It was the morning of September 10, 2008. We had stayed the night in Cheboksary, the capital city of Chuvashia, while your paperwork was getting done. Tatyana, our Russian coordinator, was helping us get the official court documents of your adoption hearing. We also got your Russian passport, which we would need so that you could travel home with us to Texas. By mid-afternoon, we had everything we needed and we grabbed a taxi ride to the baby house in Alatyr.
We got to Alatyr just before 5pm. The doctor at the baby house normally goes home before 4pm most days, but he stayed late because he wanted to see that everything went well for our reunion with you. When we arrived, they had a small celebration arranged for us, with fresh pastries made by the cooks at the baby house and fresh fruit. They brought you in to see us and your Mom and I had not been as happy to see anyone in our lives. For the first time ever, we looked at your sweet face knowing that we were officially your parents. We spent a few minutes eating and talking with the baby house doctor and a couple of staff members, but needed to leave pretty quickly because we had an hour and a half drive to the station where we could catch our train back to Moscow.
On the drive to the train station, you sat in my lap (car seats are not all that common in taxis in Russia). We had some cheese crackers and a few other snacks for you to eat. I fed them to you during the drive and it began to sink in that our family was finally together. I could hardly take my eyes off of you, and I think that was the moment when I knew that I loved you, and would do anything for you.
We got to the station and boarded our overnight train to Moscow. As we got to our compartment, Tatyana and Pasha left us alone with you for a few minutes. We sat you down on the bench seat, and then sat down on the bench across from you. You stared up at us with those big eyes and I wondered what was going on in that little head of yours. At that point, the realization that you were now completely our responsibility hit me, and I think it may have hit your Mom then, too. We sat for a minute or in silence just staring at you. At that point, I looked over at your Mom and my honest reaction was to say to her: “Holy s**t we have a baby!” Not one of my more eloquent moments, I know, but we both then busted out laughing and I think it helped get us out of the sheer moment of terror in which we found ourselves.
We settled into our compartment and the train departed the station. We sat up for about an hour or so, and then began getting ready for bed. We got you in your pajamas and set up the pull down bed for you. Your Mom took the upper bed, so I was laying in the pull down bed across from you. We stared at each other for a long while after we turned the lights out. I just wanted you to know that you were safe, and that I was there for you. Ever since that night, I’ve always wanted you to know that. I hope that you never doubt it.
That was Gotcha Day number 1. Today it’s Gotcha Day number 1,826. Five years later, and we are so thankful to be your Mom and Dad.