Orekhovo-Zuyevo early that April 2nd morning. This was to be our final moment together with Aleksandra before our reluctant return home. Although our Petition to Adopt had been completed, we now had to wait on the mechanism of the Russian judicial system to view our case and assign a court date. We were told it could be as soon as a few weeks, but as always the case with international adoptions, there were no guarantees.
The drive seemed longer that day. Our emotions covered the spectrum. We felt elated and accomplished for what had taken place, but we also felt panicked at the knowledge that we now had to leave her. I remember pausing at the stain-glassed window in the stairwell, and marveling at it's light and beauty in this seemingly dark and drab place. It seemed to represent hope in the midst of despair.
I tore my gaze away from the image and made the turn down the long hallway. There were cages of finches along the right side, and colorful rugs laid out over the worn floors. Every moment seemed enhanced to me as my mind struggled to capture every detail to store away for our impending absence.
We crossed the threshold and went up the steps and then turned left to the lobby where just a few days earlier we first met our daughter. I remember thinking how it seemed both an eternity and no time at all had passed since that first contact. As we sat and waited, we took in the detail of the bulletin board that the staff had decorated with pictures and events and decorations from the older children. Most of the children at this orphanage were considered abandoned without hope, based on the results of health screenings and simple observation. However, the board, much like the stained glass and the finches, gave a sense of beauty and life in the midst of challenge and uncertainty.
It was comforting for us to see the evidence of how they cared for the children. Our daughter would be in loving hands. My gaze paused on the upright piano... and I thought of my great-grandparents who have gone on before me. Little is much, I so desperately hoped it was true.
The caregivers brought her out to us and we had our final few hours to share with her before leaving. My favorite toy as a kid was a Tigger stuffed animal. I brought one along and asked if we could leave it with her. We played and laughed and were permitted to feed her lunch. Each day the infants received a bottle of tea and a small cup of mash. A liquid container truck delivered milk once a week, and each child had a small amount of each day until it ran out.
We spent some time walking around the facility and tried our best to savor each sweet baby breath and coo. We stood at the finch cage and talked in funny voices as we watched our Aleksandra's eyes follow the birds movements and heard laughter brighten the air. We nervously glanced at our watches and felt time slipping by. We began to hold her tighter, and the emotion started to build in our chests and spilled from our eyes. It was time to go. One by one the caregivers came out to smile at us and begin to tidy up the rooms.
I was reminded of how we felt a week ago when we had to leave our son behind, and I smiled when I realized that the pain of walking away from Aleksandra was just as great. This was our daughter. We had no doubt. She was ours, and somehow had always been ours. After a final kiss, we looked at her smiling face through our wet eyes and once again, we had to walk on faith. We knew we would move the earth to see her again. We knew, beyond doubt that we belonged to her.
|Us with our daughter, Aleksandra Elise Shepherd, final day trip one. |
We already longed for our return to bring her home.