In my almost 10 years of photographing families, I have gotten to know many on a level that I consider friendship. The K family is one of these. Every single fall since their son Otto turned One, we have met for a session (with a couple minis in between). For all of these years, I have watched Otto become a young man with his sidekick Ralph always by his side (the adorable pug). What I learned last year was that this whole time they where struggling to complete their family and give Otto a sibling. All of the medical interventions they had tried, I had no idea. I was truly heartbroken to know just how badly they wanted a child, and nothing was working.
This is is their story of how Kajus came into their life. Its a long read, but honestly worth it.
The Klassen's Adoption Journey: Our family adventure to Lithuania to become a family of four.
The two questions we get asked most are 1) when did you start this journey and 2) why Lithuania? It is kind of complicated to answer quickly but I will try my best. After years of going through treatments for secondary infertility, we decided to start exploring the process of adoption back in 2016. We started locally and completed all our paperwork and waited around two years to be matched. After encouragement from our local agency to consider switching internationally, we officially made the switch in May 2018. It was our local adoption agency that recommended an international agency and they were the ones that recommended Lithuania. Mostly because our profiles matched that country’s criteria and the wait times were relatively short; we were told around two years. Being of Russian, German, and Polish heritage, Lithuania seemed like a good fit for us. As well, both my nephew and niece are adopted internationally from Eastern European countries, so in the end, that made Lithuania felt like a natural choice. After we made some changes to our local paperwork, we submitted it internationally and then we waited. You do not hear a lot while you wait for adoption. That is, until the one year mark when you have to renew all your paperwork again. When we renewed our paperwork in June 2019 we talked it through for a long time. Our son was turning eight years old at that time and we were feeling content and happy with our life. We wanted another child, but we had waited so long and that waiting was consuming so much emotional energy. So, we decided to renew our file for one last year and that was it.
On November 20th, 2019 we got a phone call that we had been “matched”. Imagine our surprise after hearing nothing for so long, that in one phone call, our world had opened up to such an amazing opportunity! Unfortunately, we had to wait one more week to know anything about this child as the paperwork had to be translated to English. That was an extremely long week. We told no one about that call, and we waited with anticipation to see who they had matched us with. The following week, on November 27th, we got another phone call to tell us that the translation was complete and the child’s profile would be arriving in our inbox any minute. We were so excited to receive the child referral and with a click of a button we were able to see photos and read all about the child we had been matched with. We both knew instantly that the child was ours, but we were given the opportunity to meet before the Christmas holidays begun. So just over a week later, on December 7th, Jeff and I were flying to Lithuania to meet our future child. We were given two glorious days together and then a few days later, we flew back to Canada. It was a very quick 5-day visit, but one filled with many gifts and photos and videos. When Jeff and I returned back home, we immediately started the process of filing for legal adoption with our Lithuanian lawyers. Once they submitted all our paperwork to the Lithuanian court, we again had to wait patiently until we received a court date. We were told to anticipate March/April. Christmas was long as we waited to hear but also filled with anticipation of what was to come. Our 8-year-old began to get excited about becoming a big brother and we filled our time with creating two new bedrooms, one for each of our children.
Well God has bigger and better plans than we could imagine as on January 10th (just five days after I had returned to my teaching job from the holidays) we got another phone call. This time it was to tell us that our court date had been set for February the 4th! We were shocked and so excited! We could not have imagined or planned that it would come so quickly. We were told to prepare for a return to Lithuania ASAP. Therefore, Jeff had many shifts to get rid of at his job and I had to tell my Principal I was taking a leave, all within two weeks’ time. This was a crazy time for us but an exciting one. We are so overjoyed and happy with how quickly everything came together. The support has been amazing and without it we would not have been able to travel so quickly. We left on January 27th with an anticipated return of February 23rd. The three of us travelled together, and my amazing Mom also travelled with us for the first two weeks as our older son could not attend court with us.
After a long flight we arrived in Lithuania on January 28th. We then drove to where our son lived and officially began our mandatory visitation days on January 29th. We visited our son two times a day. Two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening. We visited him for ten days (except the day of our court). On the second day of visits we were granted permission to take him out on outings and we enjoyed exploring the city he lived in and the beautiful country of Lithuania. We were able to start the bonding process through this all and we had so much joy learning about his personality and also watching our two sons become brothers.
On February the 4th, Jeff and I attended court in Vilnius, Lithuania. This was the official proceedings to adopt our little boy. We were both excited and nervous on this day as we had to speak before the judge and explain exactly why we wanted to adopt this precious little boy. Court went well. It lasted about 2.5 hours and at the end of court, our judge said he would have the official pronouncement on February 7th at 1:30pm. Therefore, we had to wait a few more days until our boy was officially ours. We drove back to the city he was living in and continued our daily visits until we heard the news. These were some very long days as we anxiously awaited the news.
At around 2:30pm on February 7th we heard the results of the official pronouncement...he was officially and legally ours! We were so happy and beyond excited! It was the best news to get after all these years of waiting. We all had trouble sleeping that night as at 9am the next day we went to pick him up. This was an emotional day as we were sad to say goodbye to his wonderful caregivers and friends but also, we were beyond happy that he was coming to live forever with us. We immediately moved to the capital city, Vilnius, while we gathered all the paperwork we needed to travel back to Canada. We had booked a return date for February 23rd but we had so many positive and helpful experiences in Vilnius that we got his passport in less days than we expected. We were able to change our plane tickets to return on February 19th instead. After twenty-four days of living away from home we were so excited to return to Canada and begin our new life as a family of four!
On Wednesday, February 19th, after over twenty-two hours of traveling, we were welcomed home by a wonderful supportive group of family and friends! We loved coming down the escalator in the Winnipeg airport arrival area and seeing our entire support network cheer us on. It brought tears of happiness to our eyes! Our new son loved all the attention and especially all the balloons waiting for him. Our older son was so happy to be home and seeing the people he loved and had missed. It was again another emotional and wonderful part of our journey.
As of now, we have been home for one month. It has been a month of growth, learning, happiness and so much joy. With all the rapid changes in the world we know we are one of the lucky families to have had our adoption finalized before all the countries closed their doors. We know if our court date had been set for March/April like they had originally told us, we would never have been able to bring our son home in 2020. We are so thankful for this opportunity and we cannot imagine our lives without him in our home. We are forever grateful for all the people that helped us along the way. In the midst of the pandemic, we are so in love with our new family of four and we are thankful that we have this opportunity to bond together, inside and socially isolated, of course. Ačiū to the beautiful country of Lithuania for allowing us to adopt our son. Mes mylime savo naują šeimą! (We love our new family!)