February 1998

I've been sitting on a pretty huge piece of my own news - I'm in the midst of adoption proceedings. I'm adopting from a Russian orphanage, and although I don't know who my child will be yet, I'm asking for a little girl aged 3-6. Absolutely insane? At my age (my late forties), being single. . . . But I've learned (via the Internet) that there are other people in my position who have adopted, and that it is possible. And by their accounts being an "old" and single parent of an adopted child is exhausting overwhelming hard work but utterly unbeatable at the same time. Which is pretty much what I thought.

If you'd asked me some time last year whether I was thinking of adopting a child, I would have said a definite no. This has been an amazing turn for me. It started at the end of August, when I read a small announcement in our church newsletter. It said that there were eleven orphans in Guatemala in need of homes; anyone who has room in their home and their heart should contact. . . . And lightening struck. I realized that here are these little individuals who need parents, . . . and I absolutely have room both in my home and in my heart for a child. Well, I did make that contact. I learned that those particular kids had already been spoken for (thank God), but was reminded that there were many others around the world still in need - at which point I took a step back, thought about it, and switched gears to Russia, for obvious reasons - my own Russian roots and because I speak Russian.

Making adoption happen is a long and grueling process (and shockingly expensive - I truly don't understand why); but if all goes perfectly, I may be traveling to Russia and becoming a parent in a month or so! My life has already changed utterly, but something tells me it'll change much more utterly at that moment.

Tania Bouteneff and her daughter KristinaTania Bouteneff and her daughter Kristina

January 2000

Well, it's two years later, and I feel like Kristina, my almost seven-year old daughter, has been with me all of my life. I honestly can't remember what life was like without her. What's even stranger is that I was already saying this only a month after she arrived. It has been more of a joy than I could have imagined. She is a particularly happy, affectionate, caring, sensitive child, with a real spunk and zest for life. I love her enormously and completely.

There have been plenty of trials and tribulations; her first months here were both heaven and hell for us both. On the one hand there was the utter joy of Kristina discovering her new world and rejoicing in it, and the rich and beautiful experience of the building of our mother-daughter relationship. But on the other hand she had her own "demons" to fight, through long and painful meltdown tantrums, night terrors, and nightmares. No matter what I did I seemed unable to truly help her with these. With time these events became less and less frequent, and they virtually never occur any more. Thank God.

July 2000

Over the time since then both of us have been learning a lot about what being a "forever family" means. It's such a deep joy, with so much enjoyment and laughter and affection and warmth. It's growing into a togetherness, an honesty, and a full trust (something which cannot be taken for granted with a child adopted at age five). It's also at times the appearance of intense impatience and/or anger; we've both learned about the healing power of apologizing and forgiving. We're entering our third summer together, and the experience of being a mother and daughter feels quite ordinary much of the time. And yet so often I still have that spark of wonder at the fact that this is so real and so right. And she does too. Not long ago, after we had gotten back from a special trip and she was soaking in the tub, she said, "Mommy, we have a good life, huh?" And then, a few moments later, "We're a good family!"

And, to end on a very mundane note, through this experience I've learned that all those years I thought I was impossibly busy, I had no idea of how much more busy one can be. Being a single parent with a demanding full-time job means intense and unrelenting busy-ness, chronically not getting things done, and never really having enough time with one's child. For a fiercely independent person, it also means the challenge of always being indebted to family and friends for their truly invaluable help and support. But it's also an utterly sublime and incomparably fulfilling experience. Very Orthodox in its contrasts!

Prayer for the Adoption of a Child

O Lord our God, who through Your beloved Child, our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Grace of Your All-holy Spirit, called us children of God through adoption, and said, I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to me a Son. Do You, the same King, loving God, look down from Your holy dwelling-place on high, upon these Your servants, (N.) and unite their natures which you have begotten separate from one another according to the flesh, through Your Holy Spirit, into parents (mother, father) and son (daughter).

Confirm them in Your love; bind them through Your benediction; bless them to Your great glory; strengthen them in Your faith; preserve them always and renounce them not for that which proceeds from their lips. Be Mediator for their promises, that their love which they have confessed to You be not torn asunder even to the evening of their lives; grant that they may be kept sincerely alive in You, our only Living and True God, and grant to them to become heirs of Your Kingdom, for to You is due all glory: to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, now and ever, and unto ages of ages.