We never thought it would happen but now we are parents
Anna and Damien set out in 2008 to adopt a child from Russia. After encountering one of the most bureaucratic regions in Russia they brought their toddler home in 2010. In the long wait to bring Ivy home Anna wrote the UK’s first handbook to Russian adoption.
Like many other couples, our decision to adopt came at the end of a long and draining course of fertility treatment. I was diagnosed with premature menopause in 2005 at the age of thirty-three. After many failed rounds of IVF and egg donor ship we realised that it would probably take a miracle for me to conceive. Adoption changed from a consideration at the back of our minds to our only chance for a family. I had done some volunteer work at an orphanage in Hong Kong during my gap year and remembering what the children experienced there, I quickly became at ease with the idea. In a sense, it was a relief to begin a course of action that had a definite outcome.
We first looked into domestic adoption in 2007 and contacted our local council, which gave us the name of several UK adopting agencies. I called ten or so agencies throughout the UK and all said emphatically that there were no white children available for adoption under five years of age and they wouldn’t consider giving us anything other than a white child. As first-time parents we wanted to adopt a younger child and I was upset when it looked like this would not be possible.
We then discovered that it was possible to adopt internationally and it seemed that Russia was the most feasible option. We did our adoption course in January 2008, went to panel in July and received our Certificate of Eligibility in November. Our Facilitator wanted to register us in Ekaterinburg. Although known as a very difficult region to adopt from, we were advised that we didn’t have any choice as many regions were closed to international adoption following the Chase Harrison case. In July 2008, the adoptive father left 21-month old Chase (born Dmitry Yakovlev) in a baking hot car for nine hours while he was in the office and Chase died of heat stroke. The father was acquitted of involuntary manslaughter by a Virginia court and this infuriated the Russian authorities.
After visiting Ekaterinburg in March 2009 to register our paperwork we waited until September for our referral. Much to our surprise instead of being referred a boy as we had put on our paperwork we were to meet a 16-month old girl.
Although I was telling myself to expect a withdrawn and possibly unhealthy child we saw a very sweet and cheerful Vera. She was absolutely adorable and the independent Moscow-based doctor we had taken with us to meet her confirmed she was healthy. We had agreed to consider a child with certain medical issues, including HIV contact. Of Vera’s long list of medical conditions, we were least worried about the HIV contact as she had tested negative before we met her. We knew that it was possible for a child to be born with its mother’s HIV antibodies and to then fight them off.
We had a tough year of delays due to problems with our agency’s representatives in the region and a judge who gave us a new list of documents every time we submitted the ones he had previously asked for. But we fought for all the documents needed (each and every one ink stamped) and the court case in September 2010 was a breeze in comparison. We were thrilled to be in Russia with our daughter again. She had obviously grown a lot in the year since we had met her (although we had visited in between) but was still the delight she was when we met her. She started to copy words and sounds and was just loving being cuddled and played with.
We took her home at the end of October 2010 and she has thrived. At first she was very active and it seemed she thought there weren’t enough hours in the day to see and learn all the new things the world had to offer. But after a few months she settled down and is teaching her doll all the things that she is learning. She has gone from being under all the growth charts when she arrived here to growing very quickly. She is talking constantly. Not all understandable but enough to be confident that she is picking up plenty of language.
We love being parents and despite the initial shock to the system of adopting a full-on toddler we have found it so wonderful that she can communicate her love and affection at this age. We are so thrilled to have her home and happy that we embarked on the wonderful journey of adoption. We had a particularly difficult journey but it pales in comparison to the joy of having our child. I wrote the first guidebook for UK parents during our long wait to pick up Vera as it seemed there was nothing out there to tell parents what to expect at the next point of the Russian process. Information on how to purchase ‘Russian Adoption: A Practical Guide’ can be found on my website www.russianadoptionguide.com. I would encourage anyone to adopt from Russia.