Today was a beautiful kind of day. It was warm and bright and filled with good things. Nope, not talking about the weather. I'm talking about you. Today, Daddy and I finally got the chance to hold you, talk to you, kiss you, hug you, snuggle you, hear your sweet little voice, and take a few precious moments to breathe you in- deeply.
Nico and Yulia picked us up at our apartment shortly after 8am. We had to stop at the Child Services office to drop off our dossier. I handed Yulia our referral as well and then it was time to come to you.
Your orphanage is big and is situated behind a wrought iron fence painted a bright green. There is a hedge of pine trees lining the back of the fence. The building is stately and made of painted white brick. A few of the windows were lit up with Christmas decorations. We walked across the front drive after entering the gate to a side entrance. There, we were ushered into a small room with a large window overlooking the summertime playground equipment, and mural of an exotic faraway place covered one wall. There were two chairs, a couch, a sink, and a few toys. We met Tatiyana, the orphanage director and attorney.
Yulia asked us to show her our photos of your big brother A and all the things that he does at home- his school, riding the bus to school, baseball, going on trips, swimming, snuggling up with our dog. Yulia explained to us that these pictures were very important in that people in Ukraine, child services workers, orphanage workers, judicial figures will find it very hard to understand why we would want to adopt you. To be blunt, they cannot wrap their brains around you having any semblance of a life outside of lying in a crib all day long. It is completely infuriating to Daddy and me for anyone to say that about you or anyone else with any sort of special needs. So far Tatiyana and the child services worker were both amazed at what your brother does, everyday, since the day he was born. Amazing the difference an ocean can make, huh? On to the best part, we sat down and waited for you to be brought into the little visitation room.
I'm so sorry that our first meeting, so precious to us, was really very scary for you. I hope you will someday know without a doubt, Daddy and I never wanted to make you cry or scare you. We have just been waiting so long for this very day and we are overwhelmed with love for you- it has to come out. Unfortunately for you, that means a Mommy and Daddy pawing all over you and getting bawled on and getting Mommy snot on your head. (Sorry about that.) We were told, too, that this was the first time you'd ever been in the visitation room and we'd like to think that may have contributed to the scariness of it all. In other words, we are hoping it all doesn't fall completely onto us.
I literally fell to my knees when your nanny walked you into the doorway today, AJ. From your photographs, I already knew how sweet and beautiful you are. Seeing you in person- well, your pictures, no matter how awesome, could not fully convey this fact. Daddy's eyes were filled with tears and we were in complete awe that you were really here, with us, in the same room. I held you first and you looked at me, right into my eyes. You rested your head on my shoulder and I finally got to hug you tight while whispering to you, "Anton, I am your Mama and I LOVE you." It was Daddy's turn next. And what a proud Papa he is. If he could have run out of that room with you to show you off to world, he would have. Here's what Mommy saw:
First, a Daddy so madly, deeply, fully, and completely in love with his new little son.
You cried off and on, short little bursts to let us know you were unsure of this whole thing. Daddy was so relaxed with you in his arms. He just spoke to you softly words of reassurance and love.
Our visit didn't last very long today. We still had running around to do with paperwork. Yulia asked us, "So...is this a yes to this referral then?" "UH- YEAH! DEFINITELY!!" we eagerly answered. It was really REALLY official now- the ball was going to get rolling to get us a court date!
We finished up the day by saying good bye to you and letting you know we would be there in the morning. The nanny came in and swept you up in her arms and carried you off to lunch.
We left the orphanage and went to an office building. We were told to wait in the car. Ten minutes later, Nico and Yulia reappeared and we were off to the notary. Yulia had us accompany her to the notary office, which by the way, is one of many and a hoppin' place. People in and out, in and out, over and over. Yulia running back and forth down the hallway and back only to disappear behind one of three closed doors. Daddy and I sat on a bench in the dimly lit and rather drab hallway. It reminded me of sitting on a bench outside the Principal's office- waiting anxiously for our interrogation and execution. Just kidding. I did get plenty of chances to say "I don't understand" in Russian. The wording on each of the 3 notary doorfronts that faced us must have been rather confusing. We watched many a person stop, read, look around, re read, poke their head in a closed door, look at us, re re read and then roll their eyes at what they probably thought was my attempt to act dumb and not be helpful. No lady, I'm really just that dumb. I would love nothing more than to be able to fully comprehend your language and help you out.
After the notary we were headed back to the Child Services office. They were getting ready to go on lunch break so we had to hurry. The child services worker was literally putting on her coat, hat, and gathering her purse for lunch while she asked, "You are fully aware this boy is sick, right?" "Da." -while nodding my head at her and thinking- I really wish people would stop saying you're sick. Far from it lady, except for the little stuffy nose that he has. She followed that up with, "What are your motives for adopting this boy?" With that, out came our answer and our family photo album. She was shocked and in awe, too, at what your brother is able to do.
And, that was that. Nothing more. No more questions. Just back to our apartment.
We spent the remainder of the day and night, looking at our video of you and taking in every inch of you that we had in a photograph. We will surely fall asleep tonight thinking and dreaming of you and your big brother- and all is right with the world. Merry Christmas present to us. Thanks Jesus!
Day 10 (December 27, 2011)
Today we woke at 6:20am to be ready to head to the subway station at 7:30am. Yesterday, Yulia had explained and shown us how to use the subway, which train we needed, where to exit the subway, and which bus to take to get to your orphanage. Daddy and I didn't sleep very well. We were absolutely exhausted from lack of sleep the night before and thought if we stayed up until 8pm we would sleep all night. Wrong- so very very wrong. I was awake at 12:45am, only to stay up until 3:45am and fall into a deep sleep until the alarm went off. Of course, why not?
We were ready to leave home a bit early so Daddy and I decided to sit in the quiet and take time to pray together. We prayed for the day ahead of us, for eachother, the other families adopting, our family and friends at home, and of course we prayed for you. We prayed that we would get to you quickly and easily. We prayed that the Holy Spirit would be with you and would fill up your little heart.
We headed out to the subway station at 730am. It was still a bit dark outside, but nice. There was barely any traffic, the streets were a breeze to cross. We made it to the station and got on our train- the redline running from Khreshchatik Station to Akademmistechko Station.
From there, we left the subway and climbed our way to daylight once again. It was chilly. It was wet. It was cloudy and gloomy. We needed to find Bus 796 to Boyarka. This bus would take us right past the orphanage. We waited at the bus stop for close to an hour before calling Yulia and asking if we were at the right location or waiting for the right bus. Many buses with many different numbers passed us standing on the curb. None of them was the 796 to Boyarka.
Daddy passed the cell phone to someone who told Yulia we needed to cross the street and get on our bus on the other side of the road. So we did, with instructions to call Yulia back when we could find a busdriver who would take our call. We tried a few, they shook their heads at us. We found one that said we were in fact on the wrong side now and needed to cross the street. Wait, didn't we JUST do that? Great. Ok. Here we go again. Back underground, through the maze of tunnels to come up right back at square zero. It was well after 9am by this point, close to 10- our visit with you was supposed to start at 9am and go to only 11am. My heart was sinking. We found one bus driver who took our cell phone and spoke with Yulia once again. He explained to us that we needed to wait 3 bus stops up from where we were. He even gave us a free ride. (THAT does not happen here. NOTHING is done for free here.) We waited on the corner of that bus stop for what seemed an eternity. I couldn't hold it in any longer. I started to cry. I thought for sure we weren't going to get to see you at all. The stress of wandering the streets and subway and bus stops of Kyiv for almost 3 hours at this point was just too much. Daddy put his arm around me and assured me that we'd be ok and find our way back at the very least. We'd just hire a fac team driver to take us until we figured this mess out. After several long cold minutes, there was a little white more van than bus looking vehicle with the numbers 796 screaming at us from the windshield. YES! We raced to the edge of the curb and held out our arms. He was 3 lanes over and not looking at us. As fast as we saw him coming, we watched his tail lights disappear into the vast sea of cars and buses. I couldn't help it. Hot tears stung my eyes and the soft cries I was able to hold back before were turning into heaving sobs. Yes, there I was, standing at a street corner bus stop somewhere around Kyiv, bawling my eyes out. We didn't already attract attention to ourselves just by the way we dressed, but now, I had lost it.
It was about 1045am or so and I looked up from Daddy's coat and noticed another small white bus coming towards us and slowing down. It's numbers read 796 Boyarka. THANK YOU LORD JESUS! We got on and gave the man 5grivna as we thought it was 2grivna per person to ride. WRONG again. We didn't see a price on any of the windows like the other buses, well apparently this little get up was a tad more than the others. The bus driver yelled at us in Russian. We sat in our seats and he continued to yell at us. Then a babushka in a sequined hat and overstuffed mauve coat turned to us and began to try to explain what we did wrong. I swiftly said in my best Russian, "I don't understand." She just started speaking Russian even more loudly but slllllower. Then, from out of nowhere, a little girl who looked to be about 16 years old turned around in her seat and said, "You have to pay 14- altogether." OH! Why didn't anybody just say so? HAHAHAHA. Chris walked back up to the driver and paid him. The driver continued speaking loudly and I heard him repeat my saying "Ya ne poneemyo..." The patrons on the bus began laughing. We were clearly being made fun of. We sat quietly in the back of the bus. I listened to a young man sitting in the seat across from me slurp on his bottle of beer. We just wanted to get to the orphanage and get off that bus. Enough was enough. I was done wandering the streets. I was done passing the cell phone. I was done being yelled at in a language I don't understand. And now, I was done being made to feel like a complete fool. We would be calling Eugene or Nico to pick us up after our visit- if we even received one at this time. I had to keep speaking with the Lord and ask for His presence to cover the situation and just get us to our little AJ.
We called Yulia and told her we wouldn't be riding the bus home. We had just made it to the orphanage and it was 1120am. Our visit was long over. We hoped they would let us stay. We sat in the visitation room. Yulia called us back and let us know they would allow us to have AJ until noon and Eugene would pick us up at 12:10pm. The nanny didn't bring AJ to us until 11:45am. We were going to REVEL in this 15 minutes. This 15 minutes meant the entire world to us and our whole day, everything we had to give, was going to this sweet little boy during this 15 minutes.
All that we had felt, the stress, anxiety, and angst of the morning didn't matter anymore. The orphanage walls could have began crumbling around us and we would have never noticed. Because our hearts, eyes, and ears were focused only on this one little person right here:
Be still my beating heart. One the best most treaured gifts you can ever receive in this life is a smile from your little love that you know is meant only for you. This was our first smile from you, AJ. Daddy and I will always always remember this very day. The day you, with your beautiful, I'm ALIVE grin, turned a stress drenched, hard, wanna punch someone in the throat day, into a perfect one.
This last photo I posted, I know exactly what I was thinking when it was taken. I thought- How in the world does someone so wonderful like you, face a horrible and lonely death in a mental institution? Why does this happen? I was completely broken at the notion that such a thing could ever have been the ending to your story. I cried as I held you today and felt the Lord speak to me. He said, "This isn't his end. It was never going to be his end. It just took some time to prepare you fully for this day. This is Anton's beginning. I gave him to you. He is my precious gift- good and perfect in every way that I made him. Enjoy him, Mama and Papa, I do." Thank you Father. We are on our knees in awe and still so humbled that You would choose us. Shock, really, let's be honest.
Children as wonderful as you aren't seen for your full capacity to live a wonderful and blessed life in Ukraine. A government that doesn't give any help, a poor economy, and expensive healthcare needs are all reasons why children with special needs are more often than not, abandoned. Left to sit in baby houses until they age out, only to be transferred to mental institutions. No one thought you had the ability to think and comprehend. No one thought you could even sit up on your own. To all of those people who cast you aside, to all of those people who said "He will never fill in the blank. Just let him die." I say, this is only Day 2 of meeting and being with you. This is what you already have burning in you to tell the world:
To the moon and back,
Mommy and Daddy