‘What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men …… That is what love looks like.’ - St. Augustine

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Little History...

I thought I'd share some of Anastasia's history with you, as it might put things more in perspective for some. I'll leave out most of the detailed (identifying) information, like locations and names. But I'll try to be as specific as I can.

Anastasia was born in 1992 , in Western Siberia. Both of her birthparents were active drug-users, according to the medical papers I received upon adopting her. Her birthmother was an intravenous drug user before, during, and after her pregnancy. Having done some research, I think it was likely heroin that she used, but I will never know for sure. Anastasia exhibited signs of addiction/withdrawal after birth, with frequent seizures and high temps. She was low-birthweight, and born at 38 weeks gestation...likely due to the drug use by her birthmother. With the Russian medical system being what it is, she was diagnosed with epilepsy instead of NAS (Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome), which is the likeliest cause of her seizures.

Anastasia remained in the custody of her birthmother for just over 2 years. From her diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder it is obvious she did not receive proper care and nurturing from her birthmother during this time. When Anastasia was 27 months old, her mother abandoned her and her older sister outdoors. The girls were taken in by neighbors who, I believe, subsequently abused them. (I'll fill in these details at a later date.) Though the details are not clear due to the language barrier, I was shown a report that documented that Anastasia was, in early 1995, purposely placed in an oven at 27 months of age and sustained significant injuries that caused her to be hospitalized for one year. Anastasia received 2nd and 3rd degree burns to her arms, back and head. She was not expected to live and, according to the medical reports, she experienced months of seizures while at the hospital. Her birthmother was located and went to prison.

At the age of three years, Anastasia was moved from the hospital to a Baby Home over three hours away from her birthplace. She spent 12 months here and was then moved to a “Rehabilitation” orphanage for children, ages four and up. Anastasia exhibited signs of RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder) and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) from an early age -- although that is not what the doctor called them. Instead she was simply labelled as very shy, a "loner", possibly brain-damaged, etc, etc. I do know she was often sent to a local psychiatric hospital for long periods when her behavior was too disruptive at the orphanage. There was documentation I was shown at the orphanage of a 10 month stay in 2004. Anastasia reports being restrained and medicated most of the time at this last hospitalization. She was considered unadoptable for most of her childhood, and was only made available for adoption at age 12, even though her birthmother's rights were legally terminated in 1999.

Aside from the neglect at the hands of her birthmother, Anastasia also experienced years of abuse at the hands of other children as well as some caretakers at her long-term orphanage in Russia. To protect her privacy, I won't go into detail. However, I will say that the abuse came in many forms, and she endured it for eight years of her life. Aside from experiencing all forms of abuse, she also witnessed it with other children, and even animals. One of the first experiences she told me about was watching a kitten she had rescued and hidden in her room being thrown out a second story window by a staff person (to teach her a lesson.) At another time, she and other children at her orphanage who had been feeding a stray dog were forced to watch this dog being shot to death and then thrown in the back of a truck...all to dissuade them from ever giving out food to any of the local stray dogs again. Both of these stories were told to me with a blank look on her face, as I was told it was "no big deal" and she didn't care. Stories of secret night time visits from the older boys were told with complete indifference. Watching a friend her age make daily trips into the coal store house with older boys for sex was also "not a big deal." And the list goes on.

As for the medical history I was given, there were truths, half-truths and outright lies. I'm still trying to decipher which things might be true and which are not. As for what appears on the official records, they appear below. Many things listed are awkward Russian labels, so may sound a bit strange:

Perinatal encephalopathy ( Most Russian children are given this diagnosis)
Hyper anxiety syndrome (I'm sure this is actually her PTSD symptoms)
Lambliasis epilepsy ( No sign of it after nearly 4 years home)
Disease of the lung membrane (huh?)
Organic lesion of the central nervous system (again, huh?)
Two finger fractures (true)
Foot fracture (true)
Multiple facial lacerations ( sadly true - mostly from older girls fighting her for her food)
Scoliosis (minor)
scar tissue on right arm ( This was a half-truth. The 3rd degree burns left permanent scars not just on both her arms, but also her back and head.)

A few things they didn't mention:

a mouth full of rotten teeth (6 pulled since arriving home)
knotted scar tissue on her head in three places
countless scars all over her body that cannot be accounted for
giardia (at adoption)
anemia (at adoption)

Of course, the above medical info was not given to me until after my court hearing. Not that it would have had any bearing on my adoption. She was my daughter the moment I laid eyes on her. However, the fact that this info was kept from me until after the adoption is interesting, to say the least.

Ok, I'd love to write more, but I'm being summoned for foot-rubbing duty. 'Nite all .


  1. Thanks for sharing her story. It gives perspective and as an adoptive mom who only got half the truth, it is always amazing to hear the lives our children' had to live yet we are the ones blessed by them.

  2. wow, what a story to live through. it's amazing isn't it?! so glad she has you to help her through it. and i'm glad i found your blog and look forward to catching up!
    our son's ukrainian medical records were similar, just really weird stuff that no doctor here could even make a guess about! but we only received one small page with a few weird comments and that's it. the rest is a mystery.

  3. Yup - we, too are among those who didn't have even a fraction of the truth disclosed to us until after our court hearing. In fact, it wasn't until we read the english translations of our documents after we got home. We were able to obtain the original orphanage medical records for our older son. We were glad to have them, even though they were all in Ukrainian. We had them translated several months after returning home. It was all stuff we'd already figured out such as recurring bronchitis or really weird stuff like an "s-shaped bladder" We had it all checked out once we got home, but it all proved false. There was no mention, however, of the "big stuff" in there anywhere. My son has Cerebral Palsy and it is no where in his records. Nor is there any HINT at what the very pronounced scar on his buttox that runs right along the sciatic nerve is from.

    I've often wondered what would have happened if the truth had been disclosed up front. Would I have still adopted them or would I have run the other way? By the time we did start finding out about stuff (like PTSD within an hour of our son moving in with us...which for a number of reasons was before our adoption was final.) Once we did start finding out, it was too late. He was our son and we knew it. But trying to get a straight answer from anyone about our questions was like pulling teeth. They just kept telling us to disrupt the adoption and even went so far as to threaten to do it for us. Oddly enough, that stuff that was never disclosed so we WOULD adopt the boys nearly cost us the whole adoption once we started figuring it out and asking questions about it.

    Yes we still have struggles now, but I can't imagine life without my kids. We're so glad we packed those boxing gloves and fought for the right to keep our kids. They are lightyears from where they were just a little over a year ago.


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