Tuesday, August 14, 2012

In My Own Words

Sam fought sleep last night and very nearly won. She didn't finally give in until 1:00 this morning. Katie and I couldn't help but wonder if she was afraid of what might happen. Would we still be here in the morning when she woke up?

This morning we were standing over her crib as she opened her eyes. It took her a minute to process, but when she'd thought it through, baby girl was thrilled to realize that no, she was not dreaming. She's actually free.

My waking up experience today was much the same as Sam's. When she popped up, smiled her million dollar smile, and reached up her arms to be held, tears began to fall. Much of yesterday felt so surreal that it was a relief to wake up and realize, along with Sam, that no, this is not a dream. She is free at last and for good.

Being Sam's mommy has got to be, hands down, the best experience of my life. I love this little girl so much it literally hurts. And then add a little more. The more I know her, the more unimaginable it is to me how anyone could look at her and not love her. 

Even so, Sam carries with her the baggage of seven long years without love. The evidence makes these first days bittersweet. My little girl is broken and fragile in so many ways.

Sam likes it when I massage her head and run my fingers through her newly, haphazardly cut hair. The back of her head is flat, and her hair (even after being washed and brushed), dries in perfect bed-head fashion from laying on her back for so much of her life.

She is terrified of baths of any kind. Terrified. As if she's never truly had a bath before. We were finally able to give her a quick sponge bath today, but even that was enough to send her over the edge. Poor baby. We're still working on getting that Pleven smell off of her skin and out of her hair. After lots of baby lotion, she's smelling much sweeter. Tomorrow we'll try again.

Sam likes to eat, and especially likes to drink (formula and pedialyte are what's currently on the menu), but often times we'll have to stop or take a break because she is distressed (we've thought about this from every angle, but are still not sure what is causing her trouble). Actually, when we left Pleven, the director sent us on our way with a couple jars of baby food, saying that we should try to feed Sam in the car. Just the sight of the food sent poor Sam into a tail spin. Needless to say, we put it away.

And speaking of food and drinks, Sam's baba and a couple other staff people gathered around yesterday to give me some pointers on how and what to feed Sam. They told me she doesn't swallow very well. They told me I should give her water on a small spoon. Well, guess what? Sam is an excellent swallower. And she is also excellent at taking liquids through a bottle. So good, in fact, that I have to slow her down because she guzzles liquids and ends up with gas bubbles. I burp her, just like I would a baby, after each feeding.

And then theres the rocking, chewing on her hands, twitching, and during times of stress, flailing. This is no doubt the result of severe neglect and isolation. She regularly sticks her entire hand in her mouth, and back into her throat, which we're realizing may be because her tonsils/adenoids are inflamed. This also explains the loud snorting noises that she makes throughout the day.

And of course, the most obvious baggage Sam is carrying is her size. I carried my seven-year-old in a baby carrier today. And laid her to bed in a play-pen.

I don't mean to be a downer. And I certainly don't want to make it sound like Sam is anything other than a treasure (one that I would not trade for anything!). What I do mean to do is to be honest with you and tell you that even though Sam has left Pleven for good, we absolutely must keep praying for the kiddos we left behind.

Katie and I picked Sam up yesterday on the infamous 6th floor of the Pleven baby house, where Sam has been living, and we saw with our own eyes the devastating darkness. Skeletal, nearly dead children. Caretakers handling them as if its all in a days work. I know that change is happening and the new director is working hard to make sure that it does. But for some of these children, I'm not sure that will be enough. Again, we must continue to pray. And we must continue to carry children out of there and into homes.

Let's let my beautiful Sam be our flesh and blood reminder, not only of the children who continue to  suffer, but of the healing that love and a family can bring.

I so look forward to sharing Jesus' healing power in Sam's life with all of you.

Thank you for journeying with us.

Lots of lot to all of you.


  1. Your entire post made me cry, every bit of it. Happy and sad tears at the same time. I'm so glad Sam is with you know where she can grow and blossom and learn to be part of a family. BTW, have you tried bathing her WITH you? Wear a swimsuit if it makes you uncomfortable, but we had a child whom we took in who was terrified of the water, we think he may have experienced some abuse relating to bathing, but when we sat there with him and held him while we washed him, he fussed a bit, but he didn't go into hysterics like he did if we put him in there (or in the sink) alone.

    I also want to know - and if you can't tell me this publicly I understand, but you can email me at callmecrazycbus@hotmail.com. There are two more children from Pl*ven without committed families on RR... Penny and Payton. Are they on that acursed sixth floor? It seems to me like that floor needs to empty the quickest. I've heard encouraging things from other families who've been at Pleven but not much from the 6th floor, unless a child has a fabulous Baba. I saw on Linda's blog that you met Kolina... Bless you for giving her a ray of light and reminding her that her mommy is coming. We will keep praying for you and Sam and ALL the children of Pl*ven at our house... until they all come home. <3

  2. Praying and smiling and praying some more, my friend! Much love to you and Sam! :)

  3. I'm so excited for you! I brought my Clara home from Bulgaria in May and I just want you to know that we had some of the same issues even though Clara's orphanage experience was far different from Sam's. It was 2:00 a.m. the first night before she finally lost the battle to stay awake and then when she woke up the next morning snuggled into bed with me (she became hysterical when I tried to put her in the crib) she just stared at me and smiled and kept touching my face and my hands for over half an hour. She cried when I dressed her and got ready to leave the hotel room. Like you, I am fairly certain she thought "That's it. I'm going back now." Also, the bath thing was identical. Clara became hysterical and started shrieking and crawling up my body to get away from the water. I think standing water in a tub is very foreign to children from orphanages. I'd suggest putting on your bathing suit and hopping in the tub yourself to show her that it's not going to hurt her. The other trick I discovered was to put a towel in the bottom of the tub for her little foot to grip. I think part of the terror, in addition to the water, is the slippery bottom to the tub and the feeling of losing control. Those tricks have worked for other parents of little BG treasures, too. Hope it helps! I'm so excited for Sam and for you. Our first month home was rough and full of adjustments for both of us, but once week five hit we just found our groove and it has gotten more amazing with each passing week. There is nothing in the world like having your child truly attach to you and feeling yourself attach back. God is good. Congratulations!

  4. Thanks for the update, Grace! The pictures are fabulous! Mike and I are praying for you and your precious Samantha!

    I had no clue of the effects of Pleven on Ana until we brought her home. Ana is also very broken and fragile in so many ways. Every day as I watch Ana my heart breaks at the thought of what she endured and the damage that it has done. However, we are confident that God is going to heal and restore Ana...just as He will Samantha!

    Morning is still my favorite time of the day with Ana. Every morning she smiles from ear to ear when she sees us and realizes where she is! Sometimes I think my heart is going to burst!

    My heart is so with you this week as you are in Bulgaria. Even seeing glimses of the hotel room in the background of your pictures brings back so many memories. I am just in awe of God and what He has done through these amazing adoptions! Blessed be the name of the Lord!

  5. Thank you so much for sharing this journey. Sam is so beautiful and I can't wait to see her new life unfold!

  6. Grace and Katie and Sam, I love your post! The bathing issue is very similar to my experience of taking Maria to the Budapest. I found that a towel in the bottom of the tub and using the hand held while she stands made her comfortable -she absolutely would not sit in the tub. She is just now at 7 weeks home willing to sit in the tub.
    God bless you on your journey both on your way home and this new journey of motherhood! You are going to be awesome!
    Thank you again for the precious gift of pictures, video and just giving Kolina the love of a mother's heart.

  7. So excited for you! I have been praying for you both! Why did they chop off that beautiful hair? Oh well, I'm sure it will grow fast...=)

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  9. Ah, continuing to pray, dear friend. Tears of joy and sorrow are to be expected when ones heart overflows. I'm so glad Katie is along to help document this special time in your lives!

  10. Forget the swimsuit! ; ) Seriously, water therapy is the most soothing thing. Holding her body next to yours, skin to skin, is so healing for a broken little soul. Kind of like the "Kangaroo Care" they do with Preemies & parents in NICU. If you can get some coconut oil, use it on her skin. It had lots of healing properties and is excellent for very dry skin. And, it kills scabies, which is sometimes an issue in orphanages. It can be used in hair, as well. Go*gle it.
    I love that you're carrying her in the sling! I wonder is swaddling her during feedings and when she seems anxious would help? Ask your sister about swaddling a newborn. It provides such a sense of security.
    I am SO SO happy that you finally get to BE Mama and that Samantha finally gets to be your Daughter! Oh, how I love saying those words. Praying for bonding and the remainder of your trip to go well. Love, Jo

  11. Beautiful story! We just welcomed a 4 year old foster son tonight, and after getting him to bed I stumbled upon this. Perfect reading for the end of my busy and emotional day!

    1. God bless you, my friend! I will pray for you and your family tonight. What a blessing you are. Thank you for sharing!