Isabel Busch does not know the taste of mother’s milk. Like many of her compatriots, the Kazakhstan-born baby was raised on fermented horse milk, traditional in Kazakh families as well as baby formula she drank in the orphanage.
But in her home in America, the 10-month-old bundle of energy has learned the taste of oatmeal and applesauce breakfasts.
Sitting at her throne on an early Saturday, Isabel, or as her mother’s friends lovingly call her “princess Isabel,” cautiously savors every spoonful of the delightful mixture. In between mouthfuls, she instructs her mother, Laurie Busch, in a secret language. Comprised mostly of long vowels and waving hands, this code is understandable only to Laurie and Sandur, the family’s 5-year-old Lhasa Apso poodle, who rush to Isabel’s rescue every time she hits the ground.
“Mammmma,” she says and Laurie leans forward to feed the baby, a challenging exercise when the poodle does everything in his power to entertain them.
The director of elementary orchestra in four Cedar Falls schools says that the yearning to become a mother planted its seed in her when she was in her 30s, but career considerations always got in the way.
As the former co-concert master of the Waterloo Cedar Falls Symphony, she traveled nationally in addition to teaching full time for the schools and giving private lessons. With such a hectic schedule, a family was not in the score for Laurie. But when a romantic relationship ended because her boyfriend did not want children, Laurie decided it was time to change the key.
Accepting the fact that she would be a single parent, she considered both domestic and international adoptions. After researching the process, she was convinced by the testimony of other adoptive parents that a baby was waiting for her in Kazakhstan.
Discouraged when she worked with a Des Moines-based agency, Laurie looked for alternatives and on the very day she signed with a Texas agency called Little Miracles, her daughter, Isabel, was born.
As fate would have it Isabel was born on the day after her grandparents, Chuck and Shirley Busch, celebrated their 50 wedding anniversary. Laurie found only one meaning in these two coincidences – that Isabel was meant to be hers.
To claim her, Laurie traveled to the former Soviet Union country, without any idea how her daughter looked since the Kazakhstan law does not allow agencies to photograph babies.
“I knew she was 6 months, and healthy and Asian,” she says, as Isabel crawls under her chair, “Her mother was poor and she could not raise her.”
She took a leave of absence from the school district to abide by Kazakhstan law and spend two months in the country in order to bond with the baby and go through the court system.
She was only partially protected by the Family Medical Leave Act as she was not able to receive her salary while she proceeded with the adoption. Had she given birth to the baby, she says, she would have been allowed to use approximately 80 days she had saved for the adoption.
“In California, they passed an addendum to the law that allows adoptive parents to use their accumulated paid leave for instances of adoption, serious family illness and other emergencies,” she says. “It’s just more tenuous on a single person not to have their income for two months.”
Laurie says that her family and her colleagues all pitched in to help her and the baby.
“No one tried to change my mind when they found out I wanted to adopt as a single parent,” she says. “I got a lot of emotional support during the long roller-coaster of unending paperwork.”
On Feb. 5, Laurie’s 40th birthday, she brought Isabel to her new home in Cedar Falls.
Since Isabel’s arrival things have changed for Sandur who was the only prince in the house for the past five years. It is impossible for the furry flirt to top the survival skills Isabel learned in the orphanage. Her infectious smiles and attention-grabbing “mama,” “papa,” and “baba” sounds baffle Sandur and dwarf his barks.
“They both love toys and they’re actually sharing,” Laurie laughs. “It was a long, difficult journey. Every trouble and every trial along the way was so worth it in the end.”
By Anelia K. Dimitrova
4/15/2005 5:29:13 PM
© 2005 Cedar Falls Times (reprinted by permission)