One Family's Return Trip: Best Thing We Did In Bogotá
Last year our son's preschool sent home an "All About Me" poster and information packet. It asked a bunch of questions. Questions that unfortunately, we just couldn't answer.
How much did I weigh at birth? How much do I weigh now? How tall was I at birth? How tall am I now? Show a picture of you shortly after birth, and show one now.
The purpose of the activity was related to seeing how things grow. But, when I read the assignment, my heart ached. How I wanted to be able to answer all of those questions!! But, I couldn't. I just didn't know the answers. They hadn't been included in any information that we had received about our son.
About that same time, I went to a church party where the women started talking about their kids. The discussion turned to labor and birth problems, and then finally to a comparison of who had given birth to the biggest baby. As usual, I had remained silent. But then, they turned to me, "How much did your son weigh?" Most knew that my son was adopted, but I guess they assumed that somehow I would know that most basic of facts about him. All I could say was that I didn't know.
Later that night, as I sat alone in the dark, I felt so sad. I knew that I had missed out on 2 years of his life, but for some reason, the fact that I didn't know these basic facts about him made me feel like I had missed out on too much. It was one of those times when I just cried it out. I cried over every moment I had missed: his first tooth, his first steps, his first illness, his waking at night, his first word, everything. I didn't even have a picture of him as a baby. I tried to picture him as an infant. Nothing -- was he a big baby with hair or a preemie. I just didn't know.
That night I committed to myself that I would find out. I would find answers. There had to be a way to find some of those missing pieces.
I started by scouring the file we had obtained from ICBF after our son's adoption was finalized. Were there any clues? Then, on one page was a mention by the social worker that he had been born in Hospital San Blas. SUPER!! I found the phone number for the hospital online and called (from the US) to ask what would be required in order to get a photo copy of his hospital file. The first person I spoke with told me, "No, it is not possible!" Undeterred, I called a few days later and spoke with someone different. Here is what I was told I would need:
#1 Appear in person or send a person with a duly authenticated power of attorney.
#2 Bring a letter (in Spanish) officially asking for the file.
#3 Bring an authenticated copy of his original birth certificate.
#4 Bring an authenticated copy of his new Colombian birth certificate.
#5 Bring an authenticated copy of the official Sentencia.
So, having gotten 2 different answers, I called a lawyer in Bogotá who helped me find the law governing this situation. I decided to have her to go with me in my attempt to get the information. It was a good thing I did. We were initially told it would be impossible, then after explaining the law, she asked to talk with the person in charge. He came out and they had a brief conversation and we were told it would take 2 weeks. She would not take No for an answer. She spoke with someone else who told us that we needed to go to a different office and have our documents registered and filed and then that office would send a fax so that the people in the first office could begin looking for the documents.
My lawyer whizzed me around, we did everything in 1 hour and were back. A VERY NICE MAN in the records office had gone ahead and found my son's file. He then sent us to photocopy the file. As we walked to the photocopy kiosk, I began reading the file. There, in black and white, I read for the first time that my son was born at 2:55 in the afternoon. The information I wanted so much to provide for my son was right there in my hands. I was afraid I might lose it before I got to the photocopy machine. I memorized every detail I could while waiting in line.
I would not be able to tell him much about his first 2 years of life, but I could tell him, "You were healthy baby that weighed 7 pounds 5 ounces. You were 19 and 1/2 inches long." I was able to tell him, "This is the hospital where you were born." We even took pictures.
An additional bonus in the file was a review of health issues in the family. Just one of those things I never thought I would know, and I hate leaving all those blanks every time I fill out a form at the doctor's office.
I can't think of a better way to have spent my day, or a better use of my money than to be able to give the gift of this information to my son.
There is also a personal aspect of it too. I can't wait for that next inevitable time someone asks me how much my son weighed at birth. I won't have to explain that he was adopted, I can just give the correct answer. How cool is that?!?!
P.S. If anyone is interested in doing the same thing I did at a hospital in Bogotá. I can give you the name and info for my lawyer. SHE WAS INEXPENSIVE AND AMAZING! Just send me an e-mail to the following address: colombiansadoptcolombians @ hotmail -- just remove spaces and add .com. :)