After finally getting through the gauntlet of crazy travel (see previous post), we arrived at court in Cheboksary. The only person we were allowed to bring in the court room with us was Natasha, who would be our translator during the hearing. We had met her briefly on our first trip to Russia back in May because she had translated some documents for us that were filed with the government. The two people we were used to traveling with, Tatyana and Pasha, were not allowed to be in the court room with us. This was really hard for us because they were our security blankets. Anytime we went anywhere in Russia, one of them was always with us, so that already made us feel a bit uneasy.
The court room was very interesting. We were using the criminal court room because the civil court room was apparently unavailable. The room was fairly large with the ability to see about 100 people. It was very stark with minimal ornamentation. The jury box was on our right and on the left hand side there was actually a small cell with bars, which was a bit surreal. The only other people in the room besides us and Natasha were a doctor from the baby house and a representative from the Russian Department of Education, both of whom we had met before. There also was a court reporter, and then eventually the judge came in once the hearing started. The entire hearing was in Russian, and Natasha had to translate everything for us.
There was construction going on outside, so they had to close all the windows so that we could hear. There was no air conditioning, which caused the room to heat up as the day went along. We had been told this judge liked to really drag on the proceedings and grill potential parents, so we were extremely nervous. Most adoption cases last about 60-90 minutes, ours would end up lasting almost 6 hours.
After the judge made some opening comments and set out some ground rules, I was asked to stand and he began asking me questions. The questions ran the gamut. He asked me where I worked, what I did for a living, what our family and home life was like, what our religious beliefs were, what my childhood was like, how we planned to discipline, if we had pets, etc. All of this was already answered in the paperwork we had provided, but I guess he just wanted to cover it again to show that he was being thorough.
He then asked me why we wanted a child from Russia, and how after meeting you briefly for a few hours we were sure that we wanted you to be our daughter. I’ve had people ask me that same question a few times over the past five years and I really don’t know that I have ever given them an answer they are satisfied to hear. But all I can tell you is that I knew that after all the paperwork, poking and prodding by doctors, crazy travel arrangements, and whatever other hurdles that we had to overcome to get to that moment, I absolute KNEW you were meant to be our daughter. The only thing I have ever been that sure of before or since is knowing that your Mom was meant to be my wife. It’s something that I know at the very core of my being, and that’s because God planned for it all along. You were never a mistake, you were never unplanned, you were never unwanted. Never. Period. NEVER! I’m more sure of that with every passing day that I take a breath. If for any reason you ever feel any differently about that, you absolutely put it out of your mind because it simply is not true.
I answered questions for about an hour, and I’ve never been more nervous in my life. The room getting hotter didn’t help either, and I honestly thought on more than one occasion that I might pass out. I had sweat completely through my shirt, and sweat was literally pouring down my head and neck. When he finally said that I was done, I’ve never been more glad to sit down.
At that point, it was your Mom’s turn. He asked her very similar questions for about 45 minutes. Your Mom is usually so cool under pressure, but I could tell that she was just as nervous as I had been. Because our translator was standing to our right, your Mom would look to her to get the translation and answer the questions. The judge told her that she needed to look at him when answering her questions, even though he had to hear it from the translator as well. But she did so great, and fought back emotions because she knew that she was doing it for you.
Once the judge had finished questioning us, he began to ask questions of the doctor from the baby house and the representative from the Department of Education. He checked with them to make sure all procedures had been followed: like seeing if you had been made available only to Russian couples until you were 8 months old, if anyone in your birth family was able to take care of you, and if they had seen us interact with you when we visited the baby house. At that point, it was close to noon and we took a break for lunch. Your Mom and I were still so nervous that we really could only eat some soup at lunch.
We headed back to the courthouse around 1pm and we started up again. At this point, it was just a lot of reviewing of documents that had been filed, reviewing pictures we had provided of our home and our family, and answering a few more clarifying questions here and there. We stopped at about 3pm so that the judge could make his decision. We waited in the hallway for about 45 minutes, and were called up to the small civil court room to listen to the judge’s decision.
As the court reporter read the information from the judge, which confirmed the details about you and us that had been presented, your Mom and I were listening to Natasha’s translation intently. What lasted maybe 2 minutes seemed like an absolute eternity, until finally at the end we were the words “the adoption has been approved”. We both smiled and almost broke down into tears. When the case was adjourned and the judge left, we walked out in the hallway to share the good news with Tatyana and Pasha. I looked over at your Mom and she was starting to cry, and I told her that she couldn’t do it because I would break down and it wasn’t likely that I would stop. We were both so emotionally drained from a long trip, a long process, and a long day, but we could not have been happier.
We knew that we’d have to go home to Texas one more time without you, but that in about 10 days when the waiting period was over, we knew that we’d be taking you home, too. On August 28th, 2008, what God had always known finally became true to the world: you were our daughter.