Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Adoption Interview: International Adoption with Terry

Terry is a dear friend of mine from Parenting After Infertility who adopted her daughter, Ruth, from Russia. I asked her to share her story and she said this was the first part of it! I love hearing about different stories - including the good, bad and the ugly.

Here's part of Terry's story:

We first tried to adopt an older child in the US. That fell through after he was with us for 9 months. It was a crushing experience, emotionally and spiritually. After that, my husband said "no" to adoption.

About 5 years later, we met a couple who had adopted from Russia. My husband decided that we could adopt from Russia ... since once we had our child, no one would take her away. So we persued a Russian adoption.

The whole process took about 2 years, although that wasn't typical at the time. Usually it was a 6-9 month process then, but I was having some health issues and I needed 2 surgeries during that time, which slowed us down. We also hit a lot of obstacles in our path ... for example, when it was time to get physicals for our home study, our doctor went to prison. (Something about prescriptions.) We had to find a new doctor, and with my health issues that's never a simple thing for me. Also, we were using the same agency our friends used, for placing a child from Russia with us. But Russia changed their requirements, and the agency didn't get accredited in Russia. So we had to start over, getting info on agencies and choose a new one -- that took several months. There were lots of other obstacles as well. At one point, Paul asked if I thought God was telling us to stop trying to adopt. But I realized that God doesn't work that way ... God doesn't try to frustrate us into giving up. If God's going to close a door, it will just close and there will be no opening it. It's Satan that tries to frustrate us and get us to give up. So we stuck it out, and I'm so glad we did.

At that time, adopting from Russia required two trips. The purpose of the first trip was to meet the child and officially accept the match. The purpose of the second trip was to go to court, go through the red tape required to leave the country with the child, and to bring the child home.

On our first trip, our daughter (then named Katya) was 22 months old. We'd seen pictures and video of her, but I didn't really recognize her when I saw her for the first time. There was no magical moment of bonding or recognition. It was awkward and she didn't want to be with us ... she wanted to be playing with the other children in her group. We were taken to a play room to have a chance to interact with our child. She was reticent at first, but we did win her over. She especially liked the books we brought along, which had lots of photographs of little kids. And she liked the cheerios.

At first, I didn't like the idea of traveling to Russia. I viewed it as something we had to do. But somewhere during our two trips, I realized it was an honor to experience our child's culture first hand, and I wouldn't trade seeing the orphanage where she lived for anything. It gave me an appreciation for her roots.

By the time we were able (invited) to return to Russia to go to court and bring her home, Ruth was 25 months old. It was hard missing her 2nd birthday.

We went to court and the adoption was approved. Court was several hours from the orphanage by car. An orphanage worker brought Ruth (her new name) to us two days after court. It takes a few days because no one in Russia can go anywhere without a passport, not even children. They had to get her a new passport with her new name before she could travel to our hotel.

We left that afternoon for Moscow. Even that first night in Moscow, Ruth went right to sleep and slept through the night. That's unusual ... usually the kids are so upset or nervous that they don't sleep well. I was the one who didn't sleep well! I kept getting up to check on her.

We taught Ruth sign language to help bridge the gap between Russian and English. She loved it, and learned fast. She was doing some signs before we even left Russia, about 3 days later.

After we got home, bonding took a while. I was angry. This child came into my home and turned my orderly life upside down. I know that makes no sense, because I'm the one that "asked" for the adoption, not her. But that was how I felt. And for her part, she viewed adults as interchangeable, and would look to any adult to meet her needs. That included me, but also complete strangers. People thought it was so cute that she'd snuggle up to them, but it really wasn't. She would charm people in order to get what she needed, and she was good at it.

It was several months before I was sure we'd done the right thing, even.

It took almost a year, but bonding/attachment did take place. Gradually, we accommodate one another, got to know each other, and love grew. (TMI Alert!) I knew she was MY child (in my heart) the day I picked dried snot off her face with my fingers. In all my years of teaching preschool, I had never done that for anyone else's child! At that point, she had been with us for 6 months.

Gradually she began looking to me and her dad to meet her needs. And she stopped charming every adult she met.

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