MY FIRST FULL DAY IN ROD DOME
The next morning, after I fed Jasper around 5:30, he and I fell asleep in the bed together, dozing on and off. As I was the only one in my room, the lights remained off even as commotion had begun in the hallway as the new day was starting.
At about 8am light came into my room from the hallway as a lady opened my door and said ,”zaftrak gotove” – “breakfast is ready”. I said, “spaceeba” – “thank you”, and let my head fall back down onto the pillow. My first day in the rod dome was here.
I laid for a minute thinking that I’d rather sleep and that I could hold out until lunch. But I was very hungry and knew that traditionally lunch in Russia is not served until 1pm or later, so I knew that I needed to get myself down to the kitchen for some food.
As I started to roll over, I could feel the extreme weariness and soreness that had settled in from the activities of the day before . I moved Jasper to his bassinet, slipped on Charlie’s plastic slippers, and took a deep breath in preparation for the pain that I knew was coming when I stood up. I stood slowly as I held the white cloth I’d slept on in place, being sure not make a mess on the floor as I stood. Slowly I walked across the room to get a new white cloth from the shelf and then out the door (putting on my robe before leaving). In the hallway as I walked towards the bathroom, I passed a few of the other patients, all of whom were walking as I was, very slowly while hunched over and breathing heavily. One lady was carrying her baby and crying as she walked.
The bathroom was occupied, so I went back to my room to wait a few minutes before I returned to give myself a sponge bath, change into my fresh gown, apply the fresh white cloth and dispose of the used into it’s respective trash can (which was almost full). I went back into my room to check again on Jasper who was sleeping – I’d left the lights off in our room – then pulled the door and walked down for breakfast.
When I arrived at the area where the mothers were all to eat, I got in line behind the couple of other ladies waiting to get their food from the little service window between the kitchen and the tables. Other mothers – maybe 8 or 9 – were already sitting at the tables eating. When it was my turn, I received my bowl of (yes) oatmeal and a boiled egg and grabbed an apple out of the bowl sitting on the table next to the window. Then I sat down at a table (being sure to hold onto my white cloth) across from another mother whose head was down as she sat silently eating.
That’s the first time I really noticed it – no one in the room was speaking. We were all sitting with our heads down silently eating our oatmeal. I couldn’t help but to feel so embarrassed to be there. I imagined Charlie walking in at that moment and seeing me sitting there slumped over in my robe and plastic slippers eating my oatmeal amongst all of the other women, and I began to cry. I put my head down, but I’m sure the lady across from me knew that I was crying, and I felt certain also that I wasn’t the first lady sitting at that table to have done so.
From that moment on, I became keenly aware of two things I’d not expected: First, the sight of 15 or so women slowly walking hunched over and breathing heavily through the halls of one of the oldest rod domes in St. Petersburg, Russia is kind of like a scene from the Night of the Living Dead. Second, a spirit of shame was hanging heavily over that entire place, and I couldn’t help but to keep asking myself, “Is this what all of the babies in this country are born into?”
When I returned to my room (I grabbed another apple to take with me), it was only a short time before the nurse came in to give me another shot of oxytocin. I said, “paschalsta, nyet” – “please, no”. She gave me a smile that said, “I’m sorry, but I have to.” I said, “horosho” – “ok” and rolled over to receive my shot.
A few hours later, the doctor came to see me. I told her that I didn’t want to receive the oxytocin anymore. She told me that I was only to receive 2 more doses. I tried to explain in my very limited Russian that, especially since I was nursing, I felt like my body didn’t need additional oxytocin to recover. Mainly, however, I was just tired of the intense cramps that came especially when I nursed Jasper.
I also asked her when I would be able to go home. “Poneedelnik?” – “Monday?” I asked. This would mean only 2 more nights at rod dome.
“Oh, nyet, nyet, nyet.” – “No, no, no.” she answered. “Not before Tuesday.”
That did it – the tears started streaming down my face. I was sobbing right in front of the doctor, and I could not stop. “Why are you crying?” she asked. “Don’t cry,” she kept saying. She tried to console me, but I’d only been there 24 hours, and alone there only 15 or so. Three more nights away from Charlie and Isabel seemed like more than I could do.
Then, shortly after the doctor left, my door opened again and in came the nurse with another patient, who’d just delivered, and who was going to be using the other bed in the room. She clearly was unaware of the agreement Charlie had with the doctor, and simply gave a warm, “Zdrazvootsee!”- “Hello!” as she wheeled the new patient and her baby in to the room. I knew that Charlie was not going to like this, but I honestly felt a bit of relief that I would not have to be in the room alone any longer.
At 3pm, visiting hours began, and despite difficulty getting a sitter for Isabel (Liza took more time off of work), Charlie was there right on the dot. I was so happy to see him. He did give kind of an irritated look when he walked in and saw that I had a roommate, but I think he could tell by the expression on my face that I did not mind her company.
He also told me he’d found out that, according to a relatively new law, the hospital was not allowed to let Jasper and I go home with him until he’d gotten a chest X-ray to show that he did not have TB. This upset Charlie very much. As a matter of fact, the first thing he said was, “I shouldn’t have to do this, I’m not a Russian. If we have to go to the consulate on this, we will.”
I didn’t tell him at the time, but his reaction made me very uneasy. “Not do it?” I thought. “Go to the consulate?” I pictured Charlie at the consulate trying to get them to convince the hospital to let us take Jasper home without Charlie’s chest X-ray. I also pictured all of the children who I’d met over the years at the intake hospitals who’d been taken away from their mothers for different reasons. “Could they really not allow me to take Jasper home because Charlie won’t get this chest X-ray?” I thought.
At that moment, Charlie and I were walking very different paths in the same story. Charlie didn’t realize how much I was beginning to struggle with the circumstances at the rod dome, and I wasn’t planning to tell him. On the other hand, I didn’t realize all that Charlie was going through while I was there in the way of caring for Isabel (who was not handling my being at the hospital very well), seeing me experiencing so much pain and lying in that bed (which now had my blood stains all over it), getting through security at the hospital to come see me, getting through St. Petersburg traffic to get there on time, and getting almost no sleep due to his concern for all of us.
In any case, at that time, nothing more was said about the required X-ray by either of us. In what seemed like minutes, visiting hours were over, and Charlie was gone again.
On my second night in rod dome, I hit bottom.
Shortly after visiting hours, my roommate asked the nurse to take her baby to the nursery. Then she rolled over and tried to go to sleep. I had not intended for Jasper to leave the room at all. So on this night, around 11pm or so, I nursed him and put him in his bassinet hoping he’d fall asleep the way he had the night before.
However, for whatever reason, on this night Jasper was wide awake. I don’t know if it was the heat in our room or the new roommate or whatever else it may have been, but Jasper would not sleep in there on this night. He stayed awake crying so much that around midnight I finally picked him up and walked out into the hallway with him so as not to keep my neighbor awake.
For the next hour I walked with Jasper up and down the hall of that rod dome while everyone else slept.
He’d fall asleep in my arms occasionally. However, as soon as I’d attempt to take him back into my room and lay him in his bassinet, he’d come wide awake and start screaming.
At one point I called Charlie, who I knew would be awake, and talked to him a while as I sat in the hallway. At about 1am, the pediatric nurse came out of her station and saw me and Jasper sitting in the hallway. “Oh no,” I thought. “She’s going to ask me if I want to put him in the nursery.”
Which she did. The conversation was in Russian, but I knew she was trying to explain to me that maybe he was struggling because he could smell his mother’s milk. She said, “Momma dolshna spat” – “Momma needs to sleep”. She was one of the kindest ladies I’ve ever met, and I could see genuine concern in her face for me. Since I’d arrived I’d only had hot tea to drink and had been sweating profusely in my room due to hormones and the heat. At this point I’d begun to feel very dehydrated. Plus I’d not gotten very much sleep that day, and had not had a shower since that glorious one I had taken at our home almost 2 days prior. As much as I hated to admit it, I knew she was right.
However, all of the sudden the thought of Jasper being taken from me and put into the nursery terrified me. I told her I really wanted to try to let him sleep with me, so she agreed and went back to her station.
When she came back out an hour later – now around 2:30am – and saw me still sitting in that hallway, rocking Jasper, I felt my heart kind of sink in my chest. As she walked up to me smiling, I knew that it was time. She sat beside me and said, “Vwee oostalee” – “You are tired.” She asked if he’d eaten and if he’d had a good diaper, both of which had occurred in the last 30 minutes. She said, “Let me take him to the nursery with the other babies. I promise I will bring him to you at 6:00.” I said in broken Russian, “I do not want him to have a bottle, I want him to nurse if he’s hungry.” She said, “I will bring him to you if he gets hungry, we will not give him a bottle.” I hesitated for a minute, looking at Jasper, and then said, “OK” and handed him over to her. As I watched her walk down the hall with him and into the nursery, I started crying. I sat there for a minute to be sure she didn’t walk right back out with him, and then went into my room and laid down on my bed, still crying.
After about 5 minutes, the nurse came into my room and quietly said, “On speet.” – “He sleeps.” At that moment, finally, the sobs began. She put her hand on my head and tried to console me. She told me over and over, “Don’t cry. He’s fine. I promise if he wakes up I will bring him to you. I will bring him to you at 6:00.” But I was inconsolable. I kept apologizing to her through my sobs, and I told her I would be fine in a minute, and I thanked her. Finally, she went back out of the room and pulled the door behind her.
For the next hour and a half, I laid in that bed sobbing. I could not stop crying. There I laid in that rod dome in St. Petersburg, Russia, separated from both of my children. I turned towards the wall because I couldn’t stand looking at the empty bassinet next to my bed.
A very unpleasant, ungracious side of me came out in those moments. I told myself that this was as much as I could take, and I made the decision that as soon as we were out of that rod dome, I was buying our plane tickets and we were going back to Georgia.
“I don’t care what people say,” I thought. “The Russian people don’t even want us here. Why am I here trying to convince orphanage directors and government officials to let me help them while I’m away from my family and my home, and now my husband and children? If the people here don’t want to repent for the sins that have been committed and to let their lives be set free by God from the oppression that is so evident here – if they want to continue to kill themselves with alcohol and drugs and to let their children live in institutions, fine. I’m going home.” I cried out to God in anger, “Why? Why have you brought me here just to take my children away from me?”
And that’s when it dawned on me.
For so many years, I’d known that God was calling me to Russia to work with the orphans there. I’d had a sense of it even on that first trip back in 2001. Then I remembered the day that Charlie and I had our first meeting with our sending agency about our desire to live and work in Russia. A month after that initial meeting, we found out we were pregnant with Isabel.
I didn’t fully realize it at the time, but learning that we were going to have a baby ignited in my spirit very significant fears, that I now know had always been there. Having met so many beautiful children in Russia over the years who were growing up in institutions without their parents, and I think also due to the fact that I and my siblings had experienced so much separation from either of our parents when we were children due to divorce and other painful trials, I realized that night that I had been living with an intense fear of losing my children. I had been blaming God not only for the loss that we’d experienced in my family, but also for the incredible loss that the children – and their mothers and fathers – were experiencing every day in St. Petersburg, Russia.
I realized that night, that one of the major reasons I had agreed to move to St. Petersburg was because I had believed that doing so would ensure that God would never take my children away from me. Further, I had believed that if I’d NOT moved to St. Petersburg, knowing God’s call on my life there, that He may have decided to take my children from me in a manner similar to the way I’d believed He’d taken these children in Russia away from their mothers and fathers. This was not the first time that this possibility had occurred to me, but its reality in my life had never been so clear as at that moment.
In the minutes that followed, though I continued to cry, I became very silent before God. I felt such conviction in my heart that I had been trusting Him so little with my children, and with my marriage, and my family in Georgia – with my life. I had gone to Russia for very selfish reasons, as a part of a deal I was trying to make with Him. I had judgment and bitterness in my heart. Because of my own sin and weakness, I had become angry with the people who I’d come to serve, even after so many had given so much to serve me and my family.
As I laid there, I truly felt as though the Lord were lying there beside me with His arms around me, telling me, “Miki, I’ve got you. I know of your weaknesses. I know that you don’t trust Me fully, but I know you want to, and I promise you that despite this I will NEVER leave you and I will NEVER leave your children. I promise you will get there, and I will be with you the entire way.”
And then, silently I began to repent. “Father, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. Please heal me. Please heal my marriage. Please help me to give my life fully to You.
“And please help me to give Isabel and Jasper fully to You. They are Your children, and it is my honor and pleasure to be called their mother in this world. I know that each day You give me with them is a gift. Help me to see each day as that, for I know the condition of this world is not as You desire, and I pray that in all of their days here they will walk with You through it.”
As the Spirit of the Lord continued to wash over me in His grace in those minutes, I began to feel my eyes get very heavy and knew that I needed to sleep. I felt my spirit calm within me and soon drifted off to sleep.