Well, it all started in Jan. of '03. My husband and I had been discussing more kids but were waiting for timing. Our son's meds were finally adjusted and things seemed to be progressing. At a good point with the schools, etc. So, we looked into the hosting program. Same program our first two were found on except this time, we would be hosting the children. We signed up for the program. Later, we got medical reports on each. Little scary even for Russian medicals. I turned to my husband and said what if she hurts the other kids? The medical said our daughter was malicious and violent toward others. But, we figured it is only a week and we could handle anything for a week--LOL. I also question the head of the agency & the head of the foundation as to why it said terminating of parental rights being considered. I looked them straight in the face and said "Are these children free and clear for adoption?" Remember this for later on in the story--vital piece of info. I was assured yes.
We got photos.
The day for hosting came. Going to the meeting place and feeling like I was going to vomit. So for the description but my stomach was so in knots with emotion that's the best way I could explain it. Anxious, excited, scared, joyed, etc. all wrapped up in one feeling. The kids were obviously jet lagged and terrified. But we managed. Trick to any meeting w/ Russian kids (learned this w/ the earlier 2 adopted), is always GUM. They will do anything for gum, including stop crying. Won't go through everything we went through that week. It was rough but good. The one 6yo boy was not going to fit in with the family. Many behavioral, emotional and mental issues beyond our capacity. That was a very difficult decision. Anyway, on the third day, my husband turned to me as I was going to sleep and said "we're going back to Russia, aren't we?" I said yes and went to sleep. Ironically, this was the same day our daughter proclaimed to her caretakers that she was not going back to the desky dom but staying with her new family.
It was the day before they were due to leave. I frantically rushed to Walmart and spent $50 bucks at the one hour photo. I made all 3 of them individual photo albums to take back to remember us and their trip. That night, Yana was rumaging through all our photo albums and wondered why she wasn't in any of the pictures. We tried to tell her b/c she lived in Russia and wasn't home yet. that's when it hit that she was going back. Oh, she cried and cried. We did tell her that evening that we were going to come back and get her. She ignored us as we were packing her things up. This was extremely difficult on all of us. The next day we had to meet at Chuckie Cheese to say goodbye and hand the kids over. Oh God, I just wanted to keep driving and runaway with them. I couldn't believe they were going to take MY kids away. But we knew we had to. Yana still did not want to have fun. We made them translate and tell them we were going to bring them home. Also, told them to tell her the sooner she went home, the sooner she'd get to come back and stay forever. That did it for her. She was ready to go so she could come back. We gave a donation of $500 to the orphanage director so she could purchase things back in Russia for the orphanage. She was beyond appreciative. Oh, forgot to tell you all we were once again media followed. The big paper here followed us and the other families the whole time. Even came to our home and took pictures.
As we loaded them into the van, I broke down. I couldn't do it anymore. I had so many people try to pick me up. The thought of saying goodbye literally brought me to my knees on the ground. That was by far one of the hardest things to do in my entire life. I was absolutely crushed as we had to say goodbye. I turned to the director and said I will hand everything in on Monday. He said I know. It was Saturday. My future 3yo son and 7yo daughter were on their way back to Russia. It was hard to go home to quiet. Even the other two kids were crushed. They said when are you leaving to go get them. Now, at that point in time, we honestly thought we'd be leaving in October to bring them home. Boy, were we ever mistaken! That story part to come later tonight. Got to go now. Son needs his leg adjusted and errands await. Stay tuned for part 2 b later on.
I left off with the kids leaving. Did not know a heart could ache that way but it can. I'm sure so many of you can relate. Especially after living with them for 24/7. I have theories on why are son only just turning 3 was allowed to come. Won't get into it but there was very good reasoning behind it. And no, typically they are much, much older. But we were thankful, nonetheless. I went in that Monday and filed the paperwork. Made the homestudy appointments and had already sent off the I-600A. Yeah, on my way. Things seemed to be rolling and was told everything was a-okay.
Fast forward to October, when we should have been going. Nope. Turns out, miraculously that the mother had supposedly visited and signed her rights away. But b/c she had technically visited her (by stepping into the orphanage--yes, that counts) she had to be put back onto the database. Now, keep in mind, we were still keeping in contact with our kids over there. Sending things and writing. Our daughter was expecting us soon. And by everything being approved and done, we should have traveled. Our region, however, was not so kind.
Okay, here is the deal. Our agency was going to a brand new region for them. We were the first people to adopt from this region under this agency. This was uncharted territory for them. Found out through a bit of research that Stavropol tended to be a bit corrupt. Don't fly off the handle those of you who've adopted from there, please wait till the end of the story. (thanks) See, Stavropol has a certain # of agencies working in that region. That don't take kindly to "newbies." WE are going to leave it at that for now. I ended up having to constantly change paperwork for them. ALWAYS changing paperwork. In fact, the dossiers alone cost me $4K to do. We had 4 dossiers on each child. We said throughout the process when the paperwork weighs as much as the child, we could go.
They were having so much trouble getting clearance for our daughter that we were asked to go ahead and pick up our 3yo son in December. I said absolutely not! We get them together, no exceptions. This would prove to be vital in the whole process. See, what the agency didn't know is that we were getting feedback of what to do and how to handle certain things from contacts in Stavropol. All the while being told to switch agencies b/c they didn't want them there. Crazy, and almost science-fiction it seems. But all completely true, unfortunately.
Won't go through all the lies constantly told to us. Too many to recall. Just know that we contemplated switching agencies in January but couldn't afford to lose the money. Didn't have it to lose. Stuck to it knowing we had to bring our kids home. Well, we got two false alarms to travel. 3rd time's a charm. Got the call while I was visiting my husband at work. That's right...3 days to line up airline tickets (got majorally ripped off on this ), babysitting, wills, poa's, paperwork, etc. What I failed to tell you all is that we were stuck in a bit of a dilema the month before. In April, a developer bought our home. We bought another but backed out last minute. We had 2 days to find a home and were due in Russia that same week. So the Lord works in mysterious ways and that's when the 2nd court date had been changed. We had all our stuff together and we were on our way to Moscow. Yeah! Or so we thought. Stay tuned for the next part of our journey. And that's where it gets interesting.....
Noneventful flight and then stayed at a very nice hotel in region. But obviously, we couldn't sleep b/c we knew it would be an upcoming battle and fight to the finish so to speak. We were preparing ourselves mentally for it. Next day came and we went to our son's orphanage first. Very difficult to see the little child we met on our hosting experience. We knew we were not the right family for him but still did not make it any easier seeing him and knowing he still needed a family. We went inside and met with the director who asked us why it took so long for us to come...as if she didn't know. Then our son came in. Obviously, he did not quite remember us. And gosh did he ever grow while we were apart. Lost his "baby" face. All the feelings of love were still there though. No big deal. While at the orphanage, we were not allowed to take any photos nor were we allowed to walk around. Felt like a prison. Noticed most of the doors closed and yes, most locked. Said goodbye and left outside. As we were walking to the car, all four of us, DH, me, coordinator, and translator stopped dead in our tracks and turned and stared at each other. It sounded as though a child was being tortured. This was not a normal, I'm punished or being spanked screams, this was more than that. It sent chills up ALL our spines and we discussed it in the car later. We just wanted our son the h*** out of there at this point in time. Urghh.
Onto meeting our daughter. Her orphanage was for the older kids and very poor looking. We were told by the director that our daughter was only the 8th girl ever adopted from there in the 30 years it had been there. This tore our heart apart. We were very anxious to see her. But remember, she was still being kept in isolation. So we walked over to the isolation ward. There were no lights on and the hallway was dark. We heard a voice yelling and running down the hallway, "mama, papa, mama, papa!" Couldn't see anything b/c no lights. Felt this tight squeeze all of a sudden. It was Yana. Elated beyond words to see us. And then the true Yana stepped back, put her hands on her hips and said in Russian "what took you so long?!" Oh, if only she knew what we had to go through to get to that point even. We went to the room she was staying at. No toys, nothing on the walls, nothing to play with or do but stare at walls all day. She did have our photo album with her that we had given her. They left us alone. We knew this was our chance. We shut and locked the door and it was just us, our daughter, the translator and coordinator. We told her to get serious and we started asking her questions. She said they tell me I'm very sick but I feel fine mom and dad. We said, we know. She said they kept taking blood and giving her medicine. We told the translator to tell her to cooperate w/ them under all circumstances. We also told her if she could "save" the pills and spit them out later, that would be good. As we had no idea what in the world they were giving her and she clearly was not sick at all. We said our good-byes and promised to be back. She was so excited. She promised us before she left that she would do whatever they asked her to. Hard to put her in that position but we all knew in that room that they were finding "excuses" for her not to leave the country. Urghh.
Anyway, we went back and had a wonderful dinner though hard to relax. Next day we visited them again and were supposed to bring donations. now remember, we had already given $500 earlier that year. However, Yana's orphanage was so incredibly poor, we wanted to do something for them. Our younger son's orphanage was given a lot of stuff from other families all the time and had humanitarian aide going there as well. This is a fact. Okay, here is the deal, we decided to buy boilers b/c that's what they desperately needed. Well, our younger son's orphanage got wind of this and was furious that we were giving them donations. She said that because Yana grew up there mostly, that we should be giving them all to her. What?! So, the coordinator, translator and us went back to our son's orphanage to try to settle this out. OMG. I was able to witness corruption for the first time in my life. Seriously. Okay, the director was jealous of our gift to the other orphanage. So we said, okay we'll split the gifts up among the orphanages. She wasn't happy with that at all. What pursued was a screaming battle between our coordinator and the orphanage director. My husband turned to our translator and said I wished I could understand what they were saying (we could pretty much only understand the cuss words). She looked at us and said oh no you don't! Finally, the coordinator turns to the director and says what do you want for the orphanage. She said the children could use a new iron. What?! These kids don't iron. They are ages 3 to 7 in that home. It was obvious that she wanted a new iron and was basically holding our son's case hostage. We agreed to it though later we refused to buy into corruption and did not buy her her iron. The joke w/ the coordinator the whole trip was maybe we could buy an iron. This was said every time something went wrong.
Later that evening at the hotel we were grilled w/ court questions. We had to answer them exactly right. This was a very tough judge. Great, just what we needed. And this region requires a precourt hearing as well. We spent the night memorizing 3 pages of answers I had written down.
Next morning court. And now I need to go take care of dinner and some monkeys playing Star Wars Jedis in the living room. Try to write the rest of this tonight or tomorrow sometime. Next part is court-- oh the fun.
Onto court. This region has a pretrial hearing and a court hearing. Pretrial is usually short. Not for us of course. Ours took 2 1/2 hours. I was repremanded profusely for being too emotional. Crying in court was a big NO_NO. Now, for the past several months we had always said we would take our daughter's sister as well. Told they couldn't find her. Come to find out that the corrupt orphanage director met her once, and debunked the whole thing. She decided she didn't like her. (this women has ALOT of pull & old connections w/ the judge) Yet in court we were asked why we weren't taking her sister. That's when the orphanage director stepped in and gave her reasonings. Urghh. Anyway, while in court, we discovered that our son has a baby brother---WHAT?!?! Ticked off b/c we would have taken him as well. They said they were unaware of his location. Court was indeed a nightmare. Hated being up there. Everybody reassured us out of the courtroom that it would be fine. Next day was court. Almost identical to the prehearing except now I got reprehanded for not showing enough emotion. Can't win for losing I guess. This court took 3 hours. Everyone said this is the longest procedure they had seen in this region. Yeah, and we know why. Not enough bribing on our part--LOL. Seriously, we were told to bring 8 gifts. We brought 20 just in case. Needed way more than that. Told by the coordinator that this is not the way it works in other regions. Anyway, kids were ours!!!!
Now, the real work began. Oh, we were handed transcripts from Alex's previous court hearings on his mother AFTER court. Found out later what was in them. Mind you, his abuse, neglect and hurtful situation was never once mentioned in court or on his medicals or by the orphanage director. This is stuff that contributed to his RAD/FAS/ADHD by the way. Could have been a little more prepared had we known ahead of time. Urghh. Back to the story. Getting the kids the h*** out of dodge!
We were scheduled to go to Yana's orphanage first. However they received a call on the cell phone and said we leave immediately to go pick up Alex. Remember, they did not want us to have him and the orphanage director was trying to get back at our coordinator for the whole iron incident. Well, got the call that the director was gone. (coordinator had someone on the "inside" tipping her off). We literally ran in to grab Alex, change his clothes and run out the door, kid in hand before the director got back. We did leave the caretakers w/ money b/c found out they don't get paid what they should yet director is living the good life. Put it this way, money is not going where it should in that place. My heart went out to the other kids. We have no pics from here due to everything that transpired. It's crazy but swear to you all, you can't make this stuff up if you tried. I had Alex safe and sound and wasn't about to let him go. He was safe now and a huge relief came flooding out. It was off to get Yana now.
Remember folks, they had her in isolation still swearing she's on death's door. We got to the director's office and doctor said she wanted to draw blood b/c may not be safe to travel. We said no way. She's ours, here's the papers, there will be absolutely no more lab work or pills given to her. Period. We were firm and stood our ground. That's when they let us see her. She was moved back out of the isolation ward and into her group finally. Okay, the next part was indeed gut-wrenching. This group of girls was tighter than any family I had seen. One girl, Sveta, was wise beyond her years. They were all so close. we were allowed to take many pictures and able to do whatever we wanted. Yana changed into her new clothes. The girls in the group each spoke of Yana and how they'd miss her. Sveta gave her speech. She said we had now given them all hope that there is a chance out there. Sveta could speak english. They scraped up whatever pictures they could find and gave them to Yana. They also wanted something for her to remember them by. So they gave her a giant red and white stuffed elephant.( this is relavent to the next part of the story later on). They love these girls showed for one another was beyond words. Our coordinator purposefully did not come in b/c she said she would not be able to handle all the emotions. She said she's done hundreds of adoptions but this one from this orphanage was different. All of us were in tears as we had to say goodbye. My husband turned to me and said okay, "which six are we taking home?" We knew we had to come back. Anyway, all the kids followed us out to the car to say goodbye. It was like a huge parade. EVERY single person there had tears in there eyes. even the driver. My heart was numb again knowing we had to leave them here. It was off to the hotel again and for our first family dinner together. Pizza. We all ate and the kids called their sibs at home. Hilarious phone call as our other two had completely forgotten all their Russian. Love needs no words though. And it's off to Moscow, or at least that's what we hope.....
Okay, we're packed, hustling to the airport w/ translator in tow. Get to the gate and she explains everything to them and says she can't go any further, which is understandable. Plus, all we had to do was go through security and board the plane. We were having tons of difficulty. Yana's red and white giant stuffed elephant was apparently a bit too suspicious everywhere we went. And not to mention huge. Anyway, once they were done pretty much giving the elephant a cavity search, it was onto my back pack. I had a Timberland backpack w/ the very padded back and shoulders. She ran it through the x-ray machine several times, dumped it out many more times and kept swearing I had a pistulette...gun. I said I don't have a gun (her face was priceless b/c she didn't think I understood what she was saying). She said agrooshkee. I said I don't even have a toy gun! Anyway, many business men were getting a little peeved at this point at this women accusing us of carrying a weapon. Nothing like a "mob" of angry Russian business men supporting an American Family to board the plane. After a few choice words from them, everyone was on their way.
Flights were typical. Nothing major. In Moscow we had rented an apartment on Arabat St. Best decision yet. Kids could run. well, we walked to the grocery store and picked up some turkey and things that we could sautee for dinner. A home cooked meal so to speak. We also enjoyed going for a burger at the Hard Rock Cafe. Just relaxed that the kids were ours. No trouble at the embassy. Remember, our kids knew us and were 3 and 8 at the time so we could joke around w/ them and throw them in the air and stuff and they loved it. Some other families were a bit concerned. These are kids, let them have some fun for a change. They've been couped up enough. They were of course the only older children in a sea of infants. Anyway, we were told by the embassy what line to go through at immigration. I told him I think you're wrong unless they've changed it since last time. Low and behold, we were right; US embassy wrong. Helpful government officials at work. LOL.
We were off on our flight. We had to go through Paris. An hour later, the terminal we went through, collapsed. It was all over international news but we didn't hear about it till we got home. Sent chills up our spine to see where you were just an hour before in pieces on the ground. But back at Paris we were again searched b/c of that stupid elephant. Trust me, at this point I wanted the elephant to mysteriously get lost. Once we proved the elephant wasn't "packing" weapons, we were on our way to Boston. Don't really care for that airport. Ironically, they have random searches. Guess whose chosen? That's right, the big threatening family w/ a red and white elephant. Urghh. But we managed. Finally, made it back to NC. Home sweet home.
We let the van door open and Yana flew outside. Irina ran from the house. They were screaming and so happy to finally be together again. Been a long time. The embrace between those two seem to last forever. It was definitely a Kleenex commercial and a Hallmark Card combined. People had prepared meals for us and such. We were just so incredibly happy to be home at last. I wanted MY bed and MY shower. I took the longest, hottest shower ever I think.
Kids settled in and then the first month of h*** sets in of course. Happens after all the adoptions. The dreaded adjustment period. Every time Yana would say I'm going back to Russia I just wanted to spout out there's the door don't let it hit you on the way out.(didn't say it but really wanted to) Frustration was really setting in. Keep in mind, this is also when remodel was starting to take place. We had the summer to adjust and amazing what a pool can do for family harmony. We did practice hold therapy on both Yana and Alex when they came home. Yana still to this day has anger management issues. When I try to hold her down (cradle her so she doesn't hurt anyone during a rage), I end up with bruises, bite marks on me and usually glasses messed up. Gets crazy. The first few weeks back home she was exceptionally hard to deal with. We knew the problem was that she needed to grieve her loss. So, we took away all her Russian religious icons, her photos, her drawings, her "life" in Russia. She was MAD. But, it worked. She has them all back now mind you but she needed to see that we were now her family, caregivers, her new life.
Yana today is calmer. She still has anger management issues but she has learned to control it better. Her sister and her are still extremely close. She has many friends and teachers adore her. Though they also see her stubborn side. She has had the hardest time with english out of all of them. She has a heavy Russian accent still and stutters heavily when she can't think of the words. She is finally receiving resource help for reading. No special classes for her. She just has to catch up on english. She's actually top of her class for math. yeah. Now, if we can only work on that stubborn preteen attitude she's got. She's fit in well with the family. Though at times during her struggles as I'm left numb and bruised, I didn't think she'd make it. But with every new day there's fresh hope. Patience goes along way. We are proud of her progress and know she'll do just fine. It has been a year and a half since she's been home. Grown so much. She grew 5 inches the first year home and gained 13 pounds. Wow. She has absolutely no health issues whatsoever. Not delayed. She is overall well-adjusted. Just those anger management issues we're working on. We still keep in touch with some of her old friends and her Godmother. She has told us she wants to go back to Russia but made sure we understand that it is just to visit...not to stay. A milestone moment. This was written a long time ago. Yana obviously had more than just anger management issues. RAD, ODD, CAPD, PTSD, and a few others. It was a very long road but now, it is where it should be.
Now, the other one from Stavropol is a different story. Rough start in life and a hard life to boot. His background has indeed contributed to his RAD. However, when he came home, we were in pure denial. Said no, it's just an adjustment period. We knew we couldn't possibly have another FAS/ADHD child on our hands. It wasn't until recently that we came to our senses. Key for everyone to remember is the earlier you intervene, the better. No FAS/ADHD won't go away but at least the RAD can be almost eradicated w/ proper care and treatment. He is a charmer. He is developmentally delayed and cognitively delayed as well. It is hard sometimes because we can almost picture the future. We know he and our other son will most likely never ever be able to live on their own. Most people are saddened at the thought of their children leaving home. We however, would be elated if they left home later. It would mean that they have made it beyond our wildest dreams. Only time will tell. We know Alex needs a lot of love. And even though he's bad sometimes, we still have to remember he's RAD. Hard to remember though when just in the past 3 weeks he's busted 5 gallons of paint on our newly remodeled floor, broke the aquarium, peed in the toy box lid (yuck!), stomped a lizard, and way too many other things to count. I was originally concerned about the lizard incident until I saw a kid come to our house of normal intelligence the same age & do exactly the same thing Alex did. That's another hard thing is to determine what in adoption related and what is just normal kid behavior.
It is nonstop with him and you literally have to watch him 24/7. Yes, even in his sleep! He does sleep talk which is really weird to witness. His night terrors are all gone--progress like I said. We are thinking of "tagging" him w/ an alarm system. Where if he gets a certain distance from us, an alarm goes off. We need to make sure his safety is a priority. That is one things our kids have taught us is to be very vigilent.
It was definitely a change going from 2 to 4. Also, not knowing the severity of Alex's issues was a concern as well. But there has been great progress in both since they've been home and there is something to be said about that. We have grown wiser, prouder and more tolerant over the last year or so. Yes, their behavior is sometimes "odd" but to us now, it has become somewhat normal. WE have learned to restructure our parenting skills to fit our childrens' needs. Just knowing they are safe, healthy and loved is enough for us right now.
This adoption journey was a bumpy one but in the end, it all worked out for the best. We wouldn't trade our kids for anything in the world! even on the worst of worst days.
Only one more adoption story to finish. That will be for another day. Take care.