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updated: 6/16/2013 6:40 AM

Fatherhood takes extra endeavors

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  • Video: The journey to adopt Anthony

  • Video: Where Superman gets character

  • Video: Being an adoptive father

  • Enjoying a moment on the backyard playset with his son, Anthony, Richard Say of Schaumburg says all the hurdles that came before he and his wife, Tambra, adopted the boy from Russia give him a deep appreciation for the joys of fatherhood.

       Enjoying a moment on the backyard playset with his son, Anthony, Richard Say of Schaumburg says all the hurdles that came before he and his wife, Tambra, adopted the boy from Russia give him a deep appreciation for the joys of fatherhood.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • For most of their marriage, Richard and Tambra Say of Schaumburg just had their toy poodle, Mandy. Their long, arduous and emotional odyssey to add a child found success when they adopted Anthony from a Siberian orphanage.

       For most of their marriage, Richard and Tambra Say of Schaumburg just had their toy poodle, Mandy. Their long, arduous and emotional odyssey to add a child found success when they adopted Anthony from a Siberian orphanage.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Adopted from a Siberian orphanage as a toddler, Anthony quickly learned English and started his new life with parents Richard and Tambra Say of Schaumburg. The talkative 5-year-old tells his dad that he really enjoys playing with his collection of Hot Wheels monster trucks.

       Adopted from a Siberian orphanage as a toddler, Anthony quickly learned English and started his new life with parents Richard and Tambra Say of Schaumburg. The talkative 5-year-old tells his dad that he really enjoys playing with his collection of Hot Wheels monster trucks.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • Getting a helping hand from his dad, Richard Say, 5-year-old Anthony Say prepares to show off his bedroom in their Schaumburg home.

       Getting a helping hand from his dad, Richard Say, 5-year-old Anthony Say prepares to show off his bedroom in their Schaumburg home.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

  • An active 5-year-old who loves playing in his back yard in Schaumburg, Anthony Say wasn't old enough to remember his time in a Russian orphanage. But he's watched the video and heard the story many times from his parents, Richard and Tambra Say.

       An active 5-year-old who loves playing in his back yard in Schaumburg, Anthony Say wasn't old enough to remember his time in a Russian orphanage. But he's watched the video and heard the story many times from his parents, Richard and Tambra Say.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 
 

Fatherhood literally falls from the sky onto Kevin Costner's character in the new Superman movie, when a spaceship carrying a baby instantly transforms Jonathan Kent into Clark Kent's dad.

Richard Say of Schaumburg put a lot more time, effort, money and thought into becoming Anthony Say's dad.

"It's all part of the bedtime story," Richard Say explains, as 5-year-old Anthony enthusiastically jumps ahead to the most cinematic part of his life story.

"It's so far away," Anthony says of the orphanage in southern Siberia where he was a toddler when Richard and Tambra Say arrived to transport him to a new world in Schaumburg. "When I was there and my mom and dad came to get me, it was snowing so hard."

Too young to remember the moment, Anthony runs in to watch it unfold on-screen whenever he hears the soundtrack to the video his parents made of their adoption odyssey.

"The whole process is like peeling an onion. You peel back a layer and that leads to another layer," the 43-year-old dad says. "And the whole thing brings a tear to your eye."

Introduced through friends, Richard and Tambra Say were married on July 9, 1994. They wanted to be parents. "We tried," he says.

Details of the couple's emotional and grueling efforts to conquer infertility now seem out of place in their son's bedroom, where a grinning and talkative Anthony shows off his favorite Hot Wheels monster trucks, Lego creations and the preschool posters starring the boy and his parents.

The Says were married almost 15 years before they began an adoption process in March 2009. They cleared the background checks, fingerprinting, home inspections, letters of recommendation, parenting classes and other hurdles rather quickly compared to their earlier pursuit of parenthood.

"We were blessed. It took nine months," he says, sounding like most dads. Working with Des Plaines-based Lutheran Social Services of Illinois, Building Blocks Adoption Service in Ohio, and the international Beacon House Adoption Services, the Says received a packet of information and a photograph of a boy living in a Russian orphanage that August.

"Oh, God, yes! We've got to go get him right now," Tambra Say remembers saying. The Says flew to Russia to meet the boy that October.

"You create this story in your mind that you are going to walk in and he's going to run into your arms. You picture it in slow motion," the dad recalls. Instead, Anthony cried and clung to the orphanage staff.

The Says returned to Siberia that winter, spending almost the entire month of December in Russia satisfying the legal requirements. In addition to Anthony's birthday on April 24, the family celebrates his "Gotcha Day" on Dec. 21, when the Says picked up their son for good. They brought him home to Schaumburg on the day after Christmas.

"People would say, 'You're doing such a great thing for Anthony,'" remembers Richard Say, recalling the 36-hour air travel adventure, the mountains of snow and the long drive through bleak landscape just to get to Anthony. "We never viewed ourselves as superheroes who were flying to Russia to save a child. We were just a mom and dad trying to fill a hole."

An engineer who oversees projects in his job as director of application at G&W Electric in Bolingbrook, Richard Say advises other couples seeking to adopt to approach the pursuit of parenthood almost as if it were a job.

"Treat it like a project. Stay on top of the paperwork. Don't wait for them to come to you," he says. "We wanted Anthony in our lives, so we went through the process."

Russia no longer permits adoptions to the United States. Some people never make it to the parenting stage. As it does for all men, the journey to becoming a dad for Say required a bit of fate.

"Being an adopted father is no different than being a biological father. A father is a father. And no one can prepare you for all that means," Richard Say concludes. "Fatherhood is fatherhood in whatever way you have to get there."

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