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Alison's Journey Home: An Adoption Story - Part 4
By Nicole Sandler
Yesterday was the best day yet with my little girl. The caretakers tell me she is a
bit spoiled and can get cranky when she's not happy (as I've noticed!). I think I discovered the source of her discontent. Hunger!
I brought cheerios and some baby cookies for her, and she LOVED them. She was very happy munching away. I need to learn the Kazak word for "chew" as she just kept putting one cheerio after the other into her mouth until it was stuffed full! I wanted to give her a bottle, but brilliant newbie mom that I am, remembered the bottle but forgot the liners! Luckily a friend gave me an Avent sippy cup, which I remembered! She used it beautifully, and it really saved me.
There's another couple here with me-- Carma & Michael Hodges from Utah-- adopting a two year old boy and almost three year old girl through the same agency. They let us give the kids lunch and they gobbled it all down. Alison ate pretty slowly, but very deliberately (I think her appetizers of cookies and cheerios filled her up a bit!). It was a three-course meal of noodle soup, kasha (a sort of cereal), a big hunk of bread, and compote (which is like a fruit tea that they all LOVED!) I got the feeling that they don't usually get that much food, but since we were there, they loaded them up!
After lunch I had the happiest, funniest, cutest little girl ever. She wanted to play games, explore my face and mouth with her fingers, and walk around the room with me holding her hands up. I have a feeling she'll be running by the time we get home! She stands and walks now, but only holding on to someone's hands.
It's 11:00 AM here on Thursday morning (Thanksgiving Day) and I'm being picked up at 1:00 PM to GO TO COURT! I'll try to post tonight about how it went, as tonight will be my last night alone. Since court is at 3:00 PM, the decision usually comes down too late to get the kids the same day. They also have a little ceremony at the orphanage with champagne and chocolates (for the workers), and Alison needs to be able to say goodbye to her caregivers. So, I'll get her tomorrow... forever!
Though they are very poor and don't have much to work with, I've found the orphanage to be very clean and the workers extremely caring towards the kids! The orphanage is seriously run-down and in need of a lot of repairs (don't even ask me about the bathroom....I'm trying to find out if I can donate a new toilet) but it looks like they are doing some work. I know Focus on Children (my adoption agency) has given a lot of humanitarian aid and is helping them get the building in better shape. I gave them $200 yesterday for diesel fuel, and the Hodges bought them tables and chairs for the kids to sit at during mealtime. Carla Ondrasik (wife of Five for Fighting's brilliant John Ondrasik) collected donations before I left the states, and through her generosity I was able to bring over a huge duffel bag of things for the orphanage. They LOVED it!
There's so much more to tell. Almaty is an interesting city, and some parts of Kazakhstan are quite beautiful! The ride to the orphanage is about 90 minutes each way, and we drive along a magnificent mountain range. On the other side
of the mountains is another county that was also part of the former Soviet Union,
Uzbekistan. The mountains are snow covered, and yesterday I tried to shoot video in the car on the way out. I hope it shows just how beautiful it is... I want Alison to know that the country she was born in has many wonderful features.
Unfortunately the economy forces many women to give up their children, as Alison's birth mother did. I found out she was left on a doorstep when she was approximately a month old. They estimated that she was born in early May 1999, so they named her Maigul (meaning May Flower). Since they don't know her exact birth date, I was asked what date I'd like on her birth certificate. I decided May 3, which was my mother's birthday. As for her name, I decided to name her Alison Paige (Alison, for my father Allan; Paige, for my mother Patricia).
This is going on very long... and I have to go back to the apartment to get ready for court! Happy Thanksgiving! Since I have court today, this holiday will, for me, truly take on the meaning it's meant to have!
It truly is Thanksgiving, and from now on this holiday will be the most special one for me. Today was my court date to officially adopt my daughter. The judge actually allowed us to videotape the hearing, so Alison will be able to see it when she's old enough to understand!
The entire proceeding only took about 10 minutes. First, the judge asked me why I was there. I had to respond by saying I wanted to request that the court allow me to adopt the child known as Maigul. The prosecutor asked many questions: why did I want to adopt, why specifically from Kazakhstan, why this child, questions about my income, my housing situation, and many others that I can't even remember. It will be interesting to watch the video and experience it again. Then the orphanage director was asked some questions, mainly about Maigul's background and health history. When the director was through, a woman from the Education Department (who basically acts as the child's advocate in the court) was asked her recommendation. She said she thought I'd be a wonderful mother and that Maigul would have a great life with me. Then the prosecutor asked me more questions about how I would deal with any potential health issues that might arise with Alison (Maigul), and if I was aware!
of her background and diagnoses.
I was asked to make a final statement to the court. I'm not sure exactly what I said, but I did include something about today being the American holiday known as Thanksgiving, and being granted this adoption today would make this holiday take on a whole new meaning for me. I also promised I'd give her a wonderful life and love her forever! (It was during this little speech that I lost it... I was able to hold back the tears until that moment.) The prosecutor said that he approved the adoption, but would not grant a "court of immediate action". This means that we must follow Kazak law that states that the decree isn't official until 15 days have passed, unfortunately, delaying my departure a bit.
The judge then declared that he would grant the adoption! Galiya, the most amazing woman that works for my agency, hugged me as did the orphanage director and the woman from the Education Department. I asked the judge if he'd take a picture with me. He reluctantly agreed... we were joined by Galiya, the prosecutor and the assistant prosecutor.
The Hodges had their court date right after mine and were granted the adoption of the two children they came for. It was a very happy day. We celebrated with a dinner at a Chinese restaurant (since Kazakhstan borders on China, I thought it would be good... and it was!) It was a long day, and we didn't get to go to the orphanage today.... but we will tomorrow!
I'll be picked up at 11:00 AM to go to the orphanage to take Alison out of there for good. I'll have to bring clothes for her to wear, as she'll come to me with nothing. I will ask for something of hers from the orphanage as a keepsake, though I have no idea what they'll give me. I have a questionnaire that I gave to her caretakers to fill out asking everything from her eating habits and nap times to her likes and dislikes. Hopefully they'll give that to me tomorrow along with her complete medical file.
Luckily I've found a pediatrician in LA who speaks (and reads) Russian, that will be able to understand her history. This will be my last night as a childless woman. Tomorrow I get my daughter! I guess I'd better try to get some good sleep tonight... I may not have a full night's sleep for some time to come!
About The Author
Nicole Sandler is the owner/producer of Legacy Video Productions, specializing in producing adoption stories.