I realize this is NOVEMBER…but I don’t want to miss the opportunity to blog about an important milestone for our family – our one year anniversary of “Adoption Day.” I thought I would begin by doing a recap of our actual Adoption Day August 13, 2012. I don’t ever want to forget the details of that day. I have to admit while we were living out “adoption day” I wasn’t thinking much about the “moments” and enormity of the day…rather I was a first time mom who was completely terrified, overwhelmed and yet so happy to finally walk out of two orphanages WITH our daughters in tow!
So…we finally set out for our 4th and final trip to Russia. Even though we were very familiar with the trip by now, everything was different this time. Our suitcases were full of little girl clothes, toddler toiletries and accessories. We were bringing our girls home! We were close to missing our flight from Moscow to Kaliningrad because we were trying to report that our stroller we checked in St. Louis had not arrived. Trying to report lost luggage is a pain anytime, but try doing it a Russian airport. We filled out paperwork that was in Russian, walked back and forth and back and forth between several different counters. We even had to get our “report” “stamped” or something. Anyway, we really didn’t have much hope of ever seeing that stroller again…BUT it did arrive at the Kaliningrad airport two days later! Anyway…by the time we arrived at the Moscow Hotel in Kaliningrad we were exhausted as usual. Upon arriving we also found out that our interpreter Natasha was out of town. This was a huge blow to us. She had been with us throughout all of our visits and provided us with the best communication between us and the orphanages and us and the girls. To top things off, we were given a VERY tiny room with no place for the girls. I could barely walk around the bed. We had spent almost 20 nights in this hotel and we had never had a room so small or inadequate. At this point, I laid on the bed and cried. It was all too much. I was overwhelmed and remember thinking for a second…maybe we shouldn’t do this – meaning pick up the girls the next day! Thankfully, Brett stepped in and took control. He got our hotel room changed to a larger room and we went to get something to eat. A couple of hours later, we were ready for bed and reflecting on how that was our last night as a family of two.
We woke up on August 13, 2012 and got ready. Our agency worker had mentioned that we were supposed to bring treats for each of the orphanages to have a little “party” before each of the girls left. So…we headed over to our supermarket that we visited so much throughout our visits and tried to pick out cakes and candy for each of the orphanages. We also picked out two little balloons to give the girls…something so little…but those balloons provided special moments on adoption day! Anyway…it was time to head out for Lydia’s orphanage. When we arrived, we stopped at the Orphanage Director’s office first. The Director, Ludmilla, was very encouraging and mentioned how we had persevered through a lot of adversity to reach that day. It was also mentioned that Lydia had an upset stomach that morning and some diarrhea from nerves.
Brett and I both wondered how much the girls had been prepared for adoption day and if they really had any idea what was happening. A year later, I believe that Lydia understood a lot more at the time than I realized. Anyway, we arrived at Lydia’s group and all the children headed into their dining area to share the treats we had brought. During that time, we talked with the Director a little bit more about the food Lydia was used to and her “schedule.” We had been told that we would receive detailed information about both of these things, but when we asked it was just a few bits and pieces here and there. I do remember that the Director said that they didn’t feed the children pork of any kind and thought pork was horrible for children!
After the little “party” I took Lydia into a room by ourselves to change her into her new clothes. I was so nervous about helping her get dressed and doing her hair! It seems silly now, but at the time I just wanted her to feel comfortable as possible and beautiful! The balloon was a hit right away. She loved it!
It was time to leave her section of the orphanage. I don’t know what I expected, but the good byes were quick and few. The two workers in the pictures both said good-bye but I don’t remember the other children being around. We headed up to the front of the orphanage and said our final good-byes. Lydia took my hand the whole way…up to the front of the orphanage and out the door. She didn’t hesitate when it was time to get in Sasha’s car. She seemed a little nervous, but mostly excited.
Then…we were off! She seemed to enjoy the car ride back to Kaliningrad and was constantly taking in her surroundings. It was just the three of us and our driver, Sasha, in the car. Sasha didn’t speak much English and we spoke little Russian so we immediately were forced to begin communicating through motions and broken languages. This would become our normal over the next few months. Once, we got back to the hotel…we were really on our own! Just us and Lydia! What a feeling! We looked at books back in the hotel room and each laid on our bed and watched Russian Hello Kitty with her. It was Lydia’s time to be an only/older child for three hours :)! I am sure I took her and put her on the potty several times too! The girls wore pull-ups during those early days but I was still constantly putting them on the potty!
Then we headed to lunch. We just went to a restaurant in our hotel that Brett and I had visited several times before. It was an epic failure. She didn’t eat hardly anything. We tried borscht soup and pizza…two foods that we now know she likes. I think it was a combination of her being overwhelmed, her nerves and a cold/virus she was struggling with. I was a little discouraged, but we moved on and got ready to pick up our little Nora!
When we arrived at Nora’s orphanage, we were told very little, but I just remember that we had to wait quite a while outside in the back playground. Lydia enjoyed playing on the playground and I think it was familiar to her since that orphanage had been her home only 11 months prior.
Finally, it was time for Nora to arrive! We were so excited to see our little Nora and also for the girls to be reunited! Lydia also seemed to be excited about this! Lydia had lit up each time we mentioned Nora’s name or showed her pictures so we couldn’t wait to see them together. Well…their reunion was a little awkward…but priceless none the less! I just don’t think the girls, especially Lydia, knew how to express their feelings at that point. Nora was happy to see us, especially me. She kept saying “MaMa”. They both were a little shy at first with each other, but once we went in the little garden house to change Nora, Lydia made sure that Nora got her special balloon and was excited for Nora to get her new clothes on too! Again, I was a nervous mommy and trying to change Nora in an outside shed! We got our one souvenir from the orphanages…Nora’s underwear. They ended up in our bag by mistake. I still have them and even though they are too small now, I can’t part with them.
We had brought the treats for Nora’s party, but her group of children came outside when she did, so the workers said they would share the treats later. We headed up to the Director’s office, but I don’t remember her being there. It was an Assistant Director and the Doctor who had been in court all three times with us and who we had seen on our previous visits. It came out through broken English/Russian that the Doctor had been on call in the Emergency Room when Lydia was brought in a few weeks earlier for swallowing a ruble (Russian money). What a small world! I think we signed some papers and then it was time to go! On our way out, we stopped and took a couple pictures of Nora’s area. One thing I remember seeing was Nora’s crib. It was the one without sheets or anything on it because she wasn’t going to be sleeping there that night…she would be with us! We also stopped to get a picture with a few of the kids and a worker. At this point we also got our first family photo!
I should also mention that a lot of the workers were also excited to see Lydia since she had previously been at Nora’s orphanage before she aged out. Then it was time to go! The girls were excited to be in the car and I remember Lydia holding on to Nora’s hand/seat most of the time…stepping into her big sister role right away. The next couple of hours were a blur. We had to rush the girls to a place to get passport pictures and then I believe that Brett went with Natasha to go to more government offices before they closed and Sasha took the girls and I back to the hotel. It was my first time by myself! When Brett got back, we went to dinner at a little cafe across the street from the hotel. We each held a girl on our lap (no booster seats) and tried to feed them supper. Lydia barely ate again and Nora did okay. It was comical I am sure all the way from us ordering, to helping the girls eat! By that time, it had been a huge day! We headed back to the hotel and did our first bath! Brett did the honors and the girls LOVED bath time! Then we watched a little more Hello Kitty in Russian and started our bedtime routine! For the most part, our bedtime routine hasn’t changed much since that first time. It wasn’t something Brett and I talked much about ahead of time…it just sort of happened. We read two books, prayed with the girls and then said our good nights. They slept together on a pull out couch. Both girls slept really well the first night. Nora woke up crying once (I think it was that night too), but easily went back to sleep. I think they were both EXHAUSTED from their big day! Becoming daughters is a big deal :)! Brett and I barely slept…especially me. I just kept checking on them and at one point was awake for hours just trying to take it all in…our daughters sleeping away on the other side of the room! God orchestrated that day from the beginning of time! I am so thankful for our adoption day and never want to forget it!
To be continued…with reflections from one year later!