Shared from the 2016-05-08 Savannah Morning News eEdition

A MOTHER’S DAY STORY

A loving son, a fun brother — a fulfilling life

Family endures long, tangled process to adopt a special-needs child but is rewarded with endless joy

Picture

CHRISTIE AND RAYMUNDO ORTA LAUGH AS THEIR SON EDGAR SITS ON HIS MOTHER’S LAP. EDGAR OFFICIALLY BECAME A PART OF THE ORTA FAMILY IN FEBRUARY AFTER ADOPTING HIM FROM AN ARMENIAN ORPHANAGE. (PHOTOS BY JOSH GALEMORE/SAVANNAH MORNING NEWS)

Picture

LAURA ORTA, 9, SNUGGLES WITH HER YOUNGER BROTHER EDGAR, 4. EDGAR, ORIGINALLY FROM ARMENIA, WAS ADOPTED BY THE ORTAS AFTER A TWO-YEAR PROCESS.

Picture

CHRISTIE ORTA HOLDS HER SON EDGAR AS HE GIVES HIS SISTER A HIGH-FIVE. EDGAR OFFICIALLY CAME TO THE ORTA FAMILY IN FEBRUARY AFTER A TWO-YEAR PROCESS OF ADOPTING HIM FROM AN ORPHANAGE IN ARMENIA. (JOSH GALEMORE/SAVANNAH MORNING NEWS)

Some events in life are priceless such as weddings, graduations or births.

But for Christie Orta, an important life moment was a simple trip to the beach a couple of weeks ago.

“That one moment was worth more than every penny we paid and every tear that I cried, just to see him sitting in the ocean,” Christie said as she showed a video of her newly adopted son, Edgar, 4, playing in the surf.

“He was so excited he didn’t know what to do with himself,” she said. “He was flapping his arms so hard I’m surprised he didn’t fly away, he was just so excited.”

Since 2013 Christie and her husband, Raymundo Orta, have been working through the adoption process to bring Edgar, who has Down syndrome, home from Armenia. In February, they, along with their biological daughter, Laura, 9, officially became a family of four, bringing Edgar home to Savannah.

“I think he has completed our family in ways that we never thought he would. He’s made us a better family,” Christie said. “People have said he’s so blessed to be in a family now, but I think the opposite. We’re so blessed to have him.”

Orta, a special education teacher, was inspired to adopt a special-needs child after teaching students who were adopted under similar circumstances. The Ortas tried to foster to adopt within the United States through the Department of Family and Children’s Services, but their plan fell through so Christie began online research and found Edgar on Reece’s Rainbow, an adoption advocacy website. Armenia’s program is one of the longest and most expensive, and the cost was more than Orta makes in a year.

“It was scary,” Raymundo said of raising the funds, which included various fundraisers, grants and donations received from around the world. “There were times when we’d have a payment due and we didn’t know where it was going to come from, but within the next few days something would happen, someone would help out and it would be taken care of.”

While planning for their trip to Armenia last summer, they needed almost $6,000 for various fees and trip costs and weren’t sure they would have the funds. Within the next couple of days, Christie went to the mailbox to find two grants, one for $5,000 and another for $1,000.

“It was the exact amount at the exact time we needed it... Every penny of our adoption was paid for and we owe so much thanks to so many people,” she said.

Bringing Edgar home

For months the Ortas had looked at photos of Edgar, and in July they were finally given the clear to make the trip to meet him in Gyumri, Armenia.

“When they brought him over he just reached for Christie so hard, and he didn’t want to come to me,” Raymundo said of meeting their son for the first time.

Since so much time had passed Christie admits she was nervous and had lots of “what if” questions running through her mind when she met him for the first time.

But she said the connection was instant — the same she had felt when she first saw his photo in 2013.

“I put my arms out and he just grabbed ahold of me, so then I cried like a baby,” she said, holding back tears.

During their trip they were able to visit Edgar twice a day, bring him toys, feed him and play on the orphanage’s playground. Christie said the experience solidified that the family was on the right path adopting Edgar.

Before meeting him they had considered changing his name to Evan, but changed their minds during the trip.

“Once we met him, we knew he was Edgar,” Christie said of his birth name.

After returning home in July the Ortas had to file various paperwork to officially register Edgar with immigration and the Armenian government. That process was complete in November and they returned to Armenia in January for a final court hearing.

“It was a little scary being in front of the judge — he was a little intimidating, even though everyone said it was a formality, there was still that question,” Raymundo said.

“After that it was such a relief — we did it, we did it.”

Once back in Savannah, Christie said it was exciting and felt like second nature. Edgar wasted no time getting used to his surroundings,

“The night we got home the house was a wreck, so we were trying to clean and he fell asleep on the couch,” she said. “And he’s been home ever since... To bring him here, it was just like it all clicked.”

Everybody loves Edgar

Edgar, who attends day care and will start physical therapy this summer to learn to walk, also hasn’t wasted time indulging in new foods. His favorite is chocolate ice cream.

“You scream, I scream, we all scream and he does scream for ice cream,” his sister Laura said with a laugh.

Christie was worried that Laura would have a hard time adjusting to no longer being an only child, but Christie said Laura has taken on extra responsibilities and has excelled in being a big sister.

“It’s been exciting,” Laura said. “One thing I like to do is fall down, that always makes him laugh.”

The children in Edgar’s class have also been welcoming and look forward to seeing him everyday, which Christie said is beneficial for both Edgar and the other students.

“It’s also been great for the other kids who have never been around a child with disabilities and they all adore (Edgar). Every morning they yell his name when we come in and I have to take him around the table so they can all touch his hands,” she said of his classmates.

“I think early intervention is really important for him, but also for the other students to get that exposure as a child... And we’ve seen him socially grow so much just from being there.”

A new normal

With each passing day Christie said Edgar is developing more and more of a personality and adjusting smoothly to his new surroundings, which include a new brightly painted bedroom w ith Scooby-Doo decals, trips to the park and lots of new clothes.

“It’s very much been our new normal, and I tried to prepare myself for any moments of doubt, but I haven’t had that moment and I don’t think I will,” Christie said.

“It was worth it. He makes us laugh and seeing him improving every day is great, and every day he does something new,” Raymundo added. “I’m excited for him to start physical therapy. We see that he has a lot of potential and at the end he’ll be all right. Once he starts walking we’ll be in trouble.”

Although they admit the process was a hard one that was often overwhelming and stressful, they kept their faith. And they’re excited to continue to watch Edgar improve and grow.

“We felt like God provided for us,” Christie said of the process. “We stepped out in faith, because I felt like he was calling us to do this.”

See this article in the e-Edition Here