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Ava Grace’s Christmas Story

The Christmas season brings stories of love, hope and, of course, of a baby.

I have a story like that. It’s not really mine to tell, but it’s a good story, so I’ll tell it anyway.

It starts with the birth of a baby, Ava Grace, in June 2004. Ava Grace was born to a poor mother in a remote village in southern Russia. Her mother had two other children and couldn’t take care of any more, so she left Ava Grace at the hospital and put her up for adoption.

Ava Grace – with her beautiful blue eyes, strawberry blond hair and fair skin – remained in a crib in the sterile, bare-bones hospital for a little over a year.

Enter Jackie and Dennis, a happy couple who had been trying to start a family for more than eight years. Just a couple of years ago, they decided to go the route of an international adoption.

That process had proved frustrating, with tons of paperwork, delays, waiting for visas to arrive on time, police checks, health checks – you get the picture. But, they knew in the end, it would be worth it.

They finally got the call that it was time to go to Russia and meet their baby. They made the trip this past summer, visiting with Ava Grace in that same hospital where she had been living.

Though underdeveloped for her age, Ava Grace responded to their love and hugs with smiles and affection. Of course, they fell in love with her.

Because of the paperwork and legal work involved in an

adoption, they couldn’t bring her home on that visit. So they came home with their pictures, their hopes and plans.

They decorated, painted and furnished the nursery. A baby shower was held, and excitement built as they prepared to start their family.

But, delay after delay kept them from getting back to Ava Grace. After about three months, they got word that a court date had been set in Russia.

They boarded the plane for Moscow with every anticipation that they would return with Ava Grace.

When they arrived in Russia and went to court, they were surprised to learn there was a glitch in the paperwork. The father had never signed the papers allowing Ava Grace to be placed for adoption. He would have to be located, and the papers would have to be signed. The social worker gave them an update on Ava Grace – she was starting to walk, and getting stronger and healthier every day. But they didn’t get to see her on that trip.

They came home with empty arms. But, Jackie and Dennis are not the kind of people to let themselves get down. They had a lot of faith, so they stayed optimistic and knew that everything would work out.

And they were right. A few weeks later, they got the call that the father had been found, and he signed the papers.

As I am writing this on Thursday, Jackie and Dennis are on a plane en route from Russia with Ava Grace in tow, hopefully sound asleep for the flight.

That’s my Christmas story this year of love, hope and, of course, of a baby.

TAMMY LEYTHAM is editor of The Selma Times-Journal.