When Rain Hurts by Mary Evelyn Greene

February 7, 2010

September 14, 2007 Journal Entry and Chapter 15


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer 2006

September 14, 2007.   I just read a news article about a sparsely populated region near the Volga River that is giving away free cars, money, refrigerators and other prizes to couples who procreate now and give birth on June 12, Russia Day.  Workers who signed up for this contest, now in its third year, were given a half day off on September 12 to boost their chances of winning.  President Putin claims Russia’s falling birthrate is its most acute national problem and he applauds the creative genius of the regional governor.   I have a problem with this.  Quite a few, in fact.  Foremost has to do with the host of overcrowded orphanages generously scattered across the country, institutions in such poor repair they are crumbling on their own foundations.  In late 2004, when we adopted, over 600 children under age 4 were living in the baby home in Birobidzhan, a city of approximately 220,000 people.  Extrapolating this figure to age 16, the age of emancipation, means there must be roughly 2,500 institutionalized children in Biro at any given time.  There is such a shortage of jobs, food, and services that parents give up their children because they know even the skeletally staffed orphanages can better provide for them.  Alcoholism is so prevalent in Russia that health officials don’t ask pregnant women about their drinking habits because they don’t want to compile the sobering statistics.  What percentage of Russian children born on or around June 12 will end up alcohol exposed, neglected, malnourished, learning disabled, and residing in an orphanage?  I’m not sure the free car is worth the price.  My son often doesn’t know right from wrong, has severe memory deficits, may never understand the relationship between cause and effect, is learning disabled, lacks impulse control, is devoid of judgment, suffers from multiple physical disabilities, and has a whopping 60% statistical chance of being arrested between the ages of 12 and 21.  Sophie is doing well but even she carries telltale, perhaps permanent, signs of her early institutionalization.  I will always love Russia because my children are Russian.  But I still wish Peter was whole, so he could grow with the potential God intended rather than stumble through life impaired and disoriented, a tragic symbol of everything wrong in his country of birth.  Perhaps, just perhaps, the national crises that seed children like my son should be addressed before Russia gives too many more free cars and refrigerators away.

 

Chapter 15:  We’re Home (Almost)

Lunch, homemade cake and a beaming Galina awaited our new family when we arrived back at the apartment after the hearing.  But despite the festivities, picking up the children, seeing them for the first time since they were “ours”, I remember this time as quiet and peaceful.  Sophie had claimed every fiber of my being the instant our eyes met in August and although my commitment to Peter was more contemporary, he already was mine too.  I had made a resolute decision about my new son, having sealed our fates together during a restive night less than 48 hours earlier.  Turning back was neither an option nor desire.  Pat and I were happy, certainly, but we were mostly relieved.  We had many more hoops to jump through before going home, including several days in Moscow, but from this point forward none of our decisions, fears, misplaced words or misunderstood actions could in any meaningful way jeopardize the formation of our family.  We had reached the finish line.  Peter and Sophie were ours.

But it didn’t quite feel that way at first.  For one thing, there was no room for the children to stay at Galina’s so they remained at the orphanage and on the same strict schedule until the morning we picked them up at 4:30 am for the drive to the Khabarovsk Airport.  The night of the adoptions I was keenly aware of how incorrect it felt to lay in bed with Pat knowing our children were still being made to fall asleep amidst more than a dozen other toddlers, most of whom, Peter and Sophie included, had never known the comfort of being kissed goodnight.

16 beds for Sophie’s group of 16 (Biro, Aug. 2004)

The authorities waved the post-adoption ten-day residency requirement, which enabled us to leave Birobidzhan once the children’s Russian passports, new birth certificates and adoption certificates were ready.  Ten days in the region post-adoption were suddenly compressed into two, causing us to become a flurry of activity.  We wanted to make a contribution to the orphanage, and had intended to donate cash, but the women in the white coats told us that money had to be declared and that most would be eroded by taxes and “less official” fees. They instead suggested we buy snowsuits, jackets, mittens, boots, and hats at the store because these items could not be easily tracked.  Tamara took us and we bought more than we could afford.  We nearly emptied out the entire children’s section, which was smaller than our kitchen.  We also bought brightly painted chairs that were locally made and that we’d seen in abundance at the orphanage as keepsakes for Peter and Sophie.  Other than the grocery store, it was the only store in town and therefore the only place to buy clothes, shoes, books, toys, bedding, household appliances, cosmetics or baby supplies.   Even though more than 200,000 people live in Birobidzhan, we were its only customers that day.

Our next stop was the farmer’s market, which was busy and boisterous.  Pat kept whispering for me to keep a firm hold on my purse because he didn’t like the vibe coming from a scattering of young men who patrolled the aisles with heads bent and arms shoved deep into heavy canvas jackets.  He needn’t have told me.  His body language changes so abruptly in these instances, reverting with a flash to his Brooklyn-bred street smarts, that I read his thoughts with a single glance.  We quickly bought a bushel of bananas big enough for King Kong to enjoy, at least 80 bananas, and as much other fruit as the three of us could carry.  We took great pleasure in distributing our bounty when we returned, to the mostly nonverbal toddlers who nonetheless had mastered how to say “Mama” and “Papa” and who still clamored for our touch and attention.  It was both wonderful and profoundly sad to watch these children’s faces light up and their mouths water over the prospect of something as simple as a piece of fruit.  There was nothing they took for granted.

Peter eating with his group (Biro, Oct. 2004)

It was also funny and wonderful to marvel over the way Sophie began exhibiting proprietary behavior in our presence.  To this day we don’t know exactly what she was saying, but whenever any of the children in her group showed us more than casual interest, she would furrow her brow and wag her finger in the direction of the small offender.  She would then fire off a maelstrom of verbal warnings so caustic that any children brave enough to have remained in the wings scattered in retreat, immediately.  With clutched fist and steadfast determination, she also had no trouble establishing ownership over the pink little gingham pillow with our picture in the sleeve.  She carried it everywhere she went and according to her caregivers, whose eyes sparkled with the telling, refused to relinquish possession no matter what the circumstances, including using the potty.  She behaved like a crazed old Babushka rather than a barely two-year-old child.  We loved her for it, and still do.  Immensely.

Sophie eating soup (Biro, Aug. 2004)

That night we sat in the easy company of Galina, Bogdan, and Sergei, another grandson who stopped in frequently, and watched their favorite Russian soap opera, which had become our custom.  There was nothing else to do.  We couldn’t visit the children and roaming the pitch-black streets of Birobidzhan after dark, which by late October was somewhere around 3:00 p.m., was not a safe option.  We had brought books and a portable chess set but were too exhausted and mentally depleted by this juncture of our trip to focus on anything that required even minimal mental acuity.  The wardrobe in the soap reminded Pat of 1974 Staten Island on a Saturday night.  We knew it was time to leave when we earnestly began looking forward to the next episode, checking our watches to make sure we didn’t miss the kickoff.

Peter stopped screaming at me about the time we were ready to say goodbye to Tamara, Galina and the orphanage staff.  He even begrudgingly allowed me to sit near him and interact with the blocks and plastic truck we bought at the store and left behind for the orphanage.  But I still couldn’t interact much with him.  If I picked him up and sat him near me, he’d bounce up and run over to Pat, his short little legs moving faster than what seemed anatomically possible.  But he didn’t scream.  He merely grunted.  I interpreted this transition as progress and cheerfully continued my strategy of inching my way toward intimacy, or at least casual contact, often with food in hand as collateral.

Sophie too began loosening up around this time.  Galina’s living room could be closed off with French Doors and we took advantage of this design to contain our new cubs.  They had never been in a home before and for Sophie, everything was worthy of exploration: the furniture, the kitchen, the television, Galina’s fish tank, her knick-knacks, the light sockets.  The toilet topped the list of curiosities though, as she had never seen one.  The orphanage used pots lined up in rows for toileting, one child next to the other.  The entire contraption, especially the flushing mechanism, fascinated her and it wasn’t long before we realized she didn’t have to really go peesit every fifteen minutes.

Potty training, orphanage style, with Sophie is on left & Peter Barnes next to her (Biro, Oct. 2004)

But even confined to a single room, Sophie was a challenge.  What became obvious quickly was that she had long ago mastered the art of playful defiance.  She understood the limits we had imposed, she just didn’t agree with them.  And the mischief in her eyes, the twinkling intelligence that belied her tender age, was difficult to ignore and even more difficult to curtail.  We would soon learn that we weren’t the only ones under her spell.  People fell victim to her charms wherever we went, and still do.

What wasn’t so obvious at the time, but now stands out as clearly as fireflies against a night sky, was Peter’s complete lack of curiosity about his new environment.  I was chasing Sophie around like a madwoman, convinced her frenetic activity would result in instant and tragic death before we ever got home, but Peter barely budged.  All he wanted to do was sit with his blocks or look at a book with Pat.  But this behavior didn’t strike us as necessarily strange back then.  After all, we were strangers, we didn’t speak Russian, and we were planning to whisk him away from the only home he ever knew.  We thought he was scared and tentative, which I’m sure he was.  Though we’ve seen vast improvement, we understand now that Peter tends to behave this way no matter what the circumstance or environment.  He’s uncomfortable navigating the contours of new experience.  Rather than struggle to integrate, he retreats into the comforting spaces of his own thoughts or the rituals of repetitive play.  It took years of intensive intervention to coax him from this mindset and even today, constant vigilance is required to keep him from withdrawing.

From left: Sergei, Galina & Bogdan (Biro, Oct. 2004)

When it was time to leave Birobidzhan, we thanked and hugged Galina, promising to send pictures and updates once we were home.  I don’t remember whether we went to bed that night but I’m guessing we didn’t.  Tamara took us to the orphanage at 4:30 a.m., where the children were already bundled in their new clothes and jackets, standing with two women beneath the shelter and light of the entryway’s concrete overhang.  Since we knew we were leaving before dawn, we said our emotional goodbyes to the women at the orphanage the night before.  Two of Sophie’s caregivers had rattled off instructions for us to keep Sophie on schedule and content, tears overflowing while they competed to stroke her tiny back.  One of the doctors insisted we take a tube of cream to ease Peter’s itchy skin.  They were decent, basically kind people who were forced to look after Russia’s discarded babies under conditions of extreme poverty.  Although I was moved by their affection, I also was invigorated with the knowledge that Peter and Sophie were finished with orphanage life.  Peter had spent all but 5 of his 39 months in an institution and Sophie, who was 27 months old, had joined him before her first birthday.  They had served their time.

Goodbye orphanage (Biro, Nov. 2004)

Both children were dazed, confused and exhausted the entire bumpy trip to Khaboravsk.  Our driver dropped Tamara at her apartment on the way out of town and I watched her wave to us as we began our journey home.  Our translator, who in the process became our friend, was gone.  Until we reached Moscow, where Sergei awaited, we were on our own, relying on gestures and the few Russian words we had committed to memory as our only means of communication.  Sophie sat on my lap and Pat held Peter.  There was no room for car seats much less our luggage, which was tied to the roof with lengths of scratchy twine.  When he wasn’t dozing, Peter repeated his Russian name the entire ride while Sophie stared, unmoving, out the window.  Listening to the eerie rhythm of this cadence, the rise and fall of Gera Gera Gera against the clanging backdrop of the car, I worried whether our new son was trying to hold on, somehow, to his former life, even his very identity.  The idea made me shudder.

The plane ride from Khabarovsk to Moscow was uneventful, thanks to a young Russian girl who appropriated Peter, drawing and otherwise entertaining him for most of the flight.  Sophie stayed content as long as I kept the Goldfish and Cheerios flowing her way.  Neither of them slept during any portion of the 10-hour flight and by the time we arrived in Moscow, they’d been awake, except for momentary catnaps, for almost 24 hours.  Their bellies were full, they had their first lollipops – for take-off and landing, found the airplane ride exciting, and were uncharacteristically compliant for children their age.  But the poor babies also were dead on their feet.

Leaving Biro (Nov. 2004)

For me, the most challenging part of this segment of our slow progression east had to do with our flight’s five-hour delay and the prolonged agony this inconvenience caused.  Specifically, I had drank too much instant coffee at Galina’s in the middle of the night and desperately needed a bathroom break by the time we arrived at the Khabarobsk airport, which was somewhere around 8 a.m.  But I couldn’t figure out how to use the public toilets in the airport and I was unwilling to experiment.  The lavatory consisted of several holes in the ground surrounded by slippery filth.  Indented footprints flanked the sloping sides, apparently to coax hapless users like myself into the correct position.  I envisioned me sliding inexorably into the unspeakable abyss and then spending the next twelve hours living with the aftermath on my clothes, skin and hair.  No thank you.  Even if it meant keeping my legs crossed for 13 hours, which it did.

The four days we spent in Moscow were exciting, scary and in every way novel.  The Presidential Hotel is more than accommodating of newly adoptive parents and we were happy to find two cribs set up and ready to go when we opened the door to our room, which was really a suite.  It was the first night we would spend together as a family and I had a raging yeast infection, which for me, was a first.  I had ignored the mild symptoms that started to develop our last day in Birobidzhan.  With so many important things on my mind, and having no idea how bad this kind of problem could get, I simply dismissed the warning signs as an aggravating nuisance.  Boy was I wrong.  The culprit turned out to be the powerful antibiotics our doctor had us taking throughout the second trip, to stave off giardia and any other nasties.  By the time we reached the hotel room in Moscow, sleep-deprived and with two bewildered and exhausted toddlers in tow, I was desperate for intervention.  Pat was uneasy about me venturing into the Moscow night by myself, but there was no reasonable alternative.

Trying to explain to the women at the front desk the nature of my problem was about the funniest and most exasperating experience of my life.  The word yeast in Russian has no meaning unrelated to bread-making.  After many rounds of passing the dictionary and using gestures not suitable for polite company, a eureka moment finally occurred and they understood what I needed.  These otherwise stone-faced women giggled like schoolgirls as they wrote down the address of the nearest pharmacy and showed me on a map how to get there.  It was past midnight, I hadn’t slept in God knows how long, Pat was no doubt panicking in the hotel room by himself with the kids, and I had no choice but to venture into the Moscow night in search of over-the-counter feminine relief.

Luckily, the directions were good and I arrived at the pharmacy after a fifteen-minute walk.  Then I encountered the next hurdle: the pharmacist didn’t understand what I needed either, and unlike American drugstores, customers in Russia do not have direct access to nonprescription drugs.  Products are locked up and out of view.  So I started my ridiculous pantomime routine all over again.  Eventually a tall, elegantly dressed businessman walked in, saw me gesticulating like a crazed woman, and asked in fluent English if he could help.  Ordinarily I would not have pulled an innocent into such a private matter, but I was desperate.

“I need something for a yeast infection,” I said.  Luckily I was too exhausted and uncomfortable to worry too much about his embarrassment either.

“Uh, oh.  Well, yes, of course.  I can help with that.”  I thanked him for his kindness and apologized for the awkwardness of the situation.  He took my place at the counter and explained to the pharmacist what I needed.

I might have emerged from the store with some semblance of dignity intact if the humorless pharmacist hadn’t then decided to ask the man to translate the package directions.  He really was managing well until that point, but this taxed his Samaritan attitude well beyond the tipping point.  Bowing his head to review the instructions, he slowly looked up at me with what can only be described as horror.

“I simply cannot do this, Miss.  I am quite sorry.  But I cannot read these words to you.  I just cannot.”  His face was beet red and his eyes implored me to release him from this unbearable task.  He continued, “You can manage from here on, right Miss?  I’m sorry.  Goodnight and good luck.”  And with a slight bow and what I thought might be the click of his heels, he disappeared into the welcoming anonymity of the Moscow night.

When I entered the hotel lobby, with white paper bag in hand, I was greeted by the sounds of the reserved but jubilant desk clerks cheering my success.  I thanked them hastily and then raced to my room and waiting family.  Now the middle of the night, Peter and Sophie were still ambulating like Zombies on parade.  I was still working off the adrenalin boost fueled from the pharmacy adventure, but Pat was out of juice. I found him slumped like a rag doll in an armchair, supervising our children in a semi-conscious, unshaven and close to delirious state.

We spent the rest of that night with all the lights on and Peter thrashing between us in the big king sized bed.  He had screamed with terror every time we put him in the crib or attempted to dim a light, so we thought bringing him into bed with us would help.  We were wrong.  Sophie fell asleep in the crib after methodically rocking herself for 45 minutes in spite of the considerable racket.  Flat on her back with arms stretched toward the ceiling, Pat and I watched helplessly as she swung her body from left to right, the muscles in her neck taut and twisted.  She was not ready or willing to receive our comfort.

Sophie and Peter’s 1st night away from the orphanage (Moscow, Nov. 2004)

Despite how exhausted we were the next morning, the prospect of eating breakfast as a family held great appeal.  We watched in amazement as Sophie and Peter, regardless of the fatigue and trauma of the last 36 hours, ran with abandon down the long hall of our floor, falling, rolling and generally howling with delight.  From their expressions, we guessed they had never experienced any real sense of personal freedom before.  In fact, just like that first morning in the hall, Sophie and Peter would continue to react with complete and utter delight in response to the simplest pleasures for the entire first year they were home.  The gift of a balloon, for instance, brought shrieks of joy, as did the sight of hamburgers, balls, television, bananas, frogs, honey, open spaces, milk, grass, and even their double stroller.

The breakfast buffet at the Presidential provoked a truly unforgettable feeding frenzy.  Eggs, crepes, bacon, sausage, milk, orange juice, oatmeal, fruit, breakfast potatoes and French toast.  They devoured everything in sight and then lifted their plates for more.  Sophie ate three times as much as Peter, which is saying something because he ate more that morning than he’s ever eaten since.

Peter’s 1st breakfast at the hotel (Moscow, Nov. 2004)

The rest of our time in Moscow was spent getting mandatory medical exams for the children at a Russian clinic, making sure the U.S. Embassy processed their visas correctly, and generally tagging along with Sergei as he skillfully navigated the remaining post-adoption paper chase.  In between appointments we did some sightseeing and bought some incredibly expensive clothes for the children.  The clothes I picked out  prior to the adoptions, mostly 3Ts and 2Ts, hung from Peter and Sophie as loosely as potato sacks.  We wound up buying Peter a few outfits in size 18 months.  Sophie easily fit into size 12-month clothes.

Breakfast ecstasy (Moscow, Nov. 2004)

Three other memorable events happened while we were in Moscow.  The first had to do with bathing.  Russians shower, even their babies, because they feel bathing in a tub full of water is an unclean practice.   Sophie and Peter were so terrified of the water when we first put them in the tub, screaming like teenage victims in a horror flick, that I’m surprised someone on our floor didn’t call security.  But then in a last-ditch effort to salvage the experiment, I splashed my hand in the water and gently splashed their bodies.  Sophie paused for one second, considering the implications of this act, and then we watched with amazement as her features transformed and she surrendered, completely, to her childhood instincts.  Attack!  The ensuing water fight was a moment that will be forever imprinted on my brain.  Blood-curdling screams of terror became peels of laughter and Pat and I were drenched and covered in bubbles by the time we wrapped our two happy and clean toddlers in warm towels.  Bath time was never a problem again.

The next unforgettable moment occurred at a Moscow McDonald’s, where Sophie caused a considerable crowd to gather.  We ordered Happy Meals for the kids but they didn’t know what to do with them.  They ate their apples but their hamburgers went untouched.  Sergei tried to coax them into eating but they just stared blankly.  We finally gave up and began eating our own meals.  As soon as one of us lifted our burgers to our mouth, Sophie picked hers up, staring at it curiously.  It then occurred to us: they had never had a sandwich before.  They either didn’t know it was food (yes, I know, it was McDonald’s) or they didn’t know how to approach it.  So Pat picked up Sophie’s cheeseburger and helped her position her infant-sized hands on either side.  Then all three of us illustrated the chomping procedure, looking ridiculous I’m sure.  And that’s all it took, at least for Sophie.  Squeezing both sides of her cheeseburger so hard that bits of grizzly meat squished between her fingers, she took a single bite and paused.   Her eyes moved back and forth with measured deliberation and then an impish grin, one of her hallmark characteristics, slowly emerged. She ate the rest of her burger, which was nearly the size of her head, with such gusto and intensity that people began gathering around us in amazement.  Half act, half genuine enjoyment, she played to her audience like a seasoned professional, relishing all the while in the glow of the spotlight.  Though we never convinced Peter to eat anything else that day, Sophie had seen the face of God, and her name was American Cheeseburger.

Cheeseburger in Paradise (Hyde Park, NY, Dec. 2004)

To this day, Pat and I refer to the last noteworthy event as simply The Fight, which occurred in the late afternoon of our second full day in Moscow.  We were taking a well-deserved break in our room’s big, overstuffed chairs, watching contentedly as the children played and continued to explore their new environment.  Sophie played kitchen with her doll and the plastic food, dishes and pots we bought for her while clothes shopping in the fancy Moscow department store.  Peter spent his time stuffing everything he could into his new backpack: Duplo blocks, books, cars and trucks, hotel magazines, water bottles, action figures, and even wash clothes.  Nothing was too banal for inclusion. When finished, he’d hoist it onto his back, circle the perimeter of the room, dump the contents out, and then start the process anew.

Although Pat and I exchanged worried glances over Peter’s repetitive, ritualistic play, neither of us had the energy to intervene.  Instead, I asked whether Pat would get me a pillow from the couch to prop behind my back, which had begun to ache.  Both of us were unprepared for what happened next.  Peter stopped what he was doing, went over to the couch, and brought me the pillow.  He understood what we were saying!  What a remarkable moment!

Our joy and surprise over this revelation was soon dwarfed, however, by what began as a simple breach of toddler territory.  While praising Peter for his brilliance, Sophie seized the opportunity to snatch what had become a prized book from his otherwise closely guarded backpack.  Until that point, neither of them had paid the slightest attention to the other.  But all that changed when Peter discovered the missing item and in Sophie’s hand.  The boy who we’d begun to worry was completely passive suddenly exploded with a litany of verbal outbursts.  Sophie followed suit.  With her brow knit in consternation, and her fist shaking savagely in Peter’s direction, she came back with a barrage of her own.  The indecipherable argument continued, with both of them charging the other, fists drawn and chests puffed, for a considerable length of time.  Pat and I watched in stunned silence as this unforeseen drama unfolded.  To this day I don’t know whether we chose not to intervene because the fight wasn’t physical or because we were simply in shock.  Regardless, the chaos stopped as suddenly as it began.  Sophie and Peter had reached some sort of understanding.  Although far from kismet, they no longer ignored each other, and in ways small and large, began acting like the siblings their adoption papers declared them to be.

Overall, our time in Moscow was lovely.  The days were crisp and clear and we could see the children’s health improve on an almost hourly basis.  Sophie’s skin became less translucent, Peter’s angry red rashes began to subside, and the dark blue bags under their eyes diminished by the minute.  Breakfast continued to be a show worthy of charging admission, and running the length of the long halls a favorite daytime activity.  At night we’d read to them in the big king sized bed and then let them watch a Russian cartoon with the lights dimmed ever so slightly.  Peter never slept well in Moscow but at least the screaming lessened.

Sophie at the Presidential Hotel (Moscow, Nov. 2004)

In fact, the only real troubling part of our stay revolved around our children’s intestinal health.  Although we at first thought the change in diet was to blame, the frequency, volume and room-clearing odor made us rethink our diagnosis.  I frankly had never smelled anything so foul in my life, and it was coming from both of them.  But without additional symptoms, nausea, cramping, fever, or any other kind of distress, we decided the problem could wait until we got home.  Having already obtained their medical clearances, we didn’t want to jeopardize our departure date.

Peter at the hotel (Moscow, Nov. 2004)

With Sergei serving as our guide, translator and companion, we spent our last afternoon in Moscow exploring the city, which was both exciting and sad.  Moscow is every bit as alive and vibrant as New York City, Los Angeles or Boston, with all the noises, energy and pulsations, but there is a crucial difference.  The disparity between the wealthy Muscovites and the residents, not to mention the rest of the Russian citizenry, is abundantly apparent.  The ostentatious displays of wealth in Moscow make American vanities seem almost modest by comparison.  I found it difficult to reconcile the abject poverty my children had experienced with the incredible brand of nouveau riche consumerism on constant exhibit in the streets of Moscow.  I truly hope the country one day settles on an economic and social model that allows capitalism to flourish and wealth to accumulate, but in the presence of a healthy middle class, and without so much graft that basic human rights are overlooked.

I was never more aware of the depths of Russia’s troubles than when I stepped on the plane that would take us home.  Sophie and Peter had experienced unimaginable hardship in their first, most crucial years, and theirs were the faces I saw when I reflected on the failures of their birthplace.  Pat and I were confident we could change their health and living circumstances for the better.  What was less certain was the impact we’d have on their psyches, our ability to heal the damage to their developing brains and hearts, damage that was the result of neglect, abuse, and deprivation; the hopelessness, and in some ways, indifferences, of an entire people.

Bound for New York (Nov. 2004)

I said goodbye that morning to Russia, grateful for our children and poised for the adventures and struggles ahead.  I was ready to go home.  And I would not be looking back.

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6 Comments »

  1. OMG! The pictures of Peter and Sophie definitely make the stories more “real”, Mary. I’ve heard you talk about the trip to Russia to get the kids, but reading and seeing it together makes all the difference.

    Comment by Wendi Rinaldi — February 7, 2010 @ 7:42 pm | Reply

  2. When I read your 14th September 2007 entry, I wondered how a Russian woman would write about a similar campaign in the USA.

    Indeed, in Australia, as of 2004, there was a “one for you, one for me and one for the country” policy promoted by the then Treasurer, Peter Costello.

    Comment by Adelaide Dupont — February 8, 2010 @ 12:50 am | Reply

  3. I wonder if the 10 day wait being waived might have a bit to do with difficulties in attachment. According to Toddler Adoption: the Weavers Craft, the longer the children have to get used to their new parents, and the more explanation they receive from a trusted caregiver, makes all the difference in the world.

    I am SO enjoying your writing style. The yeast infection / pharmacy scene is too hysterical.

    Comment by positivelyorphaned — February 9, 2010 @ 12:00 am | Reply

  4. Hi Mary,

    I am a fellow adoptive mom who adopted my two children from Birobidzhan in 2007. My now 6 year old son came from the specialized baby home, where I am assuming your children were. My 7 (almost 8 yo) daughter was in orphanage #5. Although I cannot even come close to imagine the long term issues that you are dealing with in regard to Peter, I can certainly commiserate with a tiny bit of problems you have encountered. My son Chase was diagnosed with moderate to severe ADHD and as a family we have endured so many repercussions from this. I am very fortunate now to have doctors and a school system that work very closely with us and tailor a program that works for him and me. This after he had been asked to leave 9 different daycare/preschools. When I first came home, it was sheer H#$%ll! Certainly not sunshine and roses, like I had pictured! I also used Adoption Source and my experience was similar to yours. I do not have good things to say about them, and if they were still in business, would not recommend them to anyone. My heart goes out to you, but I am so impressed with your tenacity, patience and humor. I can’t help but laugh at the description of your time in Russia, OMG, I could have written some of the same stuff! Funny to laugh at now, not so funny at the time. Good luck to you and your family. Feel free to contact me.
    Jane

    Comment by Jane — February 9, 2010 @ 2:37 pm | Reply

  5. I’ve started following your blog, you are a gifted writer. I was curious if your kids had a parasite or if you discovered the cause of the intestinal problems when you got home. We have the same problem with Nicholas but the first lab work we did when we first came home showed nothing. He is adopted from Kazakhstan from an orphanage at the approximate age of 3 1/2. We had a dr tell us he has mild facial features of FASD. He is doing well after only 5 months but only time will tell how successful he will be.

    Comment by Katherine — February 19, 2010 @ 6:37 pm | Reply

  6. Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your experiences. As has been stated before you are a gifted and empathetic writer. Tomorrow will be the six month anniversary of my son coming home from Russia (then 16 months old), and it has been a roller coaster. I am hoping my family finds our “new normal” soon.

    I had to laugh out loud with your description of the yeast infection caper. I came down with a yeast infection on my first day of my first trip to Tomsk. At the pharmacy, the first pharmacist refused to help me because she didn’t know what I needed. My phrasebook listed the translation for “yeast infection” as “vaginosis”, which of course could mean any number of things. But I wouldn’t, couldn’t leave. The second pharmacist brought out every possible box of medication for “vaginosis” that they had. In my fascination with scanning the Russian database of children, I had learned most of the Cyrillic letters. Thankfully, I was able to make out “Diflucan” in Russian and my problem was solved. I practically jumped up and down with joy, both because I would soon have relief, and because I was so proud of myself for reading this new foreign language!

    Thank you again for sharing your story. My heart goes out to you and your family for the strength and resiliance you have already exhibited, and that you will continue to need.

    Comment by Tamar — February 22, 2010 @ 1:18 am | Reply


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