Monday, May 18, 2009

Russia Update

Well, we're back from our first trip to Russia! Before I go any farther, I'll warn you that we are not allowed to post any pictures or specific details of "Our Little Guy" (or OLG, until he comes home). This is because he isn't truly ours until after the Court rules in our favor (and the 10-day Wait Period). Russia does not like us Americans to be presumptuous! However, because we have started the application process to formally adopt (essentially this means we accepted the referral and are asking Russia to allow us to adopt), we have a new name for OLG. I will go through where we are in the process and what's ahead at the end.

Other than the reason we were going in the first place, there were some other intriguing elements to this trip. First, this was the first time Alexa spent a night (actually five) away from the both of us. Second, Alexa's Dance Recital was the Saturday after our trip, which meant leaving early on Friday -something we were not positive could happen. And third, the dreaded Swine Flu (don't get Tracy started on it!) was a real concern in terms of Russia keeping us out.

The third concern only reared its head slightly as we were made to wait on the plane while health officials "lasered" our ears to make sure no one was running a temperature (above 100 we believe). As for concern #2, we made it back in time for the Recital (and Alexa did great!), but the 20 hours of travel that day are still being felt. And concern #3 started out pretty rough, so we allowed Alexa to call us each day (not cheap and once the phone rang at 4am!). In the end Alexa was a trooper, but when we got home she ran to us and broke into tears - it was so sweet!

So, I guess you all are ready to hear about OLG?! The way this trip worked was that we were invited to an appointment with the Department of Education to review a referral (child). We received some basic information before we traveled like birthdate, height/weight/head circumference at birth and more recently (no pictures or video). We had a small scare because the more recent measurements were very low - but we weren't told when they were taken. Eventually, we got better data that put OLG ahead of Alexa at the same age. We forwarded this information to a group of doctors that specialize in international adoption. Simply based upon our limited data, there were no red flags for developmental issues like FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome). We were told to get some pictures of OLG and do some basic tests during our visit, so the doctors could review them and give us a recommendation (we have to make a decision to go forward before the end of our visit, so this information was sent while in Russia).

Our first task was to go to the DOE office and meet with an official who gives an overview of the child's medical history and asks some questions about us - the questions are a small preview of what the judge will ask during the court appearance (our work situation, how long we've been married, other children, where we live, etc.). At the end of the questions, we got our first look at OLG - a picture not long after he was born! We gladly agreed to meet "our referral" and our next stop was the orphanage!!

Much like this post, everything took longer than the anxious parents-to-be wanted. We got to the orphanage after the typical Russian traffic-strewn, "lanes are just a suggestion" ride - our driver could easily make it as a taxi driver in NYC. Then we had to meet with a couple representatives of the orphanage and sign some forms. Finally, OLG was brought up to see us! He was very attentive and healthy looking (despite the obvious cold he was battling). We were allowed to take him outside to the playground- the orphanages love to layer the children, so he was dressed for a blizzard! OLG seemed a little unsure but never cried, although close a couple times. We brought some musical toys to play with and he inspected them and understood how to make them work. After about a half hour, Tracy got his first smile by tickling him and his face just lit up. (BTW, we were being observed by social worker during this first encouter which was a little awkward.) After exploring the whole playground and trying a little bit on the swing, we were told we could come back after dinner and visit some more. We were asked if we wanted to come back - ummm yeah! Overall, the first encounter went well and we were hooked - not that there was any doubt of that happening. The only downside was both Tracy and I sitting on a yellow bench that apparently got painted too recently - we each had a yellow circle on our butts...

Yikes, it's gotten later than I expected! I'll continue tomorrow with the rest of the visit and the process going forward...

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