We woke up Tuesday morning a little (OK-alot) anxious about the day. This is the day that we are going to meet Irina, and what if there is a problem? Andrei picked us up about 10:00 for our 11:00 appointment with the Ministry of Education. The MOE is not that far from the apartment, but the traffic in Moscow is unlike anything we have ever seen. Imagine NYC, multiply by 3, and then increase the square mileage of the intense traffic by about 12 times. Sorry for the math lingo, but that was my degree. Anyway, all the drivers drive everywhere - even backwards on major thoroughfares - and they park everywhere, especially on sidewalks. The amazing thing is there are no wrecks. Everyone cuts off everyone else, but everyone allows themselves to be cutoff. It's really bizarre. There is no road rage; that's just the way they drive over there. I have driven in many cities in the U.S. where I have truly wondered if there are any traffic laws. I don't want to mention them because some of you are from these cities. So if you think that you have some understanding of what I'm talking about, let me reassure that you have NO IDEA! Nothing compares to Moscow. Steve and I just kept our eyes forward or looked at each other. I think there may be a contest to see just how close you can get to another car without hitting it. I have never been so happy to arrive at our destination.
We waited to go into the MOE office for awhile, and shortly after we arrived we met Sergei, another coordinator who was helping with our case. We went into the MOE office, where we saw the original referral and picture that had been emailed to us earlier, but now we could see it clearly. She looked pretty grumpy in the picture, which we found out later is a good thing because it shows that she feels something. So many of these kids lose their capacity for emotion because their experiences have taught them that there's no reason to express emotion. They are unable to focus on the camera, but Irina was looking right at it, and she was mad. Ironically, these are all good things. The ladies in the office asked why we wanted to adopt, so we took out pictures of the boys and told them we wanted a little girl. They asked if we wanted to move forward with Irina, and we cautiously told them yes. They gave us the document that would allow us to enter the orphanage to meet Irina, and we left.
When we arrived at the orphanage (Once again, we were glad we arrived safely!), Andrei and Sergei did some work while we were told to sit on the couch. Then, when they were finished, Andrei took us to McDonald's for lunch while we waited for the orphanage director / head doctor to be available. McDonald's was actually pretty reasonably priced, but the French Fries weren't very good. Everything else tastes the same as in the U.S. We went back to the orphanage and met with the orphanage director, who is also the head doctor. We asked all our questions, which had been approved by Sergei so that we wouldn't offend anyone, and she answered each one honestly (as far as we know). For instance, she said that Irina knew the 6 basic colors, but there's no way we can check that because we don't speak Russian! After a little bit, they brought Irina in, and she just clung to her caregiver. She looked so scared and shaken, but they also woke her up from her nap early. We were pretty encouraged by all the doctor / director had told us, but we still needed to play with her to see how she was doing. All this sounds so impersonal, but we have one special needs child, we can't do 2, and this is a life-long decision. Also, we have been crushed so many times in our efforts to build our family, that we have mastered the "guardedly excited" emotion. We basically are in "work mode" until we have all our information. We don't allow ourselves to attach until we know all that we can. This may not work for everyone, but it works for us.
Andrei and Sergei stayed for a little bit to help Irina feel comfortable with us. They played with her, speaking her language, to gain her trust. Then they stayed while we played with her so that she felt safe. After awhile, they left so that Irina could get used to us. As long as Russians are around, she will go to them because of the language. As we played developmental games with her, took pictures, and little video clips, we were getting more and more hopeful. Honestly, she doesn't have much of a philtrum, which concerned us, but she can do so much. She's 5 months older than Alex was on our first visit and she's a girl, but she could do so much more than Alex could - even 6 months later. This isn't a knock against Alex, but on the contrary, since he is doing so well, we thought this little girl is close to being right on track and she's going to be just fine! Since birth, she's been in the hospital and the orphanage. The rule of thumb for an institutionalized child is that for every 3-4 months they are in the orphanage, they will have a one-month delay. She did not seem to have nearly that big of a delay, and in fact seemed almost right on track for a 3-year-old based on our developmental checklists. Many times during that first visit, Steve and I looked at each other hopefully. This just might be our daughter.
After we got back to the apartment, we sent the information, pictures, and video to the doctor with whom we were working. We called her right after and she was amazed. She was the doctor who had originally given Irina a high risk, but she was changing her to average risk. She had never in her career changed her assessment, but she did with Irina. She was impressed with all she could do, she thought Irina's facial features looked good, and she said the behavioral signs of FAS would show up by 3 years old, and Irina didn't have any aggression or anger. Instead, she was so sweet and kind. Steve and I just hugged each other. We both wanted her, but we had been concerned about what the doctor would say, and we wanted to be smart. Since the doctor gave us a green light, all our concerns were alleviated. Irina was going to be our daughter!
Now I ate. My breakfast had been an oatmeal bar, and lunch had been a Sprite since my stomach was tied up in knots. With our decision made, I ate, and it felt good! I also started cross stitching Irina's Christmas stocking that night. I didn't want to start it until we knew who our daughter would be so I could make it with her in mind. It may not be done by this Christmas, but it'll be close.