Saturday, March 31, 2007


We have taken about 200 photos since we have been here and I wish I could share all of them with you, but I can't.

It is customary for adoptive parents to give gifts to the orphanage director, doctor, and caregivers in addition to a donation to the orphanage as a whole. We chose to take new clothing and medical supplies as our orphanage donation and presented the director with two gift bags full of alcohol swabs, band-aids, ace bandages, paper tape, and even a stethoscope. The director was thrilled and quickly handed over the stethoscope to the doctor exclaiming, "This is a do you say in English?"

After seeing how sick so many of the babies in the orphanage are, I wish we would have taken more to help them. They need formula in a bad way. We were told that JJ was given 8 oz of formula each morning, but have a hard time believing that. I am guessing he was only given this amount a couple of times a week. They are also in desperate need of jarred baby foods and vitamins. We could have purchased these things cheaply at the supermarket in Bishkek, and had we known the circumstances were so grave, we certainly would have done so. I even thought about purchasing these things after we returned that first day, but the drive into Tokmok was just over an hour away and there was not a time we would have been able to return. For those families who have not yet travelled, my best advice is to take money to purchase the much-needed supplies at the Beta Store.

The photo on the left was taken in the orphanage courtyard. The colored gazebo contains two large play pens and is where the babies play when the weather permits, which according to these people is not often. It could be 70 degrees outside and they would still dress the babies in three sleepers and a hat. It is still hard to comprehend that a little over a week ago our baby was living in a place with such incredible circumstances.

JJ is too cute. He loves attention and grows restless when sitting or laying in one place for too long. It is hard to imagine that this is the same boy who, according to the orphanage director, slept nearly 16-18 hours per day and was only released from his crib at mealtimes and for one hour of play. He seems to be adjusting well, and from all signs really likes his new parents (although I think he likes Jerret best).

Throughout the adoption process we read books or participated in courses about attachment disorder, anxiety attachment, post-adoption stress disorder, and hyperstimulation – all issues that JJ could face. We are so happy with our new baby that we sometimes forget that he is dealing with some very scary circumstances. After all, he grew inside the womb of a person who was supposed to love him and take care of him forever, and was born under severe conditions in a hospital to the same woman who left him there after only a few days. He had no one since the very beginning and was sent to the orphanage in Tokmok where he had no choice but to grow attached to the only people who ever showed him any type of affection. The caregivers at the Baby House obviously cared for this boy very much. They had been caring for him for so much of his life, and even after we found him at 3 mos. old, continued to care for him until we could come and get him ourselves. He didn’t know those women were not his mother. He didn’t even know what a mother was. And then here we bust into his life and tear him away from the only people who had ever loved him. Most people, including us, believe it is enough to go and bring a baby home and shower it with love, and that baby will realize what is happening to him. Yet that is never the case. How does he know that we too will not abandon him after a short time, or that another family isn’t waiting in the wings to swoop him up the same way we have? He doesn’t. Although we haven’t seen any signs (yet), attachment disorder makes perfect sense.

You would think that because we are spending so much one-on-one time with the babies that they would attach quickly, but that is not always the case. One of the other couples in our group returned to their child’s orphanage the other day to retrieve a blanket they had forgotten and as soon as they entered the familiar place their son bolted for one of his favorite caregivers. The staff was overjoyed at his return and their ability to see him once again, and for one last time.

There are tricks to help overcome some of these attachment issues. We are told to hold the baby as much as he wants to be held and not to let him lay in his crib until he is able to cry himself to sleep, but to instead console and comfort him. Feeding is another important bonding time and although JJ can hold his own bottle, we are to hold it also so that he knows we are there to provide for his needs. To deal with hyperstimulation, it is recommended to limit the babies activities for a while, which (for some) could include no TV or not letting everyone in the world hold the baby until he has sufficiently bonded with the parents. When we were at dinner tonight one of the waitresses was commenting on how cute JJ was and asked to hold him. I handed him over without even thinking, but after a second wondered if it was a mistake. I know he was not going to grow attached to a waitress who held him all of one minute, but if I continue doing things like this would he grow less attached to me, thinking I might be quick to hand him over just as his first mom did and even as his caregivers at the Baby House did?

As I was typing this post, I overheard Jerret singing this song to JJ:
(to the tune of B-I-N-G-O)

I know this boy, his name’s JJ,
And he liked the buckeyes
Watched them on Saturday
And we drove to the game
Then we slept on Sunday

I know this boy his name’s JJ
He drinks from a glass
Yes he can can can
You can drink from a glass
But not from a can

We just changed the second-worst diaper we’ve had since we’ve been here. We’re getting much better at it. This is one messy baby!

Friday, March 30, 2007

New Country & A Happy Baby

We are in Almaty now, and I am finally in a place where I am able to post so there is a lot to catch up on.

It was 8 p.m., pitch black and raining when we left Kyrgyzstan on Wednesday night with our adoption facilitator and the two other American couples and their children. Because of the size of our group, we needed two vehicles to make the trek. Jerret and I chose to ride in the 4-door sedan along with our facilitator. Our driver was from Almaty and spoke no English. The beat-up grey Volvo he was driving had a pungent odor, smelling on the inside as though he had used the heater for warming curry chicken.

Jerret cradled JJ in his arms, trying to get him to sleep as we drove through the night waiting to cross the Kazakh border. Surprisingly, we arrived after only 30 minutes and were told to “wake up” and get our passports ready as the car we were riding in reached a stop. Our adoption facilitator told us to follow her and we, along with the other two couples, exited the vehicle and proceeded by foot to a well-lit shack where the border patrol agents asked us to present our visas. The guard didn’t speak any English, but we understood that he wanted us to move inside as he pointed to those of us carrying babies and then again to the building up ahead. The second stop required further scrutinization of our passports, as the agents were now required to verify the stops shown on our visas before allowing our entry into Kazakhstan. JJ grew increasingly heavy in my arms and began fussing quite a bit as he was missing a feeding at the exact time we were waiting for our clearance. (The orphanage babies are on such a strict regimen that you could probably set your clock based on their cries for hunger). An hour later we were finally all finished with processing and permitted to enter Kazakhstan.

Jerret and I slept off and on and took turns holding JJ during the drive. After about 2 hours we realized that JJ doesn’t particularly care to be held 100 percent of the time, nor is he used to it, and the only way we could get him back to sleep was to lay him between us - directly on the seat. It was another hour before we finally reached the city of Almaty.

Around midnight our group of three families checked into the Hotel Otrar, which looked nice enough from the lobby. We had previously heard that the rooms in this hotel are extremely small so we should upgrade to a junior suite if at all possible. All three families wanted to upgrade to the suite, yet there was only one available. We decided to let one of the other families take the room and resigned ourselves to the fact that we would be in a smaller room for the next 6 days - until we saw what lay ahead...

We made our way up to the third floor and found our room – the smaller than small room. The 10 x 10 space consisted of two twin beds and three dressers. It was all nice, and very clean, but we literally did not even have room to turn around in there (let alone any amenities such as oh…say… an alarm clock). We were so tired from the day’s journey that we decided to crash anyway and reconsider our hotel options in the morning.

The next morning we talked with the other couple from our agency that was unfortunate enough to stay in the miniature room. They too decided we needed to look for another place and the husband and Jerret offered to explore the city in search of a new, bigger, better hotel. About 3 hours later the men returned and boasted of their find – a double room with a TV and two chairs. Bigger sounded better to all of us, so we checked out of the Otrar and into the Alma-Alta hotel.

The lobby was very deceiving and certainly looked nice enough for our stay, yet as soon as the elevator opened to our 5th floor room, I knew we were again at an inadequate place. The grey, carpet-covered floors were also covered with stains, and the same curry chicken odor that I noticed in the car the night before lingered down the hallway. The doors to the room looked as though they were made of plastic and did not deadbolt. The room was divided in two and had a separate sleeping and sitting areas, but both were equally dirty. The final straw came when I stepped into the bathroom for the first time and found tiled walls with dirty brown grout and a bathtub that looked as if it had not been washed since the 1970s. I was really trying not to be snobbish about the whole situation, but this bathtub was literally so dirty that I was not about to take a shower there myself let alone put my baby in it. And again, no amenities meaning no alarm clock and definitely no internet access in our room. We again spoke with the couple that had switched hotels with us and once again decided we would explore new hotel options in the morning.

Fast forward to this morning and I am happy to report that we found a great hotel that is ultra-clean. The room is big (again a double room) and has every amenity needed, including an alarm clock.

We stayed in most of the day today because of rain. For dinner we ventured out with our new friends and ate at an awesome Chinese restaurant called Di Wang (Jerret just can’t get enough apparently). JJ is eating like crazy and it is so cute to watch him drink out of a glass the way he did at the orphanage. That boy will eat anything and everything in sight and jumps with excitement at the sight of a bottle. We are all doing well, just ready to come home.

The water smells funny here – not just in our hotel but everywhere.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Long Night...

Our first night with baby was a long one! According to the orphanage doctor, JJ takes his last meal (which happens to be eggs, sausage, and bread??????) at 8:00 and is fast asleep by 9 - for the night. Yeah...totally not how it happened.

Jerret fed him a bottle of formula at 8:00 and he did fall asleep. Jerret put him in the rickety pink bassinet provided by the hotel and we thought we would stay up for a few hours and enjoy some down time, so we didn't bother going to bed until 11:00. (I am quickly learning that as soon as the baby is asleep we need to take full advantage of the opportunity to get a little shut eye of our own). So we laid down to sleep at 11 and by midnight he was wide awake. At first he just laid there making baby sounds and talking out loud. After twenty minutes he was bored with that and started crying. We didn't know it at the time, but he had an upset stomach and that is what was keeping him up. First Jerret tried to comfort him, and then I, yet he just rolled around and cried for nearly fifteen minutes. Jerret gave up helping me and resigned to leave him in the crib to cry himself to sleep. I was tired enough to go along with his idea when I began hearing the gurgling sounds coming from his belly. The belly sounds were loud and many and just sounded painful. His diaper provided the confirmation that we needed to know we had a sick baby on our hands. I was at a loss for how to handle his issues and luckily, with the time difference in mind, was able to get on-line and solicit help from my friends at work.
JJ slept off and on for 2-3 hours at a time until 7:00 when it was time for more food. He really didn't nap much at all the rest of the day, so hopefully he sleeps well tonight and we can start fresh tomorrow.
We didn't go out at all in the morning and I stayed in with JJ while Jerret took a walk with one of the other dads. The walked all around this city and sampled some foods from local roadside vendors. When they returned it was raining, but the other couples wanted to take a trip up into the mountains, so we all went.
The hour-long ride into the mountains was very interesting. We ate at a restaurant called 12 Fireplaces. It has a very log cabin-y feel to it and they really cooked your food in one of the outdoor fireplaces. I am happy to report that I ate an actual meal today. It was a beef kabob with french fries platter that Jerret helped me to finish. JJ slept the entire ride there and the entire ride home.
Oh - another observation of this city. For being the capital city, it is still very modest. It is not built up or "Americanized" by any means. There is no McDonald's, KFC, or shopping mall. According to Jerret, this is all very different than in China-l

Monday, March 26, 2007

Here He Is World!

I slept for only 3 hours last night and found my mind wandering for another 3. I'm not sure if it was the anxiety over what was about to happen or the fact that my internal clock still believes we are on Eastern Standard Time - probably a combination of both. After tossing and turning 30 or 40 times Jerret woke and we eagerly discussed our approaching day. Forty-five minutes into our conversation Jerret decided it was time to get some rest and went back to sleep. I tried again, and couldn't sleep at all so I began reading a book I brought with me.

We met our in-country adoption facilitator at 8:00 a.m. and our driver took us to the Tokmok orphanage where we first met our baby. Jack was bigger than Jerret expected and about the exact size I thought he would be. It was feeding time when we arrived and the caregivers gave him his last orphanage meal of applesauce and porridge, which looked like cream of wheat with corn in it. When he was finished eating they gave him juice straight from an old worn tin cup, and he lapped it up with no problem! The orphanage director asked us if we had brought clothes for him, which we had, and we handed them over to the oldest woman caregiver who quickly changed him and handed him back over to us. They must have felt that our clothes weren't "warm" enough and added an extra layer of their own clothing as insurance under his new outfit. Finally they asked if we had a coat for him and I showed the blue and green fleece snowsuit that I packed at the last minute The woman said "perfect" and bundled him up as tight as could be.

We then travelled across the courtyard and had a short meeting with the Doctor/Director of the orphanage. She spoke English fairly well and was very thorough in going over JJ's daily schedule. We talked about his demeanor, and were assured that he was a very happy baby. It was obvious that he will be greatly missed by all of the women who took care of him. Many of them stopped us on the way out and requested to have their picture taken with him.

After our meeting we had to hurry back to the hotel as the other two families were eagerly waiting for our return. They were leaving to pick up their little ones at 11:00, but needed the car and driver (who was driving us). We didn't arrive until almost noon but no one seemed to mind. They were just excited for us and took many pictures. Later in the day, when all of us had our newest family members, we travelled to the US Embassy in Bishkek. It was in an out-of-the-way location and had mainly American workers.

Finally, we went to dinner as a group at a little Italian restaurant down the street. It was a nice walk and Jerret used the baby carrier strapped to his front to transport JJ. The two have bonded in the most amazing way. JJ is fascinated when Jerret speaks to him because he may have never heard a male voice. The orphanage employs only women and he has been at the orphanage since the day he left the hospital following his birth. Dinner was interesting as JJ has some digestive issues. I won't go into detail, but let's just say his restaurant episode involved both me and Jerret, a ladies room, three diapers, many stares, learning complete control of our gag reflexes, about a dozen wipes and two pairs of pants. I think its fair to say he takes after his new dad in the bathroom department.

Overall he is a very good baby. He hasn't cried for longer than a minute and is interested in everything we do. He is extremely active and loves attention. We were surprised to see that he is crawling and able to get himself into a seated position. He can also stand while holding on to the furniture. No teeth yet, but I think I see a couple starting to poke through. Our schedules are definitely not cooperating at the moment as JJ is fast asleep and here I sit at 1 in the morning as awake as ever.

Sunday, March 25, 2007


Eleven a.m. came way too quick this morning and we had a difficult time just getting out of bed. We woke at 10 and quickly showered before making our way downstairs to the breakfast buffet. The spread was interesting. Most of the breakfast choices were sweet breads, none of which I recognized (so you know I passed). There were three "hot" choices: rice with green beans and corn, cauliflower with corn and peppers, and some sort of mystery meat hot dog-looking thing. Jerret, of course, tried it all.

We went out shopping at the local mall, which seemed more like a flea market as the stores weren't actually stores in the traditional sense. We bought three bags full of traditional Kyrgyz garb to save for JJ until he is older. Jerret couldn't (or wouldn't) pay full price for anything as he was having pretty serious flashbacks of the Silk Market in China. We were able to negotiate prices for most things, but nothing like he could in China (or so he says).

After the mall we traveled by taxi to the Beta Store, which is the local supermarket. We purchased bottled water and some bread and cream cheese to eat for lunch. We went back to the hotel in late afternoon and took a short nap before dinner. Jerret woke me at 5:00 so I could get around before leaving for the restaurant and I could not function. I literally could not get out of bed. The combination of not getting enough sleep last night and my internal clock being all screwed up really set me back.

We went out to dinner with the two other famiilies from our agency. We at at the Four Seasons (not associated at all with the hotel - darn!). I chose to stay on the safe side and had chicken and french fries. Jerret was a little more daring and went for the lamb kabobs.

A few things I noticed at the stores...People are beautiful here. Not just beautiful, but strikingly beautiful...gorgeous, in fact. The women really make an effort to look nice and pay attention to their appearance. And most people look really young. Even the older people we have seen still have a very young appearance. Only the very oldest people had wrinkles. Another observation, no one paid us any attention here. They didn't care that we were American and didn't treat us any differently at all. Jerret noticed this as well and said that we didn't seem to stick out as much as foreigners do in China.

We met a nice American man outside of the hotel this morning. He is here working on a special project for the US and was happy to hear our stories.

I am really tired right now and can barely keep my eyes open. We leave the hotel at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow and will make the hour-long drive to Tokmok to meet our baby. We still have to get our orphanage gifts and donations together yet tonight and pack our bag full of firsts for JJ, you know - first American diaper, first pacifier, first toy, and his little own version of Old Glory courtesy of my mother-in-law. We will probably be unable to sleep all night, which is a bad idea considering we will be with baby from here on out.

Time for bed!

We’re Here!

After three nearly inedible airplane dinners, four security checks, two mile-long walks around a Turkish airport, and an 85mph taxi ride to the hotel we have arrived! Our journey started off on a scary note when my passport was not registering at the Northwest Air check-in counter. For some strange reason there is a number that is scratched off, or was never there in the first place, or whatever – but there is a missing number and it was causing us some difficulty when we checked in. My heart physically hurt as I watched the lady behind the desk swipe it over and over again to no avail. Finally, she entered the numbers by hand (which worked) and told me that I may encounter this problem again as we go to check-in or transfer flights.

The flights went well, they were just incredibly long. The Northwest flight from Detroit to Amsterdam was really nice and had the most decent food. That leg of our trip took a little over 8 hours and was a comfortable ride. Each seat had a television monitor recessed in the headrest, so we were able to chose our own movies to watch and control our own volume (I watched Bobby, Jerret chose Night at the Museum and the new Rocky).

We arrived in Amsterdam and easily found our next flight schedule and departure gate. The Amsterdam airport was really nice and had many employees that spoke perfect English. The people we ran into there were of diverse backgrounds, but still everyone seemed to speak English. I was actually a little surprised at how nice the Istanbul airport was as well. The bathrooms were very clean (and we all know how important this is) and smelled like perfume (is it weird that I noticed that?). Istanbul is where we met the two other US families from our agency that are also adopting from Kyrgyzstan. Their babies are at a different orphanage than JJ, and we are hoping to join them when they go meet their newest family members.

When we arrived in Bishkek it was 3:00 a.m. on Sunday and we waited in line a short time for customs and our luggage. People are very pushy here. Not necessarily rude, but just aggressive. I guess they feel that you have to push for your spot, or what it is that you want, or you will never get it. I had to learn this the hard way as Jerret pushed his way through the crowd at the luggage check and left me in the dust. I felt weird (rude) at first, but quickly realized that aggressiveness is the name of the game and if you don’t take your spot you will lose it. I stepped over, between, and around people and no one seemed to mind.

Our agency in-country facilitator was waiting for us as soon as we picked up our luggage and she had two cars waiting to take us back to the hotel. We arrived at the Silk Road hotel at 4:00 in the morning. Thankfully we thought to pack some snacks in our luggage and had pretzels, chex mix and vitamin water as soon as we were able to unload. In total (on all three flights) I drank 3 cups of pepsi and ate a cup of rice, two pieces of bread, a small bag of lemon cookies, and a tiny bag of pretzels, so our snacks are definitely coming in handy. It is now 6:45 a.m. and our group is going to the local shopping center tomorrow at 11:00 to get whatever things we may have forgotten to pack and a whole lot of bottled water.

Oh – and Jerret wants me to tell you all two things: 1) the Ohio State basketball game is on live in our room, and 2) I knocked over a plant as soon as we entered our room and spilled a pile of dirt all over the floor. I cleaned it up as best as I could, but it is still deep in the fibers of the carpet. And there is some unidentifiable object under one of the chairs in the room. It looks like a mushroom to me, but I won’t get close enough for confirmation.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Only a Few More Days!

Getting things ready for this trip has been a chore! My husband has suddenly morphed into the packing police and keeps lecturing me on keeping our luggage to a minimum so we can remain “agile.” We have settled on one suitcase each, although his original idea was for the two of us to share one – ha! We are busy getting all of JJ’s things packed and ready to go. (Who knew a tiny little baby would need so much stuff?!)

We leave on Friday and will travel through Istanbul, Turkey on our way to Bishkek. We will not arrive until early Sunday morning and will not see our precious baby until Monday. But the good news is that once we meet him, he is forever ours and will stay with us from that day forward. I am a little nervous about seeing the orphanage where he currently lives and all the babies who live with him. We were originally granted approval for 2 kids (and still are) so I know I will be wishing the entire time that we were bringing another one home with us as well. It’s going to be hard!

After the required three day stay in Bishkek we will travel by car to Kazakhstan where we will visit the US embassy to fill out all the documents necessary to bring our baby home. We have had some difficulty finding a hotel in the region as they are all currently booked for some odd reason. The prices are outrageous and range from $180 to $465 USD per night. Our agency has reserved us a room that is middle-of-the-road pricewise, but we are free to stay wherever we choose.

I am most worried about finding things to eat while we are in-country. Because I don’t care to eat anywhere the USDA doesn’t apply, some people might say I am a picky eater. In fact, my college roommates labeled me a “food snob,” (although I would hardly say that scoffing at a person eating cold spaghettio’s from a can is any reason for name calling. That’s just downright nasty!). Jerret considers himself a world traveler now that he has been to China 3 times and insists I will have no problem finding things to eat. I have already removed meat, dairy, raw vegetables, and water from my “Approved Foods to Eat While in Kyrgyzstan” list and hope to find comfort in the fully-thriving breads and grains category. Not that I am in any danger of withering away down to nothing. A 10-day diet should do me some good!

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Getting Ready!

We've been gearing up for our bring trip across three continents to bring our baby home. We are leaving in two weeks, and reality is finally setting in that we are really doing this! After a year and three months of paperwork, meetings, fingerprints, applications, tears, joys, ups and downs, we are leaving!
We actually found JJ when he was only 3 months old, so to know that he has grown without us was hard, but a blessing at the same time. I am so nervous about what to expect when we meet him. Will he understand at all that we love him and are his new parents? Will he miss the women who have taken care of him for the past 9 months of his life? Will he miss the sounds of the orphanage that has been the only home he has ever known?
I'm sure that most new parents experience some degree of anxiety before they actually meet their new babies. But I almost feel as though pregnant mothers are a little more prepared and will know what to expect from their newborns. The nine months of pregnancy leading up to the first magical meeting are usually filled with countless hours of research in the forms of Lamaze classes, reading of parenting books, unsolicited advice, and conversations with friends about their pregnancy and parenting experiences.
While many adoptive parents have likened the adoption process to that of being a pregnant elephant (due to the fact that elephants are pregnant for around 18-22 months, about the same length of time for the adoption from start to finish), I haven't felt "pregnant." My past 15 months have been spent stressing over paperwork, financing the adoption, talking with doctors, and making travel arrangements for a "very" third-world country. On one hand I feel cheated, on another I wouldn't change a thing as I know this was the path chose for us.
To say that I am nervous about becoming a parent is an understatement to the nth degree. I worry about the babies health and if I will be able to recognize when he is not feeling well. And if he is not feeling well, will I know what to do to comfort him and help him to get better? And if he is sick and has to visit the doctor, will the doctor be able to diagnose him quickly so the situation may be remedied?
There are so many things to worry about once we are parents, I haven't even began to worry about our actual travel to Kyrgyzstan yet. I hope that part takes care of itself...probably not the right approach.