We Are Family
A lot has happened since I last wrote on the blog (this statement may well be a massive understatement). Having survived Christmas, Becky and I found ourselves in a bit of a slump. With the weather, we couldn’t really head out much and there wasn’t a great deal to do. Things got interesting on New Year’s Eve.
The Poles celebrate big on New Year’s Eve, as anyone should. Here, it is called Sylwester (pronounced Sylvester) because it is the feast day of Pope Saint Sylvester who, according to one legend, saved Rome from a dragon. Fireworks play a massive part and Czestochowa started them even before the sun went down (and when the sun sets at 3:30, that’s quite the feat). I heard my first firework around 2 in the afternoon. They were fairly sporadic until around 9, which means we had a chance to get PK to bed before things really went crazy. We would occasionally hear her cry a little bit but settle back down. Ten minutes to the New Year, they really started to let the fireworks rip. It was a near constant barrage from about two blocks away. We felt like we were in London during the Blitz and PK did as well. Triggered by her screams, we ran to bed, put her down with us and said a prayer for all the nuns and caregivers at the orphanage who we knew were dealing with the same situation on a larger scale. We slept in the next day and, since nothing was open, stayed at the apartment.
On the second, we decided to head down to the mall. We needed a few supplies and I desperately needed to see if I could find a pair of scissors. Due to weight restrictions in the luggage, I couldn’t pack my beard trimmer and I was starting to look like my best friend was a volleyball named Wilson. After picking up the much needed supplies, we treated ourselves to lunch at the food court. As proof that Becky and I are massively exciting people, we have to admit that one of our favorite places to eat is a Polish buffet (the kind where they weigh your plate) in the mall. Everything there is fantastic – pierogi, a crepe stuffed with creamed spinach and cheese, a chicken dish that always had some sort of sauce that changed each time we went were some personal favorites. We had spoken to our facilitator earlier in the day and, so, had left “Polish phone” (a pay-as-you-go plan phone supplied to us by our facilitator) at home.
When we returned home, we found out that we had two missed calls. When we called our facilitator back, we found out that Sister Director had stopped by the flat while we were out. We were told that she might come back by and, while PK was down for her nap, we had a knock on the door. Of course, people coming in woke PK up and, bleary-eyed, we brought her out to the front where Sister Director and another lady were getting comfortable. It turned out that Sister Director had to turn in a report to the court, since she is PK’s legal guardian and she had a few questions for us. The other lady was a caregiver at the orphanage that Sister thought would watch PK during the hearing since children are not allowed in the court room. This led to a bit of confusion since our facilitator had already lined someone at the adoption office to look after her and it took a few phone calls to work everything out. In the end, it was decided that PK would go to the adoption office. Before we got to the questions, Sister Director had seen a Hello Kitty book that PK had gotten as a Christmas present and felt the need to express her belief that Hello Kitty was satanic (she seemed pleased at my genuine look of surprise – not that I think that Japanese kitten kids serve the forces of darkness, I was really surprised to hear anyone thought that). While Becky played with PK, Sister quickly moved on to the questions. Since Sister doesn’t speak English and PK knows and understands more Polish than I do, in the absence of a translator, we had to make do with Google Translate. The questioning, abbreviated for clarity, went something like this:
Do you want to have more children in the future? Yes. We’d like to have two. Good. PK shouldn’t be an only child. Is she sleeping? Yes, she usually wakes us at some point and then we bring her into bed with us to help bond. Your wife is on contraception. How would you have the second child? We’d adopt. Are you sure? Yes. Becky and/or the child could either get really sick or die if Becky got pregnant. Besides, adoption is special to us. My grandfather was adopted. But Becky’s illness won’t affect her her ability to mother PK, right? No, she’s been in remission for 16 years. She has letters from doctors stating this. Have you heard of this medical plan that lets you naturally and safely, even in high risk pregnancies have children naturally? Nope. Well, you should. OK. How’s your arthritis pain? We don’t have any. All right, well, I can see that she’s really bonded to you. I’ll see you at court tomorrow. The judge will ask questions, but don’t worry. Everything will be fine.
Shortly after that, they left, leaving me reeling from having to discuss my wife’s reproductive health with a nun using an online translator (I mean, really, does it get much weirder?). This also left Becky and I with high nerves and we spent the rest of the night comfort-eating chocolate, wondering if the judge would ask similar questions, trying to pack up things in the apartment and putting out calls on Facebook for prayer support.
We definitely felt the prayers and while I wish I could say that it made us perfectly calm, theatre majors rarely react in the smoothest way possible. I woke up the morning of the third dry-heaving from nerves. Becky was anxious as well but had her head more in the game. We left our bags packed by the door, hopped in a cab and met our facilitator at the adoption center. We practically had to pry PK out of our arms to go to the ladies who were watching her and we headed to court. While waiting to be called into the court room, our facilitator started chatting with two grandmotherly ladies about us and PK and made us show them a picture of PK in this adorable pink fur coat and hat that we were given at a baby shower. While I think she looks like a pastel run-away from a filming of Doctor Zhivago, the ladies all insisted she was very much a tiny Audrey Hepburn. Sister Director came in all smiles and full of encouragement. Our facilitator came over and started talking with all of us and when I looked up the two babcias had disappeared.
Our facilitator went over some last minute things with us and then, to make sure that PK’s new birth certificate would be printed correctly, made Becky write out PK’s new name. I still get a little chill seeing it written out and I’m a little sad that, one day, familiarity will steal away that sense of wonder. We had decided even before we got PK’s referral, we wanted to keep our child’s birth name. It is the only real thing that is theirs in the world. We would, of course, give her our last name and we wanted to choose her middle name. After meeting PK in April, and seeing the special relationship she had with her main caregiver, Becky and I decided that the only middle name that was right to give PK was the name of nun who’s first words to us were, “Hello! I’m PK’s grandmother, Sister Helena.” When Becky started writing the “H,” I glanced at Sister Director who was, not at all subtly, looking over Becky’s shoulder. Her eyebrow twitched and rose higher with every following letter. Our facilitator asked us if it was in honor of Sister Helena. When we said, “Yes,” she translated for Sister Director who teared up. Just then, we were called into the court room.
There we stood before the judge again. Nerves started to settle when I saw her smile at us. To my surprise, the two other members of the triumvirate were the two grandmotherly ladies from earlier who both beamed at us. We went straight to work. Sister Director testified and I was relieved that none of what we had talked about the day before came up. Becky was called up to the dock and I gave her hand a squeeze. The moms always get more questions than the dads. I have heard accounts of mothers who were questioned for 40 minutes. Becky did have more questions than I did covering everything from our religious denomination, how we communicated with PK, and how we would keep her culture alive. When I got up i was asked about three questions: Did I still want to be PK’s father? Did the bonding period strain or strengthen the marriage? and Did I have anything else to add? We then were sent out of the room for them to deliberate. 25 minutes had passed and everyone talked about how fast it was. About 20 minutes later, we were called back and the judge declared the adoption and asked if we wanted to have the appeal period shortened to two weeks (definitely!). After congratulations, we were asked to step outside while our facilitator worked out some details with the judge. While we were waiting, Sister Director got on the phone and a few minutes later passed the phone to Becky who was surprised to find that it was Sister Helena on the other end. We’d been sad that we hadn’t gotten to see her again and that she wouldn’t know about PK’s middle name but God took care of that! Becky said she was almost crying and that she would be praying for the three of us until her dying day. I completely missed the call because I had to run to the bathroom, only to be fetched by Sister Director because the judge wanted to see me (and may I take a moment to say that washing your hands and looking in the mirror to see a nun in the doorway is a little jarring). I was curious about why I’d be called back since the adoption had been decreed. It turns out that the two babcias told the judge she had to see PK’s picture in her pink coat. After declaring her adorable, the judge wished us well and we took off. It was 1:08, the fastest final court hearing I’ve ever heard of. We were hoping to be able to post some pictures and announce the newest Arthur’s name but we were told to wait until the appeal period ended just to play it safe. We should be able to do the grand reveal on the 18th!
We had to pick up PK and the ladies were more than happy to give her back. Turns out she was less than thrilled that we left her with “strangers” (these ladies have been in and out of her life since she was born and one of them actually named her but I don’t think there’s been a lot of quality time) and she pitched an epic fit. After apologies and promising to email the ladies a picture of PK in the now famous pink coat, we jumped back into the car, grabbed medical records and final pictures at the orphanage, threw our luggage in the boot and headed off on the three hour ride to Warsaw…with a child who hasn’t napped…and doesn’t have a car seat. PK was jazzed! She loved looking out the windows, turning Becky into a jungle gym and finally falling asleep about 45 minutes before we reached our final destination. I managed to find a McDonald’s about a ten minute walk from the new apartment and we all breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Today our facilitator took us to sign some paperwork and then showed us how to work the tram system so that we can get around. Tomorrow we have to ourselves and I’m looking forward to getting to know the new city that we’re in. Thank you to everyone who has prayed or sent encouraging messages. It has meant so much to us! We’re in the home stretch now!