a state of great commotion, confusion, or disturbance; tumult; agitation; disquiet: mental turmoil caused by difficult decisions.
We landed in Belgrade on Monday afternoon, after nearly two days without sleep. We had a meeting scheduled with our facilitator at 10:45am on Tuesday morning so that we could meet her face-to-face and discuss what would happen at our 11am ministry appointment. The lack of sleep led to us ignoring our alarms, sleeping for twelve straight hours, and waking at 9:15am to the sound of our apartment owner knocking on the door. He needed to take us all to the police station and register us. That led to us arriving at the ministry at exactly 11am and it also meant that we had no time to discuss what was about to take place.
Kira, Chase, and Seth were allowed to stay in the next room with a ministry official. Chad and I entered a room with twelve other people that was about 12ft by 16 ft and if I counted right, ten of them never stopped smoking for the entire hour and a half.
I would suggest that anyone traveling to a foreign country to adopt, try and arrive a couple of days before you have anything scheduled! The jet-lag and smoke and spiritual oppression made for a pretty rough experience.
At the meeting we learned about our daughter. For starters, her name is Sophia, not Ana-Sophia (we might have to change that ). She was born in Belgrade and remained at the hospital for ten days and was then transferred to an orphanage. Her mother was transferred to an institution because she is a schizophrenic. Does this fact scare the crap out of me? Yes! Does it scare me enough to walk away? NO! I actually read about a study in one of my psychology classes where children who were genetically predisposed to schizophrenia were able to avoid ever developing it through dietary changes. I’ll be doing lots of research!
When we first committed to adopt her and we received a report on her development, we found out that she had been on several anti-psychotic medications while in the orphanage. We learned at our meeting, that they treated her for schizophrenia from the time she was an infant.
We also learned that she is the youngest of five children. She has brothers who are 28 and 26 who were raised by their father. She has a brother who is 24 who was raised by his father and she has a sister who is 10 that lives with an aunt. No relative has ever attempted to adopt her. She lived in the orphanage until she was one and then went to a foster home with a single mother who left her alone in her apartment. She stayed there for a year and there were many police reports and complaints filed about the neglect before she was returned to the orphanage. When she was five months old, a seventeen year old girl named Jovana came to volunteer at the orphanage. She fell in love with her. Jovana lives with her mother and younger brother in Velika Plana. It is a small little country town about 100km south of Belgrade. We were told that Jovana’s father passed away. After a lengthy approval process, Jovana’s family was able to take Sophia into their home. She has been with them since June of 2008. We learned today that they could have adopted her. They chose not to.
At the end of our meeting, the ministry official in charge, asked us to stay in the room with him and our translator and he made everyone else leave. He asked us several questions that felt like an interrogation. We learned later that the foster mother had been to see him at 9am to file an appeal and try to stop the adoption. The family has been reading this blog and from what we heard today, they have also hacked into our facilitator’s email. The situation has been ugly.
We left the meeting and drove to Velika Plana. At this point, we were not feeling very peaceful, but we were feeling extremely blessed that not one, but two of our prayers were being answered. We were not certain that we would get to meet Sophia yesterday. Blessing # 1! We have also understood from the beginning that Kira, Chase, and Seth would not be allowed to come with us for our first visit. Blessing #2!
When we rounded the corner at the foster home, she was standing on the front porch. I was very confused. This very tall little girl with straight hair was standing in front of me. She looked to be eight or nine years old. She touched all of us and immediately grabbed Kira by the hand and drug her off to the swing. The visit was strange. I lost count of how many people were watching us and it was very clear that the foster family were not comfortable with us. Communication was far from easy for all of us and Seth seemed particularly frustrated that nobody could understand him. Although I think she likes him, she punched and pushed him on more than one occasion. His feelings were terribly hurt. Her only encounters with a man have been with a repair-man that she is not fond of. She is convinced that Chad is a handy-man and she has checked his pockets and asked him for his hammer dozens of times in the past two days.
Not being able to communicate with your child really sucks! I do have high hopes that she will learn English quickly though. She gave me this little glimmer of hope at an unexpected moment. I had been pointing out objects and calling them by their English name and repeating her as she told me the Serbian name throughout our visit. I kept pointing to her dog and saying, “dog”. She began to say it after me. Chase and I were standing there and I thought that we would both cry.
The day had already been extremely stressful and then things got very uncomfortable before we left. The foster family was crying and they had our translator ask if we had written them a letter. I said yes and they said that our facilitator had “blackmailed” them and that she wouldn’t give it to them because they would not give her Sophia’s measurements and current photos. We attempted to give them the gifts we brought for them and they became even more upset. They thought it was bribery. I think the perspective is a little skewed and I think that there has been a huge breakdown in the chain of communication between the ministry, the center of social workers that oversee her care, the foster family, and our facilitator. We tried to explain that it is an American custom to bring a gift any time that you are invited into someone’s home. They weren’t buying it. We learned later that part of their appeal was a complaint that we were bribing the ministry and everyone involved in the adoption. That part of their complaint is what led to our interrogation.
As we were leaving this first emotionally toiling visit, Sophia grabbed Seth and gave him a huge hug. The pushing and punching were forgiven. Chad and I are still processing.