Tag Archives: international adoption

A Bittersweet 6 months

Tuesday marked 6 months home for my littlest man. I love this kid. Love, love, love him. And he loves us. Seriously, he soaks up having a mama and a papa and a big brother and sister. One of his latest words is “kickle”, asking me to tickle him. He loves to cuddle and kiss us.


Photo on 2013-01-18 at 18.18 #3

(He ran in to a cabinet.)

He loves us. He needs us. He reminds me every day… babies need mamas. This is truly a bittersweet realization every time it hits me, in light of the Russian adoption ban. When I think about all of the babies who don’t have anyone to snuggle them or “kickle” them or tuck them in and tell them “Мама любит Андрюша. Спокойной ночи. (Mama loves Andrusha. Goodnight.)”, that breaks my heart. When my baby snuggles on my lap, he is 100% my baby. But, I can’t help but think of where he once was.  When I think about how there are only months separating him from being my baby and being stuck in a Russian orphanage, that breaks my heart.

But, my baby’s here. Celebrating 6 months this week. We’re loving life together.

2013-01-15 14.52.492013-01-15 14.55.17

But, I’m also asking you to join us in prayer for the thousands of Russian orphans who will be left behind if this ban stands. I’m asking you to pray that the hearts of politicians in power soften and the truth is known– that for thousands of children, there is no hope for them in Russia and they deserve the love of a family.

Why Russian Adoption Matters

…in my humble words.

I’ve been silent on the Russian-U.S. adoption ban. Any words I come up with seem inadequate. It’s too familiar. There was a time when I was filled with the fear that my baby would never come home. We were told his region was CLOSED. Uncertain when it would open again. At this point, we had already lost Alyona. And then, Gus’s region screeched to a sudden halt. No, it’s not the same. I can’t imagine the real-life nightmare that these children and families are living through. But, I still remember my despair, fearing that my baby would never come home.

Why does it matter? Why is it so important to reinstate Russian adoptions, when there are millions of orphans in the world and hundreds in our own country? 

In short, a child is a child. No matter where this child lives. And, the conditions that many Russian orphans live in are horrid. Unimaginable. This collection of photos is not how all Russian orphans live, but it is the tragic reality for many. If you’d like a more detailed explanation of why a family choses to adopt from Russia instead the US, I really like Bethany’s. There are so many different options for adoption and it is absolutely not a one-size-fits-all sort of journey. Hundreds of thousands of orphans wait in Russia, and for many American families, Russia is the best fit for their family.

And as for the children? Is it really best for them to leave their culture and all that they’ve ever known? No. I don’t believe being adopted internationally is the best option, if there is any other option. I cannot speak for every single Russian orphan, but for so many, being adopted internationally is their only chance. Particularly for children with special needs, like Anton, there is NO ONE else coming for them. Dasha waited years for her family to show up. Charlotte was turned down by 500 families under her mama and papa said “yes”.

Adoption is far from perfect. We cannot deny the tragedies of 19 Russian children adopted by Americans. But, for so many Russian orphans, international adoption remains their only hope of a life beyond the orphanage walls, beyond the bars of their crib.

Please pray that Russian/American adoptions resume soon. Please pray for the orphans and the families who want to bring their babies home.

Our Eastern European Life Book Template

Whenever someone talks about telling their child their adoption story, I bring up life books. I’m a life book evangelist, shouting “LIFE BOOK!” to everyone who can hear. Okay, not quite, but I do get excited about them.

A life book is a book that tells your child’s story, from birth. The story of their birth family and how they came to be a part of your family. The point is to facilitate talk about adoption. Give them something to read to help them understand their stories in a positive way.

Our social worker strongly encouraged us to write life books for Reed and Lena. And when we met to do the homestudy for our second adoption, we did not have them done. Again, she encouraged us to do it. So, I stayed up for hours one night working on them. I searched and searched for examples of life books for Eastern European adoptions and found nothing. I took bits and pieces from all over and wrote my own. Whenever I share it, it is always a big hit, and while I wanted to share it here, it’s just so personal. But, I edited it for an imaginary child. Some of the wording is nearly the same as my kids’, but none of the details are.

Please feel free to use this as a starting point, but edit it to be age-appropriate for your child and with the language that your family likes to use. Each child has their own story, so write your child’s life book to fit his/hers!

Edited to Add: I used Snapfish to make and print the books, because it was the cheapest, but you could use whatever format you want, even just printing them off of the computer. Obviously, for some kids, the more effort you put into making it look published, the more they will appreciate that. Our social worker recommended making 2 copies– 1 for your child to have free reign over and a second to keep somewhere safe, in case your child colors in it, rips it up, etc.


I was born in Kiev, Ukraine on March 10, 2009.

Kiev is a big city and the capital of Ukraine. Just before my birthday, they celebrate Women’s Day. Women get flowers, candy and other gifts from the people who love them, like Mother’s Day when I make my mom a card.

Before I was born, I grew in a special place inside a woman. That woman is my birthmother. Her name is Yana.

She gave me my birthday.

She gave me my looks.

I don’t know her, but maybe I can guess some things about her.

Maybe she has brown hair and brown eyes like me. I wonder if she likes stripes and to do cartwheels like I do.

It takes two people to make a baby, a man and a woman. Everyone in the world starts with a birthmother and a birthfather.

I did too.

I have a birthmother and a birthfather in Ukraine. I don’t know much about my birthfather. I don’t even know his name. But, there are some things I can guess. Maybe he likes peaches like me. Maybe he has curly hair like me.

[picture of him swimming]

Maybe he likes to swim like I do.

I also have 2 biological brothers. Their names are Victor and Danil. They have the same first mother, but not the same mom and dad.

They were adopted by another mom and dad. They live in California now. Sometimes we fly on an airplane to go see them or sometimes they drive in the car to come to our house.

After babies are born, they might go live with their birth parents, join other families or live in a hospital or orphanage.

There are many reasons why I didn’t stay with my birth family. I don’t know the answers for sure now. But, I do know that that the reasons had to do with my birthparents and their situation, not me.

[oldest photo I have of him]

I was just a baby. A beautiful, precious baby. I didn’t do anything wrong. Babies can’t do anything wrong.

My birthname was Александра Влади́мировна Маркова, Alexandra Vladimirovna Markova.

At the orphanage, they called me Sasha.

My mom and dad gave me the name Sasha Grace Smith.

All of my names are beautiful and part of who I am.

I don’t know why my birthparents left me at the hospital.

But, it must have been a very difficult decision.

They must have thought hard about what to do.

I know they loved me and wanted good things for me.

But, they did not have a way to take care of me.

They couldn’t take care of me, so they left me in a place where I would be safe.

When I was born, my birthmother left me at the hospital.

After 2 months, I went to live at the “dom”.

Some people call it a “dom”. “Dom” is the Russian word for house. Russian is the language that they speak in Ukraine. Here in the United States, we speak English. In English, we call it the “baby house” or “orphanage”

[photo of dom, photo of group of kids at dom]

This is the dom. Lots of boys and girls live there. As little as babies and as big as 5 years old.

[photo of orphanage staff]

There are lots of people who work at the group home. They took care of me. They fed me, changed my diapers and put me to sleep.

[photo of him with a friend]

There are lots of boys and girls I lived with at the group. My friend [insert name] got adopted by another mom and dad. She lives in South Carolina now and we talk on the phone sometimes.

[photo of our family the day we met]

When I was two years old, just before my third birthday, my mom and dad came to the group home to meet me and my brother.

[like for an older kid, you might want to give more of an explanation about how you never met before or maybe how other mothers and fathers came to visit, but none of them were their mom and dad]

I said “paka”(goodbye in Russian) to the women who took care of me, my friends and the group home.

I went home with my mom, dad and brother.

We had to go in cars and planes to get home.

I learned a new language. In Ukraine, they speak Russian. Here, we speak English.

I tried new foods. Some of them I really liked– like watermelon and cookie dough ice cream. Some of them I don’t like– like lasagna.

I slept in a new bed, but my mom and dad were right there if I needed them.

Now, I am bigger.

I am taller and my hair is longer.

I like to do ballet. I like to cuddle with my mom and dad. I like to brush my cat’s hair and tuck my dolls in at night. I like to play with my brother, but sometimes I get mad at him too.

I am a big strong girl.

I still think about my life in Ukraine.

I love my mom and dad very much and wouldn’t want any other family. But, I will always wonder about my birthparents.

My life has been a huge adventure and I am a strong, brave girl to experience all of these changes.

I was born in Ukraine and now I live here. All of these experiences are part of me: one girl from two places, growing up to be strong and beautiful.