Thursday, April 21, 2011

Aleksandra Elise: (11) Are We There Yet?

The New York Skyline was incredible. We unfolded and pried ourselves out of the airplane and made our way up the ramp into the terminal. I knew it was a ridiculous thought, but I already felt like I was home. We had been traveling over 14 hours, and had not slept the night before. We were completely punch-drunk. I was smiling like a fool for the simple reason that we could read the advertisements and understand the voices over the airport intercom.

We made our way through customs, and then awaited our turn at immigration. This was our final step of the process until we started moving toward home. The final hurdle to gain the government's permission to complete our family. We completed the forms, answered the obligatory questions, and received the necessary stamps and signatures. I remember the smile on the official's face when he said, "Welcome back, and congratulations."

It was now early evening and we had collected our bags, Aleksandra was safely back in her Baby Bjorn and we had located the shuttle to our hotel. Our flight to Indianapolis was the following morning, so we had another night in a hotel. We had booked the room weeks in advance, selecting the hotel for its proximity to the airport and its accommodations. I had been looking forward to the pool and the spa all week.

We arrived at the hotel to find that our room was unavailable. They had double-booked the room. The room that I specifically secured weeks in advance. The room that included a King-sized bed and a baby bed. The room that we had been longing for all the way across the Atlantic while our daughter screamed and we lost our collective minds.

I was beyond reason. I was tired. I was sick. So was my wife. My daughter was screaming, a line was forming behind us, the clerk was telling me that there was "nothing he could do," when suddenly it happened.

The orphanage had warned us about adverse reactions to new foods. And oh my goodness... their warnings were quite valid.  Suddenly, with no warning whatsoever, not a grunt, not a smile, not a peep... my sweet little daughter dressed in pink... unleashed a torrid, an absolute tsunami from her previously sweet little bottom.

This was a diaper buster. She had a onesie on, and she was in the Baby Bjorn. All this offered no protection for me. In a blink of an eye, everything she had eaten, now in a fetid liquid form had shot from between her shoulders, out the bottoms of each pant leg, and through the fabric directly to my chest and stomach. It was, with no exaggeration, a complete explosion.

The clerk saw it happen. I watched his eyes and his expression. I lost all composure as the emotional impact of the entire trip hit me as a wall of poop.

I unhooked the harness, held my beautiful, pink-dressed, poo-dripping daughter over the expensive marble counter of the hotel, looked the clerk in the eye, and shouted, "you can either put us in our room right now, or I will change this mess right here."

There were audible gasps behind us as the crowd suddenly gave us room, and I plopped her bottom on the counter and started flinging poo from my fingertips like a monkey at the zoo.

The concierge suddenly turned to his computer, began typing like a mad-man, and miraculously proclaimed with gusto, "I have you a room available immediately." Finally, we can go relax (and get cleaned up).

We drag our bodies, our stinking entourage including all our luggage  down the hall, up the elevator and find our door. Kellie slides the key in the lock--flashing red light. She tries again--flashing red light. I take the card in my nasty hands and slide the lock--flashing red light. I leaned back against the wall and slid into a seated position. I simply sat there. I wouldn't even speak. I think I was near catatonic.

Seeing my near homicidal state, Kel rushed to the nearest phone and called the desk. I must say that I am still shocked by the speed at which the bellman reached our door and corrected the situation. He exchanged our keys, opened the door, helped us with our bags, and rapidly made his exit. For the first time in this entire excursion, we had been assisted without the expectation of a tip!

We cleaned ourselves up and collapsed for an hour. Then we realized that there was a restaurant in the lobby, and we were desperate for American Food.  We ordered nachos, chicken wings, artichoke dip, and entrees. We also ate dessert. It was wonderful. It seemed as if it were the best food in the world. Even Aleksandra (now pink and sweet and good smelling-whew!) seemed thrilled.

We went back upstairs and Kel and Aleksandra laid down in front of the T.V., and I dragged myself up to the pool. I had been looking forward to it, and I was going to swim even if it drowned me to do so!

I didn't swim long! Soon I was nearly crawling up to the room where we watched Head of State with Bernie Mac. We laughed until we cried... it was a much needed release. Soon enough, it was time to lay down. Our sleep was uneasy, and never very deep. We tossed and turned and worried about the condition of our daughter, and catching our flight.

The morning came, and we made our way to the airport, again checking our bags and going through the security protocols. We jetted off, taking another step closer to home. In a few hours we arrived at Indianapolis Airport. We were now about a hundred miles from home.

We collected for the final time our plunder and made like nomads through trams and buses that eventually delivered us to our car, strapped our daughter in the new car-seat that we had installed a week prior, paid the man, and set out south-eastward to Cincinnati. It was 11:20 PM.

It became quickly apparent that our daughter had (1) never been in a car-seat, and (2) disliked it with extreme prejudice. I make no exaggeration when I tell you that she screamed, and shook, and maintained a bright-red color for the 2.5 hour journey.

It was late. We were beyond exhaustion, and we were also now half deaf and traumatized from all the screaming.

At 2 AM, after traveling 38 hours with very little sleep, having suffered a poo-explosion, and a harrowing, inconsolable scream-fest as I tried to stay awake and remain between the lines, we made the final turn to our house and I suddenly slammed on the brakes.

To my horror (my apologies to my family, you know I love you)... I say again, to my absolute horror, our driveway and the street outside our home was filled with cars. Every light was on in our home, and we were about to suffer an ambush!

The Grandmas!
I slammed on the brakes because I immediately turned to Kellie and said, "no way I am going in there, we're going to a hotel." I don't remember what she said, but it must have been very convincing. She must have threatened bodily harm? I remember though that I conceded   that our family loves us, and we could get through this on last crazed     moment.

Our van bounced up the driveway (I drive fast) and before I could put the engine in park, out the door came a cluster of fighting grandmas. This was a priceless moment. It still makes me laugh, and all the grandmas still fuss about it. Bottom line from my perspective--it looked like the scramble after an onside kick in an NFL play-off game. I won't tell you who won, in an effort to protect the innocent (and myself).
Love at First Sight!

As great as this was, it does not receive the honor as my best memory of the night. When Caleb and Aleksandra met for the first time... I think every eye in the room (and there were many) grew damp. They both smiled, laughed, and embraced each other. I am still completely in awe from that moment.

All I can tell you, those of you who have been so patient to read my ramblings... is that I know deep in my heart that this moment was always meant to be. I make no claim to know the future, and I can't tell you how to live your own life, but I can tell you that I experienced a perfect moment, and it forever changed how I see the world.
My Mom & Dad meet

Nearly 7 years ago, and we still sit and stare at our children in wonder. It is easy to lose sight in life and forget the beauty that surrounds us. But I have to tell you, when you are willing to embrace it, when you are open to see it, the beauty in life is everything. It is all-encompassing and it is unparalleled.

I started out to make a single post about our Russian Adoption, and    now 11 posts and nearly two-weeks later I see our story and I am happy.

Auntie & Uncle!
I am overwhelmed.

We still had things to complete. We re-adopted Aleksandra in an Ohio State Court, and we had years of follow-up home-studies and reports back to the court in Moscow. All of that is behind us now and we are left with the memories of those wonderfully crazy days. How I feel about it all now is summed up in a journal entry from May 18, 2004, a couple of weeks after our arrival home
Our home is filled with joy. Two children fill our lives. Two sweet faces sleeping in the glow of nightlights. Shadows intersect in the hallway between their rooms--embracing in the echo of the shared smiles and sparkely eyes given and received by a 3 year old and a 7 month old. I reach out to this feeling of rightness. I drink deeply of this life. I am already obsessed with this desire to adopt again. We are not finished. I know we are to have another child, another story. I pray that God holds us tightly as we find this new intersect. For now though, we bask in this absolute awe.
We are now 5 years into the process of our second adoption, and our hearts again begin to quicken.

1st Family Portrait!

Aleksandra 2011

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1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your wonderful story Chad! I have so enjoyed reading about it and seeing all the pictures. You can certainly see the hand of God throughout your story. He is so awesome!