Thursday, October 28, 2010

Orenburg Adoption (blast from the past)

Our stories: Part IA-- the trip, orphanage, on our way

Hello everyone. Thanks to Karen, you've motivated me to put things on paper and to share our adoption journeys. I won't be as clear on this first one as it happened over six years ago.

DH and I discovered our infertility issues early on. We were married in Dec. of '97. (kids came home about a year and a half later). While sitting down at Ragazzi's discussing things, we opted not to go through with any fertility treatments and instead to opt for adoption. We attended one seminar and thought, omg, how in the world are we going to pay for this? Still strong to expand our family through adoption, we figured we'd find a way. So, we signed on with a local agency. We of course, thought we were going to go the typical route and bring home a baby. Little did we know what was in store for us.

Our director said we should look at the kids that had been hosted in Ireland recently. Well, that was that. We even got to speak to the host families in Ireland and get information on what they were like over there. Also, received a video of our kids from their stay. No infant in sight, but a 6 year old girl and just turned 4yo boy. The referral pics of our daughter were beyond ghastly. I thought she was a sick little boy. Anyway, got about a paragraph size write up on each. Not much to go on but after talking with the families who kept them, we were okay with the decision. Well, we got a call one day that our boy had been taken by another family. They had another child in mind. Though disappointed, as some of you know how you can fall in love w/ a photo so easily, we decided to pursue another child. Then another call a few days later saying that Max was again available as the other couple fell through. We said absolutely b/c he was our first choice. His referral picture was as cute as cute can be. Looks can be deceiving is all I'm going to say about that one. Now remember, this was back in 1999. It was only one trip back then. We got the call for court a total of 5 different times. That's right, had to change tickets 5 different times. After the second time, our bags remained packed in the dining room.

Now, at the time, I worked for a high-end powerhouse brokerage firm and DH for a computer software company. Found out last minute that both companies would reimburse $5K per kid. That's right...$20K. So our adoption was paid in full by the companies. A relief to have the financial end of it taken care of. Our adoption for these two totalled $19,700. Wrote it all down.

Well, we left on the big bird in the sky headed for MOscow and then onto Orenburg. We were full of emotion. Didn't really know what to think as here we are, first time parents to be and not a clue of what to expect. We diligently practiced basic Russian phrases on the plane as I'm sure this is still a common practice for those traveling nowadays as well. We landed and were greeted by our coordinator. I'll skip all the boring travel stuff that we all have to contend with. Overcrowded, broken down, in-country air travel. Got to love it. Landed in Orenburg in the middle of the night and were taken to an apartment. We stayed with all host families back then. We do remember passing quite a few brothels. Okay, we're assuming here. But women dancing in full view with nothing on in big glass windows. We thought oh my, where are we going. Hoping our eyes were playing tricks on us. We went into the tiny apartment but were well greeted and very well taken care of.

Had to get up extremely early the next morning and head to our childrens' orphanage. It was in a small town called Abdulino. About 4 hours by car from the city. very scenic, mountainous terrain. Oh how I love pepto on the go--no pun intended. It was gorgeous countryside though. Mostly donkeys, hardly any cars seen. Found out later it is rather a poor community with very few cars for transportation. We finally pulled up to this building. Nothing fancy, that's for sure. My heart must have been pounding fast enough to pass out and require resusitation. I could feel it through my whole body. We were ushered into the directors room. He was tall and seemed just as scared of us as we were of him. Oh, forgot to add, these were the first children ever adopted from this orphanage we were told. So new experience for everyone involved. We had a brief meeting to discuss the children and their medical issues. Sounded like my daughter was on her death bed. They told me to never give her chocolate as it induces her asthma. What!? I'm a self-proclaimed chocoholic myself. Of course we nodded for everything as if we understood. Then the you want to see them? Sure, why not since we're here (just kidding). We were taken into another small room. There stood our future children. Very mixed emotions. We gave them lollipops. Obvious they hadn't ever eaten one before as our son tried to stick it to his head. Successfully, I might add. I handed my daughter a candy bar despite their warnings. They said sternly she's allergic to chocolate. I said NOT my daughter. Our daughter was so thin and white. I mean sick, pale white. She was 6.5 yo and weighed 26lbs. She wore size 2T. Our son was 4yo and weighed 21lbs. He wore size 18months. You didn't know whether to hug them or stand away from them. Very odd feeling. Essentially, we were strangers in a room trying to instantly become family. Anyway, we were then led on a tour of the orphanage. Extremely clean. Smells like pinesol. This orphanage housed children from ages 2 to 13. At thirteen years old, we asked what happened to them. Let's just say that this Dec. 27th (my daughter's b-day), she would have been released on the street. This is when it finally hit home that we had to do more for these kids. Explain that later. Back to the orphanage tour. Our kids were dressed up. All the kids were. Very sweet. They even performed a song and dance for us. I had the whole thing video taped. In fact, I taped our entire trip. barely took pics. BIG mistake. Got home and son erased the entire thing w/ two hours of golf. Urghh. While there, they asked us if we wanted to take another little boy home. We said sure. Our coordinator said okay. How many are you approved for. I said two. She said then you can't do that. Another lesson learned, always put down one extra on that I-600 than you think you'll need. Anyway, the entire staff was very sweet and honestly cared for the kids to the best of their ability. This has been the poorest orphanage we've ever been to yet. They grew every bit of their own food. Barely any toys for the kids. But they were somewhat happy, you could tell. I need to speed this up as I know I can't give all the details as it would take way too much time. One interesting tidbit, since we were the first people to ever adopt from there, they had a local news crew follow us around. Talk about adding pressure to the situation. Well, it was time to leave and put our kids in the clothes we brought. All to big for them of course. So we held our son's pants on by the camcorder string. Instant belt. First lesson in parenting...improvising. We had brought donations for the orphanage. Also, our agency fee helped to buy the orphanage a brand new van. Nice to see where our money went. They were so appreciative b/c now they could take the kids to the hospital which was 4 hours away. Hence, the reason why my daughter has a huge scar on her forehead. She fell out the second story window. Yes, she still has no fear. Back to the story. So sorry for sidetracking here. It was time to leave. The caretaker stop us, pointed to our son and said the only English word she knew...discipline....discipline. She said it twice and little did we know until later on what that meant! And we were one our way.

We drove back in a tiny car w/ our two new kids. rough ride for everyone involved. Next day was court. Yes, we had the kids before b/c court was 4 hours away. Our court lasted a total of 15 minutes b/c of the excruciating heat. Awful. The only thing that struck us funny was the judge really wanted to know what a half bath was. He said how do you have half a bathroom? So, court was uneventful, kids were ours and later it is off to Moscow. Shortening this story as it is already too long. Suffice it to say, the next few days were very challenging as new parents. Our daughter was mad the entire time and our son was beyond ADHD. Seriously, it was like someone purposefully gave him injections of stimulants. Insanity. The only time they seemed somewhat docile and contained was when they were eating. And boy, did they ever eat. Remember, they were extremely malnourished when we got them and very bony. Our daughter wanted nothing to do with us and stayed with the interpreter. Finally, on one of the last days there, I turned to her and said you can no longer hold her hand or speak to her. that is our job now. I said I have to have her in control for the airport tomorrow. Otherwise, she may run away and never listen to me. We put it in perspective for her and then she understood.

Oh the Moscow tour. The first day, I was too sick to take it. I had gotten to ride in the diplomat cars the entire time b/c I kept passing out from the heat. They had record setting temps in Moscow that week-- the hundreds. So, our kind host, who spoke no English, took us on a wonderful personal tour. It was definitely a highlight. We were slowly getting a little more comfortable as parents. Then, the trip home. What a nightmare! We'll leave it at that. Part Ib coming a little later. That will be coming home and becoming parents of special needs children.

Thanks for listening.

Our stories: Part IB...Homeward bound & new parents

Hello again. Sorry if the details are a bit rough. These two adoptions, our first ones, occurred over 6 years ago. Hard to believe that. We had a fairly uneventful trip to Russia. Came home and my parents left that evening. Did not stay at all. We felt stranded and hopeless. They thought we needed space, however, we just needed to recover from the trip of emotional and mental uproar. My advice to you future parents, please make sure you have someone with you for at least 4 days to recover not only from the trip, but the jet lag and the emotions of it all as well. It will be more overwhelming than you can ever imagine. Get the help you need for sure. What were we going to do with these two little children? I must say, back then we were not nearly prepared to become two new parents. We did not know what to look for or even how to handle things. Lesson # 2 as a parent: you definitely will learn as you go.

We settled in as family. I was able to get 12 weeks maternity leave. yeah. Needed it too. (later had to quit job b/c of kids' needs). Gave us time to adjust as a family unit. Communication was tough. By the way folks, those Nickelodeon cartoons are not always so innocent to learn English. Hey Arnold has an older EE guy whose name in Russian means Mr. SH**. Learned that later. Also, learned that our two sweet kids, speaking complete Russian were cussing a lot. Yes, this happens. We knew better for our next adoptions. Learn the bad words first and foremost to head that stuff off.

Our kids transitioned as best as could be expected. Our son never had any problem transitioning. Irina, however, huge. We started to practice hold therapy on her. Worked. Irina needed time to grieve the loss of everything. Each of our children has grieved in a different way. For Irina, it was being held for 2 1/2 hours in the chair, crying inconsoluby. As new parents, we had no idea why this was happening. Know now that she was indeed grieving. After that session, she was the happy kid that we still know and love today.

The first month home was pure h***. I didn't want to go anywhere or see anyone. Mainly because I felt like I was a terrible mom. Not knowing how to handle my own kids. Felt very out of control of the situation. We have learned a lot over the last six years. We've become the best parent advocates for our children at school. When you discover you have special needs children, it is not the end of the world. We have learned to take each problem as it comes our way. Because every problem
does have a solution. Sometimes it just takes a little longer to figure it out. Our son for example, took awhile to figure out. We were told by doctors and others that we were just over-reacting and that we were just new parents. Don't give up when someone tells you that. Our son is FAS and severe ADHD. Our other daughter adopted at the same time is FAS / MMR/ Dev. Delays/ OCD/ anxiety/ asthma. We had no idea any of this would happen. Getting help early is key and also sticking to your guns when it comes to schooling. They told us our daughter would never pass a second grade level. She is now in a 5th grade classroom. Feels good to prove them wrong. Our children have more capabilities than we give them credit for. That is just another thing we've learned along the way.

We have learned to adjust our way of thinking and our way of parenting. What works for one child may not work for another. We have come a long way in 6 years and hope to make even more progress the next six. Becoming new parents is tough. Becoming new parents of an adoptive child is even tougher. Becoming new parents of a special needs adoptive child is not only the toughest but the most enlightening as well. Our kids have taught us a lot. Our adoption journey for our first two kids was an awakening of sorts into parenthood. Nothing like a crash course. Our daughter is now 12, almost 13. time flies. Our son is now 10. Both have grown so much both figuratively and literally. Our daughter grew 12 inches the first year we had her. Amazing. But both have flourished. yes, we have rough days. We have definitely learned not to sweat the small stuff over the years and take every moment as it comes. My advice for all you out there, enjoy everything b/c you will blink and they'll be teenagers. Goes by that fast. I know we've made mistakes, most parents do. But I also know we've done the best we can and they will without a doubt become productive, happy members of society. We would never change our adoption journey. Okay, maybe the heat. It was an experience of a lifetime. And the experience continues to this day. Once you become a parent, you are a parent through the good, the bad and the ugly. long-winded again.

Thanks for letting me share. Later this weekend I'll do the adoptions from Stavropol from last year. But all the kids are going to a Christmas party tomorrow. Can't wait for it. Hope to eat a lot of cookies.

1 comment:

  1. We adopted from Orenburg in 1999, as well. Trying to do some long overdue research. Would you mind if I asked you a few questions? I can send you my email/phone. Thanks, Matt