Well, all it takes is one look at this page to see that I am a terrible blogger - I've only posted four times in the past year! But I hope to start utilizing this blog more, and I want to begin by sharing a story about a trip I took last February...
I was in Eastern Europe, and we had just pulled up to our destination for the day - an orphanage that houses older children with special needs. My stomach was suddenly full of butterflies. As we stepped through the front door of the orphanage, I made sure to wipe my boots really well so as not to track any of the grey snowy sludge inside. The floors of the lobby area were gleaming, as if the off-white linoleum had just been mopped - not what I was expecting for some reason. I looked up at the person behind the desk. She was an attractive middle-aged woman with short, light brown hair. As my translator talked to her in Russian, we made eye contact and she smiled warmly - again, not what I was expecting. After a brief conversation, I was instructed to sit on the small sofa and wait for the orphanage director. I glanced around - there were some live plants clustered together on my left. To my right was a staircase. It was incredibly quiet - well over 100 children live in this building and I can't hear a single one of them. I thought about my own small children at home, seven thousand miles away - it is never this quiet in my house and there are only TWO of them! Oh, how I missed them. My heart ached for them. I began to wonder if I'd lost my mind - what was I doing here, visiting orphans in a foreign country? The courage (or lapse in judgment, tenacity, stupidity, whatever you want to call it) that brought me this far was suddenly failing me.
Then another middle-aged woman, this one with darker hair, appeared in the doorway and motioned the translator and I into her office. She was pleasant and cordial - after a few minutes of conversation she decided that I could spend some time with one of the children. I was led into a hallway, darker and older-looking than the lobby, and suddenly the SHRIEKS of a child pierced the silence. There, in the lap of a caregiver, sat a frail eight year old girl. The translator began laughing and telling me that this little girl, "Isabella" had been told that visitors were coming and she was so excited. The translator went on to say "She is saying that she is so happy, that we bring her so much joy!" Joy. It was one of the first words I heard her say. This malnourished little person sitting in a dimly-lit orphanage hallway, teeth rotting, blond hair shaved short, dressed in clothes that were mismatched and several sizes too big, was full of JOY.
We tried sitting in the hallway with her, but she could only tolerate it for a little bit before she asked the caregiver if she could lie down. They took us into a room that had two bunk beds and she seemed much more comfortable then. I gave her the juice I brought, which she drank, and some wafer cookies which she said she'd save for after lunch :) I pulled out an "I Spy" book and she asked "This is for me? Can I keep it?" As Isabella looked through the book, she insisted on turning all the pages by herself. She was shaky and slow but did a great job. As she turned the pages, I studied her hands and wrists. Oh my word, they were so bony that they looked as if they could snap like twigs. Later, as I held one of them in mine, I remember thinking that they weren't much bigger than my two year old's hands.
Isabella also asked me if I had a pen and notepad, which I did. She did some scribbling with those shaky little hands and when I asked her what it was she told me it was a butterfly. Then she did another one and said it was a sun. At the end of our visit, she told me she loved me. I said I loved her too (because I did). I held her little hands and gave her hugs and kisses. When it was time to go, the translator and I pushed the glass doors open and stepped outside, happy to see that a softly glowing sun had edged out the grey fog. I thought of the "sun" in my notepad, scribbled in blue ink by a child who seemed desperate to show me that she could do things. I was afraid when I left the orphanage that day. I'll write more about that later, but for now I'll just say that life looked different when I walked out of there. The butterflies that I had when we arrived did not go away for a few more hours. It has been six months since I visited her orphanage. The blue sun sits on my computer desk, a daily reminder that my own family is blessed beyond comprehension.
Soon I will go back to the orphanage, where I will sit with Isabella and we will draw new suns, pink ones and green ones and maybe more blue ones.
And then, when it's time, we will pack away our pens and paper, and Isabella will leave the orphanage with us.
We are adopting Isabella. Due to her physical condition
and the culture in which she was born into, she was essentially cast
aside by her society, relegated to a crib, and expected to accomplish
nothing. She spends her days in a "laying room" where there is very little to look forward to other than bath day and the next meal-in-a-bowl, spooned into her mouth by a caregiver. Her little body is frail and broken. Her spirit? Anything
We have been working on the adoption requirements all summer and now we hope to travel to her country in a couple of months. To be honest, I wasn't sure if I wanted to blog about our adoption, but I decided to give it a try for a couple of reasons. First, I want Isabella to be able to read this blog one day, and to know about some of the wonderful people who played a part in her story. Second, I want others who may be thinking about adopting an older special needs child from a laying room to be able to find us. There just isn't enough information in the blogging world about these particular kids.
I hope our friends will enjoy following along, and I promise I will try to blog more than once a month! We will see you soon, Isabella.