Life in the slow lane

Things I’ve learned, or should have learned by now

Forgiveness September 13, 2007

Filed under: Jesus Christ — Gina @ 10:53 pm

Last night, I sat in my seat after celebrating Holy Communion at church and mulled over “forgiveness.”  As I thought of the cross and all that it symbolizes, I ruminated over the multitude (literally) of sins that I’ve committed.  It’s humbling, you know, to think of all the ways you have sinned against the One who paid the price for those sins.  As the tears rolled down my chin and fell on my lap (those who know me well know I’m a serious cry baby!), I was struck by the words I’ve heard and even spoken a hundred times, “…He died for the sins of the world.” 

“The sins of the world.”  The whole world?  Not just dinky me, but the WHOLE WORLD.  Not just this sin or that sin, but the SINS – ALL of them – for the WHOLE WORLD.  Every single sin for every single person.  I actually laughed out loud.  What on earth could one goofy girl from Greer do that can’t be forgiven by the God with that much love? 

I wonder why, then, do we suffer so when we try to forgive ourselves?

Today, I was privileged to accompany my friend Paula to visit a 17 year old girl named Lauren in the hospital.   It probably sounds like something we crazy Bible thumpers just do – going to the hospital to visit and pray – unless you know the whole story. 

You see, one week ago today, Lauren was driving home from school with her boyfriend and best friend.  As teenagers will often do, Lauren was careless, perhaps even reckless, and caused a three car crash.  Actually, the cars wasn’t merely crashed.  They were utterly destroyed.  Sadly, so were lives.

While the details of the accident are sketchy and still under police investigation, the facts are these: 

  • The Dodge Charger Lauren was driving sideswiped a Ford Taurus driven by an 87 year old man then hit a Jeep Cherokee head on.  The Jeep was driven by a football star who had recently graduated from the same high school which Lauren, her boyfriend and best friend still attended. 
  • Lauren suffered broken ribs, a collapsed lung, and was unconscious for several days. 
  • Her boyfriend suffered a broken foot requiring surgery. 
  • The elderly gentleman and his companion were treated for minor injuries. 
  • The passenger of the car she hit head on broke his spine and remains in the hospital in serious condition. 
  • The driver of the Jeep was killed instantly.   As was Lauren’s best friend sitting in the back seat, Paula’s niece, Jolie.

Upon entering the hospital room, I introduced myself and fumbled as I introduced Paula as the “uh, uh, uh.  This is Paula.”  She had to add that she was Jolie’s aunt.  Sometimes, I’m such a doofus!  

Lauren’s grandmother welcomed us in the room.  As Paula talked to the grandmother about how Jolie’s parents are coping, I was blessed to have a few minutes to speak quietly to Lauren.  I perched on the edge of her bed, held her hand, and leaned close.  I whispered to her that we knew what happened was an accident and that we did not blame her.  She began to cry and told me, “I didn’t mean to kill her.  She was my best friend.”  I countered that I knew she loved Jolie and would never hurt her, much less kill her.  I reminded her that it was an “accident,” and that SHE did not kill Jolie.  Jolie died tragically in a car wreck.  Lauren actually whimpered.  My heart broke for this 17 year old child.  I can’t imagine her pain, her anguish, her feeling of exile from some members of the school, community, even family.  If not for the collapsed lung, I would have scooped that young woman up and rocked her in my arms like I do my own three year old daughter.

Paula began to explain to Lauren that the police were stunned that anyone in the front seat of that car survived, and that she believed Lauren is alive today simply because God spared her.  Upon prompting, Lauren confessed that she is a Christian and felt like she was truly changed when she accepted Christ.  Paula encouraged her to read the Bible and pray about what purpose God has for her because truly there IS one.  Lauren stated that “everybody hates her.”  Paula told her that she, for one, did not hate her and that she forgives her for any part she had in her sweet Jolie’s death.  By this time, I assure you, my own tears nearly outnumbered Lauren’s.  We prayed together for Lauren’s health, but more importantly, for God to comfort her.

As we left, Paula reminded Lauren that God is her only judge and His forgiveness is all that she requires. 

That, and maybe her own.


Going to Russia – Trip 1, Part II September 6, 2007

Filed under: Russia,The adoption — Gina @ 4:53 pm

I’m like a really rotten kid at Christmas.  Hoping beyond hope that Santa will come, but half expecting a lump of coal. 

We wake early and have breakfast with our friends.  By 8 a.m., I am showered, dressed, and mostly packed.  I have visited the hotel’s business office and emailed friends and family about our distressing situation.  I am struggling not to cry.  John and I sit on the bed and watch Austin Powers – Goldmember on Russian TV.  All we understand is “Dah, Baaaybee!”  It’s actually pretty amusing. 

At 8:30, I’m beyond anxious.

At 8:40, I’m beyond crazy.

At 8:45, I tell John to grab our bags so we can go ahead, check out and meet the others for the return flight to Moscow.  John very calmly tells me to sit and wait.  “Alla said she would call by nine.  It’s not yet nine.”  So I sit on the edge of the bed literally within inches of the telephone. 

At 8:50, the phone rings!  I grab it before the first ring is even complete.  Alla asks, “Are you packed?”  My heart sinks.  “Yes,” I say.  “Come down now and check out.  We have a baby to go see!”  I am in tears again, only happy tears this time.  Really??  A baby?? For us??   John and I are out the door, checked out of the hotel, and loaded in the car within minutes.  Alla has already rescheduled us to a late afternoon flight to Moscow.  We only have a few hours and the orphanage is about 90 miles away.

We pile in the car and speed (very literally) to Novoshaktinsk Children’s Hospital.  During the long ride, I am surprisingly calm.  My God brought me here, and He would not torment me further.  I KNOW that we will are going to see the child who will become our daughter.  John, ever cool at 8:45 this morning, is now a wreck.  He’s afraid that this will end in disaster.  He keeps his thoughts mostly to himself – probably to keep me from jumping under a train.

We enter the “hospital” through the front door which oddly opens to a tiny foyer about 3’x3′.  We turn left and walk between two desks in someone’s office, go down a long hallway, then up three flights of stairs.  There is an open doorway with several toddlers eating weiners and macaroni.  Larissa leads us further down the hall to the nursery.  There are three separate rooms with glass partitions between them.  Each room has four cribs, two along each wall, and a window.  We enter the middle room.  There, in the first crib on the left, is Baby “Natalya” (pronounced NAH-tasha) the only child in this room.  A baby girl with brown eyes, a ready smile, and of all things red hair.

As soon as I laid eyes on her, my heart lifted.  I scooped her out of the crib, kissed her and announced, “This is my baby.”  Larissa cautioned, “Let’s talk to the pediatrician first.”  I am not swayed.  “THIS is my baby.”  Larissa reiterates, “You will want to know her medical history, of course.”  I know she means well, especially after our first referral, but she is starting to get on my nerves.  “This is MY baby.  Bring the papers so I can sign them now.  I don’t CARE what her medical issues might be.  She is MY baby.”  I hand her to John, and she smiles at him.  We’re hooked! 

We meet with the pediatrician on staff and sign on intention paperwork. 

John runs back to the car to get our camcorder while I head back to the nursery to love on my daughter for a bit longer before we have to leave.  When I get back to her room, there are three older Russian ladies there holding my baby and talking to her.  She is smiling and laughing.  When I enter, one of the women begins speaking to me in rapid-fire Russian.  My feeble mind cannot comprehend.  I say my most oft used Russian expression meaning, “I do not understand.  I am sorry.”  She smiles and takes Baby Natalya from the others and hands her to me then asks, “Mama?”  I cry AGAIN.  “Dah, Mama!”  They all laugh and hug me. 

John returns and we play with and videotape Baby Natalya for another half hour.  I learn during this time that my husband is a baby hog.  I hardly get to love on her at all!

We return to the hotel lobby with an hour to spare before our flight.  Alla meets us there and orders champagne.  I rush to email my friends and family with the good news then return to the same table where my world crumbled just yesterday.  Today, I am toasting my good fortune and God’s blessing!

We arrive in Moscow late.  Too late to meet up with our friends and share our happy news, so we decide to eat in the hotel bar.  John and I are sitting at the bar, rehashing the events of the last 48 hours for the hundredth time when I excuse myself to call home and make sure my parents got my email about Baby Natalya.  I return dejected because our international calling card does not work on the hotel phones, and we do not have international access on our cell phones.  While I’m gone, John has met the gentleman sitting beside him.  He’s in town on business but is from the U.S.  Overhearing our conversation, he asks John, “What is her mother’s phone number?”  As I am reciting the number, he is entering it into his cell.  He hands John the phone, “This is more important than any other call I’ll make this week.”  I’m crying again at the kindness of this stranger.  I call Mama who has not seen my email.  She has been so worried for me and is elated by the news.  We share a good, happy cry over the phone.

The next morning we board our plane for the U.S.  I am sleep deprived and jet lagged and have haggard, puffy eyes from all my crying.  But my smile is real and true down to my toenails!  My heart is singing with joy.  My prayers have, at long last, been answered.  I look at my ticket stub.  It’s June 30.  Happy Anniversary, John.


Going to Russia!! – Trip 1, Part I September 5, 2007

Filed under: Russia,The adoption — Gina @ 4:28 pm

In June 2005, I was unemployed due to yet another bank merger and spent a week visiting friends at the beach.  Not a bad gig if you can get it.  At least a hundred times during my mini-vacation, I answered the tiresome question, “When are you going to get your baby?”  It wasn’t as bad as the infertility question because I KNEW in this case that there would be a baby.  But I still didn’t know when.

The previous year, we had decided to adopt from Russia because we were disgruntled with stories about U.S. adoptions and because we (wrongly) thought it would be easier.  I’m told that politics play a large role in international adoption with the system being “shut down” at any given time for no apparent reason.  The “shut downs” conveniently occured just prior to big U.S./Russian summit meetings.  During our year (so far) wait, it had already happened twice, AND rules were arbitrarily changed requiring a new form here and there. 

When?  Only God knew when, and He wasn’t telling me.

On my way home from the beach, only 4 miles from my home, I received “the call.”  My caseworker told me that they had a “referral” for us.  My hands shook so badly I almost couldn’t drive home.   I told the caseworker I would call her back in five minutes.   I was home in four.  She told me she had emailed me photos and a medical history, and that we would need to decide by the following morning so we could make travel arrangements for the following week.   She explained that “Baby Julia” had a birth defect, but that it was quite mild.  We were prepared for this as it is common, nay usual, for Russian infants who are available for adoption to have “birth defects.”  Our research showed that Russian doctors often diagnosed infants as being blind because they could not visually follow an object or as having cerebal palsy because they could not stand at birth (like they’re giraffes or something?!).

Once I got John on the phone, I opened the email.  “How odd,” I remember thinking.  The referral info was for “Baby Alena.”  Call waiting beeped in and the caseworker apologized that she had emailed me someone else’s baby.  Holy cow.  Moments later, I open a new email and find a lovely baby girl.  Medical history is almost non-existent.  The birth defect looks real and serious.  What now?

I print everything out and make an emergency consultation (previously arranged, of course, because I’ve had 13 MONTHS of waiting) with a local pediatrician AKA my new best friend.  He reads.  He looks at pictures.  He hands me the papers and says, “I can’t help you.  There’s nothing here.  This is nothing short of a leap of faith.”  He makes photocopies of some information on Julia’s teratoma and on fetal alcohol syndrome.  The kind doctor suggests that if we go to Russia these are things we should look for.  I return home none the wiser than when I left.

I come home to my workbook for our neighborhood summer Bible study, my first real Bible study EVER.  We are studying Beth Moore’s Believing God.  The gist of the study is that, as Christians, we know we believe IN God, but do we really BELIEVE God and His promises for us?  I do the day’s lesson, but don’t feel happiness, peace, or even ease about the decision we have to make.  Somehow, I don’t grasp that it is NOT my decision, but His will.  I try to pray, but if God is talking, I’m not hearing.

I am so torn and so desperate.  The caseworker says that if we do not accept this referral, it will be months before another comes.  You see, in Russia, the whole freakin’ country goes on holiday in the summer.  And, well, it’s summer.  John and I agree we will go and love this baby.  I mean, nobody actually falls instantly in love with a photograph, right?    We email pics to friends and family.  I print them and show them to everyone I meet. 

Visas are FedExed.  Plane tickets are purchased.  Hotel rooms are reserved.  I make a trip to the bank for cash…lots of it…in new, uncreased, unmarked 100 dollar bills.  The money demands make me wonder if I am laundering money for a Colombian cartel or adopting a child, but I digress. 

We will be traveling as a group of five families all from the same agency going to the same region (regions are like our U.S. states) of Russia.  We get in touch with one another and trade stories and advice.  Alison lives in Charlotte and shares my background in banking.  I really like her.  She’s calm and self assured whereas I often feel like a chicken with my head cut off.   I sound like a sixth grader when we talk:  “What are you going to pack?  What are you wearing on the plane?”

We arrive in Moscow and it’s warm.  Wha??  Russia is supposed to be cold!  It’s like going to the beach and finding snow rather than sun.  John and I are too anxious for our usual wandering sightseeing though we do manage to eat dinner and fall into bed.  The next morning, we all meet in the lobby and are shuttled to a local airport from where we will be flying to Rostov (about 3 plane hours south).  Upon our arrival in Rostov, we are greeted by our “coordinators,”  Alla and Larissa.  They will provide chauffers for us, help with paperwork, and interpret at the orphanages.  As John and I introduce ourselves, Alla asks if we have brought a pediatrician with us to evaluate “Baby Julia.”  We have not, but Alla is quick to talk to another couple who did schedule such an evaluation and asks if we can split the costs with them in order to have Julia seen by a professional.  My anxiety medicine is failing me.  Why did she ask us and not the others?  What is wrong with this baby?  In one way, I am scared.  In another, I am feeling my red-headed temper rising.  Have I been duped??

We check in the Intourist Hotel and immediately leave to visit the babies.  Several are at the same orphanage so they will carpool.  We sit outside their orphanage because we must wait for the shared services of the pediatrician.  We are parked in what is called the courtyard.  It is, in fact, a tiny asphalt lot between two brick, graffiti covered buildings where the children are housed.  There is a large green, smelly dumpster.  There is one big oak tree in a fenced “play area” which consists of a bench and a broken seesaw.  There is baby laundry hanging from a clothesline extending out of one the upstairs windows.  And there, against the door, is the broom.  I am heartbroken by this stupid broom.  I think of all the stinking brooms that I’ve tossed in the trash because they were too old or too soft or too stiff.  Here propped in the corner of this place for raising children is a handmade broom.  Handmade as in Little House on the Prairie.  I tell John that when we get home, we must go to Home Depot, buy all their brooms, and ship them here. 

At last we are on our way, pediatrician in tow, to meet our baby.  After nearly an hour of driving, we arrive at the orphanage.  We park and walk through knee high grass in what is supposed to be a playground.  The foyer is neat and has new hardwood floors.  I smell the antiseptic odor of red Lysol cleaner.  We enter the adminstrator’s office and John and I are seated on a sofa near the window.  A worker goes to bring Julia to us while the pediatrician and Larissa talk to the adminstrator. 

When I first lay eyes on her, I’m struck by the dress she is wearing.   It is covered in stiff white lace.  I had forgotten my lesson in Russian adoption where the child who is meeting her potential family wears beautiful clean clothes.  With older girls, it is how they know “TODAY is MY day” because of the ridiculously huge bows placed in their hair.  I’m touched by how incredibly uncomfortable that must be on her beautiful, soft baby skin.  My mind races as I hold her for the first time.  Her history said that she is nine months old, sits alone and responds to her name.  I talk to her.  She does not meet my eyes.  I prop her on the sofa between me and John, and she topples over like a stuffed animal.  I hold her in the air and coo.  She does not smile.  She does not laugh.  She does not chew on her hand.  She does not respond to me at all.  Nor, I’m sad to say, I to her.  I am so sad that I have begged and pleaded with God to puhleeese give me a baby to love, and here is a baby in my arms and I feel nothing.  I hand the baby to John.  He plays with her and she responds some to him.  Honestly, I don’t remember.  I grab the camera and take a few pictures of John holding her all while I am struggling to listen and understand what the doctors are saying.

After a few minutes, we are included in their conversation.  We finally see photos of the fatty tumor which was removed at birth.  It was as big as she was.  We learn a little of her known medical history, and it’s not good.   Exposure to Hepatitis B, drugs and alcohol in the womb.  The huge tumor which may cause bowel issues down the road.  A wandering eye which will need corrective surgery.  The doctor examines her, then we hold her a little more and leave.  During the ride back, the doctor tells us to think long and hard about this child.  She believes that Julia probably has FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) which may have resulted in serious brain damage.  The doctor says there is no way to know for sure for several years.  Larissa tells us to discuss it.  She will pick us up at 9 a.m. tomorrow to sign our intent papers and take us back for another visit.

When we return to the hotel, John and I talk.  And talk.  And talk.  We brave a Russian hibachi (yes, really) restaurant down the road.  We eat something, but I can’t remember what it was.  We have some wine.  And we talk.  Over dinner, through tears, we agree that we will be this child’s parents.  She needs us.  We will bring her to Greer and give her the best medical treatment we can.  We will love her and take her to see Santa.  We will hug her and send her to Christian schools.  She will be our family, and we will be hers.  We return to our hotel by midnight and fall asleep instantly from physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual exhaustion.

At 5 a.m., I am jarred awake.  This is not my baby.  I wipe my face as I’ve been crying even in my sleep.  This is not my baby.  I turn on the light.  I tell John that we have to talk.  I’m so sorry that it’s five in the morning, but we have to talk now.  He is already awake.  He has been for hours.   I tell him that this is not my baby.   We talk.  And talk.  Is this fear of raising a child with unknown disabilities or is this God’s will?  Had we said yes to each other last night out of our own desperation or were we following where God was leading us?  We prayed.  We cried.  We made our decision and rested a bit.

The breakfast buffet opened at 7 a.m.  We went early and met two of the other families already there.  We had puffy eyes and weary souls.  As we opened up our troubles to them, we learned that they, too, had declined referrals in the past for similar reasons.  Both of the women assured me that when she held her child the previous day, she KNEW instantly that this was the child for her.  John and I returned to our room for more crying and a little rest.

At 9 a.m., we met Larissa in the hotel lobby.  We told her we had decided to decline this referral.  She seemed mad.  She got up and brought Alla to our table.  They told us that they would “be with us” shortly, but first they were going to get the other families’ papers done so they could go early to spend the day with their children.  So we sat.  I remember staring at the ceiling the whole time.  My sweet husband who knows me sooo well, shook his head no at our friends who wanted to come by our table to give us support.  I used to be one of those non-crying people who when I broke, I actually crumbled.  Show me a little love while I’m down and out, and I will need to be medicated to stop the tears.  Finally, Alla and Larissa sat down with us to talk.  I told them about our decision last night and about waking up knowing that I was making a mistake.  I told them of talking and crying and praying.  It was, in every sense, devastating.  As we were signing the last of the papers, Alla told us that due to vacations we would not be able to get another child until after September or so.  She said that the adoption database had been depleted as all agencies got their maximum referrals in before summer.  She would contact the central agency in Washington D.C., but because they were 8 hours behind us, it would be tonight before anything could be done.  And we were scheduled to leave tomorrow.  Alla promised to call a “friend” who might be “able to help,” then ended our conversation by telling us to pray because really SHE couldn’t do anything, but HE could.  She would meet us back in the hotel lobby at 6 p.m. to advise.

We returned to our room for yet another crying jag and shower before sucking it up and doing a little sightseeing.  We had a car and a driver, Serge, who spoke fair English and a day to kill.  He had been briefed as to our situation, and showed incredible compassion.  He had a stop to make (delivering milk to another orphanage) before he showed us around town.  Once settled in the car for our little excursion, he looked at us in the rearview mirror and said, “You get another baby.  Healthy one this time.  Come.  We go to church.”  He took us to a beautiful Eastern Orthodox church.  The outside is whitewashed with big turrets on the roof.  Inside, there are incredibly detailed icons, statues, and murals.  Serge tells us he will light a candle for us, and he goes near one of the statues of saints to pray.  I’m deeply touched.

We met Alla in the lobby at 6 o’clock.  She has talked to D.C. to determine if their is another referral anywhere in Russia.  There is not.  She has been in touch with her friend at the Ministry of Education (like U.S. social services) who is on vacation.  Her friend has agreed to go to her office first thing in the morning to recheck the adoption database.  Alla says she will call us as soon as she hears from her friend, but no later than 9 a.m.  If we don’t hear from her by nine, we are to be packed, checked out, and waiting in the lobby for transport to the airport and our return home.  She is not hopeful, but reminds us to “pray.”

So we do.


Fierce Love August 23, 2007

Filed under: The Little One — Gina @ 3:01 am

I loved my daughter the instant I saw her.  I wanted to hold her & kiss her & feed her & love her, love her, love her to pieces.  In the nearly two years since God has entrusted her to me, I’ve kissed a thousand real and imaginary boo-boos, yanked her arm in parking lots to keep her from danger; I’ve dashed down our driveway to protect her from traffic, knocked over chairs to save her from falling and jumped out of bed from a dead sleep to soothe her crying.  BUT, I’ve never loved her more or wanted to protect her more than I did today.

When I think of fierceness, I think of a lioness protecting her cubs.  Now, you’ve probably seen Wild Kingdom and know full well that by “protecting her cubs” I mean the lioness actually punctured the jugular and disemboweled the offender.   Today I would have liked to been that lioness.

I picked the tot up from “school” (MMO at church) and took her to Chik-Fil-A for an ice cream and playtime since we can’t play outside during the midday here because it is 1111 degrees outside.  (That’s not a typo.  Here in SC it really is ONE THOUSAND one hundred eleven degrees with the stinkin heat index…)  While playing, we encountered a horrid, evil mother and her rotten brats.  I’ve seen bad kids before, but NEVER has anyone tried to HURT my baby.

No, the little snots didn’t shove her off the ladder or push her away from the slide (although they did ride roughshod over her).  What those little devils did was to hurt my baby’s feelings.  My tot is an only child, and she wanted to play with them.   So off she toddled toward them with her short, fat legs laughing and talking the whole time.  The older one shouted to her younger brother, “Run!  Here she comes!”  And they ran away from my smiling daughter.  Not once.  Not twice.  Three times, that little monster encouraged her brother in their evil game of taunting my toddler. 

I don’t think my girl even noticed, but I DID.  And I was pierced in the heart for her just the same as I was myself being the last kid picked for a game or not being invited to THE party. 

I lured the little one off the slide and took her by the hand out to the dining area where we shared an ice cream sundae, but not before I stared the mother down.  In her defense, she DID yell to the kids that my girl did not understand their little “game.” 

I hope she never does. 


“The Wait” August 22, 2007

Filed under: The adoption — Gina @ 11:36 pm

I know that every woman expecting a child waits.  It’s a crazy time where you picture your baby’s face and hands; you pray for your baby’s health; and make plans for your future together as a family.  For those who are not reproductively challenged, the wait is usually 9 months.  The difference with adoption is that you just don’t know how long the wait will be.  Even those poor women  who “go over” their due date only do so by a few days or maybe a week.  Can you imagine 16 months?  Can you imagine 16 months of thinking, “TODAY could be the day I get the call?”  To truly comprehend “The Wait,” close your eyes and imagine for a moment.  Actually, open your eyes so you can read, but keep imagining:

You meet me for the first time at an event where we have a mutual interest (church, work, etc.).  You need a little cash for lunch and boldly ask me to spot you $20.  I tell you that I am happy to give you money.  You see, I am rich, loaded, super-wealthy…in fact, I would like to give a you A LOT of money.  “I have an extra 27 million dollars in cash which I’ve been hoarding, and I would like for you to have it.  No questions.  No repayment.  No strings.  The money is stored in a safe deposit box at the bank, and the key is in this box.”  I hand you a “book safe” with a six digit combination.  (Don’t ask why I carry a “book safe” with me…we are imagining.)  “There is just this one thing.  I can’t recall the combination off hand, but I’ll go home and look for it.  Give me your contact information, and I’ll be in touch.  You keep the box with the key.  I’ll call you soon. Ta ta.”

Now, imagine that you don’t hear from me other than a brief email every few weeks stating, “Hey!  Still looking for the combination.  Don’t you worry.  I want you to have that money.”  So you wait and wait and wait and wait.  You will spend an incredible amount of time planning how to spend and invest that money.  You actually want to tithe to your church, make a large contribution to your favorite charity, and to bless your friends and family with gifts of cash.  Hmmm.  Christmas is coming.  It sure would be nice to get that combination before Christmas.  Instead, you wait and wait and wait and wait.

You look at that box with both love and loathing.  “Should I tinker with the lock,” you wonder.  “Probably not.  I’ll just wait.”  You keep your cell charged and turn up the telephone volume while you are in the shower.  You check messages and email every  hour on the hour day in and day out.  And you wait and wait and wait and wait.  FINALLY, I call you.  I give you the combination to the “book safe.”   I’m so happy to be able to give this money to bless you, and you are relieved to finally get it.  You hang up the telephone, rush to the safe, open the lock, and retrieve the key.  Hooray!!  This is what you have been waiting for….except…which bank???  What box number???

And THAT is what it is like to wait endlessly for a telephone call with the only news you want to hear – the news that will change everything about your life from that day forward!


The Paperwork

Filed under: The adoption — Gina @ 4:17 pm

I was wrong yesterday.  THIS may be the most boring part of the story…but I forge ahead…

The process of adoption starts will 87,000 questions:  domestic or international? private or agency?  open or closed? special needs?  biracial?  abused?  boy?  girl?   We chose to pursue international adoption from Russia because we felt that it best met our needs and because it couldn’t be reversed seven years later by some crazy liberal judge in Florida.  Our homestudy was complete including letters of reference and SLED checks, and we had selected a large, established agency located in N.C.    After completing four pages of personal information and sending the first of many checks, we received “the packet.”

“The packet” is not a legal size envelope containing a few forms.  “The packet” is, in fact, a 3″ three ring binder and CD ROM with blank forms!  I remember FedEx at my door with this big box.  I thought someone had sent me a gift…nope, just instructions for creating our dossier.  Many of us are familiar with day to day paperwork at home or in the office, but unless you’ve dealt with international adoption red tape, you can’t imagine THIS headache!

The dossier required that in addition to the 7 forms we had to complete and sign, we also had to collect the following:

  • Form I1171H – which necessitated two trips to the local (Greer, SC) INS office and one trip to the Charlotte, NC INS office
  • Police clearance – obtained from to the Greenville County Sheriff’s office (one for each me & John)
  • Marriage Certificate – only one trip to the Greenville County Probate court (2 originals)
  • Divorce Decree – (since I was married once before) – one trip to the Greenville County Family court
  • Birth Certificate – Thank Heaven this can be done online!  We needed 2 originals for each of us
  • Certificate of Assets – This had to be completed by a CPA (…that sound you hear is another $150 being flushed).  A photocopy of the accountant’s license had to accompany the completed forms.
  • The deed to our house – can renters not adopt?!
  • Reference letters from each of our employers – stating our annual salary and that we were dependable.
  • Passport page with photo – Three copies for each of us with statement that this is a true copy, blah, blah, blah
  • Eight color photos of us, our home, the child’s room FURNISHED (more on this cruelty later)
  • Form from doctor stating that each is in good health.  Copy of doctor’s medical license.
  • Home study, home study agency license, recommendation letter, verification letter

Did I mention that this must be done in DUPLICATE?  Did you know “in duplicate” does not mean I can make one dossier and photocopy it?  It means I have to have alllllll these papers compiled as originals TWICE.  Oh, and every form must be signed and notarized and then the SC Secretary of State’s office has to apostille (certify that they are certified…don’t ask) each document.  AND each form has an expiration date!  Some (medical, police, and employer) expired every three months. 

Now, I’ve spent a career in banking and can push papers with the best of them, but THIS was a real challenge!  Even now, I am still rebelling against record keeping at home.  I think it’s because I burned out on the paperwork phase. 

Paperwork complete and my bank account a little lighter from the massive copying, notarizing, and FedExing fees, we are settled in to wait.  And wait we did.


Deciding to adopt

Filed under: The adoption — Gina @ 12:08 am

I’m often asked about this and about our whole “story” of becoming a family, so this seems like an ideal place to tell it.  Although this is probably the most boring part of our story, I have to include it so you will appreciate the final result as much as we did.

My husband & I married late in life.  I was 34 and he was 38.  Not OLD exactly, but certainly mature.  Knowing that age might be an issue in making babies and knowing previous “female troubles” I’d had, we wanted to try conceiving right away.  So we, as they say, got busy but to no avail. 

Around the time I turned 37, I started using fertility drugs.  In case you’ve never taken them or lived with someone on them, let me explain the hellish cycle:

  • Day 1 – Start period.  Be depressed because you aren’t pregnant.
  • Days 3 thru 7 – Take a pill every morning.  Have hot flashes and night sweats.
  • Days 8 thru ? – Take temp every morning while still in bed.  Get up and go pee on a stick which will tell you whether  you are not fertile, slightly fertile, or stay in bed with the hubby because this might be your last chance fertile.
  • Day 14 – Go to doctor for ultrasound to determine if you have any “good eggs.”  Sit in waiting room with a hundred happy pregnant women.  Fight urge to kill them.
  • Take another drug every day for the rest of the cycle which causes uncontrollable tears, and have (as Bill Clinton would say) “relations” with husband only on strict schedule when the results from your pee stick say.
  • Day 21 – Return to doctor for blood work.
  • Day 22 – Call for results.  In my case, the results were always negative so I had to start yet another drug for five days which forced me to start my period.  Prepare to start over with step one.

In midst of this trial, don’t forget that every nosy family member, every friend I hadn’t seen in a year, and everyone I worked with INSISTED on asking, “So.  When are you two planning to have a baaabeeey?”  Thank God for Lexapro, or I may be doing time now for killing some busybody….I DID pick up a great response from a poster at the Resolve (fertility organization) website:  “Are you suggesting that my husband and I have MORE sex?  We can hardly keep our jobs as it is!”  I found that this smart alek remark made me feel oddly better, and it made the other person laugh so we didn’t have to discuss the elephant in the room.  It probably was  not the right response to an elderly aunt though.  She nearly snorted sweet tea out of her nose.

After too many months of this nonsense, my sweet husband was consoling me one evening and said, “Hey, Gina.  Let’s adopt.”  Well, duh.  Years earlier, I was a huge advocate of adoption with several friends and coworkers.  I had always thought adoption was a great idea.  I had even told John early in our relationship that I wanted to adopt even if we had four kids of our own.  Why hadn’t I thought of this sooner?  I’m a bright girl.  DUH, DUH, DUH. 

So I wiped away my tears and flushed all the hormones.  He was on board.  I was on board.  100%.  I called for references the next day and had our home study scheduled the next week.  I knew in my heart on that Friday night, weeping in my living room that I would become a Mama. 

“He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children.  Praise the Lord.”  Psalms 113:9

Praise the Lord, indeed.