Okay, day four...We met with the Ministry of Education this morning and all went uneventfully perfect! But you don't want to hear about that, so without futher ado..the post you have all been waiting for....
After we checked into the hotel, we grabbed a quick bite to eat, picked up the inspector (the equivalent of our social worker) and we went to the baby home. The inspector was a petite blonde with a sweet smile and an obvious heart for children. The baby home was tucked off the road a little bit in a very old, run down building. The grounds surrounding the home were overgrown as was much of the town. We were greeted at the door by a sweet, grandmotherly woman who had the sweetest lilt in her voice. Her eyes sparkled and her laugh came easily. She looked a little bit like Judy Dench. I liked her immediately. Brock, Tatiana (the translator), the inspector and I walked down a very dark hallway to a room with a small table and eight small chairs. We were told this was where the speech therapist worked with the children three times a week. We were invited to sit down and the inspector told us everything she knew of Roman's birth mother. Her name is Ekaterina (Katy in English). Born December 20, 1986, she too had been an orphan when her mother passed away. The inspector said that she didn't know how to have a family as it hadn't been modeled to her. Since Roman's mother did not have a job and no reliable income when he was born, he was left in the baby home's care and has been in that baby home all but two days of his young life. There is nothing known about Roman's father. She relinquished her parental rights in Oct 2010 and the Russian law requires that Russians have exclusive adoption opportunities for the first six months after parents relinquish their rights and then children can be placed on the international waiting list. We were also told that she doesn't drink (praise the LORD-an answer to prayer!) and has no serious medical problems.
During this meeting, the door opened and we saw "Judy Denche" walk in, walking slowly and bent at the waist. She was mummering softly. Tatiana shifted in her seat and we saw our son. I don't know exactly what I expected to feel when I saw him for the first time and I don't think I can articulate what I did feel. He cut his eyes back and forth to all the eyes in the room and everyone held a collective breath. Thankfully, all eyes were on him. I didn't want this precious moment to be analyzed. He was guided to the table and lifted into one of the child-sized chairs directly opposite of us. "Judy" placed a few toys in front of him and he knew exactly what do. With a death grip on the cookie in his left hand, he began manipulating the toys with his right. We were all quiet and smiling, waiting on him to set the pace of this sacred meeting. He would place a ring on the tower and cut his eyes to Brock and myself like he was trying to figure out who we were. After a few moments, I moved to the other side of the table beside him and he let me "help" him with the toys. Tatina and the inspector continued to visit by themselves in Russian, leaving the Williams family to figure each other out.
In the next two hours that followed, we colored and made "music". He liked to bang the rattle rings and crayons. He was adorable. He let us hold him and rock him. We counted ten fingers and ten toes touched every dimple at every knuckle. We also found that he was ticklish and loved to be held closed and nuzzled. At one point, Brock held him and Roman grabbed his daddy's finger and sat very still as if he were trying to figure things out. I know he can't possibly know how his life is going to change, but it certainly seemed he could sense a change coming.
The next day, we were led upstairs to a big, sunny room. There were five children in the room and when we came in, the caregivers ushered the other four out. We were left alone with Roman, Tatiana and the speech therapist. She smiled as she shared her observations of our son. It seems our sweet son knows how to charm his way into hearts. He knows which caregivers will allow him to get away with more and he uses it to his full advantage. She also said that he is a very determined little guy with a very healthy appetite. He usually likes being in the group and, without bullying, seems to get his way quite often. He plays well with the other children and, according to her, has some strong leadership qualities among his peers. We spent the precious little time we had that morning playing with a ball and a train. At one point, he was sitting in Brock's lap and when Brock reached back to get the camera, I clapped and held my hands out to him and he lunged for me. My heart lunged for him and it was that moment that I knew. When Brock took him back and nestled him in the crook of his arm, Roman popped his thumb in his mouth and gazed up at Brock. He reached his fat little hands up and stroked the whiskers on Brock's chin and started giving him the long stare of a sleepy boy. Brock laid him back and within minutes, he had quietly drifted off to sleep, opening his eyes every so often to make sure that Daddy was still there. When he woke, it was lunch time and he was carried off to another room.
Everything we discovered about the baby home impressed us deeply. It seems they do an excellent job of caring for their children, providing them with massage therapy, speech therapy, music therapy and routine, extensive check-ups. While a baby home is never ideal, we couldn't have asked for better care under the circumstances. We are blessed.
I will share the next two meetings in the next blog.