Our Adoption Journey (Part 4)

Today was THE BIG DAY! ADOPTION DAY!!!! Some folks choose to refer to this memorable day as “Gotcha Day,” and we’ve tried to do that ourselves, but for some reason it just doesn’t seem to fit the occasion. Maybe if we were first in line for the PlayStation 3 or something along those lines, “Gotcha Day” might be fitting, but it doesn’t seem to to hold any real sentimental value. So we’ve decided to just call it what it really is…Adoption Day.

On the morning of September 22, 2004, we awoke in our quaint little hotel in the city of Tver (about 90 miles north of Moscow) and prepared ourselves for one of the most life-changing events of our lives. The evening before, our dear interpreter (who was employed by our adoption agency) had prepped us for the actual court hearing. This was such a blessing, because we knew in advance what type of questions might be asked of us and what specific answers the judge would want to hear. Often times the judges require what is known as a “10 day waiting period” following the actual court hearing. This basically means that you are granted parental rights to the child, but you must remain in the country for 10 days following the hearing. This was certainly something we wanted to avoid if at all possible. So our precious interpreter told us all the things we needed to say to help prevent the waiting period.

I realize I probably haven’t posted as many photos as I should have. So, here’s a couple of photos from our hotel in the city of Tver. (Ben’s orphanage was located in a small town just outside of Tver.)

This is the front of the hotel.

This was our room. (Yes, those are twin beds pushed together. Obviously, June and Ward Cleaver stayed here.)

This was the view from our window.

I realize our accommodations were modest, but it was truly such a cozy little hotel, and the staff was second to none. They were so gracious to us and wanted us to feel at home. And the food here was fairly decent, which was an added bonus.

After having breakfast that morning with our friends, Andy and Jeanne, we waited for our driver to transport us to the court house. I can’t even begin to explain how nervous we both felt. Upon arrival, we were escorted to a “waiting area” in the hallway just outside of the courtroom. The four of us sat there completely speechless. We finally heard the door open, and a young couple came out with what appeared to be a court interpreter. I’m not even kidding when I tell you the young man was sweating and the young lady was holding her breath. It was very evident that they were an adoptive couple from America. And it was also obvious that they were scared out of their sweet minds. About 5 minutes later, they were called back into the room and then returned a few moments later with huge smiles across their faces. They’d been granted the right to adopt a baby and take him home to be a part of their family. Oh, how I wanted to be in their shoes.

Before I knew what was happening, someone called our names. That same court interpreter smiled at us and told us it was our turn to see the judge. Interestingly, it was nothing like I’d imagined. It was much more intense and serious than I’d envisioned. As we’d been instructed, we stood together looking at the judge until she motioned for me to come forward. In their culture, they view the mother as the primary caregiver and the leader in the home. (They are obviously very intelligent people who call it as they see it.) So, as we’d been warned, she quizzed me for a lengthy period of time. Then, Shannon was up. His briefing was much shorter and matter-of-fact.

Once our “testimonies” were completed, the judge began reviewing sweet Ben’s family history and previous living situation before his admittance to his orphanage. Because this is the world wide web, I will not provide specifics. Ben’s past is his story to share one day. However, I will say that I have no doubt in my mind that he was loved by his birth mother. And, although I may never know her, I will forever be grateful to her.

After the judge gave her final statements, she allowed the prosecutor and social worker to make their final remarks. And then, after we’d been standing before her for a solid hour, she said the words we’d been waiting for….she officially changed his given name to his new “American” name (Benjamin Thomas —) and awarded us custody as his legal guardians. He was officially our son!!!

Because of paperwork that needed to be processed and his passport that had to be prepared, we were told we would have to wait 48 hours to pick him up. Although this was a slight disappointment, we were so thankful that the court appearance was behind us, and we were one step closer to taking our son home.

Here’s a photo of us outside of the courthouse. This was taken just as we were leaving, which is quite obvious, seeing that the color has returned to our faces and we are smiling. And breathing!!!

For the first time of the entire trip, we actually took a few hours to rest and relax. In fact, that evening before dinner I indulged in a massage at the hotel “spa.” I was ecstatic to find that the price for a full one hour massage was only $12. I mean, I would have been crazy to miss out on that deal! Well, to avoid saying anything that might be inappropriate on a family-oriented blog, I’ll just say Russian massages are quite different from our good old American versions. I will say I haven’t had that much grease on my body since my junior high school days of sun-bathing in baby oil with iodine. And did I mention that the masseuse massaged my feet and then immediately moved to my FACE?!!! And, no, she did not wash her hands in the interim. No, she did not. I could say more, but I won’t.

Thankfully, I recovered, and we enjoyed a quiet, celebratory dinner with our friends as we began counting down the hours until we could pick up our baby boy!

It was a wonderful day, to say the least. And even though it was three years ago today, I can still remember every detail and every emotion. Most of all, I remember how overwhelmed I was at the realization that God had designed this special plan, not only for us, but for Ben. And I’m so very thankful He did!