“But you’ve done this before”


I have heard this phrase a lot. We have been to Bulgaria before, yes. I have adopted a child from Bulgaria before, yes. I have adopted a 2-year old girl with special needs from Bulgaria before, yes.

No, I have never done THIS before.

I have never been the first home a child, my child, has lived in after being institutionalized for her entire life. We are entering new territory.

I met Jude about 4.5 months after she left her orphanage. It was already apparent at that week of visits that her foster parents had put a lot of hard work into getting Jude to break out of her shell. She was still very quiet and reserved compared to the spitfire I picked up and nothing like her current happy, smiley, vibrant self still there was tons of progress. And I am forever in Jude’s foster family’s debt for that transformation.

This time, Gabriel’s introduction to reality belongs solely to us. Every nuance of life in a family setting will need to be taught. It starts the moment we walk out of the gate. And this is all new. Jude had a frame of reference with her foster family. Things that most people would give little thought to like cooking dinner, freedom within one’s own home, and consistency in the adults in her life are all extremely new concepts to Gabriel that Jude had previous exposure to before pickup.

Consequently, I don’t know what to expect, really, during pickup trip. I have a good idea of Gabriel’s reaction. It’s an educated guess that I hope turns out to be at least fairly accurate. Jude’s reaction was not dissimilar to what I experienced with my foster children. I think that this time will be quite different.

Gabriel has done an excellent job of maintaining her uniqueness and persistance in an environment that rewards conformity and submission. I want to see her keep these qualities, but I also want to gain her trust. I want to crack her shell. And I want to see her be a vibrant, happy version of her self that I know is in there wanting to live life on turbo speed.

People say: “Don’t worry about Gabriel, you’ve done it before with Jude.” Oftentimes, I think Jude did it all herself. I just got to be here to watch. I am confident that Gabriel can do this too. I just hope she can put up with us, faking like we know what we are doing when really, we Google as much as anyone else does.

The only thing I am sure of because I have “done this before”:

I care not how I accomplish it. I WILL NOT get bit flying home this time.


One response »

  1. We brought our son home at 2 1/2 years at the end of January. EVERYTHING was new to him. At first, we kept the bedroom doors shut during the day because having a living room, kitchen, and hallway to explore was plainly overwhelming enough for him. He spent a great deal of time running around from the sheer overstimulazation of it all. He also spent a great deal of time staring out the windows, because his room in the orphanage only had windows high up, and he was not used to being able to see the outside world. He had no idea what a family was. He had still been in the toddler room at the orphanage (mostly kids around 18 months or so), so he wasn’t even used to going outside to play, so his whole world was those two rooms, the one for sleeping and the one for when he was awake. When therapists came to evaluate him here, they would say stuff like “Look at the cow” on the page, but he didn’t know what a cow was yet. He was also a bit frantic when we started leaving the house at first, which makes sense, because he left the orphanage, the apartment in Bulgaria, the airports, and never saw any of those places again, so if he left our house, was he really coming back? We are still discovering “firsts” even now, although now he is firmly attached to us, so that helps tremendously with new situations. So yes, being institutionalized is very different from being with a foster family. Despite all of it, though, he has amazed us with how well and quickly he has adapted to family life with us. He really did attach to us much faster than we expected, and he is now a vibrant, happy boy.

    Oh, and just a note that may or may not be helpful for you: Gyunay was overly attached to his shoes at first, and would panic if they were taken off. In the orphanage, having his shoes taken off meant that he had to go to bed, so he was very upset if anyone so much as touched his shoes during the day. This was a bit problematic at doctors’ appointments for the first two months.

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