Our Adoption Journey (Part 2)

I awoke at 4:00 a.m. in our hotel in Moscow the morning of Sept. 2, 2004. I had only slept a couple of hours. Jet lag was partly to blame, but my insomnia was mostly due to utter excitement. I could hardly wait to get my hands on that sweet baby boy! Shannon awoke shortly after, and we decided to go ahead and get ready for the big day. After all, our driver would be arriving at the hotel to transport us to the orphanage at 6:30 a.m.

Our adoption agency had taken great care in making all of our arrangements regarding accommodations and transportation as well as setting our entire agenda. We never had to question what to do, where to go, or when we should be somewhere. The previous afternoon, we were greeted at the airport by a driver and interpreter, which came in quite handy since our Russian vocabulary was slightly limited. (We had learned how to say only the bare essentials, including “please, thank you, yes, no, excuse me and bathroom.”)

So, that morning, the same driver and interpreter, as well as a “paperwork liaison,” met us in the lobby of the hotel. We were blessed to have another couple who would be traveling with us to meet their babies…and, yes, I did say babies. They were adopting an infant girl and a two year-old boy. Little did we know at the time how much this sweet family would come to mean to us. We quickly developed a treasured friendship with Andy and Jeanne. It was such an added bonus to be able to share in this miraculous adventure alongside of them. It was especially helpful that they were “veteran adoptive parents.” Just two years before, they had traveled to Russia to adopt their first child.

I vividly remember the sights, sounds, and even the smells as we rode along in the back of an older model mini-van. Obviously, the Europeans don’t believe in the use of AC in a vehicle or the AC was not functioning properly. Whatever the reason, they chose to drive us almost 2 hours with open windows serving as our source of ventilation. I didn’t necessarily love this idea, since I’d fixed my hair and all, desiring to make a good first impression on my son. I’d heard these precious babes were often fearful when handed off to the adoptive couple on the first visit, and I didn’t need bad hair to add to the traumatic moment. But I decided a little windblown hair was better than being soaked in perspiration. It was a very warm day for September in that area of the world, with the temperature reaching the lower 80’s by midday.

I’ll never forget the moment I spotted a very recognizable sign on the side of the road. I’d seen it before on the Internet while researching various orphanages in the region where we’d been chosen to go. My heart was about to jump out of my chest. I whispered to Shannon and our new friends, “I think we’re here, ya’ll. This is it.” Our driver pulled over, allowing us to snap a few photos of the sign. And then we jumped back into the vehicle which took us down a little dirt road leading to the orphanage. Again, I thought I just might have a coronary. I guess I never realized how much that moment would impact me.

We were escorted into the building, where the director of the facility greeted us and showed each couple to a separate “waiting room.” Our room was the “music room,” which was very clean and modestly adorned with a large decorative rug and sheer curtains. A piano sat in one corner, and the walls were lined with precious little hand-painted chairs. Shannon and I were impressed with the facility as well as the staff. We were told to wait in the room, and Ben’s caregiver would bring him to us. We quickly began unpacking the gifts and donations we had brought for the children and the workers of the orphanage. In lieu of a baby shower, I had asked my Sunday School class at church to give either clothing or monetary donations for the orphanage. Because of their generosity, we were able to fill a very large suitcase full of items along with a substantial love offering to give to the director. We had also packed several toys, snacks, and juice to offer Ben during our visit together.

Probably 20 minutes went by, although it seemed an eternity, as we stood waiting with still camera and video camera in hand. Each time we heard footsteps walking down the hallway, we just knew it was him. Then the steps would fade away, and we’d remember once again to breathe. At long last, the door swung wide open and in walked a lady holding the most adorable little blond-headed, blue-eyed baby boy. We immediately recognized him from the photos and video we’d been sent. She handed him off to me, and, just as quickly as she entered the room, she turned and left. Ben looked me straight in the eyes, with brows furrowed, and stared for quite some time. Then he looked at Shannon, giving him the same focused stare. We both fully expected him to burst into tears, but to our joyous relief, he gradually began warming up to us. (We soon realized the snacks and juice we brought were a very big hit. Although he’d never had a sippee cup in his life, he took it as if it was second-nature.)

Our visit lasted 4 hours, and those hours were moments I’ll forever remember and treasure. We laughed together, played together and hugged and kissed on him like there was no tomorrow. God re-affirmed to us in those moments that His hand was completely covering this event. We felt privileged to be a part of this plan, and as we kissed our son good-bye that afternoon, we did so with a complete sense of peace. We were especially thrilled to find out that we would be able to return for a second trip to complete the adoption and go to court in just 2 weeks. (This was an answer to prayer, knowing that many couples in the past had waited as long as 6-8 weeks for their return trip.)

Our return home was bittersweet. After spending that wonderful time with him, it was very difficult to leave him behind. Yet, we trusted God to protect and keep him well until we could return. The sweetest part of going home was knowing we would be reunited with Anna Katherine. We had left her with Nana & Pop, and we were very anxious to see her again and show her all the pictures and video of her new little brother. This was definitely a family affair, and even though we were unable to have her travel along with us overseas, we certainly included her in as much of the journey as possible. She had prayed for this little guy for many months and was thrilled that, in just a few short weeks, her little brother would finally be joining our family.

**Note: I realize I did not post a photo of Ben with Shannon. My only digital photos from the trip were ones that HE took, because, as I’ve mentioned before, I used to despise digital cameras. Therefore, all of the pictures taken of him were with my 35 mm. For some reason, those are not stored on a CD that I can locate. When I can figure out how to use a scanner, I’ll plan to scan some of the “hard copies” of photos with Ben and Shannon. Just a little FYI!

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