The memory of the bitter cold that night four years ago is so vivid that I can still feel the frigid air invading the brand new down parka I had bought for this occasion. I can still see the darkness broken only by the airplane’s interior lights…feel my grip tight on my husband’s arm as we waited to board…and hear the foreign sounds of a language for which I knew only the words “please” and “thank you”.
As exhausted as I was, I couldn’t sleep once we finally found our seats inside the cramped confines of Siberia Airlines. As we flew through the night, I remember my fascination with the mountains we glided over. Their whiteness shown bright against the black sky–a result of a fresh blanket of snow that made the landscape glisten.
I was on my way to Siberia…to the economically depressed mining town of Novokuznetsk, Russia…to Baby Home #95…to an overly warm room on the second floor of an institution housing 400 children all waiting for families…to the little baby I desperately wanted to call mine.
There are days I am still in awe that my husband and I flew to the other side of the world to complete our family. Our son was never meant to be an only child. Life conspired against us, however, and he remained that way for 14 years. By the time we boarded that plane January 23, 2008, we had endured as much heartbreak as any other couple faced with the realization that adoption was the only way we could grow our family.
When we walked into that room in Baby Home #95, I was filled with equal parts excitement and anxiety. Just a few short weeks ago, I had been given three pictures of an eight-month old girl named Daria. I had studied those three images over and over, but I was overwhelmed with the fear that I would not recognize her when we were finally face to face. What if they brought in several babies, and I couldn’t pick out the one that was meant to be mine?
Then came the fear of rejection. What if I did happened to recognize her, but she refused to come to me? What if our foreign words failed to offer her comfort? What if she cried, and the agency liaison assigned to observe our interaction reported that these Americans were not fit to raise a daughter of Russia?
To keep the nerves at bay, I pulled out the accordion file that carried all of our documents and reached for the checklist from our adoption agency. We were to use this to record our observations of this little girl’s motor skills and to test her visual and auditory senses. I read how we should lay her on her back and encourage her to roll over; put her on her hands and knees and see if she would crawl to a toy; clap our hands loudly to check for hearing; and move a toy back and forth to see if she could track it with her eyes. Then I thought of the acquaintance who had ventured on a similar trip to the Ukraine a year ago, but returned without her child because he failed to pass those tests.
I was afraid the exhaustion and jet lag would get the best of me when finally, the door opened, and I heard our translator say softly in my ear, “There’s your girl.”
And there she was. As beautiful as imagined. As sweet and well-natured as her caregiver claimed. I opened my arms to her, and she welcomed me with a steady gaze and a coo that needs no translation.
I had found the reason for our inability to conceive another child. We were meant to be the parents of this beautiful little girl. We were meant to wait for her for 14 years, just as she was meant to wait for us to finally be her forever family.
Our waiting wasn’t over with that meeting. As Russian law dictated, we were to leave her at Baby Home #95 and return to the USA to await review by a judge, but before we left, we had one more piece of business to see to. We were required to state our intentions for this child. Did we intend to adopt this child and make her ours. I had no hesitation when I signed that document.
In my heart, she was already mine.