At 9:30am, with little sleep or food, we headed off to the orphanage. The time in the hotel leading up to that was nerve racking. I honestly felt like I was about to give birth. I was meeting my sons...my sons. I was nervous and anxious...would the take to me, what would they really be like, would they understand who I was, would the orphanage workers think I would be a good mother? I was nauseous. I paced around the room. We prayed for peace, for the nervousness to go away, because we both knew God made this possible, and we needed to pull it together for the boys. So, at 9:30 we loaded the van to drive the half mile to the orphanage.
The orphanage was a 3 story, gray brick building, shaped like a large U. In the yard areas on each side of the main entrance were typical playground equipment - swings, a slide, a jungle gym - all of which looked worn.
One of the social workers at the orphanage greeted us as we entered. We were then escorted to her office, that we affectionately dubbed "the principal's office." As we entered the building, and before we left, we sat on the couch in the office.
First we learned "social" history about the boys. Here is what we know:
- Mom was 18 when she had Sam, and Rowan followed 11 months later
- Nothing is known about the fathers, of which are different
- The boys were removed from the home, and taken to a hospital for treatment
- The mother was deprived of her legal rights to the children
- Sam arrived at the orphanage in January 2008, and Rowan in December 2007
We were then escorted to the "play room." This room was on the second floor of the building. I noticed the stairwell was brightly painted with cartoon like images. It seemed to be welcoming and cheerful. We were greeted by a Russian woman in a white coat. She was the physician that would review the medical information with us. I had my notebook out, ready to take careful notes and ask questions. Before she could start talking, I heard jabber coming from the hall...and in walked the 2 most beautiful boys I'd ever seen, one on each side of the social worker, holding her hand.
They were beautiful. They were just like the photos. They were my sons.
I heard nothing the doctor said after that. Steve walked over to say hello to the boys...and Rowan started crying. The boys had never seen men, and Steve is a bit intimidating. All of the orphanage workers are female. All of them. I immediately put my notebook down and went to comfort him. He cried large tears for a good half hour, and I didn't have anything to wipe them. I eventually snagged a tissue and wiped away his tears. Sam came over to say hello as Steve finished taking notes about the health status of the boys.
I knitted little blankets with bunny heads for each of them. I gave each boy his bunny, and both seems kind of excited. I grabbed some graham cracker that we packed, and gave one to each boy. Sam quickly ate his and in Russian asked for another (at least I think that's what he wanted). Rowan held tightly to his cracker, one in each hand. Rowan sat in my lap for a while, not doing much of anything.
We brought bubbles for the boys to play with, because who doesn't like bubbles? I showed Sam how to dip the stick in the solution and blow the bubbles. He nor Rowan were impressed with the actual bubbles, but Sam wanted to do it himself. After me showing him once, he grabbed the stick, dipped it in the solution, and held it up to his mouth to blow. His mouth was mid-stick, but he got the concept - dip and blow. Once Steve was done with the doctor, he came over and continued blowing bubbles with Sam. For the hour we were there in the morning, Sam would blow bubbles, asking to hold the bottle himself. He tried to take it from Steve once, and most of it ended up on him. Sam also gave lots of hugs.
Rowan kept quiet and still. He eventually ate his crackers, but not before there were smashed to crumbs. Near the end of our time, Rowan and I started to play with the balls from the ball pit, but he did not speak, and he did not show much emotion.
Before we knew it, lunch time had arrived, and the boys were whisked away. We would be able to return later that afternoon.
Here are some photos from the morning of our visit.
Rowan and momma...the green stuff is ointment for mosquito bites.
Sam, kind of unsure.