King of Prussia, PA
Birth Country: Russia
Decade of adoption: 2000 or later
As an adoptee myself, I always knew that I would continue the blessing that I was privileged to receive by adopting my children. Last year, my husband and I traveled to Novosibirsk, Siberia, Russia to meet two little boys who were destined to become our sons. At the time, they were unrelated and living seven hours apart from each other in different orphanages ("Dyetsky Doms"). Through hardwork, perserverence, patience, love and faith, we became a family of four on October 18, 2005.
Our adoption story is similar to many others. We suffered through the countless frustrations and obstacles, and "proved" our worthiness as parents through a home study and various governmental approvals and essays from friends and family vouching that we would be good parents to our future children. We notarized documents, signed forms, were examined by doctors, had social workers tour our house and discussed exactly what "disabilities" or "defects" or "medical concerns" we thought we would be able to handle in a child. Would we prefer a child without a foot or without a hand? What about diabetes or hepatitis? Would we adopt a child of another race? Of a mother who admitted to drinking alcohol during pregnancy? The questions were never-ending.
We raged in frustration as our region in Russia seemed to constantly change the rules of adopting "their children." Our agency was alternately our best friend and our worst enemy. When I saw their number on the caller ID, I never could guess whether they were calling with good news or bad. Usually, it was bad news - delays, rule changes, vacations was the region shutting down or maybe just a temporary hold?
For 16 months, we explained to people that we were adopting from Russia, but no, we didn't know who our children would be and no, we didn't know when we would travel and, no, we didn't know whether they would be boys, girls, both, siblings, anything!
Finally, we received the call we'd been waiting for; we had referrals! However, by the time we got any definite information a few days later, one of our "referrals" had been taken off the adoptable list due to paperwork problems. The other referral was a three-year-old boy who we later discovered to have serious medical issues. We soon received another referral for an almost four-year-old boy named Roman.
When we watched a video of him playing in his orphanage, our hearts nearly exploded. He was a happy, playful, funny, interactive, healthy, adorable boy! We did consult a pediatrician who specializes in international adoption, but the answer was obvious to all: we were going to go get him as quickly as we could!
We still held out hope that we would receive a referral for another child, and on our first morning in Russia, we received a referral for a two-year-old Roma (Gypsy) boy named Alexander, but called Sasha by everyone. The prejudice against the Roma in Europe is so great that there is very little chance of Roma children being adopted by Russians or Europeans. I looked into the big dark eyes in the photo and started to fall in love.
We met Sasha first. It was typical of meetings between parents and children in international adoption. He took one look as us, stranger, and started to wail! He wanted absolutely nothing to do with us. When we pulled out our secret weapon, chocolates, he consented to take the candy from us, but he still didn't want us. Because this is what we expected upon meeting our children, we weren't upset. We just worked hard to gain his trust.
The next day, we met Roman. He entered the playroom like a sunburst, so happy, playful and gregarious! He was the complete opposite of everything you normally think of when you hear the word "orphan" or "Siberia". He immediately approached us and greeted us. We spent the next two hours playing with cars and balloons, coloring in books, reading stories and looking at a photo album that we'd brought for him.
We returned a month later for the actual adoption. Roman remembered us and was thrilled to see us again. Sasha seemed to remember us because he wasn't quite as upset to see us when he came in and also because it took less time for us to gain his acceptance.
After the adoption, we were in Russia for nearly two more weeks while more paperwork was completed by the local Russian government and the American Embassy in Moscow. During this time, we got to know each other as a family. We could see Sasha start to blossom even in that short period of time and his silly sense of physical humor began to show through.
After we came home to Philadelphia, the boys started to meet family and friends and almost seemlessly fell into their new lives. They marveled at cars, trucks, TV, bright colors at the mall, music on the radio. Everything was so new and exciting for them! We marveled right along with them.
We spoke mostly Russian at home until the end of the year to ease their transition, but since January we've spoken only English. The boys also started "school" (i.e., daycare) in January and now, September, you can't tell that they were born overseas. Roman's English ability is astounding! They have completely bonded as brothers and as our sons. I can't remember a time when they weren't here! There is so much joy in these two boys and I'm so honored to be their mother. It was worth all the paperwork, forms, permissions, doctors appointments and hours spent on airplanes.
There's so much more to tell, but that's our basic story. I'd especially like to urge you to include children who weren't adopted as babies. All too often, people refuse to even consider adopting older children (i.e. over eight months old!). In our case, we're so glad we did and we urge everyone considering adoption to think about the benefits of adopting older children.