As you probably noticed, I stopped blogging during our stay in Bulgaria. It was never my intention to cease writing about our experiences while in country and with our little boy, but frankly, I was very quickly overcome with a loss of words or the simple desire to put pen to paper so to speak. Our schedule while in country was a very grueling one, and our visits with our little boy, while much needed and desired, were emotionally draining to say the least. By Tuesday evening, Rob and I both were not sleeping very well, which did not help where my writing was concerned. I think that the jet lag was partially to blame and the rest of the sleeplessness could be attributed to stress.
No matter how much you prepare for that week of being with your child for the first time, there will be those things that crop up that take you completely by surprise. For us, some of those things came about quickly and were heartbreaking to say the least. Our little boy is precious but being in an institutionalized setting for the last three and half years has taken a toll on him. We learned shortly after my last post while in country that he had been moved to the orphanage that we were seeing him in only a few months earlier. Before that he had been in a place called the baby orphanage in his city that is actually one of the largest orphanages in all of Bulgaria. However, because of lack of funding and other issues, this orphanage which is home to over 240 children ranging in age from zero to three years is staffed by a little over 20 caregivers. Over half of these caregivers go home everyday at 3:00 pm leaving a skeleton crew to care for the children in the evening. Even with the best staff in the world, this would be an impossible situation.
The orphanage where our little boy now resides is mainly home to 40 or 50 toddlers and has a much larger staff. Because of the caregiver to child ratio in this orphanage, the children have much more one on one time and are actually in more of a pre-school setting. We were not able to meet the director of our son's orphanage during our stay, but we were able to meet daily with the orphanage's social worker who was a very nice woman who genuinely cared for the children. Through our translator, she was able to answer many of our questions regarding our son's care while in the new orphanage. She was also curious about his new family to be and asked us questions as well, which I appreciated. She was very excited to learn that our daughter's name was Julia and commented how our son's name had the same meaning as Julia's in Bulgarian. It was in a small room outside her office where we would meet with our son and our translator each day.
On Tuesday, our second day of visiting with our son, we were allowed to speak with the orphanage doctor who had been handling our son's medical care for the last six months since his move to the new orphanage. From her, we learned that our son's palate was not completely repaired as we had understood before our trip and that he still had a hole in his palate. The orphanage has scheduled his next surgery to repair the palate in April of 2011. Our son is extremely small for his age, which is partly due to lack of one on one care, but the orphanage doctor also believes that his size is directly related to his palate issues as well since it can cause problems with feeding. She also explained that this is why our son's speech has been delayed. Rob and I were prepared for the delay in speech although we were not completely prepared for the total lack of it or our son's loss of weight since the earlier pictures of him were taken. We realized that he would need speech therapy after the palate was repaired, but it appears he will also need feeding therapy. He has only been fed soft foods for the last three and half years because of his palate issues, and this can cause sensory issues post surgery when new, more solid foods are introduced into the diet. Children with these type of sensory issues related to food are typically defensive with the introduction of new solid foods and foods with different textures. When I asked the doctor and the social worker that day what our little boy liked to eat, the social worker informed me that he had a very good appetite and liked all foods, including chicken and pork....it just has to be mashed. At least that was some good news.
After the doctor left, Rob and I decided to try and have some fun with our little guy, so I pulled out a bag of balloons that I had purchased at Target the day before we left for Bulgaria. The balloons had been a suggestion of another mom that follows my blog, and it turned out to be a great one. Rob blew up one of the balloons so we could show our little boy how to bounce it back and forth in the air. He quickly caught on and began bouncing the balloon to me, Rob and our translator. Rob being somewhat of a comedian then decided to blow up a balloon, not tie the end, and let it go. Our little boy loved it! For Rob's efforts, he was rewarded with a huge belly laugh. And, when the balloon landed at our son's feet deflated, he immediately picked it up and gave it back to Rob. Without using words, he said to Rob, "Daddy, please do this again."
As you can see, the day was a mixed bag of emotions with both highs and lows. Someday, when our little boy is legally ours in the eyes of the Bulgarian government and we have passed court, I will share with you more from this day, including video of the great balloon caper. I also want to share more of our trip to Bulgaria with you in my next post. And, I promise that it won't take me another month to write it!