One Family's Journey: El Encuentro
Hi everybody, Well I can't believe that not only has our day come but it's almost over! I'm writing this at 9:00 pm Bogota time Tuesday night. This morning we met our son and he is more amazing than we could ever have imagined. For any of you that are waiting for Encuentros I hope this will give you an idea of what to expect.
Our day started this morning when we arrived at Bogota ICBF at 8:30 am. It's kind of a weird 70s style building, the kind that quite obviously has been added on to over time. After we checked in we were taken to the Encuentro rooms which are in the back. They are designed for children and painted all sorts of insane colors with Disney murals and what not. I am a bright color person but even for me it was a little much. Here's how it all goes down:
1) The Social Worker and Psychologist come in to talk to you. They review with you the information provided by the foster parent. Our foster mother sent a beautiful photo album with pictures of the time he spent with her and a lovely letter telling him how much she and all her family loved him. She not only described his daily schedule and habits but also wrote to him about his first steps and other firsts. She also included a very sweet note telling us that she prayed that God would send him a good family and was so grateful that we were assigned to him. It is an amazing little book and I am really grateful for all the love she gave him. Every time I read her letter I cry.
2) This is when you get to ask questions about the process, your child's schedule etc. Our child's foster mother was very thorough so we didn't have many questions but the Bienestar employees did have some good advice for the week such as not hanging out with too many other people and trying to maintain the child's schedule/habits as much as possible.
3) This is when you wait in the room in abject terror and anxiety while they bet your child. For me it was really hard to keep it together but I did my best because I didn't want to scare him by being a hysterical mess. This was advice Melinda gave me and I think it was really helpful. Hard to do but helpful. I made up for it later by crying when Elian took his first nap.
4) They bring your child in and you instantly forget how horrible the adoption process was because all you see if your wonderful, perfect, unbelievably real child. Mine ran around the room like a whirling dervish throwing the toy we brought him and shrieking with joy. And then he kind of freaked out and we gave him a bottle. The Bienestar people left immediately after they brought him in to give us time alone. They say we'll leave for "un ratico", in this case ratico means like 10 minutes.
5) Still lost in the moment 10 minutes later the Bienestar people come back and have you sign the paperwork that entitles you to have temporary custody while you are waiting for Sentencia. They take one copy and there is one given to you in case you want to travel somewhere with the child. At this point you will also be given the day to return for your "Integracion" appt. Ours is next Monday and we'll be back then to talk about that process!
In order to keep this practical I just wrote about what happens but to hear about how it felt to see your child for the first time you can check out our personal blog at notoriousmle.com