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.