250. Shotgun Wedding! Not!

Today is the anniversary of the date my niece Leanne and John Dudas took custody in Russia of their adopted twins, Galina Gwendolyn Dudas (Gigi) and John Andrew Dudas III (Jack).  The date was May 14, 2007 – their Family Birthday.  

The babies were born outside St. Petersburg, Russia, on September 8, 2004, making them about 2-and-one-half years old on what was probably the most important day of their lives.  That was the day they won the “lottery”, so to speak – a windfall they share with their lucky adoptive parents, Leanne and John.

I don’t know about them, but I’m always going to think of this day as WAY more important than their birthdate. 

Leanne can’t tell me the exact town the babies were born in because right now, she can’t find the paperwork.  They’re moving to a new house.  “But”, she explained, “I can locate some princess underwear if that would be useful.”

The adoption process was harrowing, to say the least.  I think Leanne and John made three trips to Russia to work through the red tape.  

Leanne and John met the twins for the first time at the orphanage on February 27, 2007.  Both babies had chicken pox – but purple blotches and all,  it was love at first sight.

Here’s some  notes from Leanne:

“Court date: 4/25/07   After the terrifying court date, we were sent back to the USA for a 2 week waiting period prior to being given custody.  So, we were their parents, but had to leave Russia without them.

Day we took custody:  5/14/07 

Became U.S. Citizens:  5/17/07 at 5:17pm.   With Russian adoptions, citizenship happens once they go through customs in the USA.  So they had already been on U.S. soil when we switched planes in NYC, but not until we went through customs at Dulles did they become citizens.”

I always imagined what it was like the day Leanne and John took custody of the twins.  The toddlers only knew the Russian language and found themselves taken away by strangers from their home – the orphanage – to a hotel room.  And from there to a big scary airplane.  And then to a strange foreign land!  Leanne told me that actually, the twins fell right into the spirit of the thing – from partying in the hotel room to the big airplane ride to their new land!

Wanting to get more description about it from Leanne, I called her and asked her to write about it.  A little while later, I received this amazing “scandalous” story.  So read on.  The plot definitely thickens. 

“In St. Petersburg, Russia, the morning of May 14, 2007, while it was still May 13th in most of the USA – Mother’s Day that year, John and I were taking Galina Gwendolyn (partially named after Octo-women) and John Andrew (Jack and Gigi) out of the orphanage they had been living in for about a year, to begin the long journey to their New World with us in Virginia.  At the time they were 2.5 years old.

Although that day was a random date to the Russia court that decided it two weeks earlier, it seemed serendipitous us, as we celebrated both Mother’s Day and the 9 month anniversary of when John and I got married in NYC.  

The last statement may qualify as an Octo-mom blog scandal – that is, if you are good at math and geography, since anyone that attended our wedding would remember it being an unseasonably cold, rainy October day in Washington, D.C.  Not to worry, you are not crazy.

That was our wedding in the church with family and friends, but by the power vested in New York State, John and I unexpectedly, and very secretly eloped in a civil ceremony on Monday August 14, 2006.  Only our parents, siblings, lobsters sacrificed for our post-ceremony dinner from a private deck overlooking the Brooklyn Bridge, and the insurance company were made aware of the union.  (Octo-mom’s investigative reporting provides better sources in breaking the story before Wikileaks. She nearly broke it the day of the wedding in Oct 2006 because she could not figure out why we never had to sign the marriage certificate.) 

This was not a shotgun marriage, in fact, quite the opposite.  We knew having children would most likely be a struggle for us, so we decided to start fertility testing about six months before the wedding.  The results were not optimistic, so when the doctor said the sooner the better and that he would start trying IVF in August before the October wedding date, we were in.  

The appointment was for Tuesday the 15th in NYC.  We planned on driving there directly after my 20th class reunion that was taking place the weekend before in upstate NY.  As we packed for the trip that Thursday night, believing I might be pregnant that month, and knowing John’s insurance covered fertility treatment, we decided to take that Monday between the class reunion and Tuesday’s doctor’s appointment to elope.  And if that wasn’t crazy enough, I told John he could plan the whole thing and not to tell me anything. I wanted it to all be a surprise.

Everything from the suite at the Jumeirah Essex House overlooking Central Park to the ceremony was perfect.  But it wasn’t until the day at the orphanage 9 month later that we realized how perfect. 

When we eloped, I had expected the surprise location of the ceremony to be on a rooftop terrace with sweeping city views or in a meadow at central park, but John chose Battery Park overlooking the Hudson River, Statue of Liberty, and Ellis Island.  I was a little baffled by his choice because although the location is a moving patriotic symbol welcoming immigrants to our country, it didn’t seem all that romantic. Despite thinking he was a little off on the location, we had an unbelievable sunset that could not be beat.  During the ceremony we were optimistic about the next days’ doctors’ appointment and hoped for a trip to labor and delivery nine months out.  In our wildest imaginations we could not have foreseen being on our third trip to Russia and bringing home two new little American citizens on our 9 month anniversary.  I guess location, location, location applies to both real estate and elopement. 

Unbelievably after all that elopement stuff, we never even started IVF due to a tooth problem and a bad dentist (not the good Dr. Opsvig).  And while we hadn’t thought about adoption until that Thanksgiving, now the elopement and its location seem inspired, and meant to be, just as our little family does.  

Several times a week, John and I tell each other in amazement how lucky we were getting the kids we did.  Although they had a rough start in life, they began their life with us four years ago as if they knew nothing else.  On paper, they are dual citizens of the USA and Russia, but in person they are All American!”

When it comes to something my niece wants to achieve, just stand back, folks.  It may be complicated, it may be impossible, it may even be illegal, but one way or another, it will be done. That’s just the way it is.  

Of course, this little caper was a two-man job.  No way could Leanne and John have acquired those twins within six months time without such a determined and effective partnership.  The Russians had the good sense to give up, stand back, and let it happen. 

Today, the twins speak perfect English, are successfully weathering school in Washington D.C., and are charming the socks off anybody who meets them.

So in spite of starting out with a kind of a shotgun wedding, all’s well that ends well.  In Virginia right now, there resides a family of four who were overwhelmingly blessed – and they deserve it.  

Happy Family Birthday, Leanne, John, Gigi and Jack!

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One Response to 250. Shotgun Wedding! Not!

  1. Chris says:

    Beautiful family with a beautiful story!

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