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.