"Feeling Like Family"

After the divorce, my family felt incomplete. To find the missing piece, I traveled to a Russian orphanage, thousands of miles away.

A brother and sister through single parent adoption look out the window.

After a year-long courtship, I married a funny, smart man, who seemed to be great husband and father material. His parents were still married, which I took as a good sign, and he seemed devoted to me. Two years later, while recovering from delivering a beautiful baby boy, I learned that my husband no longer wanted to be married.

Who, I remember thinking, abandons a marriage and an infant? Over the next few months, I learned how very alienating divorce can be. Friends scatter, not wanting to “catch” marital discord or hear about the woes of a breaking family. One day, I put my six-month-old in a carrier and walked around the mall. I remember walking for hours, feeling that I simply had nowhere else to go. On top of the rejection I felt, there was the question of how to manage an infant without solid support networks while holding down a demanding job.

The Missing Piece

As time passed, I began to work things out. I made new friends, and took a new job that required less travel. But I couldn’t overcome the feeling that something was missing. The two of us, my toddler and myself, didn’t feel like a complete family.

Many people in that situation remarry, but remarriage didn’t seem right for me. The few men I found time to date seemed jealous of my relationship with my son, and I didn’t want my son to feel like the odd man out in his own home. I enjoyed being his mother, and I didn’t want to diminish my time with him any more than it already was diminished by my job. Working was necessary; remarriage was not.

One day, in December, everything became clear. While in my car, waiting to make a donation at the Salvation Army, it occurred to me that adoption was a way to make my family “complete.” Although I am known as a “tough cookie,” tears began to flow down my face as I realized what I needed to do.

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My family thought I was crazy. They said I was making a huge mistake, especially where my son was concerned. Being a single mother to one child already felt like the world’s most difficult job, and a second child would bring more responsibilities. But I could not shake the notion that my son should have a sibling and I should have a daughter.

A Mother’s Determination

I sped through the adoption process fiercely. Four months later, a little girl’s file was sent for me to review. As I read through the records and looked at the photographs, I expected to hear choirs of angels singing, “This is my daughter!” I didn’t. Instead, questions flooded my mind: Should I bring this child into my home? What if she tips the scales, and I find I’ve taken on more than I can handle? What if she and my son don’t get along? But I knew that the only way I’d find answers would be to go and meet her myself.

I flew to Moscow in May. Anastasya was coaxed through the door of the orphanage’s office. She was nearly four, but she appeared no older than two. Her hair was still wet from having been combed hastily into place, and her tiny, pale legs were covered with bug bites. She looked fearfully at the orphanage women as they barked orders at her. “Smile! This is your mother! Smile at her, or she won’t take you home!”

As she tentatively moved closer, I could see the face of an angel: porcelain skin, tiny nose, and delicate pink lips. Her timid doe’s eyes seemed to ask if I would be as brusque as the orphanage women. I reached for her, but she did not want to be held.

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The orphanage staff finally left the two of us alone in the office. I handed Anastasya a pad of paper and a pen to see what she’d do. She looked at both, still scared and shaking. I drew a circle in the center of the pad. Then, to my astonishment, she took the pen from my hand and drew rays coming out from my circle, turning it into a sun. And she smiled, pointing proudly at her creation.

As we left the office for a walk outside, she reached up to take my hand. One of the staff members asked her, “Who is that?” She replied, in Russian, “This is my Mama.” Those were the first words I heard her speak.

One of the Family

Emily Anastasya has been home for a little over a year now, and words cannot describe the joy she has brought into our lives. I often look at my son and my daughter together, and I honestly can’t remember which child came via biology and which came via adoption.

I often think about her first four years. Someone else saw her first smile, soothed her teething pains, and watched as she took her first step. But I was the lucky one who cheered as she learned to ride a bicycle, and who watched her face as she saw the ocean for the first time. And I think that now, although it took a while, our family feels complete.

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