As we prepare for trip #1, people are starting to ask us, "Why do you have to take two trips, anyway?" "Why can't you bring her home on the first trip?" I know when we first began the adoption process for Bulgaria, we were a little confused and annoyed knowing that later on down the road we would have to take two trips overseas. We asked these same questions ourselves! Now that we are very close to trip #1, the reasons behind two trips are becoming more understandable to us. We have really begun to embrace the whole idea of two visits to Bulgaria.
Reason #1: Bonding
This is the most important reason for our first trip to Bulgaria. We will spend a week with our daughter in order to start the bonding process between the three of us. Ivelina has not has the privilege of the natural bonding that takes place between mother, father, and child that most babies receive in the early months of their lives. She has had caretakers to provide for her physical needs, but she has likely not been held while she sleeps hearing her mama or daddy's heartbeat and the soothing tone of their voices. She most likely did not gaze into her caretakers' eyes while she was fed from a bottle as they rocked her gently. These are the natural ways biological babies and parents bond. We will be taking steps to forge a bond between the three of us, and we will begin this process on our first trip to meet her. It will be a little more difficult as she is now seven years old, but many of the same practices can facilitate bonding. For example, we have been encouraged to used physical touch as much as she will allow us, for touch is the primary way to form a bond. We will hold hands, let her sit on our laps, paint nails, brush and fix her hair, and carry her around (if she will allow us). We have also learned to mirror Ivelina with our bodies. If she sits criss-cross on the floor, we will sit criss-cross on the floor. If she sways back and forth while she sings, we will sway back and forth and sing along. Matching her will help her connect with us. Eye contact is a biggie as well. As much as possible, we will put ourselves on her level and look in her eyes while she talks to us. Even though five days is a very short amount of time, we hope and pray that the bonding process will begin during that week. We hope she will look forward to our visits each day, and we hope the bonding that takes place will help her remember us when we have to leave to come home.
Reason #2: Preparation
How many mamas of special needs children get to deliver their baby and find out all about them and their needs, likes, and dislikes, then get to come home and prepare a perfect place for them? Then, when they have the home all ready, go back and pick up their baby? None. But, that is another reason for two trips! Yes, it would be excruciating if that scenario were to come true (and that is the heartbreaking scenario we will have to deal with), but we do see some benefits with this structure. Of course, we have read Ivelina's file, and we have analyzed photos and videos of her, but five days in person with her will be priceless in our deciding the nature of her special needs and capabilities. For example, we may learn that she can use a spoon (or not) or that she wears a diaper still (or not). We will hopefully see where she sleeps, where she eats, and where she bathes. We may see how she interacts with others, what makes her upset, what calms her, and we definitely hope to learn what she likes and dislikes. Then, we will come home with all that information and prepare the most suitable environment for her as we can. We will hopefully absorb crucial information about Ivelina that will help us make the transition from Bulgaria to America as smooth as possible. We will especially be looking for cues about her bath time, bed time, play time, and meal time experiences. We hope after trip #1 we will know more about her specific measurements so we can buy clothing and shoes for her. We hope to find out what type of play she enjoys most so we can stock up on appropriate toys. We also hope to gain a little more detail about her current medical situation, what medicines she takes, what her allergies may be. We have come to a place where we are very thankful for the two trip set-up because we feel we will be so much more prepared for her arrival later in the Spring.
Reason #3: Legalities
At the end of trip #1, we will legally change Ivelina's name so that our last name is attached to her name on all future legal paperwork. We do not know the details of every legal event that must take place between these two trips, but I know there are several things that have to happen. Most of them are to ensure that Ivelina can legally immigrate into the United States as a Moorhouse with all of the legal benefits of U.S. citizenship the moment she steps on U.S. soil. A new birth certificate must be ordered as well as a U.S passport and a visa. We will have to apply for an i800 through U.S immigration. The Bulgarian courts also have to approve our adoption (this is done between the two trips, and we do not have to appear in court, thank goodness). If this adoption process reduced to just one trip, it would be one loooong trip to allow enough time for all of these things to take place. Some countries currently have a one trip structure, and the stay in country may be one month or more to allow time for bonding plus all the legalities to take place. I hate the fact that there will be a 3-5 month wait time between trip #1 and trip #2 while all these legal ducks get in a row, but paperwork takes a while. Changing citizenship takes time. Adoption is slow, unfortunately. Given the option of two short trips or one very long trip, we would choose the two trips.
This pretty much sums up the benefits and the reasons we have found for the two-trip policy. No it is not ideal, but we have come to appreciate this structure. We are praying for minimum time between the two trips, but as with all things adoption, nothing is ever set in stone.
Thanks for reading,