Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Meeting Ivelina - final day and saying goodbye

I have waited several days to blog about our final day with Ivelina. It was tough. I have been trying to figure out how much to share and how to articulate everything. Finally, here is a recap of our final day: both the good and the difficult.

Thursday was our final day to spend time with Ivelina.  I actually thought we would have Friday as well, but it turns out that we had to be back in Sophia for a morning notary appointment on Friday.

What a different day Thursday was!  During our first couple of days at the orphanage, Ivelina's behavior was overall wild, repetitive, and hyperactive. Like many orphans, she displayed a routine of behaviors that may have helped her self-soothe and calm herself.  Having us as guests this week through her off of her normal routine. She was kept out of school Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in order to spend time with us, and she spent her time with us in a "special" room where she normally does not get to play. This was all new to her, so I'm sure she was feeling a bit uneasy and confused about her schedule. Therefore, when she entered the room with us she would follow a routine: check the bathroom, grab some dirt out of a potted plant, slap her face a few times, and find the baby doll. Following were a couple of hours of very repetitive doctor role play with the baby doll.

But, Thursday was different. Ivelina entered the room cheerfully and did not check the bathroom, did not grab dirt, and did not slap her face. She actually came right to Jeremy and me. We were preparing some balloons, which she immediately became interested in. Her baby doll was upstairs, and the doctor kit was on the table. I was shocked that she became engaged with us and the balloons instead of doing the repetitive doctor play with the doll. Ivie is very independent and wanted to blow up the balloons herself, but after slobbering up several with no success she finally handed them to us to blow up. We hit and kicked balloons off and on for a while. It was great fun!

She was also very interested in the girly things I brought with me on this last day. Thanks to the suggestions of some of my readers, I took hair clips, kids nail polish, lotion, and kids lip gloss-- all were huge hits on this last day. Ivelina is rather athletic and tough, but she is also a girly girl!  Playing with these items was fun and interactive, and it also revealed a lot about her fine motor skills. We were impressed with the way she could paint her own nails, and use lotion and lip gloss appropriately. 

We soon realized that she had not once picked up the doctor set. She was staying focused just a bit longer on activities. And she was calling us mama and taty. She sat on our laps, and seemed much more relaxed. She really enjoyed watching videos we had taken of her on our video camera. She actually stood still for about 2-3 minutes and watched one video intently. I felt like we were getting a glimpse of the real Ivelina from under all the confusion, frustration, and uneasiness that she had been displaying earlier in the week. I attribute this to her becoming more comfortable with us. She was just starting to attach and bond with us, and of course, it was time for us to leave.

When it was time for us to leave, the caretakers thought it would be best for her to be with us when they broke the bad news to her. So, she sat on my lap with Jeremy close by and one of the workers explained that we would not be coming back tomorrow. They explained how she would see us again but it would be a little while. We had to go home to finish preparing a place for her. As they began talking, I didn't even understand all that they were saying, but I felt Ivelina tense up a little. She pouted her lips and kept looking back at me saying that she wanted mama and taty. She didn't cry because, well, like many orphans, she does not cry, so I shed a few silent tears for her. I felt like I held it together pretty well, considering the sadness of the moment. I know she was confused, disappointed, and sad.

Most children would show these emotions through crying, sobbing, complaining, etc. But, Ivelina's response was very interesting. After she climbed off my lap, her behavior changed abruptly.  Calm, cheerful Ivie was gone. She grabbed a plastic baby bottle and began pretending she was a sick baby. She sucked the bottle, waddled around like a toddler and pretend cried. She never cried herself, but her impersonation of a crying baby was uncanny. How sad that the only safe way she knew to express her deep grief and emotion was through role play.

The way we parted ways was a surprise to us. We had been told that the workers would take her out of the room first, so that it would not seem like we were turning our backs on her and leaving her.  However, on this final day the care takers allowed her to walk us out of the building, which turned into her chasing us out of the gate and to our car. Our translator escorted her back to the gate, but she ran to us again and tried to climb in the car. This time the director came to grab her. It was heart-breaking. Not quite what we expected and definitely not a healthy good-bye for any of us.

We drove down the drive and I watched her in the side mirror for as long as I could. The drive was somber. I shed a few more silent tears while looking out the window at the bleak cloudy landscape. Our translator was silent and a little upset too I think. Jeremy was quiet in the back seat until we got back to Shumen.

I knew leaving would be hard. We had experienced an overwhelming week of getting to know our girl that included its ups and downs. We had seen that connecting with her was more difficult than we had first thought it would be. We had learned the true challenges of a language barrier. We had realized the reality of her special needs. But we had also seen a little lively girl whose story so far has been nothing but sadness. We had witnessed glimpses of her creativity, her quirks, her mannerisms, her likes and dislikes. On this last day we saw a small fraction of the child she could be if given the chance.Yeah, it was hard and it still is.

If I have ever questioned whether we are doing the right thing for her, I have my answer. A girl who has been abandoned and housed in an institution for seven years deserves better. She deserves not to be abandoned any more. She deserves to have two parents she can trust. She deserves love, and attention, and affection. She deserves to learn and grow and express herself in healthy ways. Even the workers at her orphanage who have taken care of her the best way they know how for all these years know that she needs more and deserves better. They know with love and a family and a home, she will blossom. I think so too. 

Now, with a little sadness and a little nervous excitement and with a lot of hope and prayer, we wait until a judge 5,000 miles away tells us she's ours and we can go get her. Please pray that she understands and can wait for us to return, just like we will wait for her.



  1. I just came across your blog through the Bulgaria FB group (I just joined last week). This is a bittersweet post and I loved reading it. We are still in the paper work phase of our adoption and it still feels "hypothetical". It's hard to see the kiddo at the end of the process. Thank you for sharing and making it all a little more real for me. I cannot imagine what it is going to feel like to meet my child and then to have to walk away temporarily. I will be praying for peace and patience for you and your husband and your sweet girl in Bulgaria.

  2. Wow Shelly! Thanks for sharing from your heart. The wait in between trips is the part I am dreading. I will be praying! - Katie

  3. Thanks for sharing those intimate details. This blog will be a great thing for her to read one day!! Praying it will be FAST for all of you!


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