Where do I even begin? It almost feels like this adoption is a big cosmic joke. Every single time we feel like we are rounding a corner, there is another delay. We, who have never once ran out of gas in our collective lives, ran out of gas on the way to the airport. We were cruising along, felt the car lurch a little, exited and died at a stop light in St. Louis with no gas stations around. Thankfully, our "phone a friend" lifeline hadn't expired so we were saved! Then, in St. Petersburg, after twenty hours of traveling and not sleeping, the monitor with our flight information went red and started flashing. We had no idea what was happening except there were some very red-faced and angry Russians. It was intimidating to say the least. After using our deductive reasoning skills we found out two things: (1) Russians do not like you putting your feet up on a chair in front of you no matter how tired your feet are and (2) our flight was delayed for six hours. I am thankful that the delay came on the very last leg of the journey and we didn't have to adjust other flights. Just another speed bump on Roman's Road Home.
We spent the last three days with Roman and he was absolutely perfect. He is a little more active, a little taller and a little chunkier. When he first came into the room, I wasn't sure he recognized us. He had just woken up from a nap and was not in a good mood at all. We didn't want to force ourselves on him, so we tried to let the Director, Nina (who is an absolute angel!) comfort him until she motioned for me to come and take him. He is not used to men, so Brock reluctantly stayed back. Roman let me cradle him in my lap and seemed to settle down as I whispered in his little ear. He put his little forehead on my neck and melted in my arms and every trip to the Secretary of State's office, every document, every delay faded into a distant memory and suddenly I was exceedingly grateful for every prayer of strength that carried us to that moment. We'd walk to the ends of the earth for you, Roman. Over and over again.
It didn't take very long for him to warm up to us though and before long he was laughing and pointing to us. The caregivers brought a plate of cookies and a glass mug of warm milk for his snack and we see how our little polar bear keeps his figure. Both of us were shocked when he clenched the handle of the mug in one hand and the side of the mug with the other hand and lifted the mug to his lips to slurp down all of his milk. He'd pause every so often to take a deep and very vocal breath without lowering the mug and then begin slurping again. Our nine hours with Roman went way too fast and before we knew it, it was time to go back to Murmansk to get ready for court. We received one ray of hope before we left. Tatiana told us that the Inspector (like our social worker) and the Director, Nina (the angel!) both agreed that we should petition the court to waive the 30 day waiting period in the best interest of the child. They reccommended that we mention how beneficial it would be for Roman to get into speech therapy as quickly as possible and out of these extreme climatic conditions even faster. For the first time in months, we were encouraged.
This morning we woke up feeling peace-filled and ready to put the formality of court behind us. Cue the dark and ominous music. We arrived at the court and not too long the smiling faces of our friends the Director and the Inspector entered the building, Not too long after that, our court translator, Tatiana the second (the first Tatiana could not translate for us as it is a conflict of interest since she is also our Power of Attorney) came in brushing the snow off her hat and coat. She asked us if we were nervous and we told her right then we were doing okay, we were just ready to be done with this. Brock asked her how long she had been translating for adoptions and she replied that it had been four years. I asked her if she was nervous on her first trial. She smiled and said she still gets nervous. Evidently, our tender hearted Russian translator hadn't slept well the night before because she knew that 'the entire happiness of our family rests on her shoulders". What a precious person God put in our life.
The first thirty minutes of court went deceptively smooth. We were asked to state our names, place of birth, country of citizenship and why we wanted to adopt Roman. Brock answered, rather hoarsely, "Because he is perfect." And my answer? Simply, "We have fallen in love with this little boy." The judge then directed questions to the Director and the Inspector about Roman's history. The Inspector told the Judge that, although Roman's mother lives in a settlement outside Kandalaksha, she has not made an effort to see her son since October of 2010. She has signed papers twice relinquishing her rights as Roman's mother and has been told that the implications of doing so would probably result in an international adoption. The Prosecutor in the courtroom petitioned the court to invite Roman's biological mother. The Judge then asked Brock and I individually if we would accept the court's decision to invite the birth mother to court. Of course. What else could we say? Both of us respectfully pointed out that she had made no effort to see her son and that speaks volumes about the attitude she has toward him. The Director was asked the same question and gave a similar answer and then the Inspector was given the same question. She voiced the opinion we were feeling. She did not think it would matter if we invited the birth mother or not. It was her opinion that Roman's mother had had nothing to do with him, had told her that she was very glad that he was getting family and hadn't shown up to any of the committee meetings to discuss her son. Taking time to invite her to court would only waste precious time. The Judge asked us all to step out of the room while she deliberated...
Ten minutes later we were called back in the courtroom and were all told to stand. The Judge very calmly said that she had decided she would invite the birthmother and the speech therapist from the baby home to come to court and that we would reconvene on January 26, 2011 at 10:00 AM. Just like that. The Judge said that we could use the time to make 100% sure that we really wanted to adopt this baby and I had to grab the handrail in front of me to keep my knees from buckling. The room was swirling and the Translator grabbed my arm and urgently whispered, "Don't cry. Please don't cry now." I have never felt so defeated. So helpless. All the air suddenly was sucked out of the room. "And," the Judge said with a slight smile, "You know you can withdraw your petition to adopt this child at any time."
Twenty minutes later, we saw the Prosecutor put on her fur coat and hat and walk out the door. Maybe to go home for the day? To be with her family? To run to the grocery store where she could read the labels and decide what she could make for supper. Just like that.
Brock paced the floor outside the courtroom practicing deep controlled breaths that I knew were his way of controlling the torrent of emotions inside of him while the Translator, the Inspector and the Director surrounded me to console the broken hearted mother. I simply wanted to fall into Brock's arms and weep. Weep for another two weeks lost. Weep for another speed bump. Weep for the depleted resources, emotions and energy. And, at the same time, I was so incredibly grateful for the sisterhood of women who were placed around me who knew our heartbreak. Each of them took turns saying we said everything correctly and we were very well prepared and, as we have heard so many times, nothing like this has happened before. Tatiana later told us that in their feverent Russian tongue, they were lamenting the circumstances that were preventing Roman coming home to a family like ours. "Please don't be angry. Please don't give up." They were pleading with me. "I'm not angry at anyone. I understand that Roman's birthmother should know where her son is going. I'm not angry. My heart is just broken."
As I later sat on a bench, numb and weary and watched these beautiful Russian ladies with their brows furrowed and their tones urgent and solemn, I was grateful that we are not in this alone. Not by any means. We have a team here who is fighting for us when we don't know how to fight. We have a team back home who is fighting for us on their knees. We are surrounded and for that, we are blessed.
We walked back to the apartment where we are staying and even though it was -9 degrees Celcius, we weren't cold. Snowflakes clung to "our nose and our lashes" and we felt nothing. One step closer to home. I believe we will stay in Russia for the next two weeks because it will be cheaper than flying home, flying back for court, and then flying back again to bring Roman home. Unless they want something else. Sergei, the owner of the small and spartan apartment in which we are staying-or "resort" as he called it with a twinkle- met us this evening to help us hook up the internet. He too was sympathetic. We have a roof over our head, a kitchen and a small market within walking distance. However, It is exhausting to "layer-up" to face the cold. It is exhausting trying to find food we are familiar with to eat (we ate cornflakes with yougrt the first two mornings because we can't tell the difference between yougrt and milk). It is exhausting trying to communicate with people who speak a beautiful and unfamiliar language. It is exhausting waiting and waiting for your dream to come true only to find that it feels like we keep approaching a mirage in the desert. I don't know what God is doing anymore. I don't understand. But, we keep pushing forward because those precious moments when Roman presses his little forehead into my neck may only last a few minutes every six months, but they are worth it. We love that little boy more than we hate this process. So we will keep pushing forward. God will have to place an impenetrable wall in front of us to show us to stop. Until then, even though He seems silent, we will proceed in the direction we felt called to go over two years ago.