I was asked the question "for what do you need the most preparation when you adopt?" I replied that contrary to popular thinking that you need to arm yourself with all the current literature about being an adoptive parent, that what you actually need is patience.

That's the other difficult challenge - dealing with all the silly things people will invariably say and the unwanted advice you will get. For example, "you're so lucky you don't have kids; they're a real pain", "why do you want children", "why are you adopting from Russia when it's a lot easier to adopt here at home" or China or somewhere else", because everyone knows someone who has adopted from somewhere else and it was so easy for them. The funniest one of all is "why wouldn't you just have it yourself, it would be easier". You know, it's so funny really, you just have to laugh. Most people are quite curious about it all and for the most part, much uninformed. It's not surprising because unless you've been through it, you just wouldn't know these things. I've stopped getting upset and I just use the opportunity to share the experience with others when I truly sense that they want to know or I share very little information if I believe they are just being nosy.

I met Leyla when she was exactly ten months old; her first birthday was June 12 2006 and I prayed that I would be with her to celebrate but the waiting between trips was longer than expected. Since I returned from my first trip to Russia, where I met Leyla and signed the paperwork necessary to become her mom officially, I wasn't able to think of much else. I knew that the journey wasn't yet over - at least not until the judge accepted all the final documentation, the Canadian authorities accepted Leyla's medical report and the judge finally declared the adoption final on my second trip to Russia

The second trip to Russia was relatively uneventful except that it felt a little less stressful because we knew where we were going and what to expect. We traveled with minimal luggage this trip because we knew we would have our hands full on the return trip. We arrived in Moscow on July 7th where we were met again by Olga and Anatole and taken to the hotel; it was very hot, had neither air conditioning nor screens on the windows.

We rose early the next morning and walked to Red Square and the Kremlin. It was a quick trip to Red Square and back with some picture taking along the way. We had little time as we needed to check out of the hotel by noon and catch the train to Nishniy Novgorod. We figured that we could visit again on our return to Moscow.

After we checked out of the hotel we ran into the Executive Director of the Agency as he was visiting Russia on business on the Agency's behalf at the time we were there. We enjoyed the conversation, mostly about adoption, the process and the history of the Agency. It was nice to see a familiar face. Unknown to us at that time, we would run into him and others again before we left Russia; it made the trip quite unique and memorable.

We arrived in Nizhniy early in the evening and Eugene and Ala were waiting for us on the platform. They took us to the Centralnye Hotel, where we had stayed last visit. This time we had a larger room; it was great compared to our last trip as it was about three times the size, which wasn't saying it was large by our standards. We had time then to get a few groceries and relax and get some sleep. This area of Russia was experiencing a heat wave; it was comparable to our weather back home but without air conditioning and screens on the windows it made the mosquitoes deadly.

The next day was Sunday and we went to visit Leyla. I was nervous because I didn't know what to expect. Leyla was almost exactly as she was three months prior. She didn't really look like a thirteen month old to me. We played with her for about an hour or so. It was so hot and she was dripping in perspiration, clad in flannel pyjamas and a sleeper over top of those.

Later that afternoon the court translator came to prepare me for court. I thought it would take less than hour and as it happened, it took greater than three hours. He had many, many questions to ask me in preparation, with a rough script for what to say. It was basically all the information from the home study but organized in a different way. I got pretty upset when I learned that I had to memorize most of it as I wasn't supposed to read from the pages so I just made some notes and practiced for a couple of hours.

Monday was court day and probably the most stressful event to date. We dressed in our suits and off we went to the courthouse, first picking up flowers for the judge. It was a very hot day, so hot your clothes just stuck to you.

While we were waiting for the court to start at 0900, we waited on the bench outside the courtroom. Waiting felt like an eternity. In court, I stood most of the time; it lasted almost two hours. They asked so many questions, some of which terrified me so much I thought that the adoption would not be finalized. They asked me questions about why I was divorced and who was this man I lived with and why was he divorced and how adopting a child may not be such a great idea. Those minutes felt like days.

At the end we were dismissed back to the bench to await the judge's decision. When we returned to the courtroom, it was over quickly and the adoption was final. Also, the ten-day waiting period was waived, which meant that I could take immediate custody of Leyla. We presented gifts to the judge and departed, returning to the hotel. We would pick up Leyla the next day as there was paperwork to complete. We spent the rest of that day shopping and preparing ourselves for Leyla's arrival.

Tuesday we went to pick up Leyla. First we went to the Poly-clinic to make our donation to the Hospital, sign papers and then to the Hospital. They dressed Leyla in the clothes I'd brought, right down to the diaper. Leyla was a scared mouse; she held her arms back in a defensive posture and stayed like that throughout the car ride. She whimpered quietly until we were in the hotel room, where she seemed to relax a bit.

For the next several days, we were consumed with getting Leyla to eat, sleep and stay comfortable. We'd bought a variety of baby foods, that we mixed with boiled water and offered her to drink as she'd only been used to drinking from a bottle. Within a few days, she was eating yogurt and fruit from a spoon and drinking from a sippy cup.

The first night was unforgettable. We tried going outside for awhile but Leyla was irritable and screamed loudly when we tried to put her in the stroller. She fell asleep late that night in the crib we had brought to the room. She awoke shortly thereafter and we could not settle her. That was the extent of sleeping for the first 24 hours; I had not yet slept and wouldn't sleep much until after we returned home.

The next day I went to pick up the birth certificate and Leyla's passport. I booked the train tickets back to Moscow for the next morning at 6AM. I don't remember ever being so hot before. Leyla started to stand and bear weight in the hotel. Once she realized that she could move this way, there was no turning back; she just wanted to walk all the time.

Thursday we woke at 4AM and left for the early morning train to Moscow. We had two seats in a compartment and a young girl, Tatiana, shared it with us. She was on her way to meet a friend in Moscow, and then the two would travel to Turkey for a vacation. The train ride was difficult as Leyla wanted to walk but the train swayed so much, it was dangerous for her so we had to take turns carrying her back and forth.

When we arrived in Moscow, Olga and Anatole came onto the train to pick us up. It is comical now to think we had now carried the stroller all the way to Nishniy and were now on our way back home and still had not used it. They took us to the Ukraina Hotel, much nicer than any hotel we had yet stayed in. I would have paid just about anything to get an air-conditioned room. It was a godsend! We found groceries fairly close by and the hotel had a wonderful breakfast buffet. Leyla wouldn't sit down while we ate so we took turns holding her while the other ate - I never expected that it would be so hard.

The next day we went to the Embassy to get Leyla's visa to go to Canada. Thereafter we went to the Lufthansa office to try to change our flights home. It took all weekend to find seats. In that time, we resigned ourselves to staying another ten days if we had to.

In the end we found seats. Olga our facilitator, was very nice and helpful and really cared about what we were going through; they all did. Since we were going to be in Moscow for a few days, we decided that Leyla was going to have to get used to the stroller as we couldn't go out anywhere without it. So we started practicing in the halls of the hotel, pushing her around. She didn't like it but she didn't scream too much once she was rolling... We were able to do some shopping and sight-seeing - visiting Red Square and the Kremlin again.

Sleeping wasn't easy. Leyla would stand up in the playpen crying then fall asleep after 1-2 hours standing up then fall down and get up again... It was impossible to get her to settle down

Monday we left the hotel about 4:30 Am to catch our flight to Germany and then home to Toronto. We met an American woman in the Moscow airport while we were having cappuccino who recognized us immediately as adoptive parents; she worked in the industry and said she could spot us by the way we fussed over the child; she said everyone looks the same so it's easy to tell if you're looking for it. She was really interesting and had lots to tell us about the process in Russia and the orphanages.

Leyla slept a good chunk of the flight to Germany. We couldn't get three seats together. The flight home was greater than 8&1/2 hours and we felt pretty grubby by the time we arrived in Toronto. She fussed and cried for most of the flight. Fortunately, no-one around us got too irritated. We arrived home early in the afternoon that same day (as we were 8 hours behind). It took some time to settle Leyla down as she seemed overwhelmed by her surroundings. By now, she was walking by herself, albeit unsteadily

It's now the end of September. We departed for Russia on July 6th, returning July 17th at which point Leyla became a permanent resident of Canada.

It's been an unbelievable three months and I've only just now been able to settle down to finish the rest of the story. The days were long this summer, beginning early and without a good night's sleep. I measured success by whether or not I could get a shower and a cup of tea or coffee before Leyla woke up.

Gradually I moved her bedtime earlier, even though she woke earlier, it gave me more time in the evening to relax, do a few things and go to bed myself. I never realized how difficult it would be to do the mundane, everyday things like running laundry, getting groceries and running other errands.

It took about six weeks to get Leyla's paperwork in order. I made five trips to the office to get Leyla's social insurance number and the same to the OHIP office. They issued her first SIN card with the wrong name so I had to go through a process to get another one issued. To get OHIP coverage, I had to get Leyla's Russian papers translated (my agency did this also) and authenticated even though the record of landing showed me as the adoptive mother.

In September, I started Leyla in a part-time daycare program two days per week, to get her adjusted and prepare her for daycare fulltime when I returned to work, to socialize her with other children, and to give myself an opportunity to get some things done.

Leyla is absolutely healthy and without any medically issues; she's average by all standards and is up to date with all immunizations. It seems that everything reported in her Russian medical file was accurate. This is what I've been telling the countless prospective adoptive parents who are now calling me to talk about my experience adopting from Russia.

I tell them that it was all worthwhile, that Leyla is a doll but that I experienced it to be very frustrating and bureaucratic, partly in fact due to my own circumstances. Looking back I wouldn't change a thing because Leyla is truly an angel, even when she's cranky! If I could, I would try to worry less as everything just seems to work out okay in the end. It just confirms by belief that if you really want something to happen and you keep focused on that goal, that you can achieve it

More than a year has passed now and I've gone back to work, started a new job and am fully ensconced in the throws of juggling work and family and the memories at times, seem distant but nevertheless created a lasting and deep impression as every time I re-read my story, it brings tears to my eyes, tears of joy and of overcoming obstacles and perseverance. You must simply never give up your dreams.

Author:  Jo-anne Marr is very happy to be a Mom!

Read the first part of Jo-Ann's adoption story.

Posted to Baby Years | Parenting Articles


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