Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Seeing Nadya again!

On this second full day in Tver, Tuesday, November 16, I got to visit the Konokovo Baby Home again to see my baby!  The drive is a little more than an hour from my hotel. The orphanage is not much to look at- really run down on the outside, but the inside is pleasant and clean, yet dated.

I checked in at the reception and was escorted to the parents meeting room just off the reception area.  My sister, interpreter and I waited a few minutes until they brought my baby in to see me.  It was so amazing to see her again!  I don't know if she really grew in size, but she certainly grew in her development.  At 13 months now, she finally had a few teeth which she didn't have when I saw her at 11 months.  Her hair had grown some so that she had a little brown curl that stood up from her head- so cute!  My sister Catherine and I both had individually dreamed years ago that my baby would have brown curly hair and it seems to have come true!  Nadya (I keep going back and forth calling her Nadya- which is her current name but will be her middle name, and Brighten, which I will name her.  My idea is to call her Nadya while she's not yet adopted and then call her Brighten when she's officially adopted, but I still just go back and forth and call her both names).  Anyway, Nadya was a good and happy baby!  She was sweet, interactive and calm.  And she could crawl now!  She was just motoring around going after the toys I had brought for her. 

After playing with the baby for awhile, an "inspector" came into the room and observed me with the baby and asked a few more questions on how I will take care of the baby.  She then said she didn't see any problems and would approve my adoption. 

I got to play with Nadya longer and my sister Monica sang "Head, Shoulders Knees and Toes" to her and she laughed and laughed!  She loved being sung too and playing baby games- like the Hokey Pokey.

After about an hour and a half, it was time to leave.  I was sad to go, but get to see her again tomorrow.  She looks great to me- I really think she's going to do really well catching up on her development.  The only potential problem could be her eyes- she still has some of he atrophied eye nerves that were caused by her premature birth so that her eyes looked crossed some times.  Although I understand this is completely correctable when I return with her and get her care for it.

At dinner again, I sat with the other Americans and we shared our stories of the babies since we had all been to visit them.

Can't wait to see her again tomorrow, then I have court on Thursday and Friday.  I'm pretty nervous for court.  I hear the Russian judge really 'grills' you, so I keep going over responses in my head- hope I do well!

Second Trip to Tver, Russia

I arrived in Mosow, Russia on Sunday, November 14 and was met by my adoption agency representative who drove me to Tver, about three hours northwest of Moscow. The weather is pretty nice for November in Russia- in the high 40's and partly cloudy.  I can get around with just a sweater and no coat, so it's much better weather than expected.

On Monday, November 15, I had my 'medical day'.  My agency representative picked me up from my hotel in the morning and my first stop was, I guess, the psychiatric hospital.  Yikes. The hospitals in Tver are not very nice at all- very old and pretty rundown.  I stood in the hallway for about 15 minutes or so while they did some paperwork on me and paid 450 rubles (less than $50).  Then I walked down a hallway to the psychiatrist's office.  The psychiatrist was a very nice blonde woman probably about my same age.  Through my translator, she asked me various questions like why did I decide to adopt a baby from Russia, how will I care for the baby if she has any emotional problems, will I have any help raising the baby, etc.  My sister Monica was sitting next to me and the psychiatrist pointed to her and asked if my 'friend' was going to help.  I responded in Russian "this is my sister" (thanks to my Russian I and II courses that I took at Johnson County Community College and my instructor Ginger Feather!).  The psychiatrist laughed and was very impressed I knew some Russian.  Then again, maybe she just laughed since I really introduced my sister as my cat (nah, I know the difference between the word for cat and the word for sister!).  After the interview, she told me she was happy to sign the form allowing me to adopt and wished me good luck.

Then my driver/agency rep, my interpreter, my sister and I drove to another hospital (still scary looking).  I stood in the hallway while my agency rep went into the doctor's office with my chest x-ray films I had brought from home.  In about 15 more minutes, he came out of the office and said everything was fine, then we piled in the car to drive to another hospital.

At this third hospital, I sat in the car while my agency rep went inside with lab test results I had brought from home (blood tests for hepatitis, AIDS, etc., drug tests, etc).  After about 15 or so minutes he came outside and asked for 350 rubles, which I gave him and he went inside the hospital again.  A minute later he came out and told me the doctor wanted to see me.  My sister, my interpreter and I went into our third hospital (don't get sick in Russia), and were escorted to the doctor's office.  It was another blonde woman, that was again very nice.  She told me through my interpreter that she was satisfied with the blood test results that I had brought with me and would sign the approval form for me to adopt. 

And that was it!  The visits to the three hospitals took about 2 hours and I was done for the day!  It was not bad at all- quick, not as expensive as I was told, and the doctors were very nice. 

The driver dropped my sister and I off at our hotel and we went shopping the rest of the afternoon.  I bought many items for the baby for different stages in her life so I can always surprise her with gifts from her home country for special occassions- like a gold cross and chain, a doll, a keychain,a silk makeup bag, a fur hat.

When we finished shopping, we went back to the hotel for dinner.  At dinner, we met other Americans also in town adopting babies too, so it's been nice to have some other Americans to talk with and share adoption stories.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

After a few days in Tver....

I've been in Tver, Russia now for four days.  I only slept a few hours on the 11-hour flight, four hours the first night and two hours the second night.  Finally on the third night I almost slept normally so am catching up with the jet lag. 

I was picked up at the airport in Moscow on Sunday, 9/5 by the adoption coordinators for the Tver Region, Alexy and Galina who are husband and wife.  They only speak very little English, so we didn't speak much for the 3.5 hour trip north to Tver.  They had a translator on the phone who gave me the initial instructions.  After getting to the hotel, it was about 7PM so my Dad and I just turned in for the night.

The next morning, Monday, 9/6 at 9, Alexy and the translator, Mashah picked up my Dad and me and drove us to the Department of Children Without Parental Care to obtain permission to visit the baby.  At the office, they provided me with further information on the baby and learned something pretty amazing-- the baby has the same birthday as me!!  We were both born on 9/21!  After receiving the paperwork to visit the baby, we drove one hour back towards Moscow to a town called Konakovo where the baby resides in one of the largest baby homes in Russia.  They have more than 100 babies there, 0-3, then another home has children 4-7 and a third home takes children 8-18.

I was ushered into a small room next to the reception area and they brought in the baby where it was the first time I was able to meet Nadya!  She had on a little white baby bonnet, wore a pink one-piece baby outfit and wrapped in a pink blanket.  She has brown hair and brown eyes with long eyelashes.  She's very small, only about the size of a six month old.  Poor baby had a rash on her face which the caretaker thinks may be due to milk or fruit.  Even with the rash, and being close to her lunch time, Nadya was a sweet baby!  She was not fussy at all, maybe a little not sure of what was going on and meeting strangers, but she warmed up quickly and feel asleep in my Dad's arms right away!

The doctor came into the room and reveiwed the baby's medicals with me.  I really didn't learn anything new than from the medical extract that was provided to me earlier.  If anything, it seems she's better and overcoming all the issues from her premature birth.  But she still seems like she'll have developmental delays and will take some time catching up.  She has no teeth but is teething.

Next the social worker came in and told me what background they know of the baby.  She was born at the Tver Maternity Hospital on 9/21 at 9:25am after a very quick labor, to a 28-yr old woman that was not married and abandoned the baby the next day by leaving the hospital and not signing the adoption paperwork.  It took a few months, but the mother was tracked down to finally sign the papers.  She provided no information on the father.

My Dad and I visited with Nadya for an hour and a half before having to leave. 

The next day, Tuesday, 9/7, we visited the baby again and met her in a little music/toy room in the orphanage.  She was wearing a yellow baby cap and a one-piece outfit that was white with yellow ducks on it, wrapped in a pink blanket.  The daily caregiver visited with me who seemed very nice and told me more about Nadya's schedule and personality.  She said that Nadya sleeps in a crib with four other babies and if one of the other babies is picked up before Nadya, she cries- they said this shows her leadership and strong character!  While the caregiver was talking to me, I was holding and rocking Nadya, but she told me I should not rock her since it does not make the baby independent.  I guess she figures if you rock her, you always have to rock her and since there are 10-12 babies per caregiver, they don't have time for that.  Nadya will get better care when she's back with me in the U.S.!

A nurse came in who just wanted to see what the adoptive mother looked like, and told me what a good girl Nadya is.

I read books and played with Nadya, but had bought a teeting ring in a Russian mall that I gave her and she was only interested in that!  She loved her teething ring which looked like a butterfly.  I also gave her a bouncy, vibrating, moo-ing cow toy, but Nadya was at first startled then not interested in it.  Back to her teething ring!

I stayed with Nadya for two and a half hours before having to leave.  I left her with a pink polka-dot outfit with an elephant on it, but was sized for a 9-month old and too big for her.  I also left her a recordable storybook by Hallmark that my friend Angie gave me, so the baby could hear me read her the story.  I left a picture book of family and my house in America for her to look at, so that hopefully she remembers me until I return for the next step in 1-3 months.

On Wednesday, 9/8, I went to a Russian notary to officially declare that I will adopt her.  My Russian coordinator Alexy, through my translator, Mashah told me that I could again go see Nadya tomorrow, 9/9.  Yay!  That's an extra day that what was originally planned.  I then go to Russian court at 3:30 where the judge reviews my paperwork and makes the decision if they'll approve me to adopt the baby.  I understand they ask 'personal' questions and to not be offended, so guess I'll see how that goes!

Monday, August 30, 2010

My Adoption Referral- Hello Nadya!

My Russian Adoption Journey

On February 2, 2006, I applied to adopt a baby girl from Russia.  I had always considered adopting a baby my whole life and made my first step on this date by applying with Children's Hope International.  I selected Russia since the agency encouraged you to select a country where you would raise the baby knowing her culture.  I just felt more affinity with the Russian culture since I had always liked Russian history and literature.. and the movie Dr. Zhivago!

At the time when I applied, the process was only 11 months.  I was very excited that February in thinking by the end of 2006, I would have the baby.

Unfortunately, in September 2006, the delays and delays and delays began.  Mainly all were due to Russian bureacracy and the internal country adoption reform.

So I waited and waited and waited..... every year I had to update reams of adoption documents since everything expired within a year and you had to redo the process to stay current.  Originally, I was placed in the Kaliningrad region, but by September 2009, I was moved to the Tver region since it was thought that would help my process move more quickly. 

On Tuesday, August 2, 2010 at 4:59PM, I was sitting at my desk at work when an email from my agency popped up with the subject line: Kelly- Referral.  I froze for a second telling myself that this couldn't be "it".  I thought maybe I would hear rumblings from my agency, like calling to verify information or asking questions or something-- but it had been radio silence for nearly a year, I had not heard anything from them. And every month when I called the agency to check my status, I was always told they didn't have any information.

So I took a breath and opened my email-- and it really was my adoption referral I had been waiting for exactly 4 and a-half years!!!  I was amazed and stunned!  My hands were shaking as I read the 'extract' (summary) that was sent about my referral.  I didn't have a picture yet- just general information and a high-level medical report.

Her name is Nadezhda which translates to Nadya (which means "hope"- I looked it up).  She is 11 months old- she was born in September 2009, although my agency reported they did not know her actual birth day. That's something I hope I'll find out since she was born in a hospital in Tver, Russia.  She was the fourth birth for her bio-mom, and all the siblings had previously been adopted. 

Nadya was premature, born at 31 weeks, which is about two months early.  She weighed only 2 pounds 8 ounces and had various health conditions due to the prematurity.  She seems to have a pretty healthy report now, with mainly the only issues being her low height/weight (she's in the lower third for child development, and at nine months, still only weighed 13 pounds).  She also has an eye condition called "nystagmus" which causes rapid horizontal movement of the pupils.  She's still too young to determine if it will affect her vision, but as I learn more about nystagmus, I understand it can be corrected later with glasses or surgery.  As for her growth and development, she'll blossom once she's in the U.S. with better care and nutrition. 

She stayed in the hospital immediately from birth and entered the orphanage in December 2009.  Russian adoption parameters allow six months for the birth family to claim her.  After that, only a Russian family is permitted to adopt her for three months.  After that three months, she was allowed to be adopted internationally. 

I was permitted 20 days to decide if I would accept my referral- but how could I not?  Although due to the long list of medical conditions in her medical summary, I wanted to better understand what I could be dealing with.  I contacted two local pediatricians that specialized in international adoption conditions and had them reveiw Nadya's medical summary.

It was almost more confusing, since they had complete opposite opinions!  One thought her nystagmus was no problem but was very concerned about her physical development.  The other thought her physical development was fine but was more concerned about her nystagmus.  As soon as I received the second doctor's input, I knew I had to put my faith into knowing that Nadya was just meant to be for me-- that God had a plan for us to be together.  I called the adoption agency and accepted my referral on Thursday, August 12.

The next step was waiting for my travel dates for when I would be invited to Russia to meet Nadya!  In the meantime, it was back to the paperwork.  I had 33 documents that had to be updated!!  I set to work updating all the documents (trying to figure out how I can post the list), applying for my VISA and making my flights.

On August 19, I was given my travel dates!  I travel to Russia on Saturday, September 4!  It's an 11 hour direct flight, so I depart the U.S. at 5PM on 9/4, and arrive in Russia at 4PM on 9/5.  Representatives from my agency plus a translator will pick me up from the airport in Moscow and drive me to Tver, Russia, (two hours north of Moscow) where Nadya is in the orphanage.

On Monday, Sept. 6, I visit the Department of Education to complete more paperwork, then get to finally meet my future baby!! 

I spend three days at the orphanage (participating in medical and informational updates on the baby, and the orphanage officials observe me with the baby and interview me for their offical report and recommendation).   Then I travel back to Moscow where I appear in Russian court to formally accept the baby, before departing back to the U.S. without her.

Luckily, my Dad is accompanying me on the trip for moral support since I know it will be soooooo hard to have to leave the baby at the orphanage.

I receive an invitation to travel back to Russia in about 1-2 months.  My second trip will be a whole month in the country.  I am awarded the baby in Russian court the first few days, but there is a mandatory 10 day waiting period where I do not yet  have the baby and the court can change their mind, for whatever reason.

I may travel back to the U.S. for these 10 days, but I haven't decided yet.  On the 11th day, I can finally pick up the baby at the orphanage and she is mine!!!  However, I have to apply for her amended birth certificate and passport which takes 14 days.  I will have the baby but can not leave Tver, so will stay in Russia at the hotel with the baby.  After I receive the birth certificate and passport, we go to Moscow where I spend 2-3 days for more processing at the American Embassy. 

Then I can leave Russia with my new daughter!!!  I hope to have her in the U.S. by November at the latest.  When Nadya touches ground in the States, she offically becomes a U.S. citizen!  She maintains dual citizenship with Russia and the U.S. for life.

But I still won't be done.  I am required to have post-adoption reviews at 3, 6, 12, 24 and 36 months after the adoption.  After that, the adoption process is finally complete!

While I haven't officially decided, I believe I will keep Nadya as the baby's middle name and name her something else for her first name. 

So here is my future baby!  She looks a little perturbed, and a friend told me she looks like she's ready to take someone out, but hey- she's been in an orphanage since birth- it's a hard knock life!  I think she's a beautiful, tiny, feisty little fighter and I can't be more ecstatic to meet her and bring her home!!!