A lovely Mother’s Day story by top author Sinéad Moriarty…
They set off east, on a quest for a life-changing moment
I rinsed out my cup and with shaking hands dried it and placed it back in the cupboard. John came in and put his arm around me.
I nodded, afraid to look at him in case I might begin to cry. I was nervous, excited, stressed and terrified in equal measure. The storm of emotions was twisting my stomach into knots.
John carried our suitcases into the hall. I could hear him muttering a check list – “passports, tickets, money…”
As I was putting the coffee jar away I heard loud beeping from outside, then footsteps and a banging on our front door.
“Come on you lot, hurry up!” my father’s voice bellowed.
I rushed to open the door. John and I stood, open mouthed at the commotion outside – beeping car horns, shouting, cheering, Good Luck with the Adoption banners waving.
We had been expecting just my dad to drive us to the airport, but there were three cars parked outside our house. Mum and my sister in one, wearing Russian hats, our best friends Kate and Frank in another car, waving a Good Luck banner and also wearing furry hats. And in the third car were John’s brother and his three sons, all whooping.
A huge cheer erupted as we came out of the house.
I was so moved that I couldn’t speak…
I hugged Dad and cried into the side of his hat. The fur mopped up most of my tears.
“Thanks,” I croaked.
Dad squeezed me tight. “We couldn’t let you go to Russia to meet your baby boy without a proper send off. Everyone wanted to join in. We’re all behind you sweetheart.”
“Come on you two or you’ll miss your flight,” shouted Frank, who had jumped out to help John with our enormous suitcases.
We climbed into the back of the car where my sister handed us two Russian hats and while Mum pretended not to cry. Dad drove us to the airport, followed by our convoy of friends and family. Our journey to Russia to meet our longed for baby had begun.
Hours later John and I landed in Moscow airport where we were immediately surrounded by porters clamouring to carry our bags. I tried to bargain with them while John stood beside me looking uncomfortable.
Eventually I handed over a bunch of dollars to the strongest looking man and we followed him as he stomped through customs where we had our declaration form stamped. When we walked out to the arrivals area a driver was waiting for us. He didn’t speak much English and so we drove in silence to the domestic airport which took nearly an hour.
We then boarded a very old and decrepit looking plane and spent the next two and half hours flying to Gelendzhik, near Novorossiysk where our translator Olga was waiting for us.
She was a very serious young woman who shook our hands solemnly and without batting an eyelid, threw both suitcases into the boot of her car – clearly Olga was an Olympic weightlifter in a former life. We then drove to Novorossiysk, which Olga informed us was the largest trading port in southern Russia.
Choosing Russia had been a decision we’d made during our adoption course. When they listed the countries available to adopt from, I knew it had to be Russia. Dr Zhivago is my favourite film so I felt it was our destiny. John thought this was a ridiculous reason and based his decision on the fact that his cousin had adopted from Russia and it had all gone very smoothly.
After very little sleep, we got up the next morning and packed our knapsack with all the gifts for Viktor and the staff of the children’s home. We had our camera and video recorder with us as well. Olga arrived at nine sharp to collect us. I was a nervous wreck. I tried to eat breakfast, but I just felt too sick. John looked a bit green himself. This was it. We were finally going to meet our son.
As Olga explained what we should expect from the day, John and I sat in the back of the car gripping each other’s hands for dear life and staring down at the only photo we had of our little boy.
The children’s home was a two-storey building that looked a bit run-down. Inside, the paint was peeling off the walls and it was cold and dark.
We were ushered into a large, draughty reception room which was filled with toys and playpens.
It wasn’t as bad as I had expected. Behind this room was the dormitory where all the children slept. It was a large room crammed full of little beds and cots. Although it was old-fashioned, it was clean and you could see the staff did the best they could with what they had.
The director of the home, showed us around. Speaking via Olga, he told us how delighted he was that we were going to meet Viktor. He assured us that he was a very healthy little boy and as bright as a button. We sat nervously on the couch – neither of us able to speak – as we waited for the children to come in from breakfast. The door burst open and twenty or more children rushed in. They ranged in age from six to six months. I looked around desperately to see Viktor. Where was he? My heart was pounding in my chest, I thought I was going to black out – and then I saw him. He looked just like his photo. He was crawling along the floor in the middle of the bunch, concentrating on getting to the other side without being trampled.
I grabbed John’s arm…
“There,” I said hoarsely, pointing to the tiny little boy in the blue romper suit. John froze.
The director picked Viktor up, spoke gently to him in Russian and then handed him to me. I held the little boy in my arms and he stared up at me with his huge brown eyes, frowning at the sight of this unfamiliar face.
“Hello Viktor, I’m your mummy,” I smiled and he broke my heart by smiling back. As I stood there crying and smiling, John, snapping out of his trance, came over. I gently handed Viktor to him.
“Hey there little fellow,” he said, as he smiled down at his son. “Welcome to our family.”
Viktor looked up at John and then reached up and touched his face. His little hand rested on John’s cheek, and I saw my husband cry for the first time. I turned away, it was their private moment.
I moved across the room and took deep breaths. We had come so far, and it had been such a long, bumpy and emotional rollercoaster that sometimes I had wondered if it was worth it. But now, seeing John holding our beautiful son, I knew it was worth every minute.