Wednesday, January 29, 2014
"Gotcha Day" - It's been a year!
Blogger won't let me upload new pictures...so I decided to take my 2-part "Gotcha Day" posts into one....
What a difference a year has made!
From Jan, 2013
A shower or a blog while Polina is sleeping snuggly? I think there's a lot of people waiting for a blog, so the shower will have to wait.
Adoptive families celebrate the day they are awarded custody of their child as "Gotcha Day." It's like having a second birthday and something we always celebrate. For us, that day is Jan. 29th, 2013. We never would have imagined the way it would go when we started this process, or even the day before, really. And honestly, there's so much about it that I can't tell you yet. I will try here to sum it up the best I can ...to even give you a glimmer into the emotion of the day ...telling you what I can & using pictures. If you read closely and pay attention, you'll catch some things I intend to not blatantly point out.
Our alarms went off at 5:30am. We had some "guests" arrive at 6:30 and the caravan began at 7am. We stopped to pick up a passenger in the minivan about half an hour later. I filled out some embassy paperwork before the pretty part of the drive. Then came the beauty of the forrest on a Russian snowy winter day. It's beauty made up for my freezing feet! We stopped at our regular stop just before town where we met up with the others in the caravan. Such a thing is difficult to keep together in the Moscow traffic!
At 9:15, we headed to the local Ministry of Education. It was a nasty building inside on the first floor. You never would think it was a government building except maybe a prison. I can't imagine at this point what they look like. We were directed upstairs where it was at least a little cleaner and into the office of four women. We were warmly greeted by smiles as they all knew why we were there - the last Americans to adopt their child from this region. We knew that the lady we were here to meet would help us get our daughter from the orphanage where the director had been less than friendly to us on our previous visits. We showed our passports and signed some papers. We adjusted the seating arrangements in the caravan so that she could ride with us and headed to the orphanage.
I felt like I was going to throw up. I had such a mix of emotions. Anticipation and excitement at one end and apprehensive on the other. I was going to meet my daughter for the first time & it was not a day I wanted to experienc the conflict of the past when visiting her. Most importantly, I didn't want her to have to experience that. On top of that, I had been told upon arrival in Moscow that Polina had chicken pox and I wanted to be able to comfort her during this treacherous feeling.
The unknown is hard for in general, but as a Momma who has had to fight for her daughter and would do everything in my power to protect her, not knowing is nearly unbearable. I didn't know if anyone had told her about the ban, and if they had, did they tell her that we werent coming after we had told her we were? This was the nightmare that had run through my head everyday since the adoption ban was signed. I was very saddened on the way back to Moscow when Polina told us (unsolicited and out of the blue) she had cried just the day before when a couple of the caregivers had told her that her parents were not coming for her and she was not going to America. She told us who they were by name & I recognized one of them. I can not express the anger I felt that my child was unnecessarily caused so much anguish and despair. It's just pure emotional & mental torture to do such a thing!
The lady from the Ministry of Ed went in, leaving us outside. We went on a little walk to have our translator tell us about some of the buildings we had always wondered about when visiting the orphanage. The city was founded in 1154 - seven years after Moscow. This could partially explain why the MOE building was so nasty. In 1941 (sorry for the incorrect date the first time, give a tired girl a break!), the Germans were stopped there on their way to Moscow. Russia lost more souls to WWII than any other nation. There was someone at the gates of what we assumed was a school because there were always children nearby. He told us that this was one of the best schools in Russia based on some "contest" they had a few years back and that they had only the best teachers. Sound like American Standardized testing to me. Just think...one of the best schools in Russia with the best teachers...on the same street where my daughter lived...
I thought it was going to be time to go in and get my daughter. My emotions were high, but it turned out we had some more business to take care of. So back in the car we went to do that. It took us hours filled with stress, conflict, a security guard and an escorted trip to the "chief's" office for some. But in the end, it was all resolved and we had what we needed. Now the question was if we were going to make it back before Polina went down for her nap and the director had another reason not to let her leave immediately. we were all pretty hungry at that point - but it didn't matter. We were going to get our girl!
I know many of you have been awaiting this. I'm sorry it's taken so long, and this may not be the greatest post as I'm trying to do it while myo princessa dochka is sleeping.
We were starving...it was almost 1:00 pm. There was no breakfast, it was a long night and a longer morning in the car and taking care of business in various buildings. But, there was no time for food because if we didn't make it by nap time, I was sure that we'd have to wait a couple more hours and we still had to go by the passport office on the way home.
Back to the orphanage we went...everything we needed. The cameras would have to wait outside. Poor Kirill had been waiting outside for hours in the snow. We went in, past the guard, and up to an office I'd never been in before down from the Directors. That was a relief. To not be in her office was a positive thing. Friendly faces of three women greeted us. The MOE representative gave her what she needed. She was filling out more paperwork.
I was asked for Polina's clothes. I handed them over...disappointed that I wasn't going to get to dress her yet. A few minutes later...she was wheeled in. There she was...my daughter wearing a shirt that said "Little Sister." She now had a family. Belonging. Identity.
And she was beautiful as always with her hair in two braids down each side. Pretty sure Angie did that. Thank you Angie! Thank you for all you did for our little girl and for all you do for the others!
Polina's first words to me? "Do I get to go with you Mommy?"
I got to say YES! I didn't have to leave her behind again! I have tears in my eyes as I type that.
I took her picture with Angie and we gave her a picture frame with a picture of Polina - one for her and one for another caregiver. And then, the director came in.
She didn't address us personally. She talked to some others in the room and then told us best wishes to our backs and left. We didn't know she was talking to us, but we were told. I had a nice picture frame with a picture of Polina in it for her, so I ran down to her office to give it to her. Kindness kills the heart...or something like that.
A few minutes later, she came back and things got tense. We couldn't make it out of there one time without the arguing? Really? Polina didn't need that! I didn't know what was being said, but she did.
I was told, "Let's get out of here as soon as possible."
You don't have to tell me twice.
I left the other three picture frames on the table to be given to the other caregivers. I shoved everything in the bag and picked Polina up without figuring out the broken zipper on her jacket. I could hold her against me to the car and it would be okay. So off we went...for the last time...leaving that.......place. Later, I was told that the picture frames were given back to one of our escorts, saying that they were just junk.
I had my daughter in my arms. That was jubilant.
But I was leaving others behind. Katya, Vika, Igor, Sasha, Valeria. I could go on. I will never forget those kids. I will never forget one of our translators telling me, "You're right, (she) isn't numb...she understands you!" or another crying for me and being put in the hallway and left alone in her wheelchair for well over an hour, because they think she's "numb" too. I will never forget these two girls just longing for human touch or their ecstatic squeels and delightful smiles when they got it. For Heaven's sake...just because a kid can't talk doesn't mean they don't understand. They should not be ignored and left sitting, in the back of the room or in the hallway, ignored. Play hand-over-hand with them. Tickle them. Hold them. Watch them bloom! As they say in America, I "triple-dog-dare you." It will change their lives, and it will change yours!
Sorry for the tangent.
We were in the van, on the way back to Moscow, with our daughter. It was a trip filled with wonderful moment and heartbreaking moments. Bittersweet was a recurrent theme this day. Polina would love on me. We listened to music and rocked together.
And then she told me, "I cried last night Momma. (Two of my caregivers) told me you weren't coming to get me and I wasn't going to go to America." My heart sank. My throat swelled. I was angry. I was disgusted. But I had to hold it together for her. And so I told her they were wrong, that Mommy was taking her home to America in a few days and she would never have to go back there. She went on to tell us about a boy in the orphanage who told her we weren't coning to take her because she was a (b****).
He was wrong too Polina. You are myo princessa dotchka now and I will take you to America!
She asked who would be with her in Moscow, if she would be alone, where she would sleep. We reassured her she would never be alone and we would always be with her.
The passport office was quick, we got some groceries, and we made it to our apartment around 6:30 that night.
I lived my dream that night. I fed her, gave her a bath, did her hair, read her a book and snuggled her. It took her three hours to fall asleep. I'll post in a future blog why I believe that is. But for now, my princess daughter is awake, and I have to go!
If you haven't seen this ABC news story (Thank you Kirit Radia!) you should watch it!