Dissolved in Ohio:
Val, Denise, A Doctor and Lying About Natasha
While the car made its way to the Ukraine Hotel, they tried to explain in full detail why they thought Natasha’s behavior was so extreme. They told him about the orphanage visits and the airplane rides. They emphasized they were having severe doubts about the adoption working out and most importantly, that felt they may not have been the proper parents for this disturbed child.
Val took a neutral position regarding Natasha. When asked for his opinion, after the descriptions of her behavior, he stated she was an “average” child. He had seen many recently adopted children, so one wonders what his definition of “average” would be. He probably wasn’t keen on having Natasha’s adoption disrupted in Moscow. But, if the Ponishes had wished to do that, they could have. Natasha was still a Russian citizen, legally they could have dropped her off at the next Dom Rebyonka in Moscow. Or sent her back to Blagoveshchensk.
They needed answers and guidance, and they needed them as soon as possible.
Val was obligated to help them. He suggested they speak first with the agency for the agency would be far better equipped to give them answers about what to do with Natasha than he would. All he did was ferry clients back and forth from the embassy to the hotel and the airports.
Margaret and Peter were way ahead of him. Denise and Wendy had been no help whatsoever, but now, they were going to have to earn their pay. They told Val they wanted Natasha examined by a qualified Russian doctor to make absolutely certain there wasn’t a physical problem with Natasha to cause her to act the way she was.
Natasha, even after having flown on two airplanes and been up for hours, was piled with energy. Immediately upon entering their room at the Ukraine Hotel, she didn’t waste time with sleeping. She took right away to moving around and around the room, between the bed, up and down the small aisles, and then would stop and walk in small circles. She would do this again, over and over, for hours.
No sooner had their baggage been placed on the plane than they called Medina, Ohio to speak with Denise L. Hubbard, a telephone call Denise had probably gotten once or twice before already. Stashed neatly away in her calculating brain, she probably had a full script of “spiritual benefits” and excuses ready to lay on them once they began to speak about Natasha. Guilt trips about how God wanted them to take this orphaned child and how they were the best parents to help her out. And how they just couldn’t leave her there. And that she would be just fine when she got home.
Crack adoption professional Wendy Stamper took the call. But Margaret Ponish was on to her. Just as we had in Perm, Margaret had an inkling Denise Hubbard was also on the other line, listening to what she was going to say.
After being bad-mouthed by Wendy through the other BBAS couple in Amur, Margaret had no favorable opinion of Wendy. As a matter of fact, she had no respect for her at all. Before Wendy could start to ask questions, Margaret cut her off and demanded that Denise Hubbard be put on the line to talk to her.
Denise got on, probably with her finger over the “play” button of her recording machine all ready to start the tape rolling once the conversation turned.
Margaret calmly gave Denise the run down on Natasha’s actions, her RAD symptoms, her compulsive behavior – everything since they had first met her weeks ago.
Denise, as we guessed, had her script full of excuses all laid out in her mind to give to the Ponishes. Her response to this severely mentally disabled child’s actions? “She’s just going through a temporary transitional problem. All the kids have that when you first take them.” And one of her old stand-bys: “She could also have an earache! So many have earaches and that is why they act like that. Too much pain in their heads!”
Earache my eye! Not many recent Russian adoptees act the way Natasha was — while still in Russia. Her behavior was off the wall.
Margaret specifically knew Natasha didn’t have any earaches – the girl’s ears were fine, and she did not even have a cold. She reminded Denise that the other adopted children she had seen did not act as Natasha had – either in the orphanage, at the hotel in Amur and especially on the airplane ride. What should they do? Who should they consult?
Denise’s advice for a medical consultation? Her favorite — Dr. Eric Downing.
Not the thing to tell Margaret, for she had lost all respect for him when she had seen him downing some stiff ones at the hotel in Blagoveshchensk. And she hadn’t forgotten the Translator telling her Dr. Downing had been seen drinking there on prior occasions. No way on the planet was a physician who drank in public going to look at Natasha.
We wonder, did that drinking problem contribute to his somewhat premature death six years later? If it did, we don't need to ask ourselves why he might have had to drink so much, what demons he was keeping down. (He was also, we have since learned, a staunch AMREX supporter until the very bitter end).
Margaret told Denise Val had already taken care of it anyway. Val would be escorting them to a qualified Russian doctor the next day at their request.
Denise did not counter this. She offered them no alternatives, other than to trust Val’s recommended physician. She did not offer the Ponishes another referral.
She told them to to bring Natasha home anyway, no matter what. Natasha would receive the best care in the United States. She should not be left to perish in the Russian orphanage system. The guilt trip had been laid.
The conversation ended. There was nothing more to do. It was now up to what the doctor would tell them to make or break Natasha’s adoption.
The next day Val and Tatiana the translator took them to the Russian doctor for the examination. He looked her over, giving her a cursory physical examination. He didn’t see anything wrong with her.
His advice to them was to speak Russian words to her. He stated, through the Tatiana, that Natasha’s behavior was “understandable.” He advised them to just let her cry it out (with no tears in her eyes). He said she was in the “in the middle of the road,” tired and confused.
And that she was a very strong-willed child.
I have to ask: How qualified was this “doctor”? Was Natasha behaving the way all Russian two-to-three-year-olds act? This behavior is considered “normal” in Russia? I don’t think so!
Meanwhile, Natasha’s tantrums, rages and compulsions were not improving.
Their hands were tied. What should they do? Go back to the USA without her or leave her in Moscow? Peter was more hopeful than Margaret and told her that they should bring the child back to the USA and give Natasha time to heal. They could provide more for her than the Russians could in an orphanage.
Natasha boarded the Delta JFK baby flight with her new brother and parents at the end of March.