Facing my 40s single and childless – and after several IVF attempts — it was time to pursue adoption. I hired an attorney in California, but most of the pregnant women were looking for couples. Frustrated with my pursuit of motherhood, I turned to international adoption – and I began writing baby names that started with “Z” on a list.
While looking at photo listings of babies, I saw a 6-month-old girl from Kazakhstan; she was born on my birthday and her name was Darina. I launched my baby-quest and began laboring through the massive pile of paperwork. After a few weeks, I shared my news. “This is my daughter,” I said for the first time. Now, it was real.
The following day, the agency contacted me. A Russian family had filed papers to adopt Darina, and they had priority over non-citizens. So the adoption agency sent me information on another baby, Laura, and we began welcoming her into our lives.
There were hordes of requirements including physical exams, mental evaluations, home study, financial documents, divorce records, fingerprinting, and governmental approvals from California, USA, Kazakhstan and Russia.
Airline tickets in hand, with 10 days to go before travel, the agency contacted me and said Laura’s birth mom wanted her back. My paperwork had gone through, so legally she was mine; but I’d have to present an argument in court. After being assured Laura would return to her birth family, I agreed to my only option — travel as scheduled and meet the only baby available. Her name was Zulfia.
My travel companion Angie and I headed to Los Angeles, where we endured a 10 hour delay before boarding a 12 hour flight to Moscow. When we landed in the former USSR, we met up with six other people – two couples and a single woman traveling with her mom.
We were greeted by our interpreter/driver, Igor, a former KGB officer. He took us to our hotel, got us checked in and then walked us to a market. We didn’t speak the language and couldn’t even fake it. It had only been nine years since the fall of Communism. And it was cold – late November – snow and ice everywhere.
The next day, Igor took us to the airport. The plane to Orenburg, Russia was a little sketchy. When we landed, we split up into two cars. The roads to Aktobe, Kazakhstan were bumpy and barely paved. After a two-hour car ride, we arrived at Hotel Dastan. We were exhausted but ready to meet our babies. We were told we’d have to wait until the morning.
We were up at the crack of dawn, but our driver was delayed. At this point, we had waited long enough. We stepped out into the snow – it was 10 degrees Fahrenheit – and walked to the Amit Baby House.
At the baby house, the group was led one direction and I was asked to follow the head of the orphanage. She took us outside and around the back of the building. We entered through a back door and were led into a waiting room. After what seemed like forever, two women walked into the room, one holding a tiny baby with a shaved head and eyes black as olives. They asked me, using mostly hand motions, if I was ready to hold her. I stood up, my smile as big as a galaxy, and they placed little Zulfia in my arms. “She looks like you,” they communicated.
All of a sudden everything made sense. The years of crying at every flow, the in vitros, Darina and Laura – it all made sense. This was my daughter. This precious, tiny thing was who I had been seeking since I had gotten married in my late 20s.
I looked down, our eyes met and I spoke out-loud to her for the first time: “You found me. You finally found me.”
Image Credit: Suzanne Kayian