The story started in 2002 with a realization that after nine years of marriage we still hadn't realized our dream of becoming parents. We prayed continuously for an answer and finally found it in adoption. I am an adoptee and always wanted to adopt, but I hadn't expected that I would be adopting before trying all the various fertility methods of conceiving first. At the time, it just didn't seem right to spend a fortune on something that may or may not lead to a child. In retrospect, these feelings towards fertility procedures were the main reason that led us to adoption first. It was at this time that a program opened up through The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, for which we are members. We knew they had a domestic adoption program, but an international one? We were intrigued.
I was certain that open domestic adoption would make me uncomfortable. Like I said, I am adoptee and the thought of having close contact with the birth family was frightening to me. These are not my feelings now, but back then, I was greatly fearful of this open adoption process and this is what led us to international adoption. I was adopted with a sibling and I was certain that when we adopted, we too, would try for a sibling group. Interviews and paperwork flew out our door for the next six months!
We originally chose to adopt from Kazakhstan. A country with impeccable history of upstanding state-run orphanages. We were shocked at the stories coming out of Russia and determined that Kazakhstan was the perfect situation. We were almost 8 months into the process and just weeks away from finally finishing the long process; all our paperwork documented, notarized, and apostilled. It was at this time that a new rule came down through the agency's that regulated no more than one child per couple could be adopted from Kazakhstan- unless they were siblings. Unfortunately, there was no guarantee that there would be a sibling group. We had three choices: Switch to Russia where sibling groups were more prevalent (we also considered adopting two, non-siblings) or start over with another country. With prayers in our frustrated minds and hearts, the answer came undeniably that we should adopt from Russia. Transferring our dossier to Russia meant that the paperwork would be minimal as Kazakhstan and Russia shared the American Embassy located in Moscow.
Miraculously just a few days after our dossier and paperwork were completed, the referral for our two lovelies arrived at the adoption offices. The trip to the offices was momentous and exciting. We arrived and minutes after we were handed their photos and information. I equate that moment in the adoption offices to when each one of my boys was put in front of me after their birth - it was that wonderful. To think that they had already been born and living a life outside our own saddened me. We were close though- we could feel it.
Our paperwork and Visa's seemed to sail through all the channels needed. In April 2003, 11 months after walking into the adoption offices, we were cleared to take our first trip to Russia and meet the girls. We flew first into Moscow where we meant our translator. We slept for a couple of hours and then caught a flight to Kemerovo where we would meet them for the first time. Not knowing the ins and outs of Siberian flights, we were stuck in the back of the plane with what seemed like your neighbor in front of you right in your lap. It was a fear felt flight and one I choose not to remember! But, I would do it again for my girls -any day! I was just glad when we touched the ground.
As soon as we landed, we went to the hotel and slept until it was time to visit the orphanage. We purchased snicker bars and coke for lunch with whatever bit of Russian we could handle. We were very grateful for the snicker bars - let me tell yoU! Our hotel was equipped with little more than two cots and this radio on the wall - or what we think was a radio. Mr. C tagged this the people's radio. Something fitting he liked to say! Every floor of the hotel had a woman station down each hallway. She would take your key when you left and do whatever housekeeping duties needed. Just a few different things about our visits!
Explaining how I felt on that first trip to meet our daughters is difficult. Excitement, of course, but mostly I was feeling a long agonizing journey coming to an end. I must add, that driving in Moscow was a very scary adventure. Lanes? What lanes? What you would think to be a four lane road, had eight lanes - plus an extra lane on the side - just in case you weren't getting to your destination fast enough. I am thankful, that we didn't have to drive. A driver was provided - again-very grateful for this. We arrived at the orphanage early in the morning. I was impressed that there was a play ground and that the condition of the outside building was well kept up. I'm not sure what I was expecting - outward signs of poverty-like conditions? It was a surprise to see it so well maintained. After meeting with a nurse, our translator, and the director - the door opened...
Our daughters, bundled from head to toe, came through the door being held by two orphanage workers. I knew them in an instant and knew that I was supposed to be their mom. It was a defining moment for this first time mom. Their bodies were tiny - not even 10lbs (at 7 months). For two days, Mr. C and I were led to the orphanage where we spent time with them. They were always brought to us bundled from head to toe and we always took them out of their clothes. After an hour maybe a few minutes more, the workers would come back, bundle them again and keep them to their strict routine. When we left the orphanage not to come back until our paperwork was ready, I wasn't as sad as I thought I'd be. I knew that they were safe. I was determined and I knew that I would be back in no time. My ache came later when we were home and we knew that they were thousands of miles away.
I coped by collecting donations for the orphanage, packing our bags, talking with friends, praying, and having faith that we would soon be on our way. We traveled back to Russia less then a month later and on my birthday we left the orphanage as a family. There was a lot of rushing around to get passports, paperwork, health records and reports ready for our trip back to the states. Five days later we were coming down the escalator at the Salt Lake Airport each carrying a daughter and seeing our extended family for the first time.