Where We Left Off…
Wow…it’s been a while, hasn’t it? If any of you are still following along, sorry for the lengthy delay in updating. I’m not quite sure how this got away from me, but let’s get back on track and finish this story, shall we?
Previously we discussed the amount of time it took to finally get our INS approval and once we had that, we had to wait for our adoption agency to finalize our travel dates with the agency in Russia. Before we knew it, we had a travel date. Now it was time to fly…
Leaving Detroit was a bit stressful because between the two of us, we were carrying approximately $11,000 USD and we were worried about losing the money or getting robbed. I was wearing two money belts – one wrapped around my waist under my jeans and another under my shirt. Hubby had similar belts, plus one that went around his ankle under his sock. I went through security without issue, but on this particular day the TSA officers at Detroit Metro Airport decided that Hubby looked like trouble and decided to pull him aside. At this point we decided we’d better tell them about all the money and why we had it, so Hubby got to go for a lovely chat behind closed doors. He was gone for about 10 minutes and the entire time I was positive he was coming out of that room minus 1/2 of our adoption money. When they finally opened the door and let him go (with the money), I let out a sigh of relief. After all that, I needed a drink.
Laura Happy That The TSA Didn’t Steal Our Money!
Hubby Still Annoyed About The Trip To The Private Room – Does He Look Like Trouble To You?
A Whirlwind Trip
After traveling for 20+ hours and going through a zillion time zones plus crossing the International Dateline, we arrived in Vladivostok the morning of Monday, February 23rd, 2004. When we landed, Anya and Stas met us and told us that our court date was still scheduled for the next day, but the court wanted us to visit each baby one more time. Because Baby Oleg was so far away, we immediately jumped in the car and drove the 3 hour one-way trip to spend about 2 hours with him. We were both so tired, but also so excited to see him again. He hadn’t grown much, but he still had the Snoopy stuffed animal we had left with him from the first trip. He didn’t really seem to remember us, but that was okay. We knew we’d have plenty of time to spend with him soon.
Baby Oleg With His Soon-To-Be Daddy
After the 3 hour trip back, a decision was made that we’d go to the hotel for the evening and visit with Baby Andrey in the morning, before our scheduled court appearance. I really wanted to go see him that night, but realized that it was too late in the day and that we really needed some sleep. Anya and Stas took us to our hotel, which was different from the first hotel. This time they had us stay at the Vlad Motor Inn, which was geared towards families. The hotel had an English speaking staff (good news, especially if you’ve ever read my travel story about Hubby) and all the amenities we’d need for spending a week (or possibly more) with the babies. Finally settled in for the night, Hubby and I collapsed, knowing that the next day would also be very busy and potentially very long.
The next day, we got up and got ready for court. Hoping our suits were good enough for the judge, we set out with Anya and Stas to visit Baby Andrey. When we got there we found he had another cold, similar to the cold he had during our first visit. I felt so bad for him, but I was able to hold him and walk around with him until it was time to leave. As I handed him back over to the orphanage doctor, I was hoping it was the last time I’d ever have to leave him behind.
Baby Andrey With His Soon-To-Be Mommy
As Hubby and I waited in the hallway outside the courtroom, I was very nervous. I had thought of a dozen different scenarios for why the judge wouldn’t give us the boys. Perhaps I wouldn’t pronounce their full Russian names correctly or the judge wouldn’t like redheads or something crazy along those lines. By the time the door opened, I was just praying for it all to be over.
Once in the courtroom, I was surprised to find a room full of females…even the judge. For some reason I had been expecting a male judge…I’m not sure why. After we were all seated, the judge started asking questions, which Anya translated for us. I wish I could remember exactly what she asked, but it’s all a blur now. I remember some questions about our jobs and how much money we made and how we’d care for the boys, but I really don’t remember the specifics anymore…and I’m not sure that I would even if I were walking out of that room right now. The only thing I remember for certain is the speech I made. It wasn’t prepared, but the judge gave me an opportunity to make a final statement to the court and I made sure it would count. I talked about our love for each other and how we wanted to share our love with the babies. I talked about being able to provide a stable environment and medical care and college in the distant future. I talked about Baby Oleg’s health issues and how they didn’t matter to us and how very lucky we were to live so close to such wonderful medical institutions so that we could have him taken care of properly. I pretty much begged her for those boys.
After I was done, the judge asked us to leave the room so she could make her final decision. As we walked out into the hallway, I wondered how long we’d have to wait to learn our fate. And this part I remember as clear as if it happened today. Not more than a MINUTE later that door opened and they asked us to come back in. The judge congratulated us, told us the adoption was final, and also waived the 10 day waiting period, which meant that we could pick up the boys IMMEDIATELY. We were so overjoyed, the tears just came and wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t believe we were finally going to have our babies with us.
One More Road Trip
The court gave us multiple copies of the finalized adoption paperwork. Anya had already arranged for another driver and interpreter in case the judge let us pick them up immediately, so Hubby headed for Baby Andrey and I took the 3 hour one-way car ride to get Baby Oleg. We both had diaper bags full of supplies and had been warned that all that the orphanage would give us was a naked baby…no diaper, no clothes, no nothing. I wasn’t sure I believed them, but packed everything just in case.
When the driver arrived at Baby Oleg’s baby hospital, I was so excited. I really couldn’t believe that I’d be taking him with me. When we got inside, sure enough, they brought me a naked baby in a blanket. He was so small and seemed fascinated by my every move. I put his diaper on and got him dressed without any problem, but once I started putting on his new snowsuit and coat, he got a little fussy. Honestly, if someone was trying to drown me in all that clothing, I’d get fussy too. However, I’d been warned that the orphanage workers didn’t want the babies to be cold when they went outside, so he was going into that snowsuit no matter what.
After the baby hospital staff wished me good luck, we walked out of the baby hospital and got in the car. It was at that point that I remembered that Russia (at least this part of Russia) didn’t require car seats for babies and that no one had brought one for us to use. Hubby and I had brought backpack baby carriers for the trip back to Michigan, but it never occurred to us to bring car seats to transport them to the hotel or to the airport, etc. Oy…our first major parenting mistake! I ended up having to hold Baby Oleg (now officially John Oleg) for the entire trip, which turned out to be quite the battle of wills. What he lacked in size and strength, he made up for in determination. For that entire 3 hour trip, he tried to escape my arms to grab at all of the objects in the back seat. It was exhausting, but I didn’t care. Because he was mine.
Together At Last
Finally, the driver made it back to the Vlad Motor Inn. When John and I entered our room, Hubby was already there with Baby Andrey (now officially James Andrey) and we both just looked at each other, wondering what to do next. (It wasn’t until years later that Hubby admitted that he was terrified and was so happy when John and I finally got back. He’d never been alone with a baby before and was afraid because he wasn’t sure how to take care of him. I like to periodically remind him how wonderful he was with his new sons). Anya told us that they would call us the next afternoon as there was still much to do before we could leave Russia, but finally we were alone with our babies.
The first thing I did was get out of that stupid suit I’d been wearing all day. Next, I just sat and stared at my babies. You could tell they were confused about their new surroundings, so we tried to keep things simple. We held them and then sat them on the floor (on a blanket) next to each other to get to know each other. We tried to give them bottles of milk, but they didn’t seem to understand how to use them, so we quickly switched to sippy cups. James got the hang of that quickly, but we realized John had never learned how to suck properly, so we had to put more holes in the sippy cup so the fluid would come out easier.
Once we had them drinking, we decided to feed them. We had a ton of baby food, so we opened up a few jars to see if they would eat it. It was then that we were reminded of John’s little game. The day before they had let us feed him and he would bite down on the spoon. He grinned the entire time and the only way to get it out of his mouth would be to move it from side to side until he finally let go. He started doing this again, but not until his little belly was full of food. In the mean time, James had discovered a great love for his new sippy cup. As I was trying to get the spoon from John, James crawled over and stole his brother’s sippy cup. This would become a habit once we got home, but it was so damn cute to see it happen the very first time. I couldn’t believe how happy I felt just watching them and taking care of them.
More Food Now!
After feeding them, we decided it was time to try to bathe them. We weren’t sure what their reaction would be since we didn’t know if they’d ever been in a bath tub before, but we weren’t surprised when they cried. I felt bad for them, but I wanted them to enjoy bath time, so I made sure that I brought bath toys with me. I got them out and started squirting them with the rubber ducky and their cries turned to adorable baby laughs. God, that was probably the first time we’d ever heard James laugh and it was a full belly laugh. He had the best laugh as a baby…it was music to my ears.
After getting them out of the tub, we got them ready for bed. We gave them more milk and put them in their cribs to see if they’d go to sleep. We quickly discovered that neither baby was interested in sleeping if they could still see us, so we turned out the majority of the lights and went to the bedroom (the hotel room was more like a small apartment). After about 10 minutes of listening to baby sounds, we came back out to find them sound asleep. They looked like little angels. James had two fingers stuck in his mouth, sucking away on them, and John was on his tummy, with his little butt in the air. I wish I had thought to take pictures then, but I was happy to just be able to stand there and watch them.
The next morning, I woke up and went to check on the babies. I was surprised they were still both asleep almost 12 hours later, but it gave me more time to watch them (and of course I made sure that everyone was still breathing properly, as I had done 4 other times that night!). I also got to discover which baby was a morning person (James) and which had no interest in waking up (John). Once James opened his eyes, he popped right up with a grin on his face, held out his arms and expected me to pick him up. John looked at me, rolled over, closed his eyes and tried to rock himself back to sleep. I got that lazy baby out of bed so I could properly feed him. Once I got some food in his mouth, he was as happy as his new brother.
We spent that first morning in seclusion, learning more about them. That’s when we discovered that John was fascinated by his reflection from the glass in the oven door. He’d keep crawling over there to pull himself up and look at himself, turning this way and that to see himself from another angle. And we discovered that James was going to be a Daddy’s boy. He liked my hugs, but he wanted to sit on Daddy and never move again. We also learned that he liked to hold onto ears while he was sucking his two fingers. His own ear wasn’t good enough for him, so we had to let him hold onto ours. It amazed us how unique they were. And how much our love had grown in just 24 hours.
Next Up: The conclusion of the saga…a few final things to take care of in Russia, the journey home with our bundles of joy, and coming down that escalator at Detroit Metro Airport to meet the family!