A year today I arrived in Almaty to meet my Jiana, who was just 8 months old at the time. I've been reflecting back on that time and all the feelings I didn't express in my public blog. I thought that sharing my real experience now might offer some comfort for those of you who are still waiting to meeting their children or those who are still processing your own experiences.
When I finally arrived in Almaty, I was emotionally and physically spent from the prior weeks of packing, shopping, worrying and prepping for baby. I felt ready for the concept of having a baby. I had it all worked out in my head. Unfortunately, I had no real hands-on experience so I was really scaired to death. The whole idea of taking on a new person that you hadn't met before was really unsettling and I didn't feel at all connected to the baby in my picture. I was really focused on getting ready for baby and didn't spend a whole lot of time even looking at her photo. She wasn't how I pictured her and that was unsettling. I prayed a lot. In my gut and thanks to the encouraging comments of the psychic I commissioned, I felt very confident that my picture baby did not have FAS. But, she didn't smile in any of the 7 photos I had of her and I was a little worried that she wasn't all that sharp.
I went to the orphanage a few hours after arriving. I was spaced out from the lack of sleep on the plane. I was excited to be living this lifelong dream I had of "rescuing a child from and orphanage", but I wished that I wasn't so groggy. My stomach felt sort of quesy as I had a hard time getting my head around the fact that I was sacrificing my perfectly good life to an unknown person. I felt like a mail order bride meeting my husband for the first time. I remember sitting in the parents' waiting room and being asked my age and why I wasn't married yet by a women from the department of health. I told her I hadn't given up hope. They brought the baby in and handed her to me. I was checking her out and remember thinking... she smaller than I imagined her, cute and vulnerable.... I felt very relieved that she didn't look like she had any mental difficencies, even though she still wasn't smiling. A few minutes later, my interpreter asked me if I wanted her. There was no reason for me not to want her, so I said yes. I felt relieved, happy, but not especially attached.
We returned to the baby house three more times and then I brought her back the apartment. I stumbled through those first few days. I didn't really know how to comfort this baby who seemed to be more easily soothed by my travel partners, interpreter and friend Delilah. I was annoyed that my adoption coordinator pushed for early custody and then insisted that I stay confined with the baby in the apartment. I had no intention of spending the bulk of my time in Kazakhstan in the apartment and soon figured out a plan to sneak out with baby.
Day by day, we got to know each other and in about a week her personality started emerge. She started to smile more and more and once she did I started to fall in love with her little by little. My arms were aching as I was gradually building up my mommy muscles. We slept together and she would wake up at all hours of the night and cry for no particular reason. She would calm down if I walked around with her, but started to cry again if I sat down and held her. I was tired, but I remember thinking that I had never been happier. It was weird.
I remember waiting to go in for my court appointment to adopt her and seeing all these exotic Kazakh faces. In my head, I was rehearsing my responses to anticipated questions.... So what bought you to Kazakhstan to adopt a baby? The court room was freezing even with a wool coat and I was thinking.... what the h--l as I am doing here? It felt very surreal.
I had a great time in Kazakhstan. But, it was a constant juggling act to balance my desires to sightsee and shop with baby's needs. I still had a way to go to settle into mothering. Thank goodness I had the forethought to encourage my ski buddy and pediatrician friend, Nanci to join me in Kazakhstan for morale support.
So now, flash forward a year. I am madly in love with my daughter, Jiana. I think she is the cutest, sweetest, smartest person ever. She is hysterical and keeps me in stiches all the time. Our house is like a Broadway musical as we dance around the house singing. Having just returned from a week visiting family, I've been repeatedly told that she is an exceptionally easy baby. My best friend from HS, even went as far as saying she is so well adjusted that she is not normal. I go to bed and get up at the exact same time I did before I had a baby. Thank G-D, she is a easy traveler. From those first few weeks, I would have never predicted this little person could be so perfect for me. She even has naturally curly hair like mine (it must be in the water at our house). So much for my late night sentimental ramblings. For anyone who is interested, I posted a long and hopefully entertaining holiday letter to our travel/post travel blog at genicejacobs.tripod.com/baby/.
I wish you all a wonderful new year, and thank you so very much for all the morale support these past two years. I wouldn't have made it though sane without you.
Jiana's proud mama
Oh, yeah... one last thing. She did the cutest thing this week. She put her teddy bear down, covered it up with her "blankie" and then motioned to me and my mother that we should whisper. I wonder if she really did want to put Teddy to sleep or if this was just a polite attempt to keep us from talking so loud.