Arduous Adoption Process Worth the Wait for Arizona Parents
TUCSON -- Carrie Kaiser spent many nights crying, waiting for her sons to arrive.
She yearned to hold the 4-year-old Sergey and 5-year-old Mikhail in her arms and call them her own. More than a year had passed since Carrie and her husband Tim had begun the adoption process of the two Russian boys. The couple from Arizona had endured numerous months of tedious legal turmoil and had flown overseas twice for orphanage visits. It seemed as if the waiting would last forever.
“It was so hard seeing them for a few days and then having to come back home,” Carrie, 33, said. “The waiting was torture, and there were a lot of days of crying on a day-to-day basis. I couldn‘t stand the pain.”
Making the wait time longer, Russia had halted adoptions out of the country. But Tim and Carrie had found a region of the country that was more liberal in their adoptions, and they decided to move forward.
“There were a whole bunch of emotional feelings going on,” Tim said. “(During the waiting), I tried not to think about it and just let time pass until we heard more.”
The exhausting arbitration period began in May 2006 and didn’t finalize until December 2007.
After 18 months of waiting, Carrie finally captured what she had longed for.
She became a mother.
Upon arrival, both boys were underweight and carried more than a few medical problems. Sergey had a misshapen kidney, and his top four teeth had to be removed because they were rotting out of his mouth. He was so physically small that he didn’t even make it on the weight chart for children his age. Mikhail was forced to have his tonsils out and had an abnormal nose due to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. In addition, both boys were linguistically behind, by Russian standards.
But none of that matters now.
“(My boys) are my life,” Carrie said. “They have grown so much in every way since they arrived. They are happy, healthy individuals who eat like horses and have no problem forming complete sentences anymore. It’s been an incredible experience.”
Since arriving 13 months ago from Kemerovo, Mikhail has grown more than three inches and is 10 pounds heavier. Sergey, from Polysaevo, also added three inches to his height and weighs 10 pounds more than when he arrived.
For the adoption procedure, the Kaiser parents had went through Tucson-based firm Commonwealth Adoptions International Inc. The company closed in August 2008 due to its client countries banning adoptions to America. Tim and Carrie had considered adopting from Colombia and Kazastan until finally choosing Russia.
The couple, who were married in 1999, had considered adopting domestically but decided against it.
“I had heard horror stories about birth mothers wanting their ‘kids’ back,” Carrie said. “I needed to know (the adoption) was final, so I went international to eliminate that happening.”
Tim and Carrie said the trips overseas were emotional. Mikhail was stationed at “Children’s House #2” in Kemerovo and had moved around to three different orphanages.
“The conditions there were depressing,” Tim said. “It was pretty much a place for kids considered ‘unadoptable.’ I just said to myself, ‘We gotta get him out of here.’ ”
Carrie recalled that Mikhail had worn the same clothes all three days in a row that they had visited him. In addition, she remembered him being a little shy and withdrawn.
In contrast, Sergey stayed at the high-resource Polysaevo Specialized Orphanage, where “the rooms were bright and had abundance of toys and musical instruments,” according to Carrie. Most of the kids, aged 2 to 3, were frequently adopted. Unlike his brother, Sergey wore a different outfit every day and was very sociable.
“(Sergey’s orphanage) had a great program and was a really nice place,” Tim said. “(Visiting each of the boys) were totally different experiences.”
Carrie’s parents, Ken and Mary McCoy, were not able to accompany the Kaisers on their Russian visits, but have been incredibly supportive every step of the way, Carrie said.
Ken himself was domestically-adopted upon birth from Wichita, Kan., where he was also raised. He had the opportunity to meet his biological mother in 2003 in a Missouri care home, but he found the experience disappointing since she was so near the end of her life.
“(My birth mother) didn’t even know I was there,” Ken said. “She passed away shortly after my visit. But at least now I know where I got my red hair from.”
Ken said he feels that his own adoption, as well as adoption in general, is a very positive experience.
“What difference does it make if you’re blessed through bearing or adoption? Your kids are your kids,” Ken said. “Adoption is an intentional commitment. It’s not something that’s being thrust upon you, like a surprise pregnancy. Adopting is a thought-out effort.”
Tim and Carrie chose to adopt after trying for years to have kids biologically.
“All the fertility treatment was so frustrating, and we just kept throwing away money,” Carrie said. “It had turned this beautiful thing into something so clinical. Doctors had discouraged adoption, but it just seemed like the right thing to do.”
Even after a year of Sergey and Mikhail being home, Carrie knows there are still adjustments to be made. Such as when Mikhail, who was born with FAS, was taken to urgent care for a fever in August 2008.
“The doctor showed concern and asked about his nose,” she said. “Tim had to explain that Mikhail was adopted, and it felt like we had to explain that we aren’t alcoholics. It was a little awkward.”
Carrie also wonders if Mikhail’s hyperactivity is a result of the FAS or merely typical 5-year-old behavior. “Only time will tell,” she said.
Mikhail currently attends kindergarten at West Wing Elementary in Peoria, Ariz. His younger brother goes to Tutor Time Preschool, where Mikhail was previously enrolled.
Presently, the Kaisers live in Phoenix and have been a family for more than 13 months. Considering the arduous journey Carrie went on -- the year and a half of waiting, the $75,000 adoption cost, the nights spent crying from the emotional pain -- was the whole thing worth it to her? Would she go through it again?
She smiled and said, “In a heartbeat.”