Monday, August 2, 2010

Her Mother?

Last year, in a Ukrainian court room, a stern looking judge had Sergei and I rise. "Mrs. Marchenko, do you think you can be a good mother to this child?"

All I had to do was say yes. 'Da,' in Russian.

Instead, I burst into tears.

The judge's face softened. "Sit down, woman. The answer is in your tears."

I slowly sat down and tried to hush my sobs in an attempt to catch a few understandable words in Ukrainian. The court room business continued and a little girl abandoned at birth by her parents because of her diagnosis of Down syndrome officially became Evangeline Sergeyevna Marchenko.

Today, I sat in a observation room at The Erickson Institute, holding Evie after playing with her while a woman watched us. She took notes.

We've started evaluations at Erickson for Evie to see if they can help us determine if she is on the Autism spectrum or if what she does, stuff like eating dirt and rocking, is left over from being orphaned in Ukraine.

The thing is, after her tonsils came out and her ear tubes were put in two weeks ago, we've seen drastic changes in our daughter. She seeks me out throughout the day now. When I pick her up she smiles. She wraps her chunky little arms around my neck and squeezes.

I love it, don't get me wrong. But it scares the hell out of me too. Because I'm afraid I'll wake up tomorrow and she'll be back in her own world again.

Today in the evaluation she waved 'hi.' And then she said "hi." She interacted with toys. Simply put, she was on. Sergei and I looked at one another in amazement.

If these skills would have emerged a few weeks ago, I would not have made the appointment to have her evaluated.

I kept talking to the social worker about how Evie was, even a month ago, compared to today. She asked me to give her five adjectives that describe my relationship with Evangeline now and how I would describe what it was like in the beginning with her.

It took me a while to answer. I struggled to get words out. I muddled around. Finally I give her the allotted ten words she expected. I have no clue what I said tonight because it was so emotional. The words were so different.

"So, do you feel like her mother now?" The woman with the clipboard asked, blinking, her face a dead pan.

And I started to cry, again. Just like I did a year ago in that Ukrainian court room.

"Yes. I am her mother. I feel it."

I cried not because I was sitting in an observation room having my daughter evaluated for a dual diagnosis. I cried not because at three and a half Evangeline is still non-verbal or because she only eats pureed baby food.

I cried because she has come so far. I saw that plainly today.

I cried because today I realized that I'm the one who has farther to go.

There but for the grace of God go I.


  1. that is so beautiful Gillian.


  2. Beautiful post Gillian.

    I am tempted to say that T&A might be a miracle surgery. Not because of the surgery, but because of what happens after it. I gave "birth" to Nina after our nightmare of T&A.

    Thank you for always being so honest. If it had not been for you, I would have thought it all to be rainbows and stars. Instead, I knew it was okay to not have it all together.

  3. At the end of your post, I am crying too!

    Julie Davis

  4. Praying for you all. Thanks for this heartfelt post.

  5. Fantastic post. Your honest approach to such a personal experience is refreshing and insightful. Thank you for sharing with all of us.

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  7. Wow, Gillian, that was so moving and amazing to read.

  8. Hey Gillian! Just wanted to offer some encouragement to you. While Evie is eating dirt, Charlie is eating poop. Meanwhile, Hopey has decided she wants to be nude all the time and spontaneously takes off her clothing. Last night, I found Charlie eating the DIAPER she had taken off. Oh my. Charlie just turned two, and though he is happy to eat a diaper, he will not touch "real food"---only baby food. UGGH! Speaking of eating, Hopey eats half of her food at every meal and the other half ends up thrown at the members of the family seated around the table. Truly, everyone has to eat with eyes constantly on Hopey so we can block the "incoming" pea or carrot. Nutty. Oh, and by the way, Hope turns 5 next month and is still non-verbal which frustrates her into meltdowns several times a day....and I join her in the meltdown at least once a day. (ha!) Anyway, all this to say that our lives are just way different than the average "normal" life. Waaay more challenging. Evie's issues, sure enough, might be post-orphanage abandonment issues. We adopted Natalie from Russia when she was 3, and she had "issues" for a couple of years----just not seeming to connect, exhibiting no fear of danger, lack of effort to communicate, etc. However, looking back now, I tend to believe Natalie was just being Natalie. She was trying to figure out her place in our family just like every child does; however, because she was 3 (instead of an infant) the process "looked" different. She adjusted in her own way and in her own precious time. I regret fretting so much over it, but like you, I am a momma who wants my brood of chicks happy, safe, and content all the time. Oh well, I am rambling....I just wanted to offer a bit of Hope to you today and let you know how much I understand what you are going through. On top of everything, you have Moyamoya to deal with....and on top of everything, I have Hope's heart aneurysm to deal with. Seems unfair at times, doesn't it??? But through it all, sweet friend, we need to cling to Ephesians 6:10-23 and just keep standing. Love, Love, Love to you...and a tight hug too! Melanie Hollis

  9. I am so touched by this post. Thank you for sharing. Hugs & prayers.

  10. Gillian, I LOVE your heart. I see God working in your life, I feel Him when you write. Amazing. Thank you for your humbleness and humility. In a similar way I am going through this with my youngest adopted son. God is working on me as well and I am so thankful I have a God who LOVES to mold us and perfect us. We need to talk again soon. Malachi has his Moyamoya surgery and we are having some issues with his incision healing. Would love to get together and meet you all!!

  11. Just read your blog for the first time today -- my husband and I live outside of Chicago and we are just starting the process at EFCA (ironically) to adopt a little boy from the Ukraine through Reece's Rainbow. I guess we have a lot in common -- and I so deeply appreciate your honesty and candor about the challenges you have faced since that moment in court. We are so excited to adopt but also know that the road ahead will be difficult. Would love to talk with you sometime about the process, the Ukraine, and well everything, since we are just starting! -- Corbett :)

  12. Corbett! How neat! Please email me at


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