April 20th, 2007
Though there was a smile on her face, her true emotion was betrayed by the tear drop suspended just below the inside corner of her right eye. Her little hands wrapped around the railing as she watched Dascha and me descend the staircase to depart that final time. Her face, her sadness, her yearning; such was my last and lasting image of Baby House #5.
We emerged from the building to a shining light on that April 10th; it was a clear day. Dascha did not look back as we entered the car. Nikolai, unfamiliar with the car was crying; Dascha was laughing and excited. Yana backed the car up, and we left the grounds, leaving the baby house and all its precious lost treasures behind. For Dascha and Nikolai, their day had finally come.
The motion of the car and the sights of the street slowly silenced the crying Nikolai. Dascha chattered questions in a continuous stream to Yana, hardly waiting for answers. After a 15 minute car ride through traffic, we arrived at our Hotel. For the next several days, the children were always wondering if each new place was home. There were terrified with each transition, perhaps thinking the whole thing was a cruel joke and all we were doing was taking them to another baby house.
As we walked into the hotel, fear began to settle into Dascha’s expression. The reality of what was happening, the awareness of the change began to take form in her young little mind. For Nikolai, it was a smile that began to visit his face. Then a glow. For the first time, we saw joy in our son’s eyes. We walked through the lobby. Dascha’s steps were unsure. Finally we entered the elevator and then up into our room. As we entered the room, Dascha relaxed. She began tracing her fingers on the walls, bed, everything in the room. For Tanya and I, it was a mad scramble to toddler-proof the room and get all hazards onto a tiny shelf up high. The proofing we had done earlier was far from adequate. We also quickly discovered that they like slamming the bathroom door. Worried about little fingers, we placed a towel on the top.
After an hour, we descended downstairs for dinner. Nikolai was clearly excited. But for Dascha, it was too overwhelming and we had to return upstairs. We brought some food up, but she barely ate anything. She was far more aware of the changes than her brother. Her emotions were a mix of confusion, fear, joy, happiness, hyperactivity, terror, and rage.
The difficulties, though, of that first day really started when we attempted to get them to sleep. Though our attempt started at 8pm, it would be 3:30am before they slept. I stayed awake the entire night to keep them asleep. The emotional pain embedded in these children was laid bare for Tanya and I to see. For the first time, we finally began to see the hard work ahead of this to help these children heal. On that first night, I can honestly say we were fearful if the task ahead was within our ability to deliver. But we love these children, and no matter the task ahead, we will persevere.
That first day when they were ours is not one to be found in movies or fairytales. We were so very grateful to have them in our lives at long last. But we were also so very heartbroken to see the extent of emotional trauma. For those who travel down the road we have, know that those first few days are the worst of it. Some are fortunate, but many have experiences as we did. If it happens, know that you are not alone and you will endure.