The Interim Visit to Meet My Daughter
After arriving in Kuybyshev and getting “settled” in the hotel, the families I was traveling with were all taken to meet our kids. My daughter had been moved with other toddlers to the “new” baby house, which was bigger and newer. The old orphanage (where the babies were) had once served as a gulag, rumored to have once housed Alexander Solzhenitsyn.
When my daughter was brought in she appeared completely disinterested in interacting with me — or anyone she didn’t know. The only times she showed any emotion was when being offered cookies. She seemed to like coloring, though the caregivers weren’t the least bit impressed by her insistence on holding the crayon in her left hand. I found it quite amusing how many times they’d walk by and move the crayon to her right hand. I’m left-handed myself.
I was taken to visit with my daughter several times prior to our return to Novosibirsk. I wish I could say that we quickly bonded and it was obvious to everyone that we were meant to be together, but it just didn’t happen that way. While I was there, she never did seem to warm up to the idea that I was going to be her mom.
During my last visit, I left a little scrapbook I’d made with pictures of my home and all the animals she’d meet when she got there. I had included captions for the pictures, printed in both English and Russian. I also had her new name in the book so the caregivers could help her get used to it.
The trip back to Novosibirsk was interesting. Rather than hiring a taxi for the five-hour drive, we took the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Our first stop was the Barabinsk train station. A large, cavernous train station reminiscent of a bygone era. The smell emanating from the restrooms explained why they were located as far from the waiting area as possible. There were no toilets, just holes in the ground.
As the train approached the station, it was dark and very cold. First we walked a fair distance toward the front of the train, then for reasons unknown to me we turned around and had to run toward the back of the train. We had a massive group of people trying to jump on
as the train was pulling away from the station. All this with our suitcases in tow. There wasn’t much to see outside the windows as we traveled through the darkness. After a three-hour journey to Novosibirsk, we took care of the final paperwork to accept our referred children. Then it was time to return to Moscow, then home.
My next trip
I arrived in Moscow on Easter Sunday. After an overnight stay, it was off to the airport for the flight back to Novosibirsk. I was the only one traveling this time. The other three families had all completed their adoptions a few weeks earlier. Mine had been delayed due to the fact that my puppy had eaten my passport. Really! He chewed the back cover and removed the magnetic strip that the Russian customs agents use to verify your identity. I had to wait for a new passport before I could complete the adoption journey.
Once in Novosibirsk, I was given last-minute coaching about how to address the judge, the proper things to say, what not to say, etc. Finally the day arrived to go before the judge and tell her how much I loved this little girl I’d met so briefly in January and how I was going to provide her with the most awesome home imaginable — and to answer all of her questions — without once looking at the translator. I survived the challenge and the judge signed the papers. I was officially a mom.
Even though the springtime weather had cleared the snow off the roads, it was still a long drive out to the orphanage. I had to wait for the following day to pick up my daughter in Kuybyshev. Not surprisingly, she wasn’t at all happy about having to leave her friends, and everything she knew as “home” to go with a total stranger who didn’t even speak her language. It took about 45 minutes to get her dressed and ready to go.
I managed to get someone to take a few pictures of us together, and some with the caregivers. And then we were on the road back to the city.
Even though it had been a long day by the time we arrived at the hotel, we weren’t done. The adoption coordinator had scheduled an appointment for my daughter to have her photo taken across town for the passport. After that, we had most of the rest of the week to ourselves while we waited for the passport application to be processed. Thankfully, the coordinator had been able to find an English-speaking woman to serve as a nanny for us while we waited. She helped bridge the divide between my daughter and I.
The adoption coordinator was able to speed up the process of getting my daughter’s passport and all the necessary paperwork so we could leave the region. Less than a week after getting my daughter out of the orphanage we were set to travel to Moscow.
Once there I learned two very important things about my daughter — she can’t keep her hands to herself and she doesn’t like the word “no.”
Silly me, I thought it was just age and language-barrier related. We had to spend a few days in Moscow while the final details of bringing a child into the U.S. were worked out. We had to visit a Moscow hospital for a final medical clearance. Then there was an appointment at the U.S. Embassy. They had to be done on separate days so that the medical tests/x-rays would be available to the embassy prior to requesting the visa for my daughter.
We had a lot of spare time on our hands, and no one around to translate for us, making the days seem all that much longer. I took my daughter for some walks around the neighborhood where the hotel was, but there really wasn’t much to see. We were surrounded by office buildings. Since I didn’t speak the language I wasn’t willing to take a chance on getting lost searching for a park or playground. I was very grateful when all the legal hurdles had been cleared and we were given our tickets to fly home.
A friend picked us up at airport — we arrived late in the day. It wasn’t until the next morning that my daughter met the dogs, cats, and horses. And I discovered that she could RUN! As I watched her, it occurred to me that she probably hadn’t had the opportunity to do that while cooped up in the orphanage for more than half her life.
The smile on her face that day could have replaced the sun.
In the years since bringing her home, a lot has transpired. Although we don’t know what she experienced in the 13 months she spent with her birth family, or the 17 months spent in the orphanage, we do know that it was traumatizing to her brain development. She has a significant case of reactive attachment disorder (RAD), along with a few other diagnoses that hinder her from experiencing life as a carefree child.
RAD is a challenge to treat because so much of it is rooted in the emotional centers of the brain — areas where strong feelings are produced, but there are no words available to express the hurt and fear.
My daughter is a work-in-progress. I look forward to the day when I’ll see the finished work of art.