That was the best part; now I will tell you the rest before the memories begin to blur together.
And in order this time.
Remember when I promised to tell you the truth?
Here it comes.
I have from ten o’clock until eleven-thirty with Katie every morning, and from four o’clock until five-thirty every afternoon. But nobody seems to be paying much attention, and as far as we have been able to determine, Katerina is the first child to be adopted from this floor of this orphanage, so any caregivers we see seem to be clueless about the expected procedure. Remember that over half of the staff goes off-duty at three o’clock. Nobody is being strict about the visiting times except for us.
Since it is so difficult for our attorney to get into the orphanage building, and because of the terrible stench permeating Katerina’s floor, we decided that I would visit with her outdoors every chance we could. This would also give us more privacy and quiet, with no distractions between the two of us.
I cannot get away from the odor, though. A nauseating stench also permeates my baby. We think it is originating with her mouthful of never-been-brushed teeth. I am concerned about the redness of the gums around her teeth, and the risk of an eventual blood infection from the bacteria.
Do I seem to speak this calmly?
Because she has special needs, in all her nine years of life, nobody has brushed her teeth??
Her orphanage sits on three acres. Just as you pull into the gate, you see a little square of grass with a few swings on it.
I gestured toward it and told our attorney that it seemed like a small play area for so many children–two hundred right now. She confidently stated that of course there would be more behind the building; there always were at other orphanages.
That sounded promising.
So on Monday afternoon, when we drove around to the back of the building to find a good visiting spot, we were speechless to see…
…of what could be a useful…
…and invitingly beautiful space.
Well, not quite speechless. I heard our attorney breathe, “Unbelievable.”
We found a seat with a back and a cushion for me to sit on with my baby bird. It is near the dumpster, which is on its side with mounds of trash spilling from it. There are constant flies.
I carry Katerina out to the bench as carefully as I can.
She becomes agitated every time I move her. She can’t yet tolerate much touch, or much movement. When she is lifted from the bed or carried through the room, she shows agitation. If I take one finger and lightly touch her, she immediately pushes at my hand. If I shift my weight under her, she immediately shows anxiety. At first, I was puzzled by this, especially since we learned that she has had her baba for two years.
I sit very still and talk softly, allowing her to become accustomed to my voice, my scent, and the feeling of sitting on my lap with my hands around her middle. I start each visit this way, and she slowly relaxes, giving a sigh now and then, and ceasing to push away at my arms and fuss. I respond by almost imperceptibly turning her legs to the side until she is sitting sideways on my lap, with her head resting on my arm.
I do not force her to look into my face, as that is an intense interaction which demands something of her. Instead I gently show my openness to eye contact by gradually repositioning her to make it easier for her to choose it when she is ready. I give her total control over whether she looks, and I keep my face and voice calm when she briefly and courageously lifts her eyes to mine. I tell her I am so proud of her, that she is a brave girl. I thank her for working so hard at this scary new challenge.
Because of the unfamiliar environment she was in, and because she had to be carried to it, she was unsettled for most of this visit.
Our attorney and I both forgot about the camera until almost five o’clock, and time for me to take my tiny one indoors and feed her supper. I placed her on our attorney’s lap so she could feel how frail and weightless this miniature person is, then suddenly realized that here was an opportunity to get some more photo evidence of her condition underneath her clothing. Those particular photos are now traveling to all those who need to see them, those who are working to help us appeal for expedition of the adoption, those to whom we are appealing, and those who might help us find a way to get her to the United States on a medical/humanitarian visa.
Katie’s hand on one of the lovely hands that Jesus is using to bring orphans into families. Toni told me that all her adoptions are of children with special needs, and that God has sent only Christian families to her thus far.
My beautiful Bulgarian sister in Christ held our severely damaged Bulgarian child, in grim and grieving shock. She has taken this whole situation very hard, and is pursuing the possibilities for a remedy for the children in this orphanage. She is thankful to know that so many, many people are praying for this as well. This battle will not be won without an act of God.
Baby bird was barely tolerating this visit, so our attorney snapped a few pictures, including this one which shows Katie crying and chewing on her wrist, her typical response to feeling upset…
…and sent me back up to the top floor, with her brother along as translator and photographer. His stomach is not strong, he cannot tolerate the smell without gagging, and before too long he must leave the ward.
Can you see the giant hole in the bottle nipple below? We have been told that she is fed one of these bottles five times a day. Sometimes a sort of gravy made of flour and water, with some meat, white bread, and possibly potato in it, sometimes yogurt that is thinned with water to flow through a bottle, and once a day, a fruit puree. It all looks like yogurt water to me, some with a fruit juice scent.
She is accustomed to being fed flat on her back. When I tried elevating her to feed her, her latch is so leaky that she loses a good bit of her meal down her neck and front. She does not lift her hands to the bottle. She gulps rapidly, and the bottle is empty in a couple of minutes.
A caregiver comes in with other bottles for the other child-babies and I motion to show her Katerina’s soiled clothing. She rolls her eyes and vents loudly in rapid Bulgarian as she yanks open drawers, avoiding my eyes and telling me her opinion of a nincompoop who can’t feed a child without making a mess–and now look at her, she will have to be changed to clean clothes–and so on and on until she huffs out of the room again, shaking her head.
I change my baby’s clothing, my mind hardly able to take in this miniature living and moving skeleton. How is she still alive?
And now my time is up. I lay her back in her bed under the gaze of two caregivers who stand at the edges of two cribs, speed-feeding and loudly chattering to one another. A quick glance around the room reveals propped bottles in the remaining cribs.
Only Katie was held for her feeding tonight.
We met Katerina’s baba!!
We found out that she had mistakenly thought that we were going to be taking Katerina home today, so she had come to stand outside to see her go.
When she realized who I was, I was enveloped in an immediate and joyful hug!
I was able to give her the bag I chose for her, filled with things for Katerina. Our attorney translated as I explained each item and how it is to be used. There is the blanket that a sister in Christ made for our girl.
This mom and her husband are bringing two little boys with Down syndrome home from Bulgaria this week, and without missing a beat, are beginning the process of adopting three more little boys with Down syndrome. All three are in the same orphanage with Katerina, and I have permission to see them, hold them, and take pictures of them, along with little “Daisey” who is being adopted by another dear sister! Remember Daisey? Stephanie Carpenter asked her Bulgaria families to choose another child from the list, and pray that God would provide a family for that child! Our family has Daisey’s picture on our refrigerator next to Katerina’s, and we all rejoiced when we learned that God had answered, “Yes!” to our prayers for her!
I gave Katerina’s baba her blanket and a small, lightweight stuffed bunny rattle, and our attorney explained to her that I had slept with these two things to give them my scent, and that she could see to it that they were only used for Katerina. I gave her a bag with many small containers of baby care items–oil, ointment, lotion, wash, shampoo, and explained every one.
Last of all, we showed her the photo album we had prepared, containing pictures of each family member and some other pictures from our home environment. Last night at supper, our attorney kindly labeled each picture with phonetic spellings of our names and the other appropriate words or phrases.
Katie’s baba took them all eagerly, smiling and nodding with understanding and agreement. Our attorney said later, “She oozes with goodness.”
We all went upstairs to see Katerina, and in short order, I discovered that her baba put her right back into her bed as soon as she would fuss.
Quick swoop up; kiss, smooch, squeeze, slurbert, swoop back down to the bed.
We asked her about it, and she explained that Katerina does not like to be out of her bed, or to be touched or held, so she couldn’t do it for very long at a time.
So we explained to her that she could learn to tolerate it, and that it would be good and necessary for her to learn this. I demonstrated the first step for her, and briefly explained how to help Katie progress, and the reasons why I did it this way. I asked her to please do this with her when she came back from her vacation, and I could see ready understanding in her face, and she nodded with enthusiasm.
She told us that she brings bread from home to feed Katie. I asked if it was white bread; it was. After a good bit of explanation and conversation, it was agreed that instead of bringing bread, we would pay her to buy fortified formula and possibly baby vitamin drops with iron. She would bring them in her bag and add some to each bottle that she feeds Katie during her shift.
Our attorney took all her contact information and willingly offered to be the go-between to help us give her the money to buy the formula.
I asked our attorney, “Please tell her that I love her.”
She immediately responded by coming forward to hug both of us at the same time.
Then she took my face in her hands and kissed me, first one cheek, then the other.
And off she went with bag in hand, my baby’s Bulgarian granny, for two years a marvelous answer to prayers that had not yet been prayed.