Go here for part one)
On Feb. 11, 2005 (which was Don's 39th birthday, not for nothing), a FedEx was delivered to my office with pictures of Laney. She was clearly not nine months old. She was nineteen months old. And so beautiful.
I took the pictures to Don at One North and we began planning the trip almost immediately.
It was a thrilling, overwhelming day. Our consultant at EAC was not an adoptive parent. I still have an email from her in which she said "Calm down. Take a pill. Lol." She was a dumbass. I didn't care. We were adopting little Elena. We were at the end!
We traveled just a few days later. First to London, then to Moscow. We stayed in Moscow for a few days where we met the family who'd be traveling with us. They were not like us. They didn't like us. Who cares. We were getting our baby girl!
It takes 7 hours to fly from Moscow to Blagoveschensk and you do this flight in a post-Soviet airplane. Which is a lot like a bus. American air travel is hardly glamorous anymore. But we're talking about a whole 'nother level of not-glamorous. Also, it was roughly 8 million degrees on the plane. It was the second most miserable flight of my life. You'll hear about the most miserable a bit later.
When we landed, I was so pleased to get out of that plane and into the negative 8 million degree air. Blagovechensck, dear readers, was hella cold. But, Russian ladies (if I dare to stereotype) will not let you be in the cold. They are very insistent that you button your coat and get out of the cold! So while Don waited for our luggage, I sat in the van with the heat on full blast. I felt like I was falling apart. I was so tired and so hot and so scared and so excited.
We rode the rickety old van to the hotel with the couple who weren't like us (and didn't like us). We checked in. I put on a little makeup and brushed my hair. Larina, our translator, looked at me and said "You look wonderful!" I found this very bracing, even though she probably meant "thank god you don't look as terrible as you did a few minutes ago." And then we went to the orphanage. The utilitarian, bleak, barren orphanage, down at the end of a sparse gravel road, where you always heard dogs barking like they were really hungry.
After a bit of a wait, we were taken into this big green room where we waited for them to bring us Laney. Oh, lordy, were we nervous! There was a woman at a desk in the middle of the room, in a white nurse's uniform. Turns out she was the doctor and was there to observe us. We perched on a couch. An orphanage attendant brought Laney in and we sprang up. Laney (or as we called her then, Lena) was all done up in the same fancy red dress from the pictures. The nurse put her in my arms.
This is the important part:
I was wearing a zippered jacket. I was feeling the weight of Laney in my arms for the first time and felt so happy and so in love. She was tiny and delicate and pale to the point of translucence. She reached to the zipper pull on my jacket, touched it, tugged it a little and looked at me. It was the sweetest moment of my life.I can still feel it if I think about it for just a second.
And then she sneezed. This enormous, productive sneeze! It was like half her body weight in snot! Larina swept over and just grabbed the snot off her nose with her bare hands. Because that's what Moms do, right?
Don held her and taught her to make funny faces and cuddled and hugged her.
Oh, we were such smitten kittens, the two of us!
We went to the orphanage twice a day to visit her. We played and played with her. Laney loved to put the charm on my necklace in my mouth. She loved to make fishfaces with Don. She was so wee and so hungry and so sweet. And sick. She had this lump on the back of her head. We emailed a doctor back home about it. He wrote back:
Thank you for your note. I am very concerned because of this child's extreme failure to thrive and the "lymph nodes" you described that were "drained." In fact, I think the "lump" on the back of her head may be another lymph node. This raises a number of concerns, especially if she might have some kind of chronic infection such as tuberculosis. There were no pictures attached so I can't give you feedback on that. But her medical history is very disconcerting for me
Do you see what I mean about adoption not being for the faint of heart? That email scared the shit out of us. But it was too late. That little girl was OURS!
At the end of the week, we pulled up in the rickety old van to the orphanage. We had to leave. We had to leave and wait for them to tell us when we could come back. I cried and cried and cried. I'm crying a little right now remembering it.
As we walked up to the door, Don stopped me and said "Let's leave her with a smile." And I did my best. But, oh, it was so hard to walk out that door and not know when we were coming back.
"Two weeks," said Don. "We'll be back in two weeks."
Next post: we weren't back in two weeks.