Monday, August 11, 2014

So about that gotcha week in Bulgaria...Part 3

This post continues to describe our gotcha week in Bulgaria. 

If you missed Part 1, click here to read more.
If you missed Part 2, click here to read more.

Wednesday, June 11

Ivelina discovered a new inappropriate behavior today that she could add to her tantrums (as if they needed any more intensity). I will not go into all the sensitive details here, but I knew once she did it once that it wouldn't be the last time. I was right. Wednesday was tough.

One of my fears came true. After she got calmed down from a tantrum, we decided to walk to the park. She was doing so well outside that I decided to reward her with a piece of gum (duvka). She was SO excited about the gum! Unfortunately, while out she dropped the gum on the ground and when I wouldn't allow her to pick it up and put it back in her mouth, she threw a pure living fit, as we southerners like to call it. Here we were in the crowded walking area surrounded by people while Ivelina screamed bloody murder, wallowed on the ground, and cried uncontrollably. We found a little spot where we could sit on the ground with her, and we literally had to hold her down to keep her safe. As soon as we thought she was able, we started heading back to the apartment again. Jeremy had to carry her for part of the way because she refused to walk. I just kept reminding myself that although we were getting stared at, I would never see any of these people again. We met a lady in the stairwell of our building who glared at us and spoke something to Ivelina that I'm sure was not nice. Oh, how I wish I could've spoken Bulgarian to her!

From then on, "duvka" was an issue for us it seems. We had one other episode involving gum later on in the week, and we constantly had to watch Ivelina to make sure she wasn't picking up chewed gum off streets.

Thursday, June 12

We thought we would only be doing the doctor's visit today, and then the exit interview on Friday, but we ended up with a morning appointment at the clinic to have Ivie's skin test read and an afternoon appointment at the U.S. Embassy for our exit interview.So, by the end of the day, we would be done with all our adoption requirements.

We were so hoping that the second trip to the doctor wouldn't be as traumatic as the first. Thankfully, I don't know if it was the herbal medicine or the fact that she knew what to expect, but Ivie was much calmer during her second trip to the doctor. We did not have to wait as long this time either. When the doctor started checking her arm out, she and our translator began speaking in Bulgarian and then they told us she tested positive. What?! I think Jeremy and I both felt our hearts sink. We knew that there was a chance we would have to stay in country longer if Ivelina had active TB. We were very concerned, but then our translator told us that a positive reading is normal. Apparently, all children in Bulgaria receive a TB vaccine; therefore, most of the children will test positive for TB with the skin test. We didn't know this.

The next step is to do a chest x-ray. We walked back down the stairwell to an x-ray room. I was cracking up because when we walked in the x-ray tech seemed to have just finished up a cigarette. The room reeked of smoke. Ha! We're not in NC anymore. =)  Ivelina complied just fine and stayed very still for the x-ray. I was so nervous that she would test positive again. We had to wait just long enough for me to take her to the potty, and then another doctor read the results and told us that she was clear!  Yippee! 

Now it was on to the Embassy!  Our appointment was at 1:00. This was my first time in an embassy. At first, it was very much like entering an airport. We had to go through a pretty thorough security area. I didn't take a thing in with me so that they would have less to check. The security area was almost like a separate building. Then we exited and were outside again walking toward the actual U.S. Embassy building. They gave us a number, and we sat down to wait. We had to be quiet in the waiting area. Luckily, they provided some toys and coloring things for Ivie.

At the embassy I discovered one of Ivelina's big fears: automatic bathrooms. This was the first 100% automatic bathroom she had ever been in I'm sure. I honestly didn't think a thing about it because I am used to them, but the automatic flushing toilet made Ivelina practically throw herself against the wall to get as far away from it as possible. I realized she was nervous, so I started to demonstrate the faucet for her. When I held my hands under the water, she jumped when it automatically came on. She did reluctantly try the automatic soap and water, but the dryer was a big no, no!  The hand dryer was a kind you have to put your hands down in and it senses your motion and comes on. Again, I was going to demonstrate for her first to show her how it is done, but the loud noise terrified her, so we got out of there as quickly as possible. This experience would come back to haunt me as we traversed through airport bathrooms on the way home...stay tuned for that story!

We had to wait quite a while, but when they finally called our number, the three of us walked up to a private window. We sat Ivie up on the high counter and spoke with an American lady behind the glass. She asked us how our visit had been (do you really want to know?). How long had our adoption process taken? She also asked how many times we had visited Bulgaria. She asked what our impression was of the orphanage facilities. She asked how many days we had been in Sofia. These were not at all the types of questions we were expecting!  Then we had to raise our right hands and take an oath that everything in our documentation was accurate and truthful. It was quick and easy and stress-free!

Friday, June 13

After the exit interview, all we had to do was wait to receive Ivelina's visa which would be placed in her passport. The visa was issued on Friday, but for us it was just another free day as our agency staff picked up the documentation for us.

We wanted to try to do something special today; we wanted to have a picnic in the park. Every day we had walked past this very yummy-smelling food truck that served huge slices of pizza. Jeremy had been wanting to try it, but it would've been hard for him to get three of those huge pieces and bring them back to the apartment for us. Side note: In Bulgaria, everyone eats while they walk!  There were little food trucks or walk-up to-go restaurants everywhere. Some of these places are actually underground, so from the street, you can see these little windows on a building down near the sidewalk. You order what you want from the little window. It was strange to us! I think walking while eating is how they stay so fit. No one jogs like in the States. The people seem to nibble all day long as they walk to and from where they need to go. Most of the people seemed thin and in shape too.

Ivie trying to figure out the best way to eat the pizza.
We took a blanket from the apartment, some water bottles, and a ball. I got Ivie situated in a grassy, shady low-traffic area while Jeremy went to fetch the pizza. She probably thought we were so strange for eating pizza while sitting outside on a blanket, but I thought it was divine. Th temperature was perfect. Someone was playing music in the background. The pizza was delish!  Ivelina didn't know quite how to hold the slice. I think she had a hard time biting through such a thick piece of bread too. After we ate, we played around with a little kickball for quite some time. Ivie had fun kicking, throwing, and bouncing the ball. She and Jeremy chased each other. I sat back and thought, "This is the real Ivelina." Everything seemed so normal in those moments. She seemed happy and adjusted as she ran around laughing and squealing after her Taty. I hoped I was seeing a glimpse of what she could truly be once she got past the fear, uncertainty, and confusion she was going through.

Then, we decided to brave the playground, but only the slides. They had large slides (I think they were cement) that were even big enough for adults. Jeremy and Ivelina did the slides together over and over!

We had implemented a new strategy today to help us manage certain inappropriate behaviors, and so far it seemed to be working. We had very few tantrums and very few serious behavior problems on Friday all the way up until dinner time. Then, our pleasant sweet girl switched personalities on us and began a fit in the bathroom. It was during this fit that a lady from our agency arrived with all of our documentation. (Err...they really had terrible timing on this trip!) So when they came in our apartment Ivelina was half-naked, wild, and I was in tears. She tried to help us get Ivie calmed down and under control, but even her best efforts in Bulgarian weren't enough. Poor Ivie! We just had no idea what was going through her head and her heart. We had had such a good day together. It was almost like she realized that she had gone all day without a fit, and she was determined to get one in before bedtime..ha! Thankfully, we did get her regulated before bedtime and she fell asleep fairly quickly tonight.

Saturday, June 14

Our final full day in Bulgaria. We were actually supposed to leave for home on this day, but when we were scheduling our airfare, we found an amazing rate that would save us almost $1,000, but it was only available flying out on Sunday. So, we opted to stay an extra day just to save money.

We tried yet another new fun thing today!  At the park, some gentlemen had about 10 battery-powered cars for kids to drive around. It only cost 2 lev to rent one, and you got to drive it until the battery went dead!  We had been watching kids driving them around in the park all week, but we didn't know how Ivie would handle it. On this final day, we decided to try it!  

 She loved "driving," but she obviously had never done it before. She never quite got the hang of steering and pushing the gas pedal at the same time. Taty had to do a lot of steering for her or she would've run over people!

I also started packing on Saturday. I packed Ivie's little pink backpack with her baby dolls, headphones, toiletries, and snacks. We left some toys and food behind donating them to the apartment for the next family that stayed there.

We were wondering if it would be a good idea to tell Ivelina about the airplane tonight or just wait and let her see tomorrow, but our translator said it was good to prepare her. So, right before bedtime we told her we would be going on a "somalette" the next day. We pulled up some You Tube videos of kids on planes too. We told her she would have a toilet on the plane and a seat and TV and breakfast, lunch, and dinner. She immediately showed signs of fear/stress, (lots of rocking, crying, nervous twitches) so we wondered if we made a good choice to talk with her about the plane.

Sunday, June 15

Finally, it was time to leave. We like Bulgaria, but we were so tired and weary and ready to get home. My brain hurt from trying so hard to juggle two languages for 11 days (a good reminder of what Ivelina would feel like once we left her country). We woke up Sunday morning at 5:00a.m. for our driver to pick us up and take us to the Sofia airport.

Ivelina was pretty much okay until our translator arrived. She came up to help us carry our bags down and tried to speak with Ivelina in Bulgarian about what was happening. Ivelina was scared. When we got downstairs to the car, it was a different car than we had been in, and she though the car was the airplane!  She was crying and whining and having a fit while our translator tried her best to drive. She continued this same extremely loud nervous, anxious, fearful behavior in the parking deck and in the airport check-in desk.

Finally it came time to head up the big escalators toward security. It was time to say good-bye to our friend from our Bulgarian agency. I was very scared myself. I just knew Ivie's behavior would get worse and worse. She was already scared, security would be scarier, and then the actual plane-- I didn't even want to think about it.

Surprisingly, once our translator was gone, Ivie actually quietened a bit. We found out quickly that escalators freaked her out, so for the rest of our trip home it was stairs for us! Security was so crowded. Ivelina kept reaching out trying to touch everyone and everything that was near her. This was difficult to manage.

When we finally got to our gate, we had plenty of time. So, we sat and Jeremy went to get us a snack. He came back with the most delicious doughnuts and juice! At this point, I was still a little scared of being left alone with her in public. I had to watch our bags, keep an eye on where our money and sensitive documents were, plus keep Ivie somewhat quiet and close to me. Ahh!  I was probably just overreacting and being a worry-wart, but the crowded airports were incredibly stressful for me. After eating we tried out the public restrooms, which she was very suspicious of. She did ok. Whew! Then, we had to catch a bus out to our plane. I thought security and the gate area were packed! This little bus was standing room only. Ivie was squished between Jeremy and some random stranger. I holding onto a pole with my face right in some stranger's stinky armpit.

Finally, the dreaded plane to Rome. I had no idea what to expect. Ivie had calmed some, but I suspected that when the roar of those engines started she would be a mess. She and Jeremy sat in the row behind me and a Bulgarian man. Ivie had the window seat. Thank goodness, much to my surprise, she actually liked the plane!!  She looked out the window. She liked it when a snack and drink were served too. We flew from Sofia to Rome. The descent was one of the worst I have been through. There were clouds galore, and the plane just rocked and shifted and dropped continuously for 30 minutes. I was gripping my seat and holding my breath, trying to keep my stomach calm.

Meanwhile, my little Bulgarian was jammin' through the turbulence.


The pilot did finally land that bird safely in Rome. I was very glad that our layover was short because this airport was not fun for us the first time around. We found a little area where there weren't too many people, and Ivelina pretended her baby dolls were flying around like airplanes for most of the time. We had a snack. Then I decided to take Ivie to a nearby bathroom. Thanks to the traumatic automatic bathroom experience at the U.S. Embassy, she continued to be terribly skeptical of the restrooms. When I opened the door, she peered in cautiously checking out the scene. There was a line, but all seemed safe to her so she came in with me. I got her into a stall. She used the potty. I thought all was well until we opened the stall door. No one had used the hand dryer until we stepped out of our stall. The noise of the dryer stopped Ivie in her tracks. She sank down into the bathroom floor and tried to crawl back into the stall. I had ahold of her and was trying to get her to stand back up. She was in "flight" mode by then. Nothing I said or did consoled her or quietened her down! She was shrieking and screaming on the floor while everyone stared at us wondering what the heck was wrong!  I tried to pick her up, but she was making it impossible, so holding onto her hand I just drug her out. Yah, I drug her across the bathroom floor, past the dryer, with her screaming bloody murder. I just knew I had to get her out of there! Once we were out of the bathroom she was immediately ok. Jeremy had heard the commotion from all the way over where he was sitting with our luggage. Now, I was really stressed out!! After that display of fear, I was worried about getting her to use another public bathroom ever again! Could she hold it all the way home?!

Next, I worked on getting our seats switched around because the airline had Ivie sitting 8 rows ahead of us. We were so blessed that they were able to get all three of us seated together, and we got the front row!!  You know, the one with all the leg room and no seats in front of you! I was thrilled!

Here we are in our awesome front row seats. I look rough because I woke up with a busted blood vessel in my eye. It was all bloody, plus I was stressed and worn out. Ivelina was in the middle of rocking back and forth, so she couldn't manage a smile for the photo.

This plane was huge, and the flight was very smooth. The food was not kid-friendly at all, so Ivie didn't eat much except the snacks we brought with us. Ivie loved getting a blanket to cover up her legs (she still loves having a blanket on her at all times). Although we each had our own TV to watch, Ivelina wasn't interested. I thought she would sleep, but no, she didn't. At one point, I even gave her a little children's Benadryl tablet to help make her tired, but she still didn't sleep any more than 30 minutes. She rocked. For hours, she has this circular rhythm that she rocked back and forth in her seat. At times, she would add a little repetitive vocalization to the rocking. We thought we would go insane just watching her. (This is a typical orphanage habit, but it was very pronounced on the plane).

This was a super long flight. At some point, it should've been a new day for us, but since we were flying with the time zones on the way back, it felt like time was standing still. My body was screaming for sleep, but I can't sleep on planes normally and especially not with a rocking 8 year old next to me. It was torture to be so tired and not be able to sleep!

We flew straight to Charlotte, NC. That last hour on the plane was terrible. We wanted off so badly that I wished I could parachute out of there! Then, once we were on the ground my excitement sank when we had to wait in a long line of planes to get up to the terminal. That front row seat became another huge blessing as we entered the airport and were the very first people through immigration. I had heard from other adoptive families that the immigration procedure in Charlotte was terribly long. I didn't quite know what to expect, but I was prepared for another long torturous wait. We handed our precious envelope of adoption documents to the immigration officer, and he handed us a card with a number on it. We proceeded to the next check-point and handed the card to the officer. He told us to walk down this particular hallway. We waited for like 5 minutes until the next immigration officer motioned us over. He asked about our trip and about Ivelina. He took her fingerprint and tried to talk to her. Al the while, she was going behind his desk trying to show him her baby doll. We were with him for only about 10 minutes. He gave us clearance, and we were off to get our bags!  Easy peasy!

Ivelina touched every. single. bag. that passed by on the conveyor belt. She waved at every nearby person, saying "drasti" (she didn't quite realize that no one around her knew what she was saying). Part of me was SO happy that no one knew what she was saying. At least if she chattered something inappropriate, we wouldn't get mean looks.

We hit that incredibly humid NC air as we stepped outside, and we had to wait to catch a bus back to our parking lot. This little 10-15 minute wait was stressful because Ivie was once again picking up gum from the sidewalks and putting it in her mouth. Our hands were full of luggage; it was so hard to keep a handle on her.

We got our car, and there was a little friend waiting in Ivie's seat.

She was excited to see her novia igrachki "new toy" because there had been a photo in her photo album of Mickey sitting on her new bed. I think she remembered him. We got her loaded up and started our drive home. I sat in the back seat with Ivie. Much to my surprise, she slept almost all the way home. Even a little fire cracker like her will sleep after being awake for over 24 hours (i think?)

When we got home, my mom and sister and niece had filled our pantry and fridge with fresh food and they were waiting on us to arrive!

This is Ivelina meeting my 10 year old niece for the very first time. My family didn't stay long, but it was so nice to see them.

We had made it. We survived gotcha week. It was not all the rainbows and butterflies I thought it would be. It was grueling. But we got our girl. I am happy to say to future adoptive parents out there that it gets better. Gotcha week is incredibly stressful mentally, physically, and emotionally. You will probably say and do things out of stress that you will regret. You will probably think already by Day 2 that you have just ruined all hopes for attachment with your child. You may feel guilty. You may feel inadequate. You will need forgiveness. You will need your spouse or travel companion. Just remember that God's grace is new every morning. Tap into that. If you are like me, you will need it. My constant prayer was "Lord forgive me. I can't do this without You. I don't have enough love or patience. It has to come from you. Please give me an extra dose of these things and help me love my daughter well." And I do-- I love her to pieces!

I hope you enjoyed reading our gotcha story. Yah, I know it was long...kuddos if you actually read everything in all three posts! If you have any other questions about gotcha week in Bulgaria or just general adoption questions, leave a comment below! I read them all and answer as I am able.

Thanks for reading,


Our silly girl now at almost two months home   =)


  1. Thank you so much for sharing, Shelly! As far as we know, it looks like I'll be going on our pick-up trip alone. I am so hoping Denis' tantrums are similar to trip 1 cause those I can handle. Anything worse and I may need a straight jacket. Lol

  2. I have really enjoyed reading your gotcha posts. You and Jeremy are such brave souls and I have so much admiration for you guys. You have given this little girl a real chance in life by bringing her into your home and I know you guys are great parents already! Can't wait to see you at work this fall!

  3. Wow! Thank you for sharing your story with so much detail and encouragement! We have a long way to go as we were just registered with the MOJ back in April, but we are looking forward to gotcha week!


Leave some love