Thursday, November 29, 2012


There have been times in my life when I've been nervous.  There have been times I've been scared.  There have been several "make or break" moments sprinkled in there too, but nothing like this.

After our final visit with Gabriel this morning, we came back to the hotel and got ready for court.  Then we came downstairs to wait for our driver.  We asked the front desk clerk to take a photo for us, telling her we were about to go to court to find out if we could be parents to the most wonderful little boy.


We felt as ready as we could possibly be.  We had gone over the potential questions we could be asked many times.  We still had about half and hour to wait, so we sat on the couches and pretended to care what was on our phones.  My nerves kept getting worse and worse.  So I asked Brian if he would come with me to the hallway to say a prayer together.  The lobby of the hotel had suddenly become busy with guests, and the hallways soon followed.  So we decided to make a quick trip back to the room to say our prayer.  It was a simple prayer, asking Heavenly Father to be with us, to give us the words we needed to convey our love for this child, our hope that he can be made a part of our family.  We asked for peace and calm in our hearts.  We also thanked Him, acknowledging His hand in every step of this adoption.  I thought of the scripture that talks about missionary service, where it says to go forth, that He will be on your left hand and your right.  I felt that way then.  I felt Him saying, "I have brought you this far, I will not leave you now."  We felt the prayers and fasting of friends and family back home.  I felt assured that those prayers had been heard.  But I did not receive an assurance that Gabriel would be ours.  So the prayer ended with "if it be Thy will..."

We came back down the elevator to find our driver waiting for us in the lobby.  The snow had not relented in the least, and the driving conditions were terrible.  Olga had told us that the news was reporting many accidents and delays.  Please oh please don't let us get in an accident, my silent prayer went up.  

We drove for nearly an hour, through swirling snow and wet, thick slushy roads.  We watched cars sliding and honking, crawling along on the crowded roads.  We passed cathedrals that looked story-like with the snow blanketing them.

Finally, we seemed to escape the main part of the city and were driving through a small forest of trees, enclosing many government buildings.  We broke through the trees and traveled a few more windy roads until we finally came to a stop in front of a large beautiful building.  The courthouse.  It was time.

We ran through the snow, up the slippery steps and into the building.  The security guard tried to tell me what to do, but I didn't understand a thing, and since Alla was already inside waiting for us, we had no interpreter. Finally he told me, "metal?", indicating I should put any metal into the basket in front of me.  I kept telling him I didn't have any metal on me, so he let me through the metal detector.  I set it off.  His exasperated look said it all.  He used his wand to check my body and asked me if I had any sharp objects.  Finally, he let us go.  We sat in the lobby to wait for Alla to come get us.  

She appeared at the top of a long staircase and waved us to her.  Igor wished us good luck, and we padded up the stairs of the very quiet and deserted courthouse.  It was nearly 4:00 p.m.

Alla led us to another large waiting area, where the social worker from yesterday was waiting for us.  She greeted us warmly and then proceeded to ask us a lot of questions.  "You have a garden?  Does it grow?"  "Do your kids help in the garden?"  "Your garden looks very small" (what's with all the garden questions??!) "Do you get rewarded in your country for having many children?"  I thought she was asking if a mother received government assistance for having lots of children, so I told her no.  But then (through our court translator, who was also present), she told us that in Russia, if a mother has 3 or 4 children she gets a medal!  There is a ceremony and everything and the mother is revered for taking on such a task!  I told her that I thought America needed this reward system!  She laughed and smiled.  She asked us about our cars, how far of a drive it is to our work.  She asked what our business was like, what we did for employment.  She asked what my typical daily schedule was like.  

All of these questions were a good warm-up for what was coming in the courtroom.  We had to sign an agreement to not disclose any details of the actual proceedings that took place in the courtroom because it was a closed hearing.  But I am sure it would be okay for me to generalize what went on so you can get an idea of what it was like.  

Before they summoned us to the courtroom, our court interpreter told us how the hearing would go in general.  She told  us first to not be scared of the judge, that she handles many civil cases that are unpleasant and that she enjoys this part of her job.  Then she told us that the hearing is very formal, and proceeded to go over the rules of conduct with us and what to expect in general.  She ended with, "but of course, anything is possible!"  Alla told us that in all of her 14 years of doing this, she still gets nervous every time she comes to court.  The social worker smiled and seemed ready to go inside.  The orphanage director arrived and greeted us warmly.  She is so kind, and she is so, so happy for Gabriel.  

Finally we were summoned inside and took our seats on the front bench behind a railing which held back the few rows of visitor benches.  The judge appeared from her chambers and we all rose to our feet.  My first impression was shock-this judge was younger than me!  I was expecting a judge like we are used to in the States-much older!  We came to find out that there are two judges here, a male and female, and that the male judge is even younger than our female judge!  But they have gone through the same schooling and experience that judges in America have, but are appointed to the court much sooner.  

She went through all the procedural things like we were told.  Then she called me up to the podium to ask me some questions.  Her face was stern and serious, but she managed a personable face once in a while.  I took a deep breath and answered all of her questions with a clear mind and confident answers.  The questions were pretty much what I had expected, with a few surprises.  Soon enough, my turn was over and she called Brian to the stand.  She asked him more about financial questions, and why we wanted to adopt a child this age and with Down syndrome.  His answer was beautiful, "because we know that a child with Down syndrome is a gift, and will bring great joy to our family."  I was so proud of him in that moment.  Here was the man who had taken this great risk with me-the risk to be ridiculed, rejected, judged for doing this adoption, but he did it willingly and with no thought of saying no to this child.  

Brian's turn was done and we both took a big breath of relief.  However, the judge then proceeded to go through every single page of our dossier.  This was a blessing and a curse.  The curse was that with every page she read to the court reporter there was a chance she would find something, no matter how small, that may end our hearing right there.  Some translation that wasn't correct, some detail that didn't suffice.  But the blessing was that it was like reliving our life of this past year, hurdle by hurdle, until we arrived at the present. I listened as she said, "Home study, complete.  Background clearances, no history.  Training hours, completed.  Medical exams, healthy" and on and on.  I couldn't help the tears that came to my eyes with each description of a document that had a real place in my life this past year.  I thought of all the trips to the notary, the Secretary of State's office, the banks, the doctor's offices, the accountant's office.  So many steps to get here, so many memories.

Finally, she closed her giant binder and told the court that we met all of the requirements to be considered to adopt this child.  Then it was the orphanage director's turn to speak.  I could see the joy in her face as she talked about our boy, how bright he was, how he could imitate any word and how she had seen him saying English words with us.  She said in all of her years of work she had never met a child like him.  She told the judge that she had watched us interact and that we had a true and good bond with the child.  She told the court that there had only been one couple who had considered adopting him, but they said no.  They were doctors, and had recently lost an adopted child who also had Down syndrome, but who had died from a large heart defect.  They had decided it was too early to consider adopting again.  

Then it was the regional social worker's turn.  She is in charge of all of the orphans in the city.  And her statement came as a great surprise to me, for I had always considered her cordial but wary of us, making comments that suggested she thought we may be arrogant about this adoption.  But her statement was anything but cold; it was kind, and generous.  She, too, expressed surprise at how smart Gabe is, how he was excited to see us and interacted so well with us.  She told of how we played together, saying at one point it was hard to tell who was the child and who was the adult (is this a good thing?!)  She then told the judge that she believes we are the perfect family for this boy, and that with us, he will bloom and grow and have the best life possible.  Wow.  Brian and I were both weepy but held it together so we didn't look weak in front of the judge!

The judge then asked the prosecutor if she had any questions or objections, and she said, "nyet".  No.

She then rose and retired to her chambers.  We were swarmed with Alla and our court translator telling us what a beautiful job we did answering the questions!  They seemed so happy.  Alla's relief was obvious, and she began telling us stories of other couples who hadn't done so well (one woman had fainted at the stand, another man had forgotten his white shirt entirely and had to wear an extra blouse of his wife's!)  It felt good to be light-hearted.  I asked the translator to please tell the director and social worker how very much we appreciated their kind words, that we would be forever grateful to them.  

After about ten minutes the judge entered the room again.  We all stood, as the judge also stood to read the verdict.  "This court finds the Adoption Decree of the parents Brian Tyler Preece and Rebecca Ann Preece of the child Yegoshin Artur, who will thus be known as Gabriel Artur Preece, to be.......GRANTED."  

Tears.  Smiles. Gasps of joy from behind us.  And just that quickly, the judge entered her chambers again and it was over.  Hugs all around.  Huge smiles all around.  Well wishes and blessings granted.  I turned to Alla and smiled through my tears and said, "my son has been born!" as we hugged.  And that is how it feels now, like I have just given birth.  A new life will be joining our family in January, and we couldn't be happier.  

We made our way out of the courthouse and took a moment to snap a photo of the place we will never forget.


The drive home was surreal, made more so by the snow that continued to fall.  Everything was beautiful.



Can you spy the child on the sled?  We saw several moms pulling their children around the city this way. There were strollers with sled runners on the bottom instead of wheels!  Love it! 
We arrived back at the hotel, went upstairs to change and came down to a celebratory dinner.

The view from the restaurant window...magical.

Relief, tiredness, hunger!  But mostly, relief!  And a whole lot of happiness.
It is now 5:13 and my fingers are so tired, but I can't end this post without thanking you.  All of you.  Everyone who has read our story and wished us well.  All those who have prayed for us and for Gabriel.  Everyone who donated an item for the garage sale, bought a raffle ticket for the playhouse, mailed us a check or donated online to help ease the financial burden of traveling overseas.  Your gifts have been sacred to us and we have treated them as such.  To all those who felt the same as us, that all children deserve the love of a family, and that when one isn't available in their home country, that we should come to them, and bring them to ours, we thank you.  It is a difficult and complex thing, adoption, but it is wrought with blessings, too many to count.  So we thank you, with all that we are, thank you.


  1. Through my tears, congrats! We (having been through foster care and adoption of two precious children of our own this past year) are elated for you and your family! So amazing what faith, prayers and hard work can bring! What great news! Thanks for sharing your journey with us!
    ~Randy (Brian's cousin, Karen's son)

  2. Hooray!! Congratulations!! Court sure is interesting. . Our court lasted four hours and our judge too read every page of the dossier, word for word. Your right about details called into question. Things almost came to a screeching halt because some places I was referred to as Sally J and others as Sally Jo. Oh well. I'm so happy all went well and that this part is finally over. We celebrated after court at McDonald's.

    What happens next? Do you come home and then go back after the waiting period?

    Congrats again!!

  3. Congratulations! I came to know of your story when your son was "Arnold" through Recce's Rainbow. Rachel Baxter is one of my closest friends from college and remains a dear friend to this day. My family and I live in Arizona now but have been praying for "Arnold" since Rachel made us aware of the situation. I am SO SO thrilled for you. Through happy happy tears of joy I rejoice with you from afar. May the Lord continue to knit your family together!