She wasn’t always a swan

Today’s visit was a little off.  Not in any bad sense, just what the other familes call a “putting in the time” visit.  I was really tired, having been up for most of the night trying to fight mosquitoes that have come out in force.  One day of warmth and here they are.  Never have I so appreciated vector control in the US.  Since Kaz isn’t a malarial country people don’t use mosquito nets, which would provide some protection.  Anyway, when I shut the windows to cut off the steady stream of mozzies, I began to bake in the airless apartment.  So it was an unpleasant night with unpleasant tradeoffs before me.  Anyway, I only fell asleep about dawn.   So that’s my excuse for being a bit dull in today’s visit.  Annabelle’s excuse was that she had already been fed when I arrived so she was groggy, sleepy, and full.  So between the two of us, it’s a good thing we could lie around on the floor in our new room.


But one interesting thing did happen.  Dr. Natalia stopped by.


But wait, since I have little to report in terms of cute baby action, I should fill the entry with information that many people have been asking me. I have forgotten that many of you gentle readers are not in the adoption know how.  So this is how it works in Kazakhstan.


A prospective parent does a buttload of paperwork in order to get a referral or a match with a baby. That is common no matter what country.  But where Kazakhstan differs, and one of the things that makes Kaz so hard, is that Kaz requires a 3 week bonding period between parent and child. So while in many countries, you travel for a week or 10 days, basically getting handed the baby as you get on the plane to head home, in Kaz you are committed to a minimum 4 weeks and many times longer.  Every day a parent visits the baby in the babyhouse (what orphanages are called in Kaz) and the parents document their visits. At the end of the bonding period, the parent goes to court.  The court then (hopefully) says “okay, you’ve proven your worth, you can adopt this baby.”  BUT, just to make things even more frustrating, there is a two week waiting period before you can legally take the child away from the babyhouse.  So that’s another two weeks.  Most families choose to return to the US during those two weeks. It gives them a chance to regroup, to pack smaller bags for the return trip, to finalize things for baby coming home.   (I don’t have that option but more on that in a minute.)  Then, the parents return to Kaz in 2-3 weeks, get the baby, go to Almaty and do US Embassy paperwork, which lasts about a week. So in total the travel time is between 4-5 weeks.


Where Kokshetau differs is that after the court decision, they give immediate custody of the baby to the parent.  But, we still have to wait for the 2 week waiting period.  So those of us who get a referral in Kokshetau are committed to a 6-7 week trip. Which is a long damn trip. (And I’m only in week 1 for god’s sake). 


But, the reason people put up with the difficult time table and adopt from Kaz is because of the care that the babies receive in the babyhouses.  They get massage therapy and music and have a very low caregiver to baby ratio.  Where Kokshetau also differs from the rest of Kaz is that there is no babyhouse.  There is a maternity hospital where the babies stay until they are 3 months old and then a children’s hospital where they are moved after 3 months. So I am visiting Annabelle in the children’s hospital.


And that takes me back to where I started…. With Dr. Natalia’s drop by Visit.  Dr. Natalia is the head of the Maternity hospital, where Annabelle spent her first 3 months.  Anyway, Dr. Natalia stopped by during my visit and upon seeing Annabelle exclaimed, “well, she’s so pretty now.”  And then she said, “well, I can tell you this since she is so pretty now, but when she was born, she was not at all pretty.  In fact, she was so tiny and ugly.”   Oh, my poor little darling girl.  Apparently she started off as an ugly duckling and then blossomed into a swan!  I can’t imagine an ugly annabelly!


Dr. Natalia will be the one to tell me whatever information she has on Annabelle’s birth parents.  We are meeting again on Friday to discuss this.  (Today’s visit was a drive by only).


And that’s about it for today. Sorry, hopefully more pictures and fun tomorrow (if I get some sleep that is!)