A Home for Three

 

After eighteen years of marriage and a swiftly approaching empty nest, my husband and I did something a little crazy. We decided to look into adopting a girl from Russia. After raising two boys, it seemed a logical choice, right?

Once we made the commitment in our hearts and began doing a little research, one child wasn’t as logical as we thought. Two, yes, two would be better. Especially if they were sisters, and we could keep a family together. Definitely a better idea, we thought. Somewhere along the way to the adoption, though, three was the final number we decided on. Definitely a little bit crazy.

In August of this year we took our first trip to Russia. For me it was a bit of a dream come true. Having studied Russian in college and never having had the opportunity to see the country or immerse myself in the language, I was full of anticipation. My husband and I worked with our agency to plan our trip and discussed which areas we might be visiting. Stavropol Region, Russia, was our destination. The region is in the southern part of the country, and lies between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea. It is an area populated by many orphanages, which are full of children who need homes, and more importantly families.

On our first trip we did get to meet our future daughters. The youngest two, Kristina 9, and Grace 11, are biological sisters. They had lived at the same orphanage for two years. Fortunately, it was a very well run orphanage. The Director was wonderful to work with. Isabel, 15, lived in a different orphanage about 45 minutes away. She had also lived at her orphanage for two years, following the death of her father. It was an amazing experience to get to meet these girls. We felt so fortunate that we were able to bond so quickly with each of them in the three days we were allowed to visit. However, the bonding also made the departure that much more difficult for us all.

What followed was two months of waiting in America for a court date back in Russia. Every week we would hope that we would receive our date. It was incredibly difficult to be so far away from the girls, and essentially powerless to protect them and provide for them. In our hearts they were already our daughters. We would write to them and send them packages. Fortunately, we did receive a letter from each of the girls during that two month stretch. Those letters and our prayers helped keep us going.

In late October we finally received our court date for November 20th, the week of Thanksgiving! As we began making plans to return to Russia, the thought of taking our youngest son, Riley, with us popped into our heads. What a wonderful cultural and lifetime experience for him!

As we flew over to bring our girls home, the anticipation grew and grew. We couldn’t wait to see them again! During our time in Russia on that second trip, we were able to spend some real quality time with our new daughters, and to get to know some of their caretakers and friends at their orphanages. It really helped us to understand where they were coming from and what they were leaving behind. The immensity of the culture shock that awaited them in America was apparent to us all. The simplest things that we take for granted in every day life would become almost magical in their eyes.

Late in the evening on a Wednesday night, we touched down in Iowa. We were met at the airport by a welcoming group of friends and family members. They greeted us with signs in Russian, flowers, and gifts. The sense of relief to finally have our girls home was overwhelming. The months and months of paperwork and waiting were over. We could finally become a family in truth.

Many people have asked why we have adopted three older girls. The reality in Russia is that older children, especially girls, who ‘graduate’ from the orphanage, are destined for a life unimaginable to most of us here. The opportunities are slim and the life expectancy short. Most families who adopt are interested in babies. The older children are seen as too ‘damaged.’ For our family, though, these girls are a wonder to behold. They are strong. They are smart. They are survivors. But most importantly, they are individuals who are able to love and be loved. And now, they are ours forever.