March is more than the month of basketball madness in my world, it’s the month of –cha days. Cha days? Met-cha. Gotcha. The vocabulary of an adoptive parent. No talk of dilation, epidurals, birthing rooms or PUSH when I speak of my journey to become a mother. My “birthing experience” included notaries, apostils, dossiers, birth and current head circumference numbers and abandonment paperwork.
In 1996, I worried about gifts for government officials and how to transport food and clothes for an unknown infant halfway around the world. I worried about transporting large amounts of cash through customs of a country notorious for shaking down foreigners. I worried about what would happen if the baby was gone when we arrived. Adoption required a lot of worrying.
I worried the first few hours after entering the country when money began changing hand under the cloak of night on the side of the road. Who were our hosts paying off? Why?
I worried about the flight across the country to the orphanage. Have you seen an in-country Soviet-era Aeorflat plane? Safe did not leap to the list of adjectives to describe this vessel. Since worrying filled my being while in Russia, I worried about all of the second hand smoke I was breathing while passengers puffed away on the airplane in flight. I worried about the plane crashing into the Ural mountains during descent when I saw peaks but no runway lights. I worried about the armed soldiers with Kalashnikovs who greeted us at the plane door then followed us quite closely everywhere we went. When the initial greeting party left us, they were replaced by new soldiers with bigger guns who trailed behind. Not knowing the area of Russia we flew into after departing from Moscow, I had no way of knowing then that we had landed in the heart of the Soviet biological warfare area that remained closed to Russians even post-Glasnost.
I worried as our driver drove on sidewalks to avoid snow at break neck speed. No seatbelts in Lada cars. Not that it would make a difference when driving around in a tin can should we have hit anything.
My worry turned to fear then finally, elation. Inside of this dreary building with a iron bar fence locking out the world, was this little baby waiting for me. Artyem. Tumka to the babushkas providing him care.
On the first day, a woman handed him to me and I knew. Three days later, this baby was handed to me one last time by the babushka with a tear in her eye. Officially, mine. Tumka was now my baby and it was time to stop worrying and start the process of learning how to be the best parent possible.
Worrying remains a part of my day to day world as I am now the mother of a teenager. But no longer do I worry about myself but him. Now I count the days until I deposit my baby into his first dormitory room as a college freshman. Will I worry again? Most definitely. But this baby, handed me to 15 years ago has grown into a fine young man. He will do great things someday, about that, I am not worried. But as gotcha day nears, I am reminded of our journey together and how far we’ve come.
Happy Gotcha Day Artyem. Thank you for the journey.