I will give you the treasures of darkness,
riches stored in secret places,
so that you may know that I am the LORD,
the God of Israel, who summons you by name. Isaiah 45:3
What an emotional 48 hours I have had. The Lord has been good to me.
My train trip from Kiev to Kharkiv was uneventful. I paid for a first class ticket (all of $50) and got a semi-private cabin--two little beds in a tiny room with a door that locked. My desire to be alone ended quickly when an older woman joined me. She came in and greeted me in Ukrainian. I told her, "English". She smiled, got on her bed, and went to sleep. That was that. I never slept a wink. My thoughts were consumed with what was to happen in just a few hours. I would finally meet my treasured daughters.
Upon arriving at the train station I hauled my [seriously heavy] suitcase and two carry-ons onto the platform. It was cold and rainy and I prayed like crazy that someone would, indeed, come and pick me up. After about five minutes a man came running up to me saying, "Uh-day?" Um, yes, something like that. I'm usually quick to set people straight when they say my name wrong (which is like, all the time). But this time I let it go, I figured they'll probably never get it right anyway. Besides, I had more important things on my mind.
My faciliator, Tatianna, is a nice lady. We have a little issue trying to understand each other. Her hubby Valentine is the driver. They take me to my apartment and tell me I have one hour to get ready.
They promptly reappear in an hour. We drive to the civil office to get the necessary paperwork we need to allow me to see the children. It's a crazy situation, and I find myself in a place of having to, once again, dig deep in my faith. Everything seems to be going wrong. Tatianna is working hard to make things right so that I can go and see my children.
I remember a word the Lord gave my husband for me the day before, "You are NOT alone. There are already an army of angels surrounding you."
I hang on to that word.
Eventually the whole mess gets taken care of, and we are finally on our way to the orphanage. We drive along rural country roads, navigating potholes the size of moon craters along the way. It reminds me of being in Africa. I sit in the backseat, fighting back the tears. It is almost too much for me. I long to have my husband here with me. But he's not, and there's nothing I can do about it. I refocus and picture the Lord sitting right next to me in the backseat of that car.
We arrive at the orphanage. It is so far out in the country. It's a cold and gray day. Everything looks so gloomy to me. I see no color anywhere. The orphanage is situated on large grounds. Some of the buildings are very old, some newer. We are escorted to a newer building. It reminds me of a school, or an office. Very official looking. This building has many rooms. All of them have the doors shut. My heart is beating at some ridiculous pace. I walk along the hallway wondering what lies behind closed doors. Or maybe I don't really want to know. Maybe what lies behind those doors will break my heart in two.
I'm taken into a small office. They say something to each other in Russian and a woman disappears into one of the tiny rooms. She returns holding my beloved daughter, the treasure we committed to adopting first. Nestled in her arms is my Hailee. I recognize her instantly. She has not changed one single bit from the photo we have. She has the whitest of white hair and the tiniest body.
I drop my purse and don't even ask her if I can hold my child--my arms automatically reach out and grab her. She is where she belongs...with her Mommy.
The room instantly fills with onlookers. They are all talking about me...I just know it. But it does not matter. Tears stream down my face as I hold my Hailee so tightly. After months and months, she is finally with me. It is too much for my heart to contain. I cannot stop the tears from flowing...and I don't care.
(please excuse the horrible quality of these pictures. I asked the driver to take pics and he accidently changed the setting of the camera. These were the only ones I could use.)
I loosen my embrace and admire the tiny angel in my arms. Her size just breaks my heart. She is no bigger than a little baby. She cannot weigh more than 15 pounds. Hailee will be five years old in just a few weeks. I struggle to comprehend it all. It is almost too much for my mother's heart to grasp. How can this be? How is it even possible for an almost-five-year-old to be so terribly tiny. The tears cannot stop, and I don't even try to stop them. I don't care what they're saying about me. I simply cannot believe I am finally here--holding the child I have dreamed of for so many months.
The onlookers are watching me intently. Are they waiting for some kind of a reaction from me? Tatianna has tears in her eyes. She too is moved by the child in my arms. I can tell that she is wanting to know what I'm thinking. I turn to her, and through my tears I tell her, "What I see does not surprise me. We have known all along that she is this small and delayed."
She seems relieved.
As I examine Hailee's sweet little face, something seems strange to me, but I cannot put my finger on exactly what it is. A sick feeling is in my stomach. Something is not right. Hailee has a blank stare on her face. She cannot focus on anything. She is moaning and groaning, and makes strange clicking sounds. All things I know to be very common in institutionalized children. But something else is bugging me. Another doctor walks into the room and asks me if there is anything I would like to know.
Yes, there is.
"Is she on any medication?" I ask.
She looks through the stack of notes on her lap. She says something to Tatianna.
"The doctor says that she is on medication. She says they give her medicine for best sleep in the morning and in the evening."
Um, sleeping medicine? A sedative? Each morning AND each evening.
It all makes sense. Oh my goodness. My child is drugged. Day in and day out. That's why she has the blank stare on her face. She is unable to focus on anything. She is drugged. For almost five years of her life. She feels like a floppy ragdoll in my arms.
Tatianna asks me if I know why they do that. I nod and tell her yes.
Of course I know why. The sweet little angel lying in my arms spends her days and her nights, sleeping.
Dear Lord Jesus, how can this be?
It's a lot to take in. I pull her into my chest and weep for her. This treasure in my arms--just waiting to be found. Waiting....and literally wasting away. It is more than I can bear.
The next twenty minutes I spend just holding Hailee. She molds into my body like she was always meant to be there. I whisper words of hope and love into her ears. I know she cannot understand me, but I pray that God would reassure her that everything is going to be better than okay.
The time passes by quickly. Time is ticking by and they want us to leave before lunch. I still have another daughter I need to meet. With an aching heart I give my precious Hailee back to the caretaker. I watch as they put her back where they got her from--a crib.
I pull myself together and we walk into another small office-like room. Another caretaker quickly appears with a very sleepy little girl in her arms. They had to wake her up from her nap.
Oh my heart. I take the sleepy treasure and she lays her sweet little head on my chest. She is trying hard to wake up. I recognize her beautiful eyes from the photo we have stared at for nine months. She is my Harper. She has changed--she has actually grown since the picture was taken. She is also very small but not alarmingly so like her sister.
We snuggle for a few minutes. I am itching to look at her closely but relish the minutes I have just holding her close. She is an angel. She looks more like a toddler now. She has fine, wispy hair and the puffiest cheeks ever. I can't help but lean down and kiss those sweet cheeks.
Harper finally starts waking up a little more. She sits up and checks me out as if to say, "Who in the world are you, and what kind of language are you speaking?" She makes me smile. I can tell that this one has a very sweet spirit. Oh yes, she does. She absolutely cannot keep that little tongue of hers in (very characteristic for DS children due to their low muscle tone), and it just warms my heart.
Within minutes Harper starts coming out of her shell a little. She has a smile that can light up a room. I think to myself that this little one is going to have her Daddy wrapped around her little finger. She is as sweet as can be. She is trying to suck on my fingers--and gives me a little bite here and there. I quickly discover that she does have teeth.
Then my sweet little angel looks up at me, lifts up her arms and reaches up to hug my neck. Oh, my heart. She knew exactly where she wanted to be--around her Mommy's neck. There she held on for dear life. She clung and would not let go.
At this point Valentine (my picture taker) has to leave the room. The guy was overcome with emotion. I don't think he knew that children like this even exsisted. They're all locked away. They're kept behind closed doors.They have no part in society whatsoever. It is all too much for him, and he goes out to get some fresh air.
I sit in the little chair, admiring the extra blessing God has just given us. She is a little ray of sunshine, I can tell instantly.
Harper is an angel. Sent from the Most High God to be our daughter. As I sit there, I cannot stop thanking the Lord for having us add Harper to our adoption. We only set out to adopt Hailee--but He was very specific with us about bringing this little one home too. As Harper hugged me over and over again, words of gratitude flowed to my Father in heaven.
What did we ever do to deserve such blessing, Lord?
All too soon there is a knock on the door. They tell us that it's time for the children to have lunch and we must leave.
I wanted to stay. I didn't want to leave my children there. I wanted to grab them both and take them home with me. But I couldn't. Giving my precious Harper back into the arms of the caretaker, I left the room, went next door, gave Hailee one last kiss...and left.
I held it together all the way home. I walked in the door to my apartment and fell apart. In just a few hours since getting off the train in the morning, I had experienced every possible emotion known to man. I sobbed--out of emotion, but also out of gratitude to God.
I could not stop thanking Him for the beautiful gifts He had just given Anthony and me.
It was most certainly one of the most emotional days I have ever experienced.
I could hardly wait to get up this morning and go back to the orphanage. They have given me permission to visit once a day in the morning. Valentine arrived, and off we went.
We arrive at the orphanage to find that both girls are asleep (no surprises there). I ask them if I can please have time alone with my children. They agree, and give me the "zoo room" to use. The room that smells like a pet store that has not been cleaned for six months and has birds, rabbits, and who knows what else in there. I'll take it if it means time alone, with no onlookers.
I gather my angels, and much to the caretaker's horror, we sit on the floor--just me and my girls. They clearly do not get to sit on the floor in this place. I want time to look them over, time to get to know who they are and what they are capable of doing at this point in their lives. I've heard such conflicting things, and I want to see for myself.
I get to touch their sweet skin, and kiss their little cheeks and tell them how desperately me and their Daddy love them. I tell them all about their siblings at home and how excited they are to have them come home soon.
I promise my family and friends I'll post pictures, so I try to capture their absolute sweetness through the lens of my camera. This time my camera is on the right setting. I triple check.
It's easy to get Harper to look my way. Poor baby has a cold. She is such a beauty.
Hailee took a bit more convincing. At almost five years old, she is unable to sit alone, so I prop her up against a puffy toy. Her neck is not very strong either, so I let her sit for a minute at a time, and then lie her down again. I managed to get her to look at the camera. She is so absolutely sweet and precious.
Even trying to sit for one minute at a time took a lot of effort for this treasure. My heart ached for her.
I wondered how much time she has actually spent in an upright position in her life. Not much at all, I'm sure.
I got to love and cuddle and just be Mommy for over an hour. I observed the way they are, and the things they can do and cannot do.
I learned quickly that everything I have been told about these two makes absolutely no sense. It does not take a mama long to figure her children out.
Precious Harper--a gift from above.
Sweet Hailee--we're blessed beyond description.
A determined little angel.
A sweetheart who knows nothing but life in a crib--now with such hope and potential.
My heart is full.
I am a mommy in love with two of the most incredible blessings under heaven and earth. I am emotionally drained, but ready to face the next days and weeks of finishing this process as fast as possible. I am willing to continue the fight until they are home, where they belong. I am missing my family something ridiculous, but grateful for Skype.
There is much to share, so many things to tell. But tomorrow is another day.
How blessed we are that God has, once again, blessed us with riches stored in secret places, treasures of darkness.
Thank you for your love, support, and encouragement. It truly has touched my heart so deeply.