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And then they were four

An adoption and a surprise quickly doubles Shawnee couples household

Author: Sara Shepherd, www.shawneedispatch.com Published: 2012-04-05 12-00-00 Viewed, times: 2449
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The Bottorff family relaxes in their living room on a weekday evening. Mom, Alicia, helps daughter Inna, 4, draw on a marker board while dad, Todd, feeds a bottle to 2-month-old Brody. While the couple was in Ukraine working to adopt Inna, they learned that, after three years of infertility, Alicia was pregnant.

After a painful, three-year struggle with infertility, Todd and Alicia Bottorff began to consider adoption.

A photo they saw online of a Ukranian boy captured their hearts, and after much prayer, the Shawnee couple was confident they wanted to move forward with adopting the boy they called Sam.

The Bottorffs started the paperwork and planning jewelry and garage sales to chip away at the $30,000 they expected theyd need to bring the child home.

Sam, it turned out, would not become theirs. But the past year-and-a-half journey finds the Bottorffs in a situation thats better than they even dreamed.

Todd, a risk manager at Huhtamaki in De Soto, and Alicia, a fourth-grade teacher, met on Match.com and were married within eight months. They celebrated their five-year anniversary last year.

It was late 2010 when they started a blog, littlebottorff.blogspot.com, and announced to friends they were going to be parents.

We had both been praying for this little boy for several months without talking to each other, Alicia said. When the couple finally discussed the topic, Alicia told Todd, I just cant get that little boys picture out of my mind.

Out of many childrens photos online, Sams face drew the couple to Ukraine, where children resembled Alicia, who has Polish heritage, and Todd, whose ancestors were Russian.

We wanted a child to look like us if possible, Alicia said. Just to help with the adjustment.

Theyd agreed theyd be willing to adopt a child with correctable special needs. Sam, 3, was OK other than hip dysplasia hed need surgery to correct.

Or so they thought.

Photo by Sara Shepherd
Inna Bottorff, 4, plays on the living room floor of her parents' west Shawnee home.

Within months, the Bottorffs learned that Sam also had severe mental disabilities. They arent sure whether the orphanage knew and chose to downplay his condition, or whether they had gone undiagnosed until he was older. Alicia said she felt stupid and heartbroken. But they knew Sam wouldnt be the right child for them.

We were not going to adopt a child we couldnt take care of, Alicia said.

Their agency suggested another little boy, and the Bottorffs began the process to adopt Roman. The adoption was nearly lined up when they discovered Roman had already been adopted by a couple from Texas.

Frustrated with the process and lack of communication, Alicia felt like shed been lied to. She was ready to give up on adoption.

Photo by Sara Shepherd
Todd Bottorff feeds a bottle to his 2-month-old son, Brody. Brody, born with a cleft lip and palate, wears tape to help stretch the skin to prepare for the surgery he'll have to repair his lip when he's about 6 months old.

In April 2011, the Bottorffs were on a plane to Ukraine. Theyd decided to go blind traveling in person to orphanages in hopes of finding their child.

A caseworker introduced them to several children. One little boy they visited twice was diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Another little boy was promising but wouldnt be available for months. A little girl, who was deaf, was already being pursued by a deaf couple.

We were really starting to be worried that wed come home without a child, Todd said.

Then the Bottorffs caseworker told them about another little girl.

In her three and a half years, nobody had visited Inna.

That is, except one couple, who was looking for a healthy child and became upset when their caseworker showed them one with a cleft palate. The couple raised a stink, as Alicia puts it, which is how the Bottorffs caseworker got wind of Inna.

She hadnt been on their list before in Ukraine, children with the defect fall into the healthy category. Recall, the Bottorffs paperwork specified correctable defects. The caseworker pushed the system for a meeting.

The Bottorffs, disappointed so many times before, approached the meeting cautiously.

The day we saw her, she was in a little blue dress, with pigtails with giant white bows in her hair, Alicia said. I was scared to death, so I didnt want to get attached, didnt want to fall in love with her.

Todd knew right away.

When they set her on my lap, I was ready to go, he said.

Days before their final court hearing to adopt Inna, Alicia hadnt been feeling well. Shed been up all night, sick.

The cause of her mysterious illness came as a shock Alicia was pregnant, six weeks along.

The Bottorffs, who had been in Ukraine for more than a month, came home for the 10-day waiting period between the courts approval and when theyd take Inna home.

Alicia was too sick to go back to Ukraine. The couple decided their 11-year-old nephew would in her stead, and on June 9, he and Todd brought Inna home to Shawnee.

Twenty weeks into her pregnancy, Alicia and Todd learned that their own baby a boy also had a cleft palate, like Inna. The condition is genetic, said Alicia, who herself was born with a cleft lip that was repaired.

We knew why God waited so long, Alicia said. Now, we know that they have a bond.

Brody was born Jan. 14.

Brody will have surgery to repair his lip in June and another to repair his palate when hes a year old. Hopefully, his parents said, he wont have any speech problems. Inna, on the other hand, has a longer road. Her lip was repaired in Ukraine, but she only recently had surgery to repair her palate. Because it was cleft in two places, and because she was so much older when it was repaired, shell likely need several more surgeries.

Inna has picked up English but has trouble forming words. What her parents dont understand, they try to communicate with sign language. Her mother said one sign language video about feelings was especially useful when Innas baby brother was born.

He really rocked her world when he came, Alicia said.

Alicia and Todd said they fielded a number of criticisms, some cruel, throughout their adoption process. They had people question why they werent adopting domestically. Someone even criticized them for seeking a child from Ukraine because that part of the world used to be communist.

They encouraged other parents considering adoption to determine for themselves whats in their comfort zone and not to be ashamed about what they decide.

Not everybody is meant to adopt, Alicia said. You have to really be open to it.

For the Bottorffs, they sometimes find their own situation hard to believe two children, when, at times, they thought theyd never have one.

We love being parents, Alicia said. We cant wait to go to Disneyland with them.

Photo by Sara Shepherd
Todd and Alicia Bottorff adopted 4-year-old Inna from Ukraine, bringing her home to Shawnee in June. While the couple was in Ukraine working through the adoption process, they learned that Alicia was pregnant. Brody was born in January.

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