Thursday, April 21, 2011

Aleksandra Elise: (10) The Kinship of a Bunny

The white Russian Birch trees seemed silently to stand in rows watching as we made our final circle to Orekhovo-Zuevo. We passed through the checkpoints without incident and made the now familiar turn into the complex. I knew this would be my final time here and I wanted to remember every detail so that I could someday tell my daughter about this incredible story that we all were able to live.

The Doctor and wonderful ladies
of the orphanage.

The entire staff came out to greet us as we entered the common room. All the caregivers that we had seen over our combined 12 days at the orphanage, the nurse, the doctor, and the director. Our guide Anastasia was there. She had been with us every step of the way. We had trusted her with our lives and our fortune and she had met every demand, and fulfilled every promise.

The appropriate papers were handed to the director, and Aleksandra was placed in the arms of my wife. As I looked at the faces of the Russian women who had been everything to my daughter, I was overwhelmed with the tears and love that they could not hold back as they said goodbye to Sasha. Through Anastasia's translation, we were told that Sasha had been their зайкаtheir Zayka, or  little bunny. My heart ached for them as we watched them say their goodbyes.
Time to go home.

Shepherds, Lifords, & Pribyls
We passed through that heavy wooden door one final time, along with the Lifords and the Pribyls, two other adopting families that we had come to know over the past week. We all seemed to pause together and look back at that building that we had first seen nearly 6 weeks before. What had seemed so cold and foreign, now filled our hearts with wonder. So much love, hope, trust, and responsibility has been handed to us. We could never repay them for their sacrifice. What an incredible group of people who dedicate their lives by providing hope to the hopeless, and giving treasure to the barren.

Aleksandra, Hayden, & Samuel
They boys kept staring at
These moments were magical. The sunlight absolutely sparked down from the sky and the crisp air crackled through the branches of the trees. Aleksandra was wearing the little perfect pink dress that we had brought from home, given to us by my Uncle Stephen and Auntie Michele. Aleksandra had a pink hat that made her smile every time we put it on her head. To this day, that girl still picks out hats in every clothing store we enter! Her room is full of them.

First Automobile Ride!
U.S. Embassy
We made our way to the U.S. Embassy. As we passed through the gate and under the American Flag, we were greeted by U.S. Marines who declared to us that we stood on American Soil. At that moment, our daughter became a U.S. Citizen. We made our way into the building and through the corridors and found the Immigrations Officer who made it  official. We were ecstatic. She now was our legal daughter, and she had the full protection and guarantees of a United States Citizen.

First Bath!
Back at the hotel we had arranged a Pediatrician to meet us in our room, and a thorough exam was given to our daughter. Her findings were forwarded to Children's Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio where we had made arrangements for a full battery of immunizations and examinations our first week home.
First Gerber!

We also shared our first meal out with Aleksandra, and we were joined by our new life-long friends, the Pribyls & the Lifords. We were amazed at how strongly our daughter reacted to real food! Soon though, the reality of exhaustion found us all. We were dealing with real issues of physical and mental fatigue. Aleksandra had also hit her limit on stimulation. We left the restaurant in a rush with a lot of stares as we hastily made our way out the door with Aleksandra shrieking a full blown square-mouth scream.

As soon as we stepped out the doors, we all fell silent. We had walked to this T.G.I. Friday's in Moscow and it was no short trip. On our way there, the sky was bright and the wind was warm. In the short time we dined, the wind changed and blew a snow-storm down from Siberia... and now we found ourselves in the thick of it! Aleksandra was in her Baby Bjorn, inside of my shirt. She was deeply layered, but Kel and I were not! The wind whipped down the canyon of steel and concrete and blasted us with snow. Never again would we laugh at the layers the Moscovites packed on.
Our Suite

We finally collapsed into our beds after an impossibly long day, and found we could not sleep due to sore throats, stuffy noses, and a restless little baby girl. We were still euphoric, and we could not sleep. We had intended to take a 6 AM walk about 7 blocks away to get pictures in front of St. Basil's. We dragged ourselves out of bed and dressed, and then collapsed back on to the bed. We had promised to each other that we would stand on Red Square with our daughter... but we were far too spent.

We gathered our now lightened bags and made our way with a final van ride to our Adoption Agencies office for more endless tear-filled hugs and goodbyes, and then we were dropped off back at Sheremetyevo Airport. We purchased some final souvenirs, stood in the long line with the Russians (while in Rome...), and finally boarded the plane to New York. As the wheels chocked into their bays and the nose pulled up, we breathed easy, knowing that we would soon be home. Smooth sailing from here on out.

We were exhausted, slightly ill, and emotionally high. We had smiles on our faces that would not go away, and we were slap-happy. We took turns holding our beautiful daughter, watched Disney's Freaky Friday for the 4th time, tried to force down yet another meal of smoked salmon, and prayed please God let these wheels touch the ground!

Through hindsight I can tell you, it is good that we did not know what the next 36 hours had in store.

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