After houseparenting, Ronnie and I discussed different personalities of the kids and such on the way back from Huntsville. We talked about how the boys were complicated but fun, how the girls loved our kids, how Lena attached to Lydia and how Josiah LOVED Yura (one of the boys)! Ronnie asked if there was one that I thought we would adopt, and while I loved them all - to be honest I wasn't sure yet. He then asked specifically about Lena. I loved her.... but wasn't sure yet that she was my daughter.
On Sunday, the next day, we talked about the kids with our Sunday School class - and I even said the words "we are fully in love with these kids, but I don't feel like we both have an attachment with one particular one that we will adopt in this group." I look back now and see what was my own fear talking.... because it is almost as if making that single statement changed my heart. There is one other time in my life that I remember making a statement that I wanted to be true, but knew as soon as the words fell out of my mouth that I had just lied to myself and all those listening. This was that same feeling. When I made the statement my stomach sank... my heart started racing and I wondered if everyone else knew as vividly as I did that I had just lied to avoid my own fear. My head was full for the rest of the class of a "slideshow" of memories of Lena. In the pool, waking up, riding rides at the space center. I knew at that moment that my life was about to change. I was just afraid to admit it!
I avoided the conversation after church. Ronnie didn't bring it up. He made one statement later that day and just said "I can't get her out of my mind, Julia." The truth was that I couldn't either. But I wasn't about to tell him that! :)
On Monday morning I told him that he should contact someone and see about getting more information on her. We knew we wouldn't have a lot, but even just a little bit, I felt, would help me make the decision. He called - and they said that the info would have to be translated from an email. This ended up taking a week! During that week, we went with my family on vacation. We agreed to pray about it through that time, knowing we really wouldn't have time to discuss it. I prayed and prayed. I prayed for Lena's heart, I prayed for Josiah and Lydia, I prayed for clarity.... and I prayed that if this was wrong for our family - that we would have clear answers.... and that if it was right - then that would be clear as well.
Every time I prayed - my heart attached more to this little girl! I tried everything to run away emotionally. I tried reasoning. This was going to be expensive! This would change the birth order in our little family. I wanted to one day take Josiah and Lydia to Disney and this might make it out of our budget in the next year or so. I wasn't sure how we would work out going to the Ukraine to get her - with our kids' age... I want a new dishwasher. (HA!) Every excuse came back resounding with echoes of emptiness. We had been away from her for a week at this point - and over my vain excuses, I could hardly think of anything else, other than what a privilege it would be for her to one day call me "mom." My heart was changing day by day. I was falling in love.
On the way home from the beach, I finally admitted to Ronnie that I couldn't get Lena out of my mind. We still had no further information, and I think that was needed - I think I needed to have to admit that I loved her - even without any background information. The day after we arrived home we went to a Luau with the kids. The only question I still had in my mind was how would she interact with Josiah. I knew she loved Lydia, but I had not really noticed her interact with Josiah much at all. I was praying that I would see a connection. Sure enough, as soon as the kids arrived at the Luau, Josiah walked up to Lena and offered her his "Lei." He tried to talk to her and they interacted so well that I almost started crying! We knew when we left that night, she was our daughter. We just needed to make it official. We finally got more information the next morning and started the process of telling the people that needed to know, that we were in. It was settled - we were ready to begin bringing Lena Home!
Now, Bridgestone is not an adoption agency. They bring kids over from the Ukraine in a type of cultural exchange program. The kids are here for a month - but never during that time should adoption be mentioned to any of the kids. This is for several reasons. One is that it would violate the rules of the exchange program. Two, it can cause problems with the kids - for example, if one or two have families talking to them about adoption - but others do not, the other kids can begin to feel unwanted, or unloved.... and for groups of kids in general, this would be tough.... for those who have already lost so much, this can be devastating!
So, we could not talk with Lena about the possibility of us adopting her! This is possibly the hardest part to date! We knew we loved her, we wanted to be with her, we wanted her to know she was wanted... but out of respect for the program, and out of love for the other 7 kids that were so important to us as well, we refrained.
We were able to do a few more things with her during the week. I helped her put her scrapbook together. She had pictures printed that different people had taken - I was not choosing her pictures for her. (If you know her at all.... you will know that this little girl knows EXACTLY what she wants! She was simply giving me instructions as to how to help her :) ) I almost came unglued when she decorated a page of her scrapbook with hearts... and then chose pictures of one of the other girls that was here.... and pictures of OUR FAMILY to put on the heart pages of her scrapbook!! It was almost all I could do to not just go crazy!
The last time we saw her, we had just attended the adoption meeting that is held without the kids knowing what was happening. We all met after our meeting (and after the kids swam) to eat dinner together. My heart was aching that this would be some of the last moments with her until we go get her from the Ukraine. We would have LOVED to go to the airport with her on Sunday - but with the responsibilities that we have at church, it just was not feasible. So, this dinner would be our goodbye. I knew she still didn't know we wanted her... She had to know that we loved her... but we were being as careful as we could to protect all the kids! I was ecstatic when she went through the food line, and like all of the other meals before - she went and got the high chair for Lydia and saved me a seat - with Lydia between Lena and I - so that one last time, she could feed Lydia her dinner. She spent time with us, talking (the little we can understand of each other) and laughing... When dinner was over, it was time for us to leave. We told all the kids bye - and actually started with Lena. I knew that if I waited too long, I was going to break the rules. My heart was hurting too badly. I just wanted her to know that we loved her - and we wanted her to be our daughter!
After telling the other kids bye - lots of hugs - some kisses... a few welled up tears... we loaded in the van. I was looking everywhere for one last glimpse. She had walked away after we said goodbye.
We backed the van up, turned to leave, and then I saw her... she was not facing our van though - I didn't think she would turn... I wanted one last hug.... I thought she was not going to look. But then the houseparents for the day came and called her to go to the worship center. She looked up, and saw us leaving... she came running toward the van - smiling... Ronnie was stopping already, but she made sure he did! She ran out a few feet in front of the van... then ran to the door where Lydia was sitting and opened it. She climbed in to give Lydia and Josiah one last kiss. Held my hand through my window and said goodbye one more time. Again, it took every ounce within me not to say "we want you." I did go ahead and say "I love you, sweet Lena." she smiled and then backed away. Ronnie admitted then that it was all he could do to not just take her home then :) hahaha!!
As we left the camp, my eyes finally brimmed over with tears. They ran down my face. The slideshow of moments from CiCi's pizza, Kohl's parking lot, Bridgestone camp, lunches, dinners, swimming, the rocket center, being silly at the Luau and our last moments together was overwhelming. It was possibly the longest ride home I have had since the last time I found out I was going to lose a pregnancy... it was completely gutwrenching. She was leaving, and she didn't know we wanted her - and there was nothing I could do about it.
I was an absolute WRECK on Sunday, knowing that my girl was headed to Atlanta to fly to the Ukraine, and she didn't know I wanted her. I knew that she would know soon - but my heart just broke to think that she was sad - getting on an airplane without hope of a family wanting her. I knew that there were other kids doing the same thing. That did not provide any comfort, however, I wanted them to all have families telling them the same thing that I wanted to tell Lena! I wanted to give her presents and hugs and kisses and watch other families do the same for those awesome boys... Dima, Max, Yura, Misha and Kostya... and for the other two beautiful girls Nastia, and Sasha. I made it through the church services without losing it completely... but barely hanging on. The only thing that held me together was knowing that my God - the one who is Father to the fatherless - would be with her... loving her when I couldn't and comforting her when she was sad... wiping the tears away.
She would know soon...
Next up - the wait for an answer.