Another Voice: Born in the Heart

Sasha in Moscow, December 2003

Sasha in Moscow, December 2003

This is Laura, Sharon’s sister-in-law.  My husband and I adopted our two children from Russia in December, 2003.  I wanted to share some of our experiences because of the recent, and hopefully very short-lived, policy closing Russian adoptions to Americans.  Many of you reading this blog may not know about the Dima bill (see http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/28/russia-vladimir-putin-adoptions-bill_n_2374291.html) , or maybe you’re wondering why it is such a big deal.  Families made by adoption are just as real as families made by biology.  And the tragedy is that children are denied a family because of this spiteful political decision.

The process of international adoption begins with many, many forms and a mountain of paperwork to complete.  Financial information, tax returns, medical information, marriage license, birth certificates, a social worker completes a home study.  Applications to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (now the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service), fingerprinting with the FBI, background checks must be done.  And once everything is completed, each piece of paper has to be notarized, and then specially authenticated and sealed by the State office.  This authentication is called an “apostille” and it costs between $10 and $25 per seal.  The irony of the amount of time, expense and effort that goes into the process to “prove” yourself to be a fit parent when others can just have a baby was not lost on us.  I vividly remember months and months of effort to gather all the required documents.  I brought the pristine file of papers to the State office to be apostilled, and found a sweet woman who was eating cheese puffs at her desk.  I almost couldn’t bring myself to give her the file.  I couldn’t risk an orange smudge!  All that hard work!  She smiled and said she would have the forms completed within 2 hours.  I held my breath, and left her office.  And when I returned, my still-pristine documents were waiting for me, each one enclosed by an official form, and each embossed with a gold seal.  They were perfect!

An example of an apostille

An example of an apostille

Once the documents were all apostilled, they were sent off to be translated into Russian, and submitted to the Russian regional court.  So then we wait.  Adoption has been described as “pregnancy without a due date.”  Once everything was submitted, there was nothing to do but wait for them to contact you.  Fortunately, we received a letter from our region within a few months telling us that we were welcome to come and “pick out” our children.  This was great news, but how exactly does one pick out a child?

We booked our flight, packed, and brought toys for the children.  Excitement turned to panic in the airport as we waited to board our flight.  What were we doing?  Flying halfway around the world to a country where we couldn’t read or speak the language??  The panic subsided as I began to trust in what we spent over a year preparing for.  And the discoveries of traveling in an exotic country were priceless: On Russian airlines, every meal comes with smoked salmon, and they allow smoking in a compartment at the back of the plane!  The way to say “I don’t understand” in Russia sounds approximately like “Ya nee pah nee my you”.  This phrase came in handy when we pretended not to understand that we had to pay an overweight baggage fee.  The frustrated lady who could not speak English finally just waved us on.  The taxi drivers in our region could not understand my attempts at pronouncing the name of the hotel (and told me: “Ya nee pah nee my you”, ha ha!), but I was able to write down the name of the hotel in Russian, and they got it.

They have the same face! :)

They have the same face! 🙂

Soon after we arrived in our region, we went to the children’s home, which is the name of the orphanage for children from age 4 to about 10.  We met the orphanage director, and she brought about 15 children into the room and gave us a chance to interact with them.  We brought plastic Mardi gras beads and doubloons and passed them out to all the children.  One boy dropped his doubloon, and another boy with a crossed eye picked it up and gave it back to him.  How sweet!  That same boy with the crossed eye was asked to sing, and he sang a Russian song that made our adoption attorney cry.  Our hearts melted.  We asked about him.  Was he available?

Many Russian children are placed in orphanages when a parent/family cannot afford to keep them.  Often, the parent does not relinquish the child, maybe in the hopes that they will be able to take the child back when their situation has improved.  However, children that are not relinquished cannot be adopted.  Available children in orphanages are placed into a database, and for two months can only be adopted by Russians.  After that two-month period, the children are then available to be adopted internationally.  Our cross-eyed boy was available, and we started the paperwork to petition to adopt him.  The workers at the orphanage said that my husband and our son “had the same face” because they looked so much alike!

We next went to the baby’s home, which is the orphanage for newborn children to age 3.  We met many beautiful children again, and got to hold and cuddle with so many.  I tried to be as objective as possible, but just didn’t know how!  I had expected that we would adopt two boys, since there are more boys available.  However, I distinctly remember when they brought in a little girl.  All of a sudden, I just knew.  I reached out to hold my daughter.  It was meant to be.

The bonding process had begun, but we had to wait another 4 months before we were able to return to Russia to go to court to petition to adopt our children.  It was supposed to be shorter, but they discovered our son’s picture had not been posted on the Russian database, so we had to wait longer.  During that waiting, I had a dream that we were in Russia at the orphanage, and there was a party with many people.  I took my daughter and hid with her in a closet so no one would find her before I could bring her home.  I was so terrified of losing her!  And I worried that our son, who was older, didn’t understand where we were and why we weren’t coming back for him.  My heart breaks when I think of the families that were in the process of adopting children and now have that process terminated.  How can you leave your child/ren behind?

It was love at first sight!

It was love at first sight!

Fortunately, in our situation, our adoption was approved by the Russian court, and we were able to bring our children home.  We traveled halfway around the world to find them, but we knew them as soon as we saw them.  They were born in our hearts, and I am grateful for the miracles that took place for us to have the privilege and responsibility of being their parents.

Another Voice: Taking the High Road

Sometimes I get sick of hearing my own “voice”,  so I’ve asked a few people to be guest bloggers. My sister-in-law and friend was the first to take the bait. I think it is fabulous. Enjoy! (And, by the way, if you want to be a guest blogger, ask me. I’d love to hear your perspective.) ~~ Sharon


This is written by Laura King.  I am Sharon’s sister-in-law, and she graciously invited me to write a guest blog on her space.      

The expression “taking the high road” means acting in an honest, fair and moral way.  It means doing the right thing, even if it is not easy or popular.  This sounds easier than it actually is.  Consider this situation: you are driving to work, and suddenly a car cuts in front of you.  How do you react?  Are you upset?  Do you honk your horn, or call the driver names?  None of these reactions would be considered “taking the high road”.  Now, consider the same situation, but this time you are the driver that is late for work, and you suddenly realize that you are going to miss your exit unless you get over.  You frantically merge over into the next lane so you can make your exit.  Are you upset that the driver behind you is honking and calling you names?  It is not easy to react to criticism without taking offense, even when we may be in the “wrong”.

There are more complicated situations where taking the high road is even more difficult.  I was recently involved in a situation in which a woman was planning an event for our group.  She asked for help, so several people in our group made suggestions.  A few days pass after these suggestions were made, and I receive a very hateful email from the woman planning the event.  She accused me and the others of taking over the event, claimed that we backstabbed her, and said that she felt like leaving the group.  The email was sent only to me, and was very personally attacking.

I’ll admit, my first reaction was not the high road.  My first reaction was to shovel up every single one of her words, and dump it back on her with an additional helping of rightful indignation.  How dare she criticize me!  I was only trying to help, something that she asked me to do!
I actually had to call another friend in our group, and ask her to talk me out of spewing the hate.  It took some time for me to calm down.   I had to consciously stop myself from replaying the email over in my head, planning my rebuttals to her various accusations.  I also remembered something I had just read from Lysa TerKeurst’s book “Unglued, Making Wise Choices in the Midst of Raw Emotions.”  She encourages us to “make the gospel known whenever [we] open [our] mouth,” based on Ephesians 6:19 “Pray also for me, that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel.”  Lysa gives suggestions on how to respond to someone’s attack without exploding.

It was very difficult to compose and send the reply email.  It went something like this:

Dear (X), I can tell that you have a big heart and care deeply about this…
Please let me emphasize that there was never an intention, by anyone, to take anything away from you. This is a very critical and important event …I only wanted to help, as I know how difficult it can be when I try to do everything myself. …I hope you will continue to lead this project! 
Please accept my apologies for any hurt feelings or misunderstandings.

I did not respond or address any of her attacks, and after awhile, I was finally able to send it.

How did that feel?  At first, it didn’t feel as good as I thought defending myself would feel.  I had perfect come-back remarks that would put her in her place, and I felt like I had lost an opportunity to score some “points”.  It was humbling to respond to this verbal assault with an apology.  It made me think of another expression: “turning the other cheek”, which means staying calm when someone hurts or insults you.  It comes from the bible: “If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Matthew 5:39.  It means loving your enemy enough not to strike back at them (even when you feel like they deserve it!)

You know what happened?  The woman planning the event responded to my email with her own apology!  I was stunned.  She said she realized she had been selfish and defensive, and would like to use several of our suggestions.  When I saw her at our next group meeting, she hugged me and apologized again.

So instead of making a bad situation worse, my response helped keep the group together, and brought this woman back instead of estranging her.  Now that’s the high road!

This is my first blog!  I welcome comments here or to Sharon’s email and she will forward them to me.  I hope to write again!