Last December, when Chris and I told the kids about Alina and her need for a home, they were shocked that her parents were willing to "give her away"--in particular because they are aware of the stereotypes about Down syndrome and how Bridget defies them.
Chris and I did not truly understand, until we traveled, that people with disabilities do not have a place in the world in Eastern Europe. Scratch that. They do have a place--and unfortunately, it is behind a closed door. There is no support for parents wanting to raise children with special needs, and society does not condone raising them in public.
I am not making a value judgment. Twenty-five years ago, it was the same situation in the United States.
When we had court, we heard details about Alina's parents--their names, their address--that they were married when she was born and that they are still together. We saw their signatures on the abandonment decree they signed in the presence of a notary when Alina was two months old (per Ukrainian law--they had left her at the hospital when she was two days old, but waited until the last minute to sign, after blood tests came back confirming that she did have Down syndrome).
I sobbed in the quiet of the court room as we heard details about them.
Alina's full name was absolutely beautiful. Her middle name was the female version of her dad's name.
Her parents were both in their mid-twenties when they had her, and her mom had two miscarriages before Alina was born (full term, weighing about 7 lbs and measuring 22 inches).
They wanted her. They did. We are sure of it. I should clarify. We are sure they wanted her before they knew she had Down syndrome. We have no idea how they felt when they found out--but it meant that they could not keep the baby they had wanted--and we can guess that they were devastated.
We ache for them. As a mom, I can only imagine the pain her birth mom feels having her gone. Even if she was able to rationalize the decision to release Alina for adoption, and even if she would never want to raise a child with Ds, her mom has to feel the physical absence of her daughter.
And she has to wonder what happened to her little girl.
We look at Alina and we see a child who is so worthy of love, who would have surprised and elated her parents on a daily basis. We see a little girl who would have made a great big sister, a great daughter, a great grand-daughter.
We have to assume that her mom and dad would have been as blown away with her as we are...