Week 1

Communication at last

I’ve found an internet cafe with a (slow) wireless connection but it’s a little unreliable (oh that British trait of understatement) so keeps losing my lovely long posts!  Tonight I will compose something offline and try again tomorrow, but I just wanted to make contact so that you all know I’m still alive!

Have met Junior but no medical details until Monday so keep your fingers crossed as it’s a big hurdle for us.

Phone calls out are proving to be next to impossible (though I can’t work out why) though SMS texts from my UK mobile seem to work (thanks for the tip Ivette).

Tune in tomorrow for more information….

The story so far:

This is day 5 in Kazakhstan and my first chance to post properly, so I’ll do a quick run down of events so far…

Met my first two travel partners, The Collerans from the west coast of Ireland, at Heathrow airport and had an uneventful overnight flight to Almaty arriving very early in the morning horribly jet-lagged, none the less managed a walk around and negotiated dinner in a local restaurant. My Russian held up reasonably well until I thought I’d asked for the bill where-upon another round of drinks arrived.  Of course this has now become the standing joke of the trip – “Shall we get the bill?” “Why not, I fancy another drink” (OK well you obviously had to be there!).  Two years of Russian evening classes just for this trip and I fail at the first hurdle.

We caught an extremely early flight to Ust on Thursday morning and after meeting our two other travel partners, The Hendersons also from Ireland, we headed off to the baby-house (Brits would no doubt call it an orphanage but as few of the children are orphans and itis nothing like the victorian workhouses that description brings to mind, I will stick with the Russian description of Baby-House). At that point we were introduced to the lady from the Ministry of Education and the Director of the home and after a short meeting, were lead off to wait individually to wait to be introduced to the babies who would become our children.

We sat in an ante-room outside the directors office for probably the most nervous 15 minutes of my life.  Having been laughing and chatting quite freely bonding with each other over this grand adventure, silence settled over us like a fog.  The Hendersons were called in and disappeared (unknown to us there was another door with we each left through like actots entering stage right and exiting stage left (not pursued by a bear).  Our translator Alfiya, walked through the anteroom and disappeared into the Directors office carrying a big bundle of washing and then reappeared and called me in.  Oh God that bundle of washing must have been a child.  My child.  Was it too late to back out now?  What on earth was I thinking?

I walked in to meet Junior. He was handed over, looked at me, took a big deep breath and screamed blue bloody murder and pretty much didn’t stop except for more breath for the next hour!

Of course I’ve done all the courses and stranger anxiety is normal and therefore a healthy sign and I found myself surprisingly unconcerned by his reaction. His favorite carer was called for and she calmed him down and took us both off to a quiet room together to try to persuade this boy that I really wasn’t so bad after all. He was having absolutely none of it and although he was persuaded to occasionally stop crying, if he wasn’t crying he was eyeing me very suspiciously and glancing anxiously at his carer who stayed in the room with us. It was also explained to me that he is currently in the isolation unit as he has a high temperature and I guess being dragged off into a strange room with a load of strange people in black was probably the final straw.

Note to prospective adopters reading – carers all wear white or pale blue overalls in Ust and they are kind and jolly, doctors wear dark suits and poke needles into babies which does not I guess seem either kind or jolly,  So if you come here, make life easy for yourself and wear something light the first few days).

Since then we have visited twice a day, two hours in the morning and two in the afternoon and things have progressed slowly but positively. Each day has shown tiny improvements – Friday I was allowed to feed him his medicine from a bottle (I think some kind of soluble paracetamol), then yesterday they let me feed him afternoon tea. We only have one visit on Sunday mornings but this is an improvement on other people with other agencies who don’t seem to visit at all but instead get taken out sightseeing. Fascinating though that may be, and there is a real danger that I will come home having seen very little of Ust, it’s far more important to me at the moment bonding with him.

This morning was an improvement again as he has evidently decided that I’m not going to murder him any time soon (though he is keeping a wary eye on me) and has condescended to sitting down occasionally rather than the insistence to date on being carried at all times (and preferably facing away from me so that he doesn’t have to look me in the eye). Today he has taken to studying me very solemnly and is making some eye contact, though I suspect that it is his discovery that I am the holder of shiny noisy things (car keys) that has improved matters! Although it’s not great that he has a temperature (he has a runny nose, so I’m hoping that it’s just a cold) the advantage to being in the isolation unit is that you pretty much have the place to yourself. There are two carers on duty and at the moment only four children are ill so they get pretty good care. One of the other children, a pretty little Kazakh girl called Aida is also being visited by her American adoptive parents and we overlap by about half an hour in the morning and evening. She has a really nasty cough and they have been told that she will be in for at least another 7 days. One of the other children is only two months old and the palest baby I’ve ever seen, he’s really tiny and looks terribly sickly and I would say is only the size of a large newborn. Poor mite – I’ve never considered myself a terribly maternal person (shhh, don’t tell Junior) but it really does make you want to take them all home.

My visit today ended well, with my being allowed to take Junior into the cot area of the unit and put him down for his afternoon nap. I suspect that practicing my Russian on the carers has really got them on-side and I seem to have been allowed to do far more far quickly than other adopters I’ve heard of (happy to be proved wrong that you were all putting your babies down for naps by day 5 but were too polite to brag about it!!). For those following behind, it will make an ENORMOUS difference to you to be able to communicate even on a basic level with the carers and they are really bowled over that you have made the effort.

I’m going to try to cover things I think people might to interested in over the coming weeks – my travel partners, what the baby-home is like etc so if you have any specific questions post them on the comments page and I’ll do my best to answer. Questions about Junior are off limits as he isn’t mine until 15 days after the court decision and I am legally registered as his mother. Even very loosely bonded with these children as we are at the moment, all of us here are struck with horror at the thought of something preventing us from adopting them but it does occasionally happen – family coming forward or the court having some kind of issue with your paperwork. So I won’t be tempting fate until its irreversible.

Da Svedanya.

Against the odds – another update…

We’ve been in Kaz for a week now and are getting into some kind of routine.  Breakfast at 9am in the hotel which always has a surprising choice.  The hamburger stew was interesting but if there’s really nothing else for our delicate Western constitutions, there is always bread and cheese and tea.  Off to the baby-house at 10am until noon assuming the carers haven’t whisked Junior away for lunch or a nap and then Adrienne and I generally fall into Pizza Blues which is a restuarant with a coffee shop on the first floor. The attraction is not the latte (which is more expensive than an omelette and chips!) but the wireless network.  Network is a slight exaggeration as it is more often a Netwon’twork.  For someone glued to the internet for the past 2 years it has been like drug rehab for me to be unable to communicate by email. Added to which the phone system is unreliable and my UK mobile phone is flat with no charger here.

Junior is generally much more placid in the afternoon (thankfully for his mummy, he doesn’t seem to be a morning person – long may that continue) and though he is currently in the sick bay recovering from an ear infection, there doesn’t really seem to be much wrong with him so I suspect he may be swinging the lead a bit.  He seems to have a thing for a little girl Aida (at 12 months she is an older woman) a very pretty little Kazakh girl who is currently being visited by her new American parents.  The sick bay is great for parents as the little ante-room off is bigger than many of the others that they use for visiting parents  it has two rickety wooden armchairs and a bench and is a great deal cooler than the other visiting rooms.  The rooms my travel partners are bonding in are a little like tiny infant school cloakrooms, which very low benches and lockers and are often stiflingly hot.

Many days I am lucky enough to feed Junior his tea with his carers generally taking over about half way through, frustrated by my complete incompetence –  he thinks I am for play not for the serious business of eating but today Lena taught me the head lock approach which requires feeding from behind with your arm firmly round his head and one side of his face to stop him looking around (his is incredibly nosy and is easily distracted from his dinner).  It looks brutal but is very effective and doesn’t seem to distress him at all.  I will be available to give lessons for a minimal fee for anyone with children who are slow eaters when I get back.

We arrive back in the hotel and either go to our rooms to (attempt to) receive/make phone calls or head off shopping to the supermarket across the road or the market a little way down the road.  Dinner is generally somewhere local – the pancake place (the Maslenitza) across the road does very good basic food and very good beer and costs about $5 a head (depending on the quantity of beer drunk).  Every other night we all dine in our rooms on bread rolls and cheese from the supermarket because we’re just too exhausted to drag our weary bodies even as far as the pancake place.

It’s been an emotional journey for all of us and I don’t think I’ve ever bonded with people as quickly as I have with Adrienne and Declan, Aine (Awn-ya) and Alex.  The highs and lows of meeting your children then getting the often frightening medicals, consulting doctors on the other side of the world who ring you in the middle of the night and then discussing together the issues raised and how we feel about it.  Someone once said to me that all adopted children have special needs and that has been brought home to me this week.  Both Junior Jones and Junior Colleran have their own health issues though Junior Hendersen less so, and it has been an difficult time for us absorbing this information and making our final decision to take on these children despite their scary diagnoses. [Editors note: what I didn’t disclose at the time because I wanted people not to prejudge him is that Junior was a 2lb 26 weeks preemie and therefore very tiny and delayed and had a query about cerebral palsy as he was unable at 11 months to sit up]

But the decisions are made now, so onward and upward – the next big hurdle is court which is likely to be on 20th November though this isn’t confirmed yet.

And so we start week 2…

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