As far as we know, my husband and I can have biological children, since no one has officially told us we can’t. Giving birth would certainly have been more affordable with our insurance benefits, but the whole biological thing wasn’t happening quite as quickly as we had planned, which left us three choices: plunge ourselves into financial ruin while being poked and prodded by various fertility experts; plunge ourselves into financial ruin by adopting a child who needs a home; wait and see what happens . . . yeah well, we’re not that patient. We both felt adoption was our best option for the family we wanted so much. The International Adoption Process
I like to compare our international adoption to a pregnancy. We “conceived” the idea of adopting from Kazakhstan in late October 2005. Our first “trimester” was a busy time: completing our home study, being finger-printed (not as easy as it sounds if you have sweaty palms), and preparing our dossier. The milestones in our second “trimester” included getting our dossier translated into Russian, sending it to the Kazakhstan embassy in New York City, and tracking its progress from there through the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Education in Kazakhstan. Our third “trimester” in our adoption was the most “uncomfortable” as it was largely comprised of waiting.
When I received “the call” on 9 June 2006, a mere eight months after we started the process, I called my husband at work and said “My water broke.” Like any first-time father, he was in a panic, insisting that we weren’t ready and asking if we could wait just a little longer. Next month, which would be “full-term” for us, would be better, he said. Nope, our Kazakhstan adoption couldn’t wait. We were on our way to Karaganda, Kazakhstan on 17 June 2006.
International Adoption Travel
While we were in route to Kazakhstan, we were reminded of why we chose to adopt internationally. We have always loved to travel and to experience countries and cultures different from our own. We were not only (albeit mostly) excited about meeting our child; we were also excited about experiencing her birth country – about getting there and being there. The flight from the U.S. to Amsterdam, from Amsterdam to Almaty, Kazakhstan, from Almaty to Karaganda was my 20+ hour “labor.” With my husband at my side, I mentally noted all that I would tell my daughter about this part of her “birth.”
Meeting Our Child
We arrived in Karaganda on a Sunday night. We visited the Baby House at 10:00am the next morning and were immediately ushered into the office of the head doctor. The Kazakhstan representative for our adoption agency was there as well, and both women were warm and welcoming. They only spoke Russian, but our translator was with us, so we understood one another just fine. We were told that we would see several available children and were still in the office when the first, our twenty-two month old daughter Arina, was brought in. (We chose to keep Arina’s given name, which means “peace,” in honor of her birthmother).
She was sort of pushed through the door, looked up at us like a deer caught in headlights, and screwed up her face like she was about to cry. My “mama instinct” kicked in, and I picked her up and marched her straight to the playroom. She was clinging to my neck so tightly I thought I would never get her “untangled,” but the three of us were soon playing with toys amidst tentative smiles and giggles. We were asked if we wanted to see any other children, but we declined and haven’t regretted our decision. From the moment we met our daughter, it was difficult to remember what life was like without her.
For the next three weeks, we visited Arina at the Baby House twice a day, from 10:00 until 12:00 and from 4:00 until 6:00. As tired as we were when we left the orphanage each day, we found ourselves twiddling our thumbs in our hotel room and counting the minutes until we saw Arina again. The picture with this article was taken at her orphanage during this bonding period. During our time at the Baby House, we were able to bond not only with our daughter, but also with the other children in her room. We wish we could have adopted them all.
Our last day at the Baby House was bittersweet. We were excited to have Arina with us in our home away from home (a Kazak hotel) but sad to say good-bye to the family she was leaving (her wonderful caregivers and the children). We felt surrounded by love at Arina’s “going away” party — love for our daughter and love for us as her new parents. I second a friend of mine who has recently adopted when I say that a piece of my heart will always be at Malutka Baby House in Karaganda, Kazakhstan.
Arina has adjusted to life in the U.S. remarkably well, and we’ve enjoyed introducing her to all sorts of “firsts” – her first ice-cream cone, her first bubble bath, her first trip to the zoo, etc. And I look forward to our first conversation about her truly remarkable “birth” into our family.
~Nicole and Scott