Meet little miss Sophia…
I am not quite sure when I started following Megan and her story “My Journey of the Heart” but I remember it was sometime in 2011. Her story of Sophia, a sweet little girl from Russia just pulled at my heart strings very early on. I love adoption stories, I always thought that if we could not have children of our own, we would seriously consider adoption. I am so drawn to this particular story because miss Sophia has Down Syndrome and her mommy, Megan, is a single mom but prayed and yearned for this child in particular…well, I will let you read her story for yourself. You might want to grab a box of tissues, or maybe it’ll make your heart smile like it did mine!
I am 38 years old. When I was around 36 I realized my dream of being a mom was slipping away. Not saying I don’t want or won’t bear a child of my own just that time was starting to move. I found Reece’s Rainbow through a friend who has a child with Down Syndrome. I decided right around my birthday to set up a blog and write about my journey. The first blog post was written September 1, 2010.
I knew I wanted to adopt a special needs child. My sister is special needs (not Down Syndrome). Down Syndrome people have always had a special place in my heart. I think it was God’s way of planting the seed in me. I came across two pictures on Reece’s Rainbow that pulled at my heart, Sophia C. and Sophia K. I asked my mom to pray as I had planned to pray that night. We talked in the morning and I knew Sophia C. was my daughter. My mom agreed we just kept going back to Sophia C’s picture. There was no doubt.
A little about Sophia…
Sophia spent the first 3 years and 10.5 months in an orphanage in Russia. She didn’t know how loved she was by so many. She was left at the hospital after she was born because she had Down Syndrome. I can’t imagine how her parents felt or how hard the decision was to leave her behind.
I found Sophia’s picture when she was 2 years old, I brought her home in October 2012, she had just turned 4 years old in August of 2012.
When I first committed to Sophia it was the end of 2010. I then signed with an agency to complete a home study (required document to adopt a child domestically or internationally) and an agency who worked in the region where Sophia’s orphanage was. This process (home study) took a few months to complete. Then there were background checks both locally and federally. Once our government approved me to adopt I sent the documents to Russia to request permission to adopt from them. This was not a fast process, there were months of back and forth to make sure all the documents were in order and correct. I got the ok and traveled in June of 2012.
This was the first time I met Sophia. Now please note, Russia has a database of children. However, they are a blind referral country. Meaning, you don’t get to pick your child. I put a request to adopt a child with Down Syndrome between a certain age, etc. Now when my paperwork was received in Russia if Sophia was not available at the time I would have been offered another child. So while on my journey I was working towards Sophia I knew it wasn’t a guarantee. I knew if she wasn’t available it was because another child was meant for me and Sophia would have been the catalyst to bring me to her. That said, I knew she was “the child of my heart”, she was my daughter.
When I met Sophia I also met her social worker. Interesting story, before I went to Russia to meet Sophia I always associated the color purple with her. I don’t know why, purple is a nice color and all but not a favorite of mine. When I got to meet Sophia that first day, her social worker was wearing multiple shades of purple from head to toe. That brought me peace and reaffirmed that I was on the right path.
Being single is a tough journey, they prefer married couples. I had to prove myself that I had plans and support. I have been blessed with lots of support.
Seven weeks from my first trip I went back for my court appearance. Court took 2 days. The judge in Sophia’s region was very strict but very caring. She knew the children in the orphanages and she wanted who and what was best for them. It was very intimidating to go in solo. But I followed my heart and just spoke from it. The first day was a review of paperwork. There is a person assigned as the child’s advocate besides the social worker. During that day I was told Sophia had been offered to 120 different families. No one had ever gone to meet her. I was her first visitor. That broke my heart. Her advocate spoke up in court and said “she was waiting for you (me)”. This whole process is conducted in Russian, I had a translator with me.
Day two was the interview with me. This is where I answered the why. My session took less than an hour from start to finish. I had heard from other families some sessions had taken 4 hours. So I expected to be there a while. So to be done in 45 minutes and told to step out while the judge decided was nerve racking. I think we were in the hall just long enough for her to put her robe on when we were called back in. I went in and she announced I was granted the adoption! There were tears flowing from everyone and hugs a plenty. I think they were as happy as I was, LOL.
The third trip was the end of September. I picked her up what in the adoption world is called “Gotcha Day” on September 22, 2012. I then spent the next few days with her processing the final documents to bring her home, which I did on October 3, 2012. That was when she arrived home and became a US citizen. Becoming a mom, a single mom, in a foreign country is exciting, scary and a bit overwhelming. :)
Snippets from Megan’s blog “My Journey of the Heart“…
Everyone always asks “why is adoption so expensive?” – here is my answer…adoption is considered a “Paper Pregnancy”. If you were to have a baby the traditional way in the hospital without insurance and they told you, you can’t leave with your baby until you pay the whole bill easily $40,000-$50,000. How many could do that? I couldn’t but does that mean I should’t be able to be a mommy? This is why I always shared Sophia’s blog page – I just wanted to hold and bring my baby home.
There was a precious little girl sitting in an orphanage waiting for her forever family. She was waiting for 3 years hoping someone would come and save her. I found Sophia and knew she was the missing piece to my heart. The daughter I dreamed of. I wanted to bring her home and give her, her dream of a family.
Paper Pregnancy (Adoption) is expensive. There are agency fees, program fees, document fees, travel costs (multiple trips needed). Traditional pregnancies have a lot of expenses too. Prenatal appointments, hospital fees, doctor fees. Luckily traditional pregnancies have insurance and people aren’t turned away for not having insurance or the upfront cost to have a baby. There isn’t any insurance for paper pregnancies. All fees are due up front.
Keep in mind in various countries children with special needs get transferred into an institution at a very young age. It wasn’t that long ago we did that here. My mom was told to put my sister in an institution when she was 3 weeks old. I’m glad she didn’t do that, my sister is a productive member of our family and society. She works at a sheltered workshop but she takes pride in her work.
Money is what stops a lot of families from even considering adopting. I didn’t let the fear of “what if”…I can’t come up with the money. I did everything I could to raise those funds to put my money into her fund.
Why Russia? Why Down Syndrome?
I am asked why did you adopt from Russia and not domestically? My family heritage is Russian so Sophia and I share a heritage even if we don’t share a blood line. Also Russia is where our country was 40 years ago. They don’t see the potential these (special needs) kids have. They don’t know that given the opportunity, they will thrive. My sister got meningitis at 3.5 weeks old. The doctors told my parents she had less than 1% chance to survive and if she did she would be blind, deaf, mute, a vegetable. They told them to put her in an institution and walk away. My parents refused that advice. My sister did survive. She does everything the doctors said she wouldn’t. She turned 40 years old in December. She is legally blind but gets around fine. Most people don’t realize she is legally blind. She dresses herself, feeds herself (makes her own cereal), runs all of her electronics (DVD, CD player, etc). She knows every DVD she owns (she has a lot), I can’t remember and am always buying duplicates of the ones I own, LOL. Keep in mind the meningitis destroyed half of her brain. She works at a sheltered workshop and loves her job. So I know the potential every child has.
Another reason is since I wanted to adopt a child with Down Syndrome, I looked domestically before finding Sophia. There were not many in the system. Our country tests for Down Syndrome and the sad truth is, these kids are either wanted and kept or not carried to full term (aborted). The children available were all out of state and only being adopted to residence of that state.
When I saw Sophia, I knew she was mine. It didn’t matter where in the world she was…I was going there.
Wow, don’t you just love Megan and Sophia’s journey of the heart? If you are considering adoption (especially international adoption, or adopting a child with special needs) and would like to get in touch with Megan, please let me know! I know she would be more than happy to share any other advice she could give.Thank you so much Megan for letting me meet and photograph you and sweet Sophia. From the moment I met her and she ran right up to me and gave me a hug…I could see why you fell so deeply in love. As she grabbed my hand and led me around the park, my heart melted. What a gorgeous little girl God has blessed you with, may your journey of love continue to inspire others as well.