So catching everyone up a bit...
It is hard to believe that we arrived here in Alina's hometown yesterday morning! It seems like a week has already passed. We have been busy!!
We took the overnight train from Kiev on Sunday night, and got into town just after 6:30 a.m. yesterday morning. We had about an hour after we got to our hotel to shower and eat a quick breakfast, and then we were off for a marathon day which included making a quick visit to the orphanage to meet Alina and meet with the head doctor there, going to six different places to gather paperwork, documents and signatures, then going back to the orphanage for afternoon visiting hours.
After retrieving the necessary paperwork from our social worker to get permission to meet Alina, we headed straight to the orphanage. Our facilitator stopped in the main office to let them know we had arrived and to sign a few more papers. Before we knew it, we were climbing the staircase to her groupa's room. We were both a little dazed and confused at that point. We had been planning the meeting for months, and it seems like we have waited so long to finally travel. But as soon as we boarded the plane out of the States, everything began moving in fast forward.
As we rang the bell outside the door to Alina's room, our translator realized which room she was in--she said, "This is very good news. The children in this groupa are all typically developing!" We were surprised by this and elated. It means that someone sees her abilities and her potential. It also means that her delays are not as significant as they could be, given her diagnosis.
We were greeted by an older woman--speaking Russian, of course, so I have no idea what she actually said, but our translator told us we should wait in the small room just inside the door where the children have their little lockers.
I had just looked at Chris and squeezed his hand, "This is it. We are going to meet our little girl" and then we heard her coming--clip, clip, clip. A moment later, we saw our little blondie heading toward us. One of the caregivers was standing in the doorway behind her, encouraging her to move along--she said, "Alina, mama...papa" and sent her on her way. Alina was all dressed up, with a bow in her hair. I put my hand to my mouth. "It's her. Oh my...here she is..."
"Priv-yet, Alina (Hello, Alina)!!"
She came down the small hallway by herself, whimpering a little as she made her way to us. She seemed apprehensive, but she was really, really cute. We looked at each other with tears in our eyes. It was a moment neither of us will ever forget.
We saw some very neat things in Kiev, but the real show was here, in the middle of Ukraine, when a little girl with Down syndrome walked down a dark hallway and right into our life.
As Alina came into the room, she stepped around us and moved toward a caregiver who had walked in just after her. She seemed intimidated by Chris, or a little scared of him (there are rarely men in the orphanage), and we both wanted to give her some room. So we quietly watched her for a few minutes as we tried to soak in the significance of the meeting.
Our translator began speaking to her in Russian and Alina went right to her. She said, "Do you have a toy or a cookie to offer her?" We didn't--we weren't sure we would get to see her for more than a minute that first morning. So our translator pulled out a pen from her purse and a notepad, and asked one of Alina's caretakers to bring a toy for us to give to her. She was interested in both things, so we were able to interact with her right away. She seemed to prefer anyone speaking Russian over either of us :), which makes absolute sense.
She did discover her daddy's Blackberry--hmmm...sounds like Bridget :). You can see her holding it in many of the pictures from our first couple of visits! She LOVES phones.
We were able to spend about 15 minutes with Alina before we had to leave to visit with the orphanage doctor, who gave us the full report on Alina's medical history. We learned that she has a very strong immune system and recovers quickly from colds and such. She has a small atrial septal defect (ASD) according to her file--which is the defect Bridget had. Without going through all the aspects of her medical records, it is clear that she has been very healthy and is well cared-for.
Our translator asked the doctor about Alina's personality and nature. The doctor, who had been very nice--but business-like--got teary-eyed. "She is calm. She is not aggressive. She is not a cry baby. She is our little teddy bear...." And with that, we were all in tears. She then added, "She is so funny. When she gets her check-ups, she lifts her shirt and pats her belly." This woman has an obvious affinity for our little Alina. It was very reassuring for us to be able to visit with her and see that she has had thorough medical care while at the orphanage, and that the staff like her very much.
After the meeting with the doctor, we continued our paper chase for the documents which need to be submitted before we can receive a court date for her official adoption.
We finished shortly before evening visiting hours, so we were able to go back Monday night and spend a full two hours getting to know our new little girl.
Our evening visit was wonderful. We began to understand how able she is, and how much she understands. Alina is very sharp and very determined. She was interested in all of the toys we brought (we came prepared this time!).
We handed her the little photo book we had made with pictures of her immediate family. She didn't let it go the whole time we were there--even when she was interested in another item. She put several things down to grab another, but not that photo book. It was darling. She can turn the pages very well!
Tomorrow's post will include more details about our little girl--yes, our "little tank''--she is solid!! I am guessing she weighs 10 pounds more than Bridget and her feet are 2 sizes bigger than I had guessed. She is so incredibly cute and sweet.
A few pictures from today...We brought a little comb, and discovered that she likes to have her hair brushed...and to brush other people's hair...again, sounds like her sister, Bridget :):