Today was a marathon of a day complete with an emotional rollercoaster.
We took the midnight train to Dnep and is was actually really comfortable and cozy. Hector and I had a private room and we settled in right away. I wasn't able to sleep however...and haven't really since the beginning of this week. I'm running on adrenaline and fumes. Too many thoughts inside my head! Eventually I'm going to crash and I think I might have today.
We arrived at 7am and we were immediately met at the platform by our facilitator Marina. We literally hit the ground running and didn't stop until 6pm!
I can't even begin to tell you all the places we went today and the people we met with and the papers that were written up and signed. So many things happened today as well as checking into our apartment, going grocery shopping and of course the much anticipated visit to the orphanage.
We went to Sofia's orphanage around 8:30am and after meeting with a few of the staff we were immediately taken to her "groupa". She was just moved into this new groupa about 2 days ago and the director of the orphanage was explaining how the staff cried when she left. Apparently, Sofia was a favorite of theirs and they were sad to see her moved into a new wing.
We were told that Sofia is very happy and healthy and a very easy baby. We followed a few of the staff into the reception area of Sofia's groupa and within a few seconds they brought her out for us to meet her.
She was dressed in a brown velvet dress with tights. I was immediately struck with how much she's changed and how different she looked in person than in her photo. The photo I have memorized. All this time I thought Sofia had blue eyes and brown hair but her eyes have turned hazel and her hair is much lighter...almost a light auburn color or a dark stawberry blonde color. She is also BIG!! She is chubby and round...she is well fed! She felt very solid and sturdy in my arms. She immediately smiled when I held her and within a few minutes was giggling when I spoke to her. Her hair is still growing out from her last "buzz" cut and it's growing straight out! I put on a few handknit hats that I had in a bag next to me and she looked adorable in them.
I noticed right away that she has 4 new teeth...two on top and two on bottom. They are pearly white and perfectly straight. She was chewing constantly on her hands to I grabbed a vibrating teething toy from my bag and she loved it. She wasn't shocked or alarmed by the vibration. She just seemed to enjoy and be calmed by it.
Hector took a few photos and then held her for literally a minute before she slightly lunged for me so I wasn't able to get a photo of him. We didn't even think to get one of the three of us. It was a bit of an awkward visit because we only got 10 minutes and 5 staff people were watching us and waiting for us to make a decision. You see, we had to decide right then and there if we wanted her. Hector and I said yes immediately.
We didn't have time to snuggle or cuddle and the visit was brief. I was a bundle of nerves and had anticipated the moment for so long and I'm not sure what I was expecting but I didn't feel an immediate connection with Sofia and it broke my heart. I think I was trying to soak her up...memorize her...you know that moment when they put your newborn in your arms and you just want to get to know them? That's exactly how I felt. And just like with two out of the three of my biological babies, our first meeting was brief before they whisked her out of my arms. Before we knew it, we were off to do the next task of the day.
We will get to visit her twice a day for two hours at a time starting tomorrow Saturday. I think that this weekend will be crucial for our bonding. We will also get to take her outside and get some fresh air and some sun. Sofia has never been outside before. She has spent her entire life in a crib. She cannot sit up, she cannot stand, she can barely roll over and she can inch around on her belly to reach for toys. We also found out in her chart that she is completely healthy and that her oval window has closed. Her parents were NOT alcoholics or drug addicts so she has a completely healthy blood test as well. She rarely if ever gets sick and the only ailment she has is occasional excema on her cheeks which the orphanage staff is trying to determine the cause with dietary changes. They really do care about her and she has had many doctor exams and specialists have even seen her to rule out any health concerns they might have had from her diagnosis of Down syndrome.
We spent the rest of the day going NONSTOP and when we got back to our apartment it was an 11 hour day of events. To say that I was exhausted would be an understatement. By the time we were finishing up our last task of the day, I was in tears, hiding them behind my sunglasses.
I kept thinking to myself...what on earth are we doing halfway across the world? How did we end up here in this very foreign city, completely alone just the two of us (and our wonderful and extremely hard working facilitator Marina), searching for a baby we don't even know and about to change our lives drastically. Hector took this very blind leap of faith with me and I have to admit...today was the FIRST day I EVER had doubts or questioned what we were doing. It has to be the exhaustion, the stress, the anticipation, the brief and stressful meeting with Sofia and the warning from our facilitator that NO ONE here cares about us or what we are doing. Sofia simply doesn't matter to them, therefore we don't matter and without Marina fighting for us this would be a losing battle. So many obstacles...financial, emotional, physical to get to where we are today. It's no wonder adoption (especially international special needs adoption) is not for everyone. This journey is NOT easy.
This process is far from being over. We need to wait 7 days before a judge will even look at our case in this region. We also need the prosecutor to accept our file without asking for more documents. We pray that she sees all that she needs or we will be out paper chasing again. After 7 days of our file at the judge's office, we will wait for a court date (hopefully sooner than later!) In our region, our judge is known for multiple court dates. We pray for only one court date. After court, the 10 day wait begins. We pray he or she considers waiving it. So many things left to pray for still.
So I came home and found myself curled up in a ball on the bed and in tears. Hector and I talked and we both feel scared and unsure and at this point we are relying on God to help guide us and support us through this journey. We also could not be doing this without our friends and family cheering us on, following our journey and praying for us constantly I miss my boys like crazy. I ache for them and all I want to do is be home with them right now. I couldn't help but think what on earth are we doing here? Why am I not home with my beautiful boys?
But then we remind ourselves, we are saving a little girl. A baby girl who has no one and is even more alone in this world. If we don't fight for her, no one will and she deserves a chance at life. A baby girl who will be our daughter.
So I wipe my tears and look at the pictures of her innocent face and know that we must march on and finish what we started. She deserves it.