Daily Archives: 15/02/2015

Mummy, am I adopted? Part One

Part One

Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.
Dalai Lama

As Katja was playing with her new friend as we packed our camping gear, these words echoed throughout the island “Mummy, am I adopted by you?” We stopped in our tracks as our jaws dropped; there was an uncomfortable silence which seemed to last an eternity as Cathy and I looked at each other stunned at what we had just heard. A wave of emotions hit us like a speeding train as we quickly thought of an answer. This was certainly not the time or the place in which to have this conversation. We simply answered “let’s talk about it when we get home”.

Our Early Years 207861_1028342707076_8978_n

Many, many years ago, we talked about adopting, it was something we were both very keen to do. We never really talked about it in further detail for many years. Our lives were busy with work, building a career and then moving to live in Spain. By one of those weird twists of fate, we found ourselves living in Bulgaria in 2007 and no children. During our time we had been involved with several charities helping children in several capacities. I brought up the subject of adopting in 2010 (some 18 years after our initial conversation). I remember it clearly as if it was yesterday.

 “Gestation” Period

We were living in Sofia, Bulgaria. Cathy e-mailed several “agencies” she found on the net, none ever got back to us. She then contacted a lawyer who specialised in adoptions. As we were EU citizens living in Bulgaria we were entitled to the same rights of adoption as locals. We had to fill in several forms and provide endless amounts of paperwork which had to be legalised and approved in the UK. Cathy’s parents were brilliant in assisting us with this side of things. Nothing was too much and quite frankly, without their help it would have been near on impossible to get everything together while living so far away. Whilst the gestation period for new parents to be is watching mummy’s tummy grow and several trips to Dr’s etc, etc, for an adoptive parent it is made up of numerous meetings with lawyers, paperwork and countless entities involved in the process (for us, the length of time was about the same). I must admit, our lawyer was excellent and again, without her professional guidance and direction, the process would have been impossible. The final part of the process was to have a number of meetings with Social Services (two in their office and one at our home). Some nine months after starting the process we had been accepted as adoptive parents!!! Our criteria was pretty simple, we would like a little girl, no older than 12 months old and healthy.

Let the Search begin!

Once you are accepted as an adoptive parent in Bulgaria, your name is released to orphanages in the areas you are interested. We had opened it to the entire country, this meant that our file would be matched to children in any part of Bulgaria. not long after our file being released we had a call from our lawyer to inform us there was a children’s home in Varna (450 km from Sofia) where there was a child matching our criteria and the director would like to meet us to introduce us to the child. Our lawyer agreed to come with us and act as translator for us. We agreed to meet at 05:00 am near her office. The run up to the trip had been a bit of an emotional roller-coaster but the morning had arrived. We were parked around the corner from her office as agreed, she was running late. As we were parked, the tranquil dawn-break was abruptly interrupted by a very loud bang that our car rocked, this was followed by the sound of a few car alarms going off. Our lawyer arrived (also baffled by all this) and we were off on our trip to Varna. We later heard on the radio there had been an explosion at a newspaper’s office near were we were parked, no other damage apart from material damage had been caused). We arrived in Varna several hours later and met up with a representative of Social Services who then came with us to the home. There we were introduced to a little girl called Anna. She was cute but she had some health issues which we couldn’t ignore. This had to be one of the most difficult and heart-breaking decisions we had to make, do we say yes or no? After lengthy discussions we decided to say no. We know our limitations and in order to be able to give the best care, we need to make sure we are acting within what we are capable of; remember, we live a long way away from family, so in effect, even though we are surrounded by amazing friends, we are on our own. Several weeks later, we heard on the news that this home had suffered a major fire which if I remember correctly, it started in the heating system. I put a proposal together to a group I belong to and Cathy did the same with her school. The proposal was to replace toys and clothes which had been damaged. Fortunately, no child or member of staff had been injured. People were amazing and in no time we managed to fill up a large mini-bus full of things for them.

 

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Mummy, am I Adopted? Part Two

Part Two

The sad part of moving is saying good bye. We made amazing friends when living in Bulgaria, life-long friends who even though we may not speak with or even keep in touch regularly, these are people we love to bits and having them in our lives has been a privilege.

Our Little Miracle

First time we met Katja.

First time we met Katja.

The mother in law of a very close friend of mine in Bulgaria had close links to a children’s home also within close proximity to Varna. We had spoken in the past that it would be an idea if we were in the area, to pop in to the home and meet the director. As we were heading in that direction, I spoke with him and asked if he could arrange for a meeting with the director. Not long after he got back to me to try and clarify some confusion. The Director of the home had sent an invitation for us to attend the day before we were due to go there. We had no idea what was going on. I spoke with our lawyer who was equally confused. It turned out that our invitation to meet a child in this home had been sent by post and it had got lost so we had not received any notification. It was by complete chance that we found out and didn’t miss our appointment. We traveled to Varna a day earlier and my friend (as well as Cathy of course) came with us. we drove the mini bus loaded with stuff for the other orphanage and did a stop in the home where we had the appointment. After a lengthy chat with the director, we were introduced to a gorgeous little bundle of smiles who was immediately attracted to my goatee beard. She pretty much leaped into my arms. This was quite a strange situation for me as I had NEVER held a kid in my arms before. Katja was 7 months old and had been in the home since the day after she was born. We (all) fell in love with her and started bonding immediately. This was a no-brainer. We left the home feeling very happy and chatted among the three of us but we had already made our minds up. It was a big, big heartfelt YES! We popped into the other home and dropped all the things off. They were made up with all the things we had. It was nice to make a difference and to be able to help.

A new Chapter for all of us.

The day Katja came home!

The day Katja came home!

We arrived in Sofia tired but very happy. We spoke with our lawyer and the process began. More paperwork, more meetings and before we knew it we had a date for the final court hearing in which the judge would declare Katja as our legal daughter. The final hearing was held on May 4th 2011 and first thing in the morning on the 5th we were en-route to bring our little girl home. We arrived in the orphanage and had further paperwork to complete. This time we were on our own, not even an interpreter. We completed all paperwork and final meeting with the help of a translator on the phone and my (VERY) limited Bulgarian. We were then asked if we had nappies and clothes for our daughter as the clothes she was wearing belonged to the orphanage. Fortunately yes, we did! Several minutes later we were brought this gorgeous, smiley little girl we are so proud to call our daughter. We had one last bit of formality to complete before we were allowed to leave. We had to prove to the security guard this was our child and then we were off. I remember so clearly walking out holding our little girl and the door closing behind us. It was as if that chapter in Katja’s life had closed for good, and a new and exciting future awaited her; and for us, the “gestation” period was over, we had just become a mummy and daddy…..

The drive home was uneventful (fortunately); we stopped after a couple of hours to feed her and change her. She had never been in a car-seat before but she was good as gold the entire trip. We arrived home later that night, Katja met Sophie (our dog) and they hit it off immediately, not bad considering she had never seen a dog before. So much so, Katja’s first word several months later was DOG!.

 

 

Mummy, am I adopted? Part Three

Part Three

“Whether your children are yours through biology or adoption, they are yours through love.”
– Sadia Rebecca Rodriguez

New BEGINNINGS

The first few months were a steep learning curve and at times very hard. We had lots of fabulous friends but it was still hard. A couple of weeks after Katja came home, Cathy’s colleagues from AAS threw a shower party to welcome Katja to the AAS family. We were truly touched by the kindness shown by all our friends in Sofia. Within a few weeks we were getting into the swing of things. Learning from our mistakes and making new mistakes just like any new parent.

Us in 2015

Singing Sand Dunes - Qatar

Singing Sand Dunes – Qatar

We left Bulgaria in 2013 and moved back to live in Spain. In August 2014 we moved to Qatar. Katja is growing up as a very sociable and well traveled little girl. She loves school and has plenty of friends. She is also a very well traveled little girl. So far she has been in Bulgaria, UK, Spain, Qatar, Australia and Sri Lanka.
Having carried out considerable research, we have always thought it would be best to introduce the concept of adoption from an early age. We have specialist books written for children as stories regarding adoption and as a soft introduction to the concept of “Tummy Mummies” and forever families. We believe that the less of a “taboo” the whole adoption thing is, the better. It means that she can grow up knowing the truth with information being given as she asks. She’s a very inquisitive little girl so we have no doubt there will be many questions along the way, sadly, many of which we are unable to answer as we simply don’t know the answers.

Mummy, am I adopted? kit kat

As I started on part one when Katja asked us whether she had been adopted. We arrived home, all had a shower, made a cup of hot chocolate (her favourite) and sat down to have a family chat. We explained it in very simple terms. We are glad she asked, why it happened at some random unexpected moment? We have no idea, however, it opened the door for us to get the ball rolling so to speak. She knew about the concept of adoption already which helped. Every day we see her grow that little bit more and more, we knew this was a conversation which was looming but we were waiting for the right time, her having asked was a sign to say, yup, go right ahead! We don’t want her to grow up believing one thing and later on in life to find out the truth and destroy all she had based her confidence in, I think it would potentially destroy or damage our relationship if we either left it until later on in life or not at all. As adoptive parents who see Katja as our daughter it is also hard to explain this as all we want is fer to grow as a confident little girl just like any other kid, who cares about the biological bit?
What does the future hold? In as many words….I have no idea, we know the development process and we know some of the things that will come up, we will try and keep one step ahead of things (easier said than done) and answer questions as they come up.

Our link to Bulgaria will always be there……..

If you are reading this and are interested in finding out more about adotpion and would like to have a chat; please feel free to send me an e-mail mike.decoster@yahoo.co.uk

Another Camping Weekend in Qatar

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
Confucius

I think this is such an applicable quote for those of us who enjoy camping and getting away from it all, even if it is just a few hours. One of the great things I enjoy about camping is leaving everything behind and spending a few hours pretending to lead a more simple life. This is true on the one hand but a bit of a lie on the other as when we go camping we do take several little luxuries such as an inflatable mattress and other modern gadgets. However, being able to spend an evening under the stars and away from concrete buildings is very refreshing for the soul and mind.

Purple Island!

Access to Purple Island

Access to Purple Island

We loved our last trip to Purple Island which feels like a million years ago but it was only on December 23rd…not all that long ago really. Pretty much after our last camping trip I created a Facebook event for another camping trip, we loved our time at Purple Island so much that we decided to go back. The run up to the trip was one dusty day after another. It was looking like our trip may be jeopardised due to the amount of dust in the atmosphere which obviously apart from being quite unpleasant it’s not all that good for you either. I took a run to the Island on Thursday morning and found that it was pretty clear.

Off We go!

Reunited with our Tent

Reunited with our Tent

Friday morning I met up with one of the people coming  and we took our usual run to the local site to grab some wood. We filled the boot of my car with plenty of wood to keep a bonfire going till late. A little later and as arranged the group met up in the car park at Lulu’s supermarket near the compound and headed off to the island. There were several people who tagged along for the day which was great. We arrived at the car park to find it was pretty busy. A total contrast to our last visit when we were the only ones there. We made our way onto the island. Fortunately the tide was out so we could walk over the stones without too much hassle. The island was pretty busy but we were the only ones camping. We started pitching our tents and doing endless trips tot he cars bringing stuff. It makes no real difference if you camp for one night or five, it’s just a matter of a bit more food and that’s about it; you still need the same amount of equipment. We were pleased to be able to ditch the small tent and use our proper tent which had come with our shipment in January. It had been a long time since the last time we used it, we certainly never used it in Spain which means the last time we had erected it had been probably when we went camping in Cornwall over 10 years ago!!! As the sun started setting we lit the cooking pit which I had dug out and surrounded with stones. I also made a special area for our bonfire. We cooked loads of food and had a great time enjoying time with existing friends and making new ones. The wood lasted until 23:00 hrs which is exactly what I had calculated. It was a windy night, Katja had her compartment in the tent and was smug like a bug in a rug in her new sleeping bag. In fact, she was the only one who actually got a good night sleep! We all got up pretty early for most peoples’ standard but at a normal time if you live in Qatar. We were all up and about for 05:30 and we lit a new fire to cook breakfast. Food always tastes so much better when cooked outdoors, we had a lovely fried breakfast and then started packing up to head back home. We arrived back home tired but refreshed. There’s something magical about watching the sun go down in the desert, watching the stars come out and sitting in total darkness with the only bit of light coming from a bonfire while chatting and laughing late into the night. Not the most eventful of trips but most certainly, it was an incredibly enjoyable one. We really need to make the most of the “cooler” weather. You can already notice it is getting warmer. we love Purple Island, the nature and the mangroves which provide some sort of greenery, as well as the fact that there are no cars on the island and children can play in a safe environment. The downside is having to walk all the way with all the camping stuff. next camping trip will be on the beach and close to the car.