Day 4 - Our Lives are Changed Forever.
Today started very early. The train attendant knocked on our compartment door at 4:30am so that we could be ready to disembark at 5:30. She brought us some hot tea and we made a breakfast of bread and butter with jam. Many families before us have been very afraid of the bathrooms and while I would never want to make a habit of using them, I have been in much much worse. They were similar in cleanliness to any public American bathroom. The main difference was learning how to flush the toilet (a lever on the floor you step on) and turn on the water to wash your hand (press up in the facet).
Sasha, our facilitator came on the train to retrieve us and walked us to the car. She is as delightful as everyone has said. Our apartment is on the fourth floor (no elevator), right downtown Nykolaev City. It is very clean and more than adequate for our needs. Brad and I noted that it had a rather unique decor. I will explain more in the next post.
*****Grandma if you are reading this to the kids skip the next post!******
We had a few hours to grab a little more to eat and to take a shower before Sasha and the driver returned. We hiked back down the stairs and drove to the Social Workers office. We are big news to this particular office since they have never done an international adoption before. They were also dressed to kill because the national director for the Social Services Department is in town for a visit and was coming at noon. As we drove into the parking lot I started to feel queasy and nervous. I starting praying and asking the Lord to be with us in the process and prepare us if the social worker was not receptive to us being there. It felt the Lord clearly say to me to not be afraid because we were not doing this alone, that He was there with us and I felt a great sense of peace.
We walked into an older building and were greeted by the social worker. We were so relieved that our time could not have gone smoother. She only asked us if we understood that our son may never walk , run, jump and play like a normal boy. We told her that we understood and that was all she said. She was kind and motherly with a quick sense of humor. As we were leaving she told a young man and a young woman that worked there that she was leaving for a little while and that they were in charge. She looked at them and said, “I am only leaving 2 or you here. Behave yourselves while I am gone, I don’t want to leave 2 and come back to find there are 3!” :)
The Social Worker told us that we were very fortunate that the institution we were going to was the model program for all of the region. It has been rated as the #1 facility for a number of years and that the director has been there for 18 years. We were very relieved to hear this. We have heard horror stories about institutions in Ukraine and other Eastern European countries.
The Institution is in a little farming village about 35 minutes outside of town. There is a population of about 1000 people. Originally is was a German settlement and you can still see the German influence in the buildings.
We were greeted by the director, the social worker, several nannies and the physical therapist of the institution. We were told to remove our coats and to put on white doctor’s lab coats (still not sure why) and to go upstairs to the school room. It is a medium sized room set up like you would imagine a small elementary school room. A few tables, and chairs, and toys and shelves around the edges of the room. They gave us a brief history of our son’s time there that I honestly can’t remember now. It is all such a blur. We were able to record it though. Then they brought in Easton in a stroller. It feels like I should pause here because that is what it felt like...like time stood still and all sound stopped. I know there was a lot of activity going on around us with 7 people not including us in the room, but I don’t remember any of it.
Eason is VERY tiny..about the size of a 2-3 year old. He is heavily sedated. They told us up front that he is given medicine to keep him calm. It was difficult for him to keep his eyes open. We don’t have any pictures of him with his eyes fully open yet. He was not able to interact with us much and was understandably a little afraid of us. He tried to hide his face in the stroller. His nanny is very attentive and loving and he likes her to hold him. He is also very close with his physical therapist who told us that he is certain that Easton will walk with the proper help. They let us hold him briefly and then we took him upstairs to the physical therapy room so that he could get down on the floor and play. In spite of all the sedation, it is obvious that there is a very lively little boy in there. As soon as they put him down he scooted all over the room! He has rock hard little muscles in his upper body and feels very solid when you pick him up. He also holds on to Brad and I when we pick him up, which is a good sign to us since it means that he is used to being held.
He did not talk or interact with us much. Brad could get more smiles than I could since Brad plays rougher than I do. (Praise the Lord for Daddies!) He doesn’t make any eye contact yet and began to be overstimulated so the physical therapist asked if we wouldn’t mind cutting the first visit a little short for Easton’s sake. We of course agreed. The facility and all the staff really are wonderful...they truly love and care for the children and have built a wonderful facility by Eastern European standards. The children each have some individual therapy and outside exercise everyday and are all a good weight. We were able to see into the other rooms and they are well lit, not over-crowded and clean. Of course it is not what we could prefer for them to keep Easton so sedated, but we really are very blessed to find him in an institution as good as this one is.
After our visit, Brad and I just rode quietly back to the city with our facilitator and the social worker. We are needing space to digest the enormity of what the Lord has given us...the task of raising one of His beloved orphans. We jumped into the deep end of the pool today!
Sasha took us to a Ukrainian cafeteria style restaurant while she stayed in the car to begin the crazy paper chase for us. We ordered what we thought was chicken cutlet topped with mushrooms and cheese, red cabbage slaw, a potato-cake (fried mashed potatoes that looks like a pancake) and broiled chicken leg-quarter. It was actually pork cutlet, some sort of minced chicken and onion sausage in the shape of broiled chicken and an omelette type thing filled with cheese and ham. It was all really good except the pork cutlet...just not my thing and really gristly.
Everything felt like it was in fast forward today since Sasha was doing her best to get all our paper work in very quickly so that the process goes as fast as possible for us. After lunch, we piled back in the car and raced to the notary to get several documents notarized. We then dashed to the copy shop to drop off a stack of papers copied. While that was being done, they drove us to a grocery store where we had 20 minutes to race through and grab the necessities and enough food to get us through a few days. After this they dropped us back at our apartment while Sasha and the driver continue to criss cross the city on our behalf to get everything completed for us.
An interesting cultural fact was that today was a religious holiday for the Orthodox church. It is called Epiphany, which is celebrated in the Catholic church but is done a little different here. At every church we passed there are crowds of people wrapped around the street. Everyone is carrying empty water bottles that will be filled with Holy Water. It is believed that if you have a problem or illness during the year that you can use this Holy Water for a blessing or for healing. Some people even jump into the freezing cold rivers or lakes that have been blessed by the priests. It is believed that this guarantees good health all year. It is said to commemorate the baptism of Jesus and they believe their sins will be forgiven if they do this. It seemed that people thought this was a good day for us to meet our son. I will have to google more about this later since it is all new to me.
Each day until he is officially ours, we will be able to visit him from 10-11:30am. Our driver will pick us up and take us there each day Mon.-Fri. We are not permitted to visit on weekends. :(