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Monday, December 20, 2010

A Letter to My Daughter

Dec. 20 and 21 are very special days in my family. Dec. 20 is my daughter's birthday; Dec. 21 is our 'anniversary.' On that date in 2004, we became a family when a judge in Tyumen', western Siberia, Russia, granted her approval of my request to formally adopt my daughter. 

This is a letter to my daughter.

Dochen'ka, I am so incredibly proud of you, of all you have achieved and of everything you have overcome to get where you are today. And I am so happy that you are my daughter.

Little did I know when I met you the night of Aug. 4, 2004, how much our lives would change. I had no plans to adopt you; I was just going to host you during your visit to America for a couple of weeks. Fate had other ideas, however, and it became obvious very quickly that we are meant to be together. Sending you back to Russia to await your adoption hearing broke my heart. I will always remember the look of anguish on your face as you passed through the security line to begin your long journey back to the orphanage in Russia.

Just four months later, I was in a Siberian courtroom to make your adoption final. It was the day after your 11th birthday. I was clueless about raising a child from another country, especially one who had suffered the trauma you had endured. Of course, at the time, I had no idea of the trauma in your past and how it would impact us. I just knew that no matter what life would throw at us, we would get through it together.

Getting to where we are now required a long and challenging journey for both of us. It has been a journey of self-discovery, marked at times by anger, despair, hopelessness and fear. You felt angry, hopeless and afraid to let anyone love you. I was in despair and fear of losing you to the forces of evil with which you had aligned yourself. Your out-of-control behavior caused me incredible terror and many sleepless nights.

Over the past 18 months, I have seen you make many changes, haltingly at first, but later with increased confidence. There were setbacks and disappointments along the way, as well as hurt and anger on both sides. But despite it all, our relationship grew stronger.

After 11 weeks at Second Nature therapeutic wilderness program, you began to show an inner strength and self-confidence I had never seen. I was in awe of the changes I saw in you emotionally and physically. That growth continued during your time at Sunrise. I know you struggled, you fell back, you wanted to give up. But you did not give up. And not giving up is one of your strengths. You are strong in so many ways.

As you worked through the lessons taught at Sunrise, a world of self-discovery opened to you. You learned to accept my love and to realize that you are so very worthy of being loved. You overcame your lack of trust and fear of loving others by accepting that while loving may make you vulnerable to being hurt again, it also brings great happiness.

From seeing no future for yourself, you now look forward to college. You developed your creative side through photography, scrapbooking, knitting, crocheting and painting. You demonstrated your compassion for animals with your many volunteer hours at an animal shelter near our home in New Mexico. Through your work with dogs too frightened to move from their kennels, you had a profound impact on their lives and on their chances of being adopted.

You have been home for nearly seven months, and you have remained on track, making good choices and positive friends. You are mature beyond your years, and you have shared your life lessons with some of your peers. You volunteered to speak with a woman struggling with a son adopted from Ukraine. You are looking ahead now, talking about college and careers and someday, a family of your own. You are happy, something you weren't before. Finally, you know what love is.

So on your 17th birthday, I want you to know how very proud I am of you. You are truly a remarkable young lady. You are part of my family and my life forever. You are home.