July 1999- a call from AIAA: “Janell, the court system in Bulgaria has approved the adoption, you are now free to pick up your son.” PHONE DROP….
The waiting, the paperwork, the wanting, the apprehensiveness… it was all coming together.. It had been 4 years since that day in the Doctor’s office when I was told to hurry and have children if I wanted them.
4 years? Remember.. I spent 18 months- 2 years doing research on adoption agencies and then a little slow on the paperwork.
Although there are always “tests” and setbacks”- I was not immuned. The weekend before I was to go to Bulgaria I received a call from AIAA…
“We have a setback. The country of Bulgaria says that they are tired from all adoptions and are taking a holiday from adopting kids.” WHAT? “…and they do not know when or how long they intend to stay on holiday.”
Remember when I said, choosing the right adoption agency matters? Well, it certainly paid off… I was scheduled to leave on Thursday… AIAA told me to not change my plans but stay close to the phone. On Monday afternoon, they had corrected the setback and we were ready to go. I am not sure what clout AIAA pulled or how they convinced them but I am very grateful.
Here we go… off to Bulgaria to bring him home……
Walking into the orphanage a second time was surreal.. my expectations were that he would jump into my arms and we would live happily ever after. NOT. SO. FAST… they announced to Jason in Bulgarian that it was his time to go… he sat in the floor and cried. The only place that he had ever known and the only people he had come to love– were telling him that he had to leave.
Through our interpreter- we were told that we would take him down to the Doctor’s office (the man who ran the orphanage) and calm him down. While walking to the Dr office’s- Jason was holding the Dr’s hand. My dad asked me to put my hand near him and see if he would grab hold of my hand.. he did.. YES.. progress!
We spent time playing with him.. He just clung to the Doctor and wouldn’t have anything to do with us. Still unsure…..
Then the breakthrough… when a child leaves an orphanage, they leave with a toothbrush. So we began changing his clothes and he seemed okay with that. BUT, I pulled out a pair of adidas tennis shoes and that was the icebreaker! He had never had anything on but sandals and jumped up and down on the concrete floor and stomped around– the adidas were a huge hit!
(My dad, Jason and Dr) ; (Our awesome interpreter Mina, Jason and Doctor) (My mom and Jason)
5 days were spent in Bulgaria for transition and finalizing the paperwork. Many firsts for Jason: 1st time in a car (for 5 hours)- thankfully he didn’t get car sick. 1st time in a bathtub..oh my– he screamed bloody murder! He was used to standing up and being “hosed down” so to speak. HE HATED having his hair washed and teeth brushed! (This parenting thing is harder than it looks!)
Within those 5 days- there were several things that we had to do to be able to leave Bulgaria. We first had to take him to the local doctor for his pre-visa checkup. This was my first experience at socialized medicine… stand in line and wait. Walk to one room see the ear nose and throat doctor… wait…. walk to another room to see the internist… wait… walk to the next for the eye doctor… wait… (you get the picture).
After the doctor.. it was on to get his passport picture taken. The VISA requirement is a picture of the right ear. It has been discovered that makeup, plastic surgery, etc can fool immigration officials– but the ridges of the ear do not.. Another first– getting Jason to sit still and slightly turn to the left.. this was not an easy task.
The big day… we were finally off to the US Embassy. I walked in with my new son and found several other American families going through the same process. While this process seemed so personal and isolated for me.. it was anything but that.. I looked around the room at the new American children feeling very proud of my country. As we left, Jason had a Bulgarian passport and a visa good for 1 year.
On a side note– Today is Jason’s 21st birthday!
NEXT: The final journey and the adjustment period