Sunday, July 27, 2014

So about that gotcha week in Bulgaria....Part 2

If you missed Part 1, read more here!

This part of the story may be surprising to some readers. Many adoptive families, me included, really look forward to gotcha week and hope and dream that it is a beautiful time to spend together in your child's birth country. Gotcha week is what we worked two years for after all! I really never expected the week to be so hard. I never expected to have such a difficult time loving my daughter. I had read so much, prayed so much, watched so many DVD's, and read so many blogs that I really thought I was prepared. Not so. Honestly, gotcha week was the most challenging week of my life! Being a mom is hard. Being a mom to an 8 year old who has only known institutional life is harder. Add an additional dose of jet lag and being in an unfamiliar country with no support system nearby and being a mom is even harder. Please know that I love my little girl, and things are exponentially better now, but gotcha week was grueling. Here we go!

Friday, June 6

After that first restless night with our daughter, we were frazzled to say the least. Because we had not arrived back at the capitol in time the previous day, today was the day that we needed to go apply for Ivelina's passport and get her photo made. This had to be done at the police department. We were so ready to get out of the apartment, and it had only been one day!

A staff member from our NGO picked us up in the morning and we made the short drive to the PD. The whole process was very quick.  We stepped into a little cramped cubicle type thing. Our translator had all the necessary paperwork. Ivelina sat in front of a little camera and had her photo made. The end. We were back at our apartment in no time with instructions that we would have free time until the passport was ready (possibly Monday but more likely Tuesday).  Ick! 3-4 more days of staying in our apartment trying to wrangle a wild, confused, scared little girl who was acting out and testing us like crazy!  Not our idea of a fun weekend at all. We just kept wondering why the country couldn't organize this trip more efficiently where we weren't just hanging around with so much dead time.

So, we did the best we could to keep busy in the apartment. And with so much down time, we were very thankful to be in an apartment where we had more room as opposed to a small hotel room.

 We watched way too much Animal Planet.

 We played everything we could possibly think of with baby dolls: dressing them, bathing them, bandaging them up, feeding them, and putting them to bed, etc. I thought I would go insane from baby doll overdose!

Play Doh was a hit too. Ivelina preferred for us to make things for her, but in this photo she had whipped up some zakuska (breakfast) for her dolls.

Jeremy gave me respite by taking Ivelina out by himself for a walk every now and then so I could shower in peace, clean the apartment, and have some computer time. I gave him some respite by watching Ivelina in the apartment while he walked to get groceries or pick up food at a restaurant for us. These moments of alone time were golden.

Saturday, June 7

We Skyped with my sister in the morning. Her name was easy for Ivie to pronounce, so every time we used the computer she would ask for my sister by name. Skype caused her to get a little hyper, so we kept it short. It was nice to have a connection to home though. 

We decided to venture to the park today. I was so nervous to take her in public during our pick-up week. Maybe it was jut this new mom overreacting.  Ivelina came to us with a bad nervous habit of giving the middle finger to random people and objects. I was worried she would do this as we walked on the busy streets. She was also constantly chattering in Bulgarian, and we had no idea if she was saying something inappropriate or not. She was also having lots of tantrums in the apartment, and I worried she would have one out in the park. Our gal was having bathroom issues too, so I worried about not being near a public restroom and her having accidents. I was unsure of how she would play with other kids on the playground, so we steered clear of that. Every time we went out, it just felt risky and nerve-racking for me. Still, it did us all some good to walk and get some fresh air. We went on 2-3 walks to the park every day! We made the walks just a little longer each day. We tried just one new thing at a time when we went out.  We just weren't at all sure what and how much stimulation Ivie could handle.

 This was a conche (horse) ride at the park.

 This is a somolette (airplane) ride with Taty as the pilot and baby in tow.

The three of us sitting in a shady spot, people watching. We did almost every time we out. Ivelina was fascinated as she watched baby strollers, boys, girls, and people walking dogs. The park was a very busy place- great for watching people!

Sunday, June 8

More of the same. Battling tantrums. TV, lots of eating, lots of baby doll play, and lots of walks to the park. We were lucky that the weather was lovely. Sunny every day with temperatures in the 80's. I don't know what we would have done if it was yucky weather and we couldn't get outside! What a blessing that we had our gotcha trip in the warm summer months. We also Skyped with Baba Gran on Sunday (Jeremy's Mom). Ivelina loved it, but got pretty worked up too.

Monday, June 9

We were so hoping this would be the day that Ivelina's passport was issued. We actually thought this would be an American passport, but it was a Bulgarian passport with a special visa inside that would allow her to enter the U.S. as a citizen.  We were getting reeeaaallly tired of all the down time. The night before we had another bad bedtime experience. Here's an excerpt from an email I sent our family:

It's 12:30 a.m. right now.  We just finished up a lovely 3 hour bedtime tantrum....if you want to call it that.  Let me just say Ivelina has pee on her hands. I have her pee on my pants. She is asleep in only her shirt. All her pillows and blankets + her underwear and pants are scattered on the floor of the bedroom. And I smell like BO.  Do they make mom deodorant?  If so I need some because by the end of a tantrum I smell like a horse.

The day kept creeping by with no word from our agency. Finally, we called on the special cell phone they gave us. They told us that, unfortunately, the passport would not be ready until Tuesday. Someone from our agency would go pick it up, and then we would all head straight to the medical clinic for Ivelina's exam and TB skin test. We were a little disappointed, but at least we knew all this would take place on Tuesday!

Overall, Monday was a good day.  Ivelina had a few minor meltdowns, but we could already see glimpses of her learning how to self-regulate a little better today. We also decided to let her try the big potty today instead of the little training potty she had been using. She climbed right up there like she had used a big flushing toilet before; we were thrilled! No more washing out that little potty 50 times a day!  Yay!  Bedtime was better tonight too. We learned that no snacks or drinks after dinner helped her be a little more calm and ready for sleep.  Also, we really tried to wear her out during the day, so she would be nice and tired at night. The girl is a little ball of energy!

Tuesday, June 10

No photos from today. We should get an extra gold star in our crowns for the fact that we even survived this day. We did get Ivie's passport, and we got her medical exam and TB skin test out of the way!  Yay for completing these important steps in the adoption process. That's about all that was good about the day though. We hopped from tantrum to tantrum all day long.

We were expecting our translator to pick us up around lunch time. In the morning, we went out for our early walk as usual but we didn't even make it to the park because Ivelina could not control her behavior. So, back to the apartment we went and played around inside with a few mini-meltdowns thrown in until lunch time.

After lunch, something trivial set Ivie off and we were in the middle of a fit when our phone rang. Our ride was waiting downstairs. Terrible timing!  So, we wrestled her shoes on and holding both hands managed to get her down three flights of stairs. She was out-of-control in the car; even our translator couldn't calm her down. Then, when she was told that we were going to a doctor, she became even more hysterical (I didn't think that was possible, but oh was I wrong).

The clinic was a multi-level, crowded building with a narrow stair case leading up and down. Our translator guided us all up two flights...boy, Ivelina's wailing really echoed in that stairwell.  It was all very confusing. Parents and children were sitting in the hallways. We stepped into some kind of tiny play room that was really only big enough for us. Ivelina was hysterical, soaked from sweat, and extremely loud. Evidently, someone complained and a staff person asked our translator to make us wait outside. She said this was very rude for someone to ask us to do this, but really I was grateful. We walked to little shady bench outside. Ivelina was just as loud, just as uncontrollable but at least we had fresh air. After some time we went back inside and back up the stairs. More waiting outside of the doctor's door. Then, when we finally got in the examination room, Ivie settled somewhat. She knew the injection was coming. After all that build up and all that wailing, she didn't even cry when the doctor administered the skin test.  Go figure!

The doctor prescribed us an anti-anxiety herbal medicine to give Ivie for Thursday when we would have to come back to the office and also for the plane. We had never seen her in this state. It's hard to describe. You just had to be there. At one point we thought she was going to pass out. We did opt to fill the prescription mostly because we had no idea how she would react on the plane ride home. We definitely didn't want more of that kind of behavior for a nine hour flight home! We actually started her on the medicine right away hoping it would calm her a bit during normal daily activities too, but I'm not sure we could really tell much of a difference.

Our bedtime routine in the apartment went well, but as soon as we all hit the bed everything fell apart. Ivelina basically "tantrummed" herself to sleep. After the day we had just had, it was more than I thought I could handle.

It's hard to describe how emotionally, physically, and mentally drained I was during this part of the week. I'm thankful for other adoptive moms who reached out online and encouraged me that week. I needed it. Satan was stealing my joy, and I was letting him! Jeremy and I were so discouraged, so dejected, and even though we had only had Ivie for a few days, I really felt like a total failure as a mom. I was having such a hard time loving Ivelina. I felt guilty for that. She has been through so much, and Satan obviously wasn't happy that she was no longer an orphan. Another adoptive mom reminded me of this, and I began to see how our tough week could really be spiritual warfare in action. Jeremy's mother reminded us that he and I have each other and Jesus while Ivelina probably feels like she has no one at all. That thought saddened me so much!  No wonder she was displaying such wild, confusing, and difficult behaviors!

Now, we would have two free days, and then Friday would be the day for our exit interview at the embassy. Stay tuned for part 3 where I will describe the embassy experience and our last few days in our daughter's birth country.

I'll leave you with one final shot of me and Ivie at the park.  Of course, baby doll is pictured too!

Thanks for reading,


  1. So sorry this week was so hard for you guys. But I am glad to hear a realistic version of how the pick up week can go. No part of this process has gone the way we thought it would, I have no expectations anymore, just faith in God!
    Thanks for sharing!

  2. This is very reminiscent of our pick-up trip for Rex which was three weeks. We, too, experienced daily and frequent tantrums (and feeling sweaty and worn out after each one), SIB, early morning and late evening walks through town, horrible behaviors at every official appointment, lots of feeding him to keep him occupied, etc. We survived as did you :).

  3. Yup, everyone I kept reaching out to just encouraged us to stay in survival mode. Keep the peace, get as much rest as possible, give each other breaks, SURVIVE, and get home. Everyone was right! We survived, and everything is different once you are on your home turf!


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