Waiting for Christina: The Family Tree gets a Romanian Branch

Family travellingOn the first weekend of December 2002, I was finally able to announce on the Single Mothers by Choice (SMC) online Forum, “Cristina is home!” My son, then almost 9 years old (conceived via donor sperm), and I had just returned from the airport in Washington, D.C. With us was my almost two-year-old daughter adopted from Romania.

I was exhausted from the four-hour car ride and from the emotion of the day. But then I saw her—my beautiful little daughter was being wheeled toward me in a stroller by my agency director. He placed her in my arms and left. I expected bliss—I was wrong. She started screaming at the top of her lungs, “Nu! Nu!” (“No! No!”) and slapping me on the face. We walked through the airport with her screaming and hitting me and me telling her everything would be alright. Later my agency representative would tell me that the screaming and hitting was a good sign. It meant that Cristina had been attached to her foster family, and therefore she would become attached to us.

Back home she cried for an hour and a half and then fell asleep. Then my son starting whimpering and saying that he wanted her to go back. He didn’t like her, and she was too big. I tried to console him by explaining that it would take some time for all of us to adjust, but inside I was thinking, “What have I done? I’ve ruined my perfect little family.”

Most of all, everything seemed unreal, because the adoption itself had been delayed for more than a year.

March 2001: This is where my story starts, but I had begun the adoption process long before. Then I switched to an agency that placed children into foster families as opposed to orphanages. It dealt with infants who were usually home before they turned one, and that was my desire. So in March, the agency called with a referral for a three-month-old baby girl named Cristina. They sent a video, and I had a week to give them my answer. As soon as I saw her, I knew this child was meant to be a part of our family. My son was thrilled, and I told a few family members and friends. The adoption should have taken four to six months to complete. However, in July, Romania imposed a moratorium on international adoptions. Then, in October, the country imposed another—a year-long moratorium.

I explained to my son that there was a delay, and that no one knew when, or even if, the baby would be able to come home. We were both upset, and I tried to detach myself from the situation. When my documents expired, I didn’t rush to update them. I stopped reading adoption books. I stopped talking about adoption. When another video arrived from Romania, I put it away without looking at it. I was trying to stop thinking about the baby named Cristina, who was growing and developing—and who might never become mine.

Early in 2002, my agency informed me that several “pipeline” cases were moving forward and that I needed to update my documents. They also suggested I contact my senators to enlist their help. This adoption became a project that took on a life of its own.

September 2002: My agency informed me that my adoption had been approved by the Romanian Adoption Committee. I had a court date. I was afraid to feel excited, so I told no one. There was still a three-day appeal period, and we needed the final decree, which the judge took three long weeks to issue. At that point I started telling family and friends. I began making arrangements to have her escorted home. My son was beside himself. We had received another video, which showed that our baby had become a toddler who was walking and had lots of hair.

There were still a few more obstacles. At the last minute, I found out about a preadoption requirement in my state, which, thankfully, my home study agency managed to expedite in 24 hours. Then with my escort already in Romania with a scheduled embassy appointment, we found out that INS had not yet faxed my approval to the embassy. With one hour left before the embassy closed on the day of the appointment, I gave INS the fax number one more time, and this time the fax went through. They had been dialing the wrong number. I was totally wrapped up the process and felt detached from the little girl who was about to be taken away from the only family she had known for almost two years.

December 6, 2002: Screaming and hitting at the airport.

Mid-January 2003: Cristina has been home with us for about five weeks. I am absolutely amazed at how well my wonderful little girl has adjusted. She literally jumps for joy when we pick up my son from school or when he walks in the door. She goes to sleep easily and sleeps through the night. She loves to eat, take baths and play with other children. Cristina turned two on December 26. She runs, jumps, and does a perfect somersault. She has learned a lot of English and loves to talk, especially on the telephone. She is loving and affectionate. Cristina has just started daycare, and she runs into my arms smiling when I pick her up. She also loves books. Although her behavior is generally good, if she doesn’t want to do what you ask her to do, she throws a tantrum (did I mention that she’s two?).

Adjustment has been quick for her, slower for my son, who is gradually getting used to having a toddler in the house. I feel so much love for her that I can’t imagine how I had ever felt detached. I sit looking at my two children sleeping peacefully, and I know that my perfect little family is complete. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that we are no longer waiting for Cristina. Cristina is home.

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