By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Wendy Sheedy wanted a baby, not in that achingly desperate way of some childless women, but it was never far from her mind. Her friends all had children. She had a solid marriage, a successful business, a nice house in Paradise Valley. She was 31 years old and the time seemed right--and had been right for five years.
"I still felt I had a kid in me," she says bravely, and feels that way even after going through the tragedy of miscarriage and the frustration of fertility treatments. So it was a hopeful turn of fate when the phone rang at her Phoenix flower shop late last November. It was her good friend Brigid Dwyer, who works for Apple Computer in Seattle, and who was practically shouting into the phone.
"Wendy, Wendy, you'll never guess what just came over my Applelink," she said, referring to a company-wide computer bulletin board she'd just read. A woman in Columbus, Ohio, had collected food and clothing and medicine for Russian orphans, and out of gratitude for her charity, the Russian government would allow 40 American families to adopt Russian babies without the usual mind-numbing paperwork.
Wendy called her husband, Tim, and he wanted to think about it. "There isn't time to think," Wendy answered decisively; there were only a few seats left on the charter flight. By the end of the day, Wendy, her mother, and Brigid were all confirmed for the December 6 flight from Columbus to Moscow.
"Project Russia," as the trip was dubbed in the Columbus press, turned into a nightmare mission for the 100 or so people who, along with Wendy, blindly traveled halfway across the world to find children they had never met but thought they would know instinctively. It was a painful collision of naivet‚, desperation, pure emotion and wishful thinking.
But when it was all over, Wendy Sheedy got her baby.
@body:Over the next three weeks, Wendy was so busy trying to put her flower shop in order for the rush of the holiday season that she had little time to think of her trip to Russia.
Besides, she didn't need to think about it, because everything seemed to be arranged. Rebecca Davis, the Columbus woman who had initiated the trip, had sent extensive notes to everyone explaining where and when they would be for the whole week's tour.
"Rebecca led us to believe that everyone from here to Boris Yeltsin knew we were coming," Wendy says. "She even told us to bring a pretty outfit to wear the night we were going to meet with Yeltsin, and one for another night we'd be going to the Bolshoi."
Indeed, Davis' note about proper attire cautioned, "Please, nothing fancy, Mr. Yeltsin wears a nice suit to these affairs, we don't want to outdress the host."
The letters were handwritten and not typed, a format that clashed with their stately promises. If anyone took that as a clue to what would follow, he kept it to himself. And what followed was a disaster.
Although Russian bureaucracy had confounded generations of skilled American statesmen, the trip leader, Rebecca Davis, thought she could bluff her way past it armed with little more than her Christian good intentions. Her sincerity, feigned or imagined, filled a charter-plane load of enthusiastic people, thrilled with the prospects of parenthood.
Wendy's preparations were joyous, like Christmas come early, and when she drove to the airport, she says, "I brought with me three suitcases full of toys I'd collected from friends."
The hardest part of the trip, she thought, would be making a choice among babies. On the plane from Phoenix to Columbus, she composed the fantasy of her return from Russia. She would breeze up the jetway at Sky Harbor Airport to doting friends and relatives, carrying the most beautiful baby girl any of them had ever seen. Everyone would be reduced to tears.
Wendy's wonderfully romantic; it shows in the floral arrangements of strikingly exotic and long-stem blooms that come out of her shop on 24th Street at Campbell Avenue. She's a tall and big-boned beauty with frosted hair and a preference for dramatically red lipstick, which seems all the more surprising next to her pale skin. Though she claims to be the world's most anxious person, outwardly she's ebullient, a woman who could work the room at a party--joke about this, relate to that, amuse when conversation gets slow--and ultimately, make everyone feel good.
Though her parents separated when she was quite young, Wendy led a privileged childhood in Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, and went to Catholic school, where she met Tim Sheedy. They didn't date until she was out of college and working as a stylist in the local film and television industry.
Tim is tall and lean, a steady counterweight to Wendy's emotion. "We fell in love in eight seconds," Wendy says. They moved in together almost immediately, and married after two years. Three years later, when Wendy's flower shop was running well and Tim had built up his construction business, they started to think about babies.
@body:One of the sad ironies of modern life is that after years of hearing parents quote Ann Landers about how they can become pregnant almost from the sound of a zipper opening, women suddenly hear their gynecologists hemming and hawing and suggesting that conception depends on a precise set of chemical and physical circumstances. What the doctor doesn't want to say is that after years of being "responsible," women reach their 30s--financially mature, emotionally prepared--only to discover that evolution meant for them to have babies ten years earlier.