By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
Wendy discovered she had endometriosis, a fairly common abnormality in which the lining of the uterus does not properly slough off during menstruation. It can cause great discomfort and, ultimately, infertility.
She underwent surgery to correct the endometriosis, became pregnant almost immediately afterward, and then happily started planning for imminent parenthood. Three months later, Wendy miscarried, twice, because she had evidently been carrying twins.
She describes the loss matter-of-factly, trying to keep her voice from cracking, but she won't elaborate on her feelings. Tim was heartbroken. "I felt like something was coming down on me that I didn't deserve," Tim recalls. Wendy mourned at home for a week, then put on a brave face to go back to work. She needed more surgery, first to correct the damage caused by the miscarriage, then because the endometriosis returned. She consulted a fertility specialist who put her on a budget-breaking medication to prepare her for a procedure in which the patient's egg is fertilized with the husband's sperm in the lab and then transplanted into the womb. Her ovaries did not respond to the medication, however, and she was unable to undergo the procedure, which is iffy at best.
The fertility treatment was frustrating and demoralizing for Wendy. "You take your clothes off, get an ultrasound up the whatever, and then he says come back in a month," she says. She and Tim had already spent more than $10,000 trying to get pregnant, much of which was not covered by their health insurance, and they could easily have spent another $10,000 and still been childless.
Instead, they decided to rest a while and think about what to do next.
Tim was willing to accept defeat. "I wanted to have children," he says, "but Wendy is dead set on getting something going." She was determined, but she kept her emotions well-hidden.
"Wendy's a good gal at masking things to people who wouldn't treat that longing well," says Brigid Dwyer, her friend who called from Seattle. And indeed it's hard for people who have children to easily understand the power of maternal instinct, a force so great it can drive women with less impulse control to snatch babies from maternity wards. Even Wendy's mother, Margo Smith, was puzzled by it; but she had five children.
"You can't fight the feeling," Wendy says. "It's like a sickness. I have it about half the month, but some women have it all the time."
Logically, she could rationalize. She had a nice house, a good living, plenty of friends, a wonderful husband. "I know women who have four kids, and I wouldn't give a dime to have their husbands," she says. Still, she stacked the birth announcements for her friends' babies on a shelf in her kitchen, almost as self-mockery. Margo, her mother, and Brigid, her friend, both say that Wendy would go home and cry after delivering flowers from her shop to baby showers, especially to showers for friends. Wendy denies it. "I swear to God that my friends wanted me to be pregnant more than I did."
She and Tim had not yet considered adoption. Tim's father was adopted, in fact, and, as Wendy comments, "He never spent one minute trying to find out who his real parents were." Then she continues, "We weren't in a hard-up adopting position--yet."
When Rebecca Davis' pied-piper message came over the phone lines, they were split on what to do. Tim was cautious: "I was trying not to get excited, because I knew it might not happen." Wendy felt it was worth a try. At the very least, the $1,500 price of the trip would be an inexpensive way to see Russia, and if a baby came out of it, fabulous.
Tim let Wendy's optimism seep into him. He knew he wouldn't talk her out of it, anyway. "Wendy does what she wants," he says, and he loves her and trusts her enough to let her follow her instincts.
@body:Wendy and her mother landed in Columbus at three in the morning and checked into a hotel. They woke to gray, cloudy skies, rented a car, and drove to K mart, where they happily stocked up on stuffed animals and support hose, lotions and perfumes, the gifts they'd use to smooth the way in their dealings with Russian functionaries.
Late in the afternoon, they returned to the airport to find their friend Brigid, to meet their fellow travelers and to check in with Rebecca Davis. Given the scope and ambition of the trip, they had expected Davis to be a woman of great presence, someone who would tip a suitcase on its side, climb on top, welcome everyone to Columbus, and brief them on what would happen next.
They were surprised instead to find that she was a middle-aged woman of unremarkable appearance, schoolmarmish, perhaps, with glasses and long ringlets of blond hair. Davis was a nanny by profession, but she had a God-given talent for getting people to open their hearts and wallets. In years before, she had gathered enough food and funds to "adopt" a poor local school district and see that each household had a Christmas turkey and gifts under the tree for the children. Inspired by that success, she pulled off a similar small miracle for an Appalachian community. Project Russia was her first international venture, and, at first glance, promised to be successful.