Thursday, October 22, 2015

Throwback Thursday: Adopting Three Russian Babies


Within the next few days, our three adopted children will be celebrating their birthdays. Annie turns 9 tomorrow, and Aaron and Esther are turning 13 on Sunday. All three were adopted in the Vladivostok, Russia region.

Aaron and Esther

Aaron and Esther (born Dmitry and Yulia) were born 12 days apart in October 2002 in Nakhodka, Russia - a sea port that is a 2-3 hour drive from Vladivostok. Both of their birth mothers relinquished their parental rights within hours of the babies being born, and they were both moved directly from the hospital to the same orphanage in Nakhodka. Unfortunately, they had very little human interaction as infants. The first video we saw of Esther showed her drinking from a bottle that was propped up to her mouth with a pillow.

Children's Hospital #2 in Nakhodka. It was a rather dreary sight the first time we visited in early April 2003 - shortly after the outbreak of the Iraq War and during the SARS scare.

The story of why we decided to adopt and how we went about it is one for another time. Needless to say, however, it was an incredible experience in so many ways. I will never forget the first time we had the opportunity in the orphanage to feed the children their bottles. Aaron's eyes literally rolled back in his head, he was so hungry.

Me holding Esther in the orphanage

We had to make two trips to Russia that spring of 2003. The second one occurred in May, when we went back for the formal adoption hearing and processed the paperwork to obtain their US visas. The day of the court hearing was memorable. It was in the morning, then we drove to Nakhodka to pick up the babies, then drove back to Vladivostok. I will never forget sitting in the back seat of our Russian facilitator's car on the way back, holding Aaron. He cried the entire trip.

The day we took the "twins" out of the orphanage following our court hearing.

Playing with Aaron in our hotel while we waited for their visas from the US Embassy in Moscow. Below are their passport photos.



Annie

In 2007, we went back to Vladivostok to adopt another Russian baby, a little girl named Yelena, whom we named Annie.


Annie's Orphanage outside Vladivostok


In conjunction with Annie's adoption, I found a birth family researcher, Vladimir, who was able to find members of Aaron and Esther's birth families in Nakhoda. When we made our fourth trip to Russia in September 2007 to complete Annie's adoption, we drove there to meet some of these family members. Below is a picture of me and a cousin of Esther's birth mother, Tatyana. Though Tatyana was in Nakhodka, she didn't want to meet with us. She subsequently died of tuberculosis.


Tatyana, Esther's birth mother

The highlight of our visit to Nakhodka was meeting Aaron's birth mother, Yulia, and her mother, Nadeshda. We were invited to dinner at a home owned by one of Nadeshda's friends, where we were treated to a traditional Russian dinner featuring homemade pelmeni (Siberian dumplings) and, of course, vodka. It got a bit tricky when we explained we didn't drink. Our host was initially offended, but mollified after Vladimir explained the situation to her.

Nadeshda looking at photos of Aaron.

A not very flattering picture of Aaron's birth mother, far left, her mother Nadeshda and me.

Both adoption experiences were amazing and wonderful and challenging. Raising the three children was challenging. We weren't prepared for the attachment issues all of them had to varying degrees. The twins were particularly difficult in the first several years. There were times when I wondered whether we had made a serious mistake in adopting them and, frankly, whether I would ever be able to truly love them.

A lot of water has passed under the bridges we crossed in 2003 and again in 2007. Now, I can truly say that I love them as much as I do any of my biological children, and I cannot imagine life without them. They're pretty amazing.

Esther, Aaron and Annie - Maui, June 2015

Levi, our biological surprise born in between the two adoptions

A happy family. The kids love Mark, and he loves them.
He has been and is such a blessing in their lives.

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