The baby was lying in a white iron crib when she found him, his brown eyes vacant and his body limp.

Donna Laine, a Northern Virginia resident, was in an orphanage in the Transylvanian city of Cluj recently when she spotted Joshua, one of the thousands of abandoned babies in Romania that she had traveled so far to find.

"He was so quiet, he never made a sound. I thought he might not be able to speak or hear," Laine recalled last week in an interview in her Fairfax County home.

"Then I picked him up, and his legs went limp."

For seven months, since the day he had been taken to the orphanage in northwestern Romania, Joshua had lain in a sunken mattress, flat on his back. Stuck in the dip of the mattress, he barely moved. Not as thin as the tiny girl who was fed nothing but tea before she was deserted, nor visibly ill like others, Joshua wore a white cloth bracelet, his name stitched on it.

For Donna Laine and her husband Jeffrey, the tragedy of Romania's mass orphanages fulfilled a dream: the chance to start a family.

Their six-week effort to adopt a child ended successfully June 27 when she and her new son arrived at Dulles International Airport.

Worldwide interest has focused recently on Romania's sick and discarded children, but despite growing interest in the United States in adopting them, a new Romanian suspension on foreign adoptions has made Joshua one of the last babies allowed to leave the country.

After the December execution of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, international relief organizations and foreign journalists glimpsed a hidden horror: up to 40,000 abandoned babies in state orphanages, many of them dying of AIDS.

"The crazy Ceausescu cut off subsidies to the hospitals," leaving them ill-equipped to safely perform the blood transfusions that were performed on premature and malnourished babies, said Cornel Dragomirescu, press officer at the Romanian Embassy in Washington.

Ceausescu had sought to increase Romania's population by forcing families to produce babies. He outlawed abortion and contraceptive devices, prompting thousands of women to abandon children they could not provide for or did not want.

"There were too many children who needed love and attention and so few to give it," Laine wrote in her journal after her day at the Cluj orphanage, where Joshua lay.

Since Romania suspended foreign adoptions on June 11, apparently because the parliament is considering new regulations governing them, the State Department has advised Americans not to go to Romania to find a baby.

"They have closed off adoption," said Mary Beth Seader, vice president of the National Committee For Adoption, a private, nonprofit group. "I keep hearing of people going over there and spending thousands of dollars and coming home empty-handed."

Laine, who met mothers from England, Austria and other countries hoping to adopt when she was in Romania, had started her procedures before the cutoff date.

With 2 million American couples seeking to adopt and only 25,000 children available each year, foreign adoptions have become increasingly popular, Seader said.

After news reports of the abandoned and ill Romanian babies, the State Department received hundreds of inquiries about how to adopt them and is still fielding calls, department spokesman Charles S. Smith said. He estimated that 30 American couples have successfully adopted Romanian babies this year.

Even though Laine was accompanied by her mother, who was born in Romania and speaks the language fluently, she said it was one of the most difficult tasks of her life. She visited one orphanage after another, in one gray, smoggy city after another.

Most times, she said, she was denied entrance into the orphanages and told to wait in small, detached buildings. And every time, after she initially asked if there were any adoptable babies, she was told, "No."

Only after persistence was she shown into the rooms with the white, iron cribs.

"I think they didn't even regard the kids who were handicapped or sick as adoptable. They didn't think anybody would want them," Laine said, with Joshua, smelling of baby powder, bouncing on her lap.

"You wouldn't believe the difference," the former respiratory therapist said, turning her focus to her son. "He was lifeless when I saw him. He had no stimulation. He didn't respond to anything; I didn't even know if he could hear." As she said this, the 8-month-old shouted, "Oh," and flailed his arms and smiled.

Laine, 39, said she and her husband had wanted a child for 10 years and had been unsuccessful in exhaustive efforts to adopt a baby domestically.

This spring they were again disappointed when a 17-year-old girl apparently changed her mind about giving her child up for adoption.

"I didn't know I'd come home with any baby when I left," Laine said. "I just felt I had to try. For 10 years we've been wanting children. I had to try. I wouldn't have been at peace if I hadn't."

Jeffrey Laine, a civilian analyst at the Pentagon, said he knew that if anyone could bring a child out of the bureaucratic chaos of Romania, it would be his wife.

He added, "I can't help but look in {Joshua's} face and see what he can be here, the chances he will have that he couldn't have had if she hadn't found him."