I couldn't even find it on the map when I first heard of it. I knew Bulgaria was in Eastern Europe, but couldn't tell you exactly which countries it was next to, what the people who lived there looked like or even the capital. Let's be honest, I was a total embarrassment to my 7th grade geography teacher.
The thing is, when we decided to move forward with adoption, when we were finally, finally - thank the heavens - all in, our enthusiasm quickly came screeching to a halt when we needed to decide where to adopt from.
When deciding to adopt, the very first question you face is, "domestic or "international?" And then, if domestic, "which state?" Or, if international, "which country?" Most people understand this is a big decision in the process, but no one has any idea how difficult and almost frustrating this can be until you have to go through it.
I won't go into all the reasons one might choose one over another here. It's an unbelievably personal decision, and one that has so many factors that affect families in different ways, it'd be too hard to sum up in a blog post. And in fact, you should never take one person's blog post for how or why or where you decide to adopt. One person's view is never a full picture in adoption - you gotta spread your arms wide and get ready to drink from the fire hose in order to make a decision.
But sometimes you hear about people who say, "I've always had a heart for foster-to-adopt right here in the U.S." Or, "I went on a missions trip in Uganda that made a huge impact on me when I was in college so I want to adopt from there." And that's great for them - yay for them! But for the rest of us totally lost ones, we don't have a "heart" for anywhere yet. We just know we have a "heart" for adoption and that's about it. All we knew was we just wanted to live out our calling as believers, to grow our family in one of the most beautiful ways possible, and we didn't care where from! Just give us some children that need a home and we'll love them!
But you have to choose. Nobody will let you adopt until you pick.
So, wanna know how to figure it out? You just have to do the work. Put in your time. You'll stress about it, you'll stay up at night thinking about it. You'll talk it over, and over, and around, and around with your husband and feel like you just don't know. Like you'll never know. You'll feel lost. You'll feel like you've finally made progress on this huge monumentous decision to adopt (and that was hard enough) only to have to make another that's nearly impossible - and you just feel torn up inside about it, frustrated, almost angry that it's so hard. You're ready to go, but you can't go anywhere.
So, in the meantime, you do your research. Call/message/email people you know that have adopted or are in the process. Google your brains out. Call adoption agencies and learn about their programs. Ask questions. Ask millions and millions of questions. Pray your little adoption-loving heart out. Look at each country's requirements to help narrow it down: They look at the parent's age, marital status, health, other children currently in the family, etc. That might force you in a direction. I mean, some of them even require a certain BMI to adopt. (Thankfully, it's quite high and my husband and I were qualified.) Look at average wait times, the characteristics of eligible children, the number of trips, duration of said trips, and what works with your job. Look at everything, look at it all, and then keep praying, looking for direction and guidance.
And I can promise you, if you're looking for answers for where to adopt, God will lead you to the right place. It might take a few whacks over the head like it did for us, but eventually, he'll get through your thick head.
For my husband and I, we were able to narrow it down to five countries, simply because we knew we wanted to adopt from a Hague Convention Country - so from there we looked at each country's adoptive parent requirements and the travel requirements that worked with my husband's job - and praise the Lord, it worked out to only be FIVE countries in the entire world. But still. How do you pick? I mean, it feels like shopping, and nobody should be shopping when it comes to orphans.
But you don't shop. You pray. You do more research. More Googling. More talking. More investigating, exploring, probing. You wait. You see what rises to the surface. You talk about it all the time, feeling like you're never making progress, like you'll never make a decision. Then one day it all comes to a head and you call your husband at work while you're standing in the kitchen and tell him you think Bulgaria is the one. That you've both been hearing about it so much lately, it must be the one. That the TV show where they were speaking Bulgarian was no coincidence. That those people talking about Romas at the store the other day wasn't just happenstance. That your friend who called and told you there, "was just something about Bulgaria," didn't share just random words. That the fact that Bulgaria keeps coming up in the most bizarre ways, when before this all started you couldn't even find it on the map, can't be just chance.
It's God. He was working all this time! He does care! He does love us! He does give answers!
You tell your husband all of this. And then he says with a laugh, "I agree! That's how I feel!"
"So Bulgaria?" you say, with a huge goofy smile on your face while your toddler tugs on your legs asking for fruit snacks and your baby girl sleeps upstairs.
"Yes, let's do it. Let's go get our babies in Bulgaria."
And then it's decided.
And then you find that suddenly you have a "heart for something." You think about that place all the time. You're obsessed with it. You make Bulgarian food. You look at pictures of the country online. You join Facebook groups about adopting from there. You can't help but go out and about and look for people that might be of Bulgarian or Roma origin when shopping at Target. You suddenly love Bulgaria because Bulgaria is suddenly, like a switch that was just waiting to be turned on, completely, totally, apart of your heart. It was always there, you just needed the light.
Because I'm now passionate about the country, I'll tell you a bit more about why we chose Bulgaria. In Bulgaria, the majority of the orphans eligible for adoption are of Roma descent. You may know of the Roma people because they are commonly referred to as "gypsies." But in reality, that's actually considered a derogatory term among the Romani community - so we don't say that word in our house any more. Just like Bulgaria, I knew nothing about the Romani people or culture before - oh about six months ago - just the stereotypical stuff like thinking they were vagabonds with no home, maybe fortune-tellers, beggars, wanderers. People to stay away from when you travel in Europe, because they'll probably steal your stuff. And while all stereotypes have roots, the reality is the Romani people have historically suffered enormously and horrifically - which does cause a nomadic lifestyle, but that's not what they're about. Subject to "ethnic cleansing," slavery, trafficking, crime, poverty, mistreatment and severe discrimination - even today, the Romani people are up against a brick wall to ever gain traction for a better life. Bulgaria is one of the only Hague Accredited countries with a large population of Roma children - but the sad part is, most Eastern Europeans - and specifically Bulgarians - are so prejudice towards the Roma that they won't adopt a child of Roma descent. Therefore Bulgaria must look to international adoption to find these children a home since people in their own country won't even give them a second look. Which just makes my stomach churn.
Honestly, I feel like in the U.S., there's not a lot of common knowledge about Romas, so here are a few articles that might shed some light on the culture and people group, and why our hearts were moved choose this country. Be warned, while Bulgaria is making great strides in better treatment of their orphans, and specifically of Roma children, some of these articles were written when their ill-treatment of these children was first coming to light (less than 10 years ago) and therefore the practices and treatment of these children going on in these orphanages can and will sicken and shock you to the core, so please read with caution.
Today, their practices are much different, but they are still working towards the path towards a more ethical and humane treatment of their orphans and the system is not perfect. And so while we pray for a swift and sweeping change on behalf of the treatment of these people, we also pray we can bring home two babies in desperate need of love and care - to not only change the outlook on their lives, but also of ours.