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Adoption Journey: Train Ride of a Lifetime

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In part three of this gripping series, their journey continues.

Tracy Mazuer travel log

Tracy Mazuer and her husband once proudly proclaimed on national TV that they were child-free by choice, dammit!

Ultimately the couple changed their minds and embarked on a journey that took them 30,000 miles, cost her $35,000 and finally landed in their own backyard.

Tracy documented her experience in both words and video. Today, we find out what happens when they land in the Ukraine to adopt their first child and discover the things weren't exactly as they seemed.

Thursday, December 13, 2007- APPOINTMENT DAY

We get up and get dressed kind of in a daze. This is the appointment we've been waiting for three+ years and we already know we're not going to be shown what we came for. If we don't select a child, we're to leave the country and reapply for an appointment in two - three months. We're to meet with a psychologist and a translator at the head office in Kyiv. Yuri, our attorney and adviser, is not allowed to be in the room with us. When we began this process four years ago, things were much easier and more relaxed in Ukraine - attorneys were allowed in the room, second, third appointments could be scheduled for the following week, and children were frequently added to the system for parents to consider. Things are vastly different now.

John looks handsome in a white button-down, tie and cashmere sweater - a conservative combo I've never seen him wear. I'm in a low-key black skirt and green turtleneck with my amber heart from my 10-year-old Ukrainian pal, Kira. We look mildly sophisticated and then John throws on his snowboarding jacket and I stuff myself into what appears to be an outrageously puffy goose down comforter with buttons. I look like the Stay Puff marshmallow man tromping through Kyiv.

Because of the snowstorm we have to hail a cab. Our attorney's stuck in the metro and we're on our own. I show the driver the official letterhead of the adoption department and I thank God he knows where to go.

John and I arrive at a beautiful Ukrainian government building with a few minutes to spare. We wait nervously for Yuri on the steps in front of two ornately decorated doors that mark the entrance. We're terrified he won't make it. His cell phone still gives us a fast busy signal. TWO MINUTES before our appointment, at 10:58 AM, he arrives. We turn to walk in the giant doors, but that is not our entrance. He rushes us to a gate on the side of the building and ushers us through a side door. It's more of a service entrance. We enter, shaking with nerves and cold, and find ourselves in a tiny, gray space crammed with Ukrainians. The bleak staircase is the holding area and we edge our way in. It is painfully obvious that we're from out of town.

We have our friend on the "inside" who has trained us how to speak to the officials and generally how to behave. We are to be "less" American. We are to use minimal hand gestures, show no emotion, and NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS remain calm. In other words: Tracy, be chill.

Within moments a translator emerges, recognizes Yuri and brings us upstairs. She has a pleasant smile and gentle demeanor. I'm a little more at ease. The room is simple: We are on one side on a couch, the psychologist is behind a desk and the interpreter is in a chair on the side. The psychologist is intimidating and asks the same question Yuri did: What are you looking for? I speak first and tell her a girl under 4-years-old. John tosses in that we have 7 nephews and no nieces. We need to let them know that our decision is not because we loathe boys. It's just always been our dream to bring a girl into the family. I hold my heart necklace tight. She asks if we had other children. No. I lob our 22 years of marriage at her. We work it, but it doesn't matter.

She tells us what Yuri has told us: She has only sick children. The first file is a severely hyperactive girl around 8 that two families have met and declined. The second girl has cerebral palsy. The third has a cranial disease. I want to die. She tells us the next appointment would be in about two months. We calmly and politely share our story through the interpreter that we have waited for three years to get this appointment. There is no room for sweet talk or bargaining. She looks at us, nods her head in understanding and repeats the directive. I pose the only question we have left: "Are there any other children we should consider before we leave the country?" My heart pounds. John and I clutch hands. She thinks for a moment and then pulls out another file. YES! This is our girl! We did it!

They were hoping they'd have us against the wall and we'd agree to take home a sick child, but here is the little girl who we're supposed to have! She hands us a file of a beautiful little gypsy girl named Shizhana. She says she at one time had partial paralysis due to a "lesion on her nervous system." She's 3 1/2 and is just now starting to walk on her tiptoes with aid and that she's doing great. Wait. What? Partial paralysis? Lesions on her nervous system? WTF?

We had been guided by Yuri to accept a child because "you never know if this is the child of your dreams." We also know that we need to buy whatever time we can in country to let our friend work some magic on the inside. And besides, we don't have to adopt this child. If we find that her medical issues are too great for us to handle, then we're without obligation. But THIS IS A CHILD we might have to leave behind? How could anyone do that? Is this a God-driven plan? Is this the little girl we're supposed to bring into our family? Is this our destiny?

Now we must sit alone in Kyiv for two long days. We are awaiting travel papers and train tickets. We're cautiously optimistic and just happy to still be in the game.

Two days later Tracy and John set out on a 10 hours journey to finally meet the little girl they had been told about. See how the journey plays out.

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5 comments so far | Post a comment now
katie alu April 2, 2009, 5:41 PM

I look forward to the next installment of this series— it’s rather nail biting waiting to meet the little girl and see what happens next. John and Tracy your perservance is inspiring.

ame i. April 2, 2009, 6:25 PM

Tracy and John are so strong! I doubt I could deal with that kind of stress.
I thank God I was able to conceive 2 children.

kevin April 2, 2009, 9:25 PM

We adopted in Bryansk Russia fuor years ago. I can only laugh at the experiences that you have written about so far as we can really relate. One thing that really surprised us all of the dumb-assed statements that “friends” made to us before we adopted. Like “what in the world are you doing” or “Don’t you know that adopted kids are nothing but trouble”. We adopted a 10 year old girl and she has been a wonderful addition to our lives, but our so-called friends in many cases stunned us.
I can’t wait for the rest of the story. We waited in Russia for a month to finish the process trapped by ourselves in a hotel and town where no one even knew a smattering of English, but our Russian sure improved.

Anonymous April 3, 2009, 11:25 AM

Tracy and John thank you for sharing your very inspiring story!

Sara Jane April 3, 2009, 12:02 PM

Tracy and John your perservance is truely inspiring and a credit to parents everywhere. I can hardly wait to read the conclusion of your travails. For all your struggles you should have been able to adopt two darling girls.

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