My last blog post left off with us arriving in Bulgaria. Two days of whirlwind travel plopped us down in Sofia, the capitol city. Sofia also is NOT the city of our daughter's orphanage. Her location is about 2 hours north of Sofia. Oddly enough, it took us just as long to close that distance as it did to get from the US to Bulgaria in the first place. The old adage holds true about the last mile being the longest mile, I suppose.
We arrived in Sofia on Sunday, a day ahead of schedule. Unfortunately for us, being early did us no real favors. The orphanage was not expecting us until Tuesday, so until Tuesday we would have to wait. The schedule was: arrive Sunday afternoon, Monday do paperwork and be tourists in Sofia, Tuesday through Thursday visit our daughter, Friday be tourists in Sofia again, Saturday leave in the morning. Typically the paperwork waits until Friday, since most families don't make their final decision regarding a placement until they have met the child. We had already committed to this child, we didn't need to wait until Friday so we did the paperwork Monday.
It wasn't until we were prepping and signing this paperwork that I came to realize how unusual our commitment to this child was. Our agency rep told us that the children are normally not told on the first day that they are meeting mommy and daddy. They are told that these strange people are "special guests" so that they won't be disappointed if the prospective parents say no. If the new parents are inclined to say yes, the kids find out on the second day that this is mommy or daddy. What's more is that sometimes these parents will actually change their minds after the meeting is complete and everyone goes home.
Imagine that you are a small child, living in the equivalent of a nursing home, and someone shows up wanting to meet you. You are told that this is a "special guest", but if you're a bit older than you have seen this before and you know the drill. You figure these people might be the thing you've been wishing for all your life - mommy and daddy. After a day of visits you find out that your suspicion was right. You have parents! Your new mommy and daddy spend a lot of time hugging and playing with you, and you love it. They tell you they love you. You believe it. Then, they have to leave. Everyone is crying and sad, but the orphanage workers tell you that it's ok. Mommy and Daddy have to finish some paperwork and get your new room ready (your very own room!!) and then they'll be back. A couple of weeks later, though, you find out from the orphanage workers that your new parents changed their minds. They don't want you after all. Sorry, kid, them's the breaks.
You may have figured out by now that this is something that I have only the utmost contempt for. I can understand meeting a child and finding that the match won't work. That I get. I can understand if you meet the child, want to pursue the match, and then come home and your spouse dies in an accident or loses their job or leaves you or you lose your job or whatever and you decide you can't do it at all anymore. That I get, it sucks for everyone all around. What I don't understand, what I have a hard time forgiving, is telling this kid they have a family and then pulling the rug out from under them because you changed your mind. These kids have had enough trouble in their short lives. You owe it to them to be damned certain of what you decide. To mean what you say and say what you mean.
At any rate, we have been certain of our decision from jump. I can't be entirely sure why, there's no real logical reason for it. I think it's more a matter of seeing love as a decision rather than a feeling. We got a certain amount of information on our daughter when we were given her file. We reviewed that information carefully, we took it to a doctor for a second opinion, we showed her videos to a social worker. Then we prayed our butts off and made our decision. That decision was two-fold; 1) we would pursue an adoption of this child and 2) we were going to raise this child as our own, through thick or thin, no matter what. We were going to love this child, we were going to act loving towards this child, no matter how tough things became. It's the same commitment we made to our other children, the same commitment most parents make to their kids. It's the same reason parents will spend their lives doting on a child with Down's, or waiting next to the hospital bed of a little one with cancer. It's the reason you don't just walk out and forget your baby in the NICU.
Becoming someone's mommy or daddy is signing up for whatever may come. It's being there for high points and lows, and some of those lows are pretty danged deep. It's being willing to sacrifice for someone who needs you so very much, sometimes to the point that you wonder if there will be anything left of you when you're done. You give until you run out, then you give a bit more for good measure. You forget about getting it back and you learn to take your reward in the form of a simple smile or a giggle.
We traveled to meet our daughter before her medical file had been translated. The agency coordinator was nervous about that arrangement, but I told her point blank "There's nothing they could translate in that document that could make us give up on that girl. That's our daughter, as far as we are concerned. I don't care what that paperwork says, we're coming to get her."
I actually thought a while on this question - at what point could we have just walked away from this little girl? Before we saw her profile. Once we had seen her pictures, read her story, watched those videos, it was too late to go any other way. How could we have not thought about her for the rest of our lives? Worried about her health? Worried about her life? Once we knew of her, we couldn't walk away.