I arrived in Bulgaria yesterday afternoon. My driver and translator,Martin, met me at the airport and we drove straight to the boy's city because they were expecting snow overnight and we didn't want to get caught in it this morning.
We arrived at our Soviet-style hotel at 4:30 and I was out cold by 6:00 (I have a strict no sleeping policy when I travel overseas to help combat the jet lag. Works like a charm, but boy am I exhausted by the time my head finally hits the pillow).
This morning we went to the orphanage and met with the director and the social worker. They reviewed the boy's medical and social histories with me and asked me questions about our family, our support system and how we manage to care for so many children with special needs. They were also very interested to learn about programs and organizations in the US that assist and support families who are raising children with special needs. They shared with me that most of the children in their orphanage were relinquished because the families simply didn't have the resources or support to raise their children. They expressed their desire to see programs and resources like those in the US and other countries, in place in Bulgaria as well so that these families could be confident in raising their children and eliminate the need for orphanages altogether. It was a wonderful opportunity to share the work that is being done by many organizations (such as Reece's Rainbow's Connecting the Rainbow)to do just that.
After the meeting with the director and social worker had concluded, it was time to meet Benjamin and Thomas.
They brought Thomas into the room first. Oh, be still my heart, he is the sweetest, tiniest thing I have ever laid eyes on. His caretaker placed him right onto my lap and he snuggled up to me, looked up at me and gave me the biggest grin. Needless to say, I was a goner :-) Thomas is TINY! He will be 3 years-old in April and he is easily the size of a 12-18 month old. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in personality. He is a total love bug and SO smart. And he has a giggle that just melts me into a puddle on the floor (so I spend A LOT of time trying to make him laugh). He is ADORED by his caretakers (and who could blame them; he is precious). Like many children with Down syndrome he has low muscle tone (he can crawl, pull to a stand and walk holding someone's hand, but cannot walk without support), he cannot feed himself and needs his food to be mostly pureed (though he is being spoon fed rather than eating from a bottle). I had the chance to feed him lunch and afternoon snack today and to spend some time with him in his groupa to observe his interactions with his caregivers and the other children. It was a definitely a treat.
They brought Benjamin to me shortly after Thomas. He is also, oh so tiny and absolutely precious! Benjamin will be 3 years-old in just a few weeks and he is also the size of a 12-18 month old. But, like Thomas, what he lacks in size, he makes up for in personality. Initially Benjamin was very shy and stayed close to his caregiver, but as soon as I pulled out my bag of toys, he plopped right down next to me and proceeded to dump out and then refill the toy bag for the next hour. During the afternoon visit he really opened up. He has the biggest smile (complete with dimples) and the best little laugh. He would sit next to me and play for awhile and then, without warning, he would throw himself into my lap and start giggling and hugging me. Like Thomas, Benjamin also has low muscle tone (he can crawl, pull to a stand and walk holding someone's hand, but cannot walk unassisted), cannot feed himself and needs mostly pureed foods (he is also spoon fed and does very well). I also had the chance to feed Benjamin his lunch and dinner and watch him interact with his groupa and caregivers and it is obvious that he is well-loved.
The orphanage is very nice. The groups are small with a nice ratio of caregivers to children and it was obvious as I observed the caregivers interacting with the children today, that they love these children very much and do the very best they can to care for them.
Unfortunately, this orphanage has a policy against taking pictures and they also require a member of the orphanage staff to be present during visits, so I have to sneak pictures when the caregiver steps out of the room (I know, for shame! But I feel that it is only right that my husband have the opportunity to see pictures of the boys since he cannot be here and I know I will lose my mind during the next phase of the adoption process if I don't have a few pictures of those sweet faces to keep me going). Because pictures will likely be few and far between, I will do my best to be as descriptive as possible in my blog posts.
It probably goes without saying but I am absolutely smitten with my sweet little boys and my heart is already aching at the thought of leaving them at the end of the week. It has been an amazing day and there is no doubt in my mind that the addition of these sweet, joyful little boys will make every day amazing!