We woke up crazy early that morning in Sofia, Bulgaria, still jet-lagged, but filled with nervous excitement. Honestly, I still felt like a fraud. We had this huge support system back home rooting for us, yet we were just regular people. We’d spent 8 months fundraising and working like mad to prove to two countries that we really truly wanted this little boy that we’d never met. Sure, we were confident that God had called us to adopt this boy specifically, but… that’s really all we knew. We had googled the heck out of his diagnosis’ but there wasn’t really a ton of relevant information. Our family doctor had turned his back on us, discouraging us from adopting him. He didn’t think we were equipped for it.
Of course we weren’t. Is anyone equipped for a major medical diagnosis for their child?
But on that warm August day, we snaked through the Balkan Mountain roads toward our son. All my senses were engaged. I’m kind of a homebody– that was my first experience overseas. I wanted to remember everything to tell him as he grew older, but I was also fighting a homesickness. And the Balkan Mountains looks so much like the Appalachian Mountains where I grew up. I loved it, but it also made my heart heavy. A piece of our son will always be here.
We arrived at the orphanage around 11am, and that’s where my journal entry picks up. Everything from here on out was written that week while we were in Bulgaria.
Day One: Monday. Meeting Zane!
We’re back at the hotel for the night and I wanted to give a real update!
We got to the orphanage this morning and there was a buzz. We heard Zane’s name about 10 times and they were all excited that his parents were here! There were two other families with us and it was the same buzz. Their kids came in first and it was the sweetest thing. We got to see each of them embrace and snuggle. It warmed our hearts!
A few minutes later, Zane came in. He held on tight to his nurse’s hand and wasn’t about to come near us. We got on the floor, reached out for him, and e still wasn’t having it. He gave us that serious look and cried if we came too close.
They took us to another room, we tried again, and still he wouldn’t have anything to do with us. I got him to crack a smile, but no way was he going to let us get near him. He would cry if we tried.
Honestly, we weren’t that surprised, and that’s kind of a good sign. It means that he recognizes that we are strangers, and he loves his caregivers. Those are healthy feelings for a child to have! That is a huge blessing for our future!
They said he was hungry, so they took him upstairs. Our translator mentioned that it would be better tomorrow. I totally lost it at that point. So many emotions that I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. And honestly, I misunderstood and thought we wouldn’t see him again until the next day. We’d only been there a few minutes! Someone came and got us soon afterwards and took us up to his room. **This pretty much never happens!!** Up in his room they were feeding him and wanted us to see. It was insane! Thanks to two friends who have been very open with us, we had seen what to look for and were somewhat familiar with the feeding process with his g-tube. We were amazed at how much food he took! And then they gave him what we thought was medicine, but it was hemoglobin. We found out last week he’s anemic, so that’s related.
While they were feeding him, Zane was happy as a clam. I took advantage of it, touched his face, loved on him, and smiled non-stop. When they stopped feeding him, he remembered that he didn’t like us. He wouldn’t have anything to do with us again! They tried to put him down for a nap but he wasn’t having it. He cried. They sent me in to comfort him while laying in his crib, but it wasn’t happening. They mentioned several times that he was spoiled and ruled the roost around there. It was obvious! They let him get out of bed again and roam around. He loved it. He checked in on all the other kids on his floor. One was crying and he went straight to that room to care for the child.
So many things he did were just like Hazel. It amazed me! He has his own little life, is very independent, and is very much a caregiver type of personality.
He has a buddy. They share a room and when we saw him our very first question was, “Are they brothers?” They aren’t, but wow they look alike! And they both have the same condition! They act like brothers, though, that is for sure! And they both rule the roost around there.
Then we had to leave for lunch. Zane was more than happy to tell us Ciao and blow kisses! He was super friendly once he realized we were going to leave! lol
After lunch we came back. He had changed clothes, was wearing capris, a Harley Davidson bandanna, had a shopping bag and a wallet in tow and was ready to go to the store. It was a block away and we followed as his nurse walked him there. Clearly this is a common thing for them. Every person they passed knew him and called out his name. At the store, he knew exactly what to do. They have taught him very much like we’ve taught Hazel over the years. He would point to something and the nurse would tell him what it was and explain something about it. Even though he doesn’t really say more than one word at a time, he was able to communicate with everyone he saw. EVERYONE loved him. The nurse gave him money to pay for an item and he was over the moon!
Even though he can’t eat through his mouth, they do let him taste and smell food. He LOVES it and asks for it a lot. This is a huge blessing, as it was one of our big questions. Did he care about food? Can he swallow? We don’t know about swallowing, but he definitely adores food and longs to be able to eat it!
After we got back from the store, we got a few laughs out of him. The nurse finally just put him in our laps against his will and told him (for the 100th time) that we were mom and dad). He cried, I held him. The nurse was okay with it. I was so thankful!
We went back inside to his floor and his nurse handled other things while we hung out in the playroom with him. He was a busybody and made sure other kids had toys. He wanted to go out on the balcony and they gave us permission. Out there Josh was able to hold him for a little bit. He wasn’t too keen on that at first either, but he adjusted. I brought out a toy and although he doesn’t speak sentences and I don’t speak Bulgarian, he made it clear that he wanted me to give it to his friend.
Soon after that we had to leave. It’s so hard to tell him goodbye. We blew kisses and said Ciao and he did the same right back to us. He was back in his comfort zone— his element— and he immediately treated us as guests leaving his home rather than strangers who were trying to befriend him.
One thing I realize about bringing him home is that everything will certainly be sensory overload for him. He’s outgoing and will love to go to the store and such, but his home is a safe place for him. He’s used to a minimalist style, and while he’ll adjust to a different culture, we’ll also work to make sure his room and all is more simple.
It’s neat to look back at now– he is so much like Hazel! They are besties, and it’s pretty awesome. His transition home was smooth, and he is definitely a caregiver type personality. And he loves going to the store!