Monday, December 07, 2009

Day #1 - What's Love Got to Do With It?

Well guys, I have reiterated time and time again that this adoption stuff is not a fairy tale…that it is real lives and real hearts involved, and today was evidence of that. I also promised to share it all, the good, the bad and the ugly. I am so glad that I went into this in the frame of mind I was in, or today would have been horribly devastating.

We go to the Ministry of Education where we met the nicest woman, whose name I now forget. She knew all about our family from our dossier, and loved meeting with us and the boys. She asked us many questions about our previous adoptions, the boys’ education and our life in America. The boys were so serious and Kenny admitted he was a little scared. She said she had met many other adoptive families, but we were the happiest and most relaxed. She knew about our knowing the girls and said almost no one adopts these older kids without having met them somehow. Everyone else is so serious and she said she enjoyed being with us very much and wished us much happiness in the future.

Then we were on our way to the Regional Boarding School and the girls! We walked in and were directed to an office where the Director and other officials were waiting for us. There were all of us, along with our interpreter, Irina, and 4 other women. They went and got the girls who entered without fanfare, and within moments burst into tears. It was obvious they were terrified. I got up and hugged them both, and while they did not push me away at all, it was clear all of this was just too much and one of the women led them outside. We all sat there, and I felt strangely calm despite how my heart was hurting for 2 terrified little girls and wishing all of this wasn’t so confusing and complicated…and that with a swipe of my hand I could simply make it all better, take away the beginnings of their life and the pain of all that was, and all that was to come.

While we sat there the Director broke out a book and started looking at other children for us. It took us a moment to understand and we made it clear we were only here to adopt these two girls, and if it didn’t work out we were definitely going home empty handed.

An awkward silence followed as we all sat there waiting for the girls to return, which they soon did and the adults in the room all started peppering them in Russian with stories of kids who rejected possibly being adopted and regretted it. It was too much like an attack, and inquisition and I needed to end this. I asked if we could have some time alone with the interpreter to speak with the girls and they all good naturedly agreed. We were led to a classroom where a still sobbing Olesya put her head down on the desk and just sobbed. Angela had tears fall intermittently. And I sat with the interpreter between Angela and Olesya and just simply dropped it down a notch, talking to them naturally and asking them questions about what they were feeling, what was the most scary to them at this moment, etc.

Then it comes out that Olesya is heartsick over leaving her best friend, a little boy whose name is Valya I think. Angela speaks for them as the eldest and is looking at options here. She asks if we can take only one of them, which I reply firmly “no”, that we would never separate them. Olesya asks if we could come back later and adopt her friend. I explain we wish we could give all the kids homes and that I know exactly how she feels, as I have felt that way about her and Angela ever since I left them years ago. That got a grin. Angela sits there quietly and then asks if they will be able to come back and see their friends some day. I told them we would try to make that happen. She asked when, and I said “When we can save enough money.”. Olesya asks if she can go get Valya and have him visit while we are there, I am sure part was to have us meet him and see how great he was so we would adopt him as well. He comes in and IS a handsome little guy who was personable and sat there quietly. (And NO we will not adopt again) We break out the photo album and show them their room, and Angela goes and gets her photo album which is filled with photos of our family as well a precious few of her friends there. Olesya sits next to me and starts to point out her friends in her pictures, which I took as a good sign. She gives me a shy smile and they continue to look at the photo album we sent.

At this time 3 other women come in including a social worker of sorts who appears to know the girls well and sit at the table across from all of us. The boys had been off to the side a little bit. The women ask to see the photo album and ask us several questions about our life…and then one of them says “You can adopt us! Can we all come with you?” and we all joke a bit about that. The social worker goes and gets a folder with Angela’s awards in it, and this girl is quite an athlete! We were told that both are the best students in their class, and Angela proudly showed us all the certificates in her folder. Olesya didn’t have a folder there, but we will ask to see it in the future.

I explain to the girls that we would never, ever make them do something they don’t want to do. I asked them if they had really wanted to go with us in the past and both nodded their heads vigorously…which certainly helped my spirits a little. I reassured them that we all knew how overwhelming this all was, and they could take as much time as they needed to think about it but would never push them. I did say we loved them very much and it would break our hearts to leave without them, but that we loved them enough to want what was best for them. I told them I knew how hard it was to leave behind friends and all that they had ever known, but that they didn’t know how wonderful it is to live in a family and be very special to the people in your family…and we wanted that for them. Then the women all chimed in and said a few things that were not translated but I could tell were supportive.

Angela was not saying much, and Olesya was not quite as tense but it was still difficult. We adults collectively decided that was enough for one day, and that tomorrow we will return and take them out for a meal. The girls then left the room and we were left standing there with the interpreter and the social worker and us.

The social worker said they were wonderful girls and were confused by their feelings at this moment. She said she knew that they had been waiting for us to come for a very long time, and she thinks maybe part of them gave up hope and moved on in their mind. They were working so hard here at school, finally made it to the best grades and doing well in activities, and now they were afraid to start at the bottom again. But she said “They have wanted to go with you for so long, I am sure it will all be fine, just give them time and get them out of this environment for awhile and that will help.”.

We left there and went back to the office where we had left our belongings and Irina said we had to wait for our driver, who was not yet there. We sat there and another official was there talking with Irina about our family, and again mentioned that the girls had shown everyone pictures of our family proudly, saying they were waiting for us to come get them. That was when I started to cry a little, and although I know and understand it all, it still is gut wrenching what these kids have to go through. We talked about how we, as adults, know that living in a family is far superior to an orphanage but children like these have finally found safety and security in this environment, and based upon their past experiences they are scared of what the future might hold for them in a family. The woman who was speaking with us reassured us that in all her years there, she had never seen a child not go with a family after spending time with them. But there is fear and much to work through emotionally. She also said “The girls have been waiting for you, give them time…they want to go.”.

As she finished saying that, I was wiping my tears and there appear Angela and Olesya in the office. They say “We want to go with them.” And I get up and give them the biggest hug. I can still feel how tense Angela is, but Olesya is grinning quite a bit now and is more relaxed. I can tell Angela is still feeling very, very conflicted and yet she was the one who wanted to go for certain immediately.

The girls leave to go back to class after agreeing we would all go to a café tomorrow and spend time together later in the afternoon. The social worker has remained behind and asks the translator to speak with us saying she has seen many families come and adopt kids, and sometimes they are not certain if it will work out or not…that sometimes it doesn’t seem to be a good fit. She assured us that she felt strongly we were a perfect fit for the girls, and she thought we were very good parents and had a warm and loving family that she felt good about for the girls. She said she felt we were very natural and comfortable and ultimately everyone would be very happy.

So we left, admittedly a little shell shocked, and came back to our apartment. We will go visit the girls tomorrow after 3:00 and take them out for dinner somewhere. And hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

We walked into our apartment and Dominick was almost in tears himself as he said “How unfair it was to the girls to bring them into that room which was packed with observers. I can’t believe they were so insensitive to that moment.”. I asked him how he was feeling about everything, if he had any sense we shouldn’t be doing this and he said “No, not at all, just sad and understand how intimidating that was for them. Man, they are adorable.”. We checked in emotionally with the boys, explaining what at the time we couldn’t explain…about how hard it must be to have it suddenly be real that you are leaving your friends who are like siblings to you. We talked about how it had nothing at all to do with them rejecting us, but being scared of an unknown future. We asked what they all were feeling and Kenny is afraid they won’t come home with us, and Josh and Matthew said they are fine but feel sad for the girls. We talked about how they could help make them feel more comfortable when we visit with them. We talked about patience, understanding and compassion…and they are OK with where things are at the moment, even if it is all uncertain.

And me? Hmmm…where am I with all of this? Not sure I have processed it at all, and will likely be up most of the night. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that this isn’t how I had wanted it to go. I also would be lying if I didn’t say I was somewhat prepared for this to be less-than-movie-like. I ache for them and all that this has brought up for them. I want nothing more than to assuage their fears, to help them see into a bright and happy future with us. But we can’t snap our fingers and make that happen. I can only imagine what is going through their minds right now, how they too will likely be awake much of the night sorting it all out. I am discouraged a little, as I guess we have a right to be, but extremely hopeful as well in learning how much that they had been holding on the hope we were coming even as recently as a couple of weeks ago. Overall though, I am walking surrounded in peace and am grateful for the prayers you all have been sending for us. I am not in turmoil, and that is a gift itself on a night like this.

You see, what we all forget is that older child adoption comes with a past, a present and a future. Our kids aren’t cute little blank slates like babies, where we write most of their history for them. Older children have a past that comes with them…and often is not easy to overcome. They come with attachments to people and places that we ask them to break. Adults know this is better, that families are best for kids, but kids who don’t know what a family even is can’t even conceptualize it. Olesya doesn’t even remember her mother. How can she begin to understand what a mother is and does? They are torn between the life they try to imagine to the best of their ability, and the life they are currently living which is at least a known quantity, if less than desirable.

I recognize that this is not a rejection of us at all, and seeing how every single photo we had sent was still in that little photo album of Angela’s tells me that. It is that reality unexpectedly walked in the door today, and they were not prepared, having probably long since given up any real hope we would ever be there.

And love takes time. Fantasy comes easily, but love is work. What we all have had is the hope of a love that would exist someday between us all. But that love has never had time to take root in real life, and that time is now as we get to know one another, learn to relax a little in each other’s presence, test the waters of what these relationships will be like. Their grief is very real, but so is there hope. You could see it in their tear filled eyes. So much emotion to contend with, so many conflicting things going through their minds…and so much we are asking them to walk away from on faith. Faith isn’t something either of them have had much practice with.

That’s OK, I have enough for all of us.

So no pictures today, for obvious reasons. In time, yes, but not today and maybe not tomorrow or even the next day.

We ask for your prayers for wisdom, intuition and insght, and hearts to open up over the coming days. We pray that we “keep it real” as that honesty will be the only way we can make it through. We ask that you hold the girls in your hearts as they struggle with so much right now…and that you help me be what they need me to be.

This is all part of parenting. Sometimes it isn’t pretty and all wrapped up in a bow. I have said repeatedly that none of this is a fairy tale and I am sincere and believe that. It is more like a dramedy, with moments that have us rolling on the floor laughing and others that have us heaving deep sobs. The grief is real, and so is the joy…we might just have to work through a lot of grief to get to the joy.

29 comments:

Dee said...

Oh Cindy, I am so sorry the meeting didn't go as you would have liked. I understand how the girls felt, though. I adopted my daughter when she was 13 and had been in the orphanage 6.5 years. She had no idea what it would be like, or what a real mom would be like. Would you like me to get her to write a little note to the girls and get it translated?? I know she would be happy to help.
Hugs,
Dee

Joyce said...

Cindy
thanks so much for posting what was probably a heart wrenching post to write. THank you for being so honest as well so that we can pray specifically for you all as a group but also individually.

Love to you all
JOyce

Anonymous said...

Cindy,

It is OK. To be expected. You said yourself that the girls were not told you were coming. Can you imagine? They had no time to prepare for the idea of your visit, you were just there one day...most adults would not be able to deal with this situation, much less two girls who have been institutionalized. Give them time to get used to you, your family and the idea. It is (also as you know) a huge change for them...scary again for most adults, much less two children. You are the most empathetic Mom (and yes, Dom, you, too) I know when approaching these sorts of issues - just follow your instincts. Vegas.

Bob; Carrie DeLille said...

Cindy, I now it will all be fine. It's frightening to leave familiarity. Time with you will show them. All will be well and I just want to remind you how many times we've said no more adoptions-teehee.

Anonymous said...

In some ways, your first meeting sounds so positive from an attachment perspective. It would have been concerning had they thrown themselves into your arms and not looked back. I really admire your patience and understanding. I am sure things will start to feel better for all involved very soon. I'll bet this makes you doubly glad you brought your boys, so your family can all get to know one another. Mishelle

Anonymous said...

Dear Little "Sis",
We've been counting the hours here thinking of what might be happening and praying that you have peace and comfort as you get to know the girls more and they know you. It would be very difficult for such a surprise after they had waited so long, with no warning! As they see the boys and get to know them and hear some of their stories about life back here in Colorado it will become more "real" to them. It's encouraging that they have strong attachments to friends there, which at the same time makes it very difficult to think about leaving their friends there.
The boys and Dom must have been wide eyed and hurting for them too. Their gentle spirits would want to make it better for the girls. That can happen as all gradually spend time together. There is no way they could see the deep love and joy that binds Team LaJoy on one glance. That will take time!
I'm proud of you for being honest, to us and yourselves, which is the only way to walk down this path. It helps to know a little of what they are feeling from Kenny's experience.
You have wonderful instincts and can trust yourself to gradually show them your heart. We're with you in spirit as you all continue this love story.
Love and Prayers,
Jane and Steve

Mark, Stacye, Lainey & Andrew said...

I agree with Mishelle...they sound attached and grounded in an environment that isn't easy to handle. I can only imagine how they will thrive in a family. It's just going to take some time. You guys are so understanding of their fears and willing to do whatever is in their best interest. I so admire the fact that your eyes are wide open even if it hurts your heart in the process. Keeping you in my prayers.

Hilary Marquis said...

Cindy,

I know that you were prepared for it, but I'm sorry it wasn't the joyous meeting you'd secretly hoped for. My heart hurts for your girls. Whether it makes sense to people, they are with the only family they've really known. That includes an orphanage full of brothers and sisters. I think that God is going to use Kenny in BIG ways to help the girls with the rough times ahead...he will truly "get" it. I'm sending prayers and hugs to you all. God has orchestrated this whole thing, He'll see it through to completion. Your girls may not know or understand what faith is but, I know that you do! Here's a reminder : "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" Hebrews 11:1

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above writers about attachment -- That they have deep feelings and connection to others seems very hopeful to me. I am more familiar with issues in infants -- if they scream and cry the first time new parents hold them, and try to reach back for their familiar caretaker, that is a good sign that they are able to attach to others-- but it is always very painful to new parents when this happens.

With much love and prayers,

Peggy in Virginia

Anonymous said...

We here are riding the roller coaster with you, flinging prayers and love at every up and down. Girls scared, boys awesome, mom and dad--how do you do it? As much as our prayers and love and thoughts can strengthen you, you have them all. Love to each of you, Lael

Anonymous said...

Even with patience and love, sometimes it just doesn't work out with the older ones. Find out, from them, "why" they want to become part of your family. It may NOT be because they want a family, or parents, or to be loved. The older ones feel they have that with their orphanage family and may resent you later for taking them away from that. They may, as others have, want to go with an American family because they perceive you have money and that they can send money back to their friends and families in Russia. Or they have the fantasy of American life as they see it in the movies or on television and don't realize that there will be rules, and boundaries and they will resent that and fight it because, surprisingly, they have none of that in the orphanages. We learned there were no cerfews, the only rules were no drugs and other than that they could smoke, stay out all night, drink, etc.

I am not sure how old your girls are, but if they have been in the orphanage for 6.5 years - that's a really long time and they may never become acclamated to living with a family. Older girls want to run the household and will fight you, as the female figure of the family, tooth and nail.

Just don't force them to go with you. Go with your instincts and what your heart tells you. Disappointing as it may be, in the long run it's better because you can avoid possibly 7 lives being ruined. We know of several families who traveled to Russia for older children, who, once there the child decided they didn't want to go with them. It's no reflection on you, or your family, because they haven't known you. But, if they don't want to go, or are undecided - it's not meant to be. If they do chose to go with you, just remember that you can't ever send them back if it doesn't work out in your family. And, many older children who have been adopted and come here to live actually want to go back to their orphanges and their families because they can't accept the realities of rules, boundaries, etc.

Keep you chin up and things will work out whatever way they are suppose to.
At least you can know that you gave them the opportunity and it was their choice - whichever way they chose.

Again, I am curious to know their ages.

Rachel said...

We are praying for your family and praying for the girls. It will be a hard transition, but I pray there will be peace in the midst of it all. You are doing the right thing in leaving it up to them, and they will appreciate that in the future.

Anonymous said...

In Kazakhstan, there is a fairly long visitation period. While difficult is some ways, it is truly a blessing for parents and children to have time to get to know each other. It provides plenty of time for adjustment and to get a sense of how things are likely to work out for the future.

Peggy in Virginia

Lael said...

We here at home are grateful that you are sharing your roller coaster ride. We fling our prayers and love and support with every high and every plunge. We send our love to each of you. We hurt and hope with the girls. The boys are awesome, and the parents--you truly are human angels. Love, Lael

Anonymous said...

Hi Cindy - As hard as the first meeting sounds it doesn't surprise me at all that it went that way. I agree with the other bloggers that their reaction is actually a good sign as far as attachment. And, as you stated, the "surprise" for them was overwhelming. Who knows what they were thinking? Who knows if they understood they will have time to get to know you and adjust to this giant change before hopping on a plane and leaving the only home they have known - so far! Does not mean they don't want this more than anything in the world. Once they get to know you and trust you will help them with the zillion confusing emotions of this transition this will all feel better to them. It is impossible to not fall in love with the LaJoys!! It will happen for them and I'll bet the next blog feels better! Looking so forward to Day#2! Love and prayers, Miss Joan

Anonymous said...

Everyone beat me to it, but I do believe that their reaction is the best news! They are attached, to their friends, their lives, each other. It is heart renching but you do have enough love for all of them and all the issues that come with them. I was reading your message to Martin and I think he was about to say "we'll take Valya". If only we could. How old are the girls now?
God Bless you all,
Teresa F.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

Thanks for your post, it was fantastic.
I can see plenty of good news, attachment wise if they are so attached to friends and orp. it means they can attach again, if they are good students even with no one caring how well or bad they do, it means they have the potencial to thrive, if they question what you have to offer, it means that when they do go to you it's because they chose to go.
I'd let them decide and if they keep undecided for some days, you can tell them you know both and explain they be able to have much more fulfilled lives with you than staying in a orphanage, opportunity to study, etc...
Also it might not be a bad idea to find out more about the little friend (age, health, waiting child, etc) and then try to advocate for a Colorado family to go and adopt him, that would be lifing a weight from your youngest heart.

I'll keep reading and praying for the girls to join the Lajoys and for all of you during tis journey.

Teresa

Ps. Girls are more complicated emmotionally than boys.. Be patient. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Cindy,
Regardless of how you prepared yourself, of course you wanted it to be a joyous time. I agree with what people are writing about the attachment, though - I know our daughter was told to go to us and hug us etc. When we talk about it now, she confesses how hard and confusing that was for her. And how terrified she felt. What a blessing to be able to 'get real' with your girls from the start. To show them that you care about them - what they feel, think, want. And to give them a tiny taste of life with the LaJoy family - where faith and honesty are top priorities. May God hold you all in His loving arms as you start your journey.
Sharon

Janet said...

Hi,

I adopted a 4 yr old girl, and even tho I had spent 4 or 5 weeks bonding with her, when I returned to Kaz to take her home, she told the translator that she did not want to go. Because who really wants to leave the familiar for the uncertain? I know that other children react the same way when it actually comes to leaving their 'home'. So I think the girls initial reaction is to be expected, and will improve as days go by.

Lindsay said...

Do you know Cindy, I really think that you *did* get your fairy tale today. You got two little girls who were suddenly given the most terrifying choice of all: to stay with the familiar, the known, the loved even, or risk it all. Two girls who know that bad things can happen, that families don't always work, that things can go wrong. Two girls who must have been very, very frightened, with no idea of next steps, or time scales, of when they would leave. Who would not be overwhelmed or terrified by that?

And yet, they reached for you. More scared by the idea of *not* going with you than of leaving. They walked back into that office, into your arms. Into your family.

They have friends, people they care for who they are sad to leave. How much better to know that is how your girls have been living, than to see them run without a backwards glance, with no attachments, no happy memories.

Prayers for all of you that you have a lovely day tomorrow and you have some real family time together.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cindy,
We are praying for you all!
Just remember, what God started HE will finish. Focus on the miracles that God has provided (financially for this to happen), FOCUS on that.
I think what your social worker said was correct, maybe they had "moved on in their minds" Time there together will make it okay.
Trusting that each day, will be better and better.

Tami and Tabi

smileysk8 said...

I can't even imagine what those girls are dealing with being older and unprepared for your meeting. To have hoped for so very long but maybe to have let it go and then suddenly you are really there! How overwhelming for them. I take it as a good sign they have already said they want to go with you. I am praying every night for all of y'all. Thanks for sharing! God bless!

Michele said...

Oh, what a rough day for everyone. I've had you and the family in my thoughts and prayers all day. I could never have imagined such a roller coaster of emotions. It is the first day, and they weren't told you were coming. I imagine they too are having a very sleepless night tonight. As I read your entire entry, I kept wishing we could adopt all the children. How heartbreaking! Best wishes for tomorrow, that you have a nice meal together and begin to get reacquainted in an easy way.

Paige said...

Prayers out to you, Dominick, the boys and your new daughters. Agree with others that your first meeting sounds completely understandable and natural. It may be discomforting now but all this will pass as you keep a long term perspective. You are doing all the right things--staying calm and loving the girls unconditionally.If anyone could handle this situation, it's you!!

Barb and Ken said...

Hi Cindy. You are so right. Adoption is not a fairy tale. My family had so many ups and downs, happy and not-so-happy days while waiting for our two daughters and their husbands to adopt our four wonderful grandchildren (two boys are from Kaz). As difficult as it is to live in a foreign country for so long, I totally agree with Kazakhstan in requiring such a long time in country. These weeks will allow your family the time it needs to all become one unit. Before you leave Kaz, your beautiful daughters will totally love their forever family. You are all in my prayers, hoping God will make this transition easier each day for your soon to be daughters. I can't wait to read tomorrow's post.
Barb Hines
Nina's sponsor

Barb and Ken said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kelly and Sne said...

I am sorry that the first meeting didn't meet your expectations. But I'm sure that you will look back on it someday and think that everything happened just the way it was supposed to happen. As adoptive parents we realize, sometimes the hard way, that love does act like lightening and it takes time to form bonds as deep as a family has. In fact, even when we met our boy at 10 mos old, he cried when he first came to me. I'm sure if we were to have asked him, he wouldn't have wanted to leave his life and the caregivers he loved. In fact, it took longer than our 2-week bonding period for him to actually be happier about being passed from the caregivers to us during our visits than the other way around. I look forward to reading how the story unfolds and the happily ever after part...

Pat and Alli said...

I will be praying that the seeds of love will grow and blossom and that the girls will have the courage to join your family and leave behind the only life they've know. You're patience, kindness and understanding will help them see what a family has to offer.

hugs,
Allison

Maureen said...

I'm so sorry to hear that your "first" meeting was so difficult. It's one thing to be prepared for something, but it's another to have it actually happen. It sounds like you handled things very well and have the patience the girls will need. Much love and prayers for your WHOLE family as you all get to know each other.