My name is Angel, and my husband Nathaniel and I have four children: Elijah (13), Malachi (12), Lydia (7), and Gyunay (4). We adopted Gyunay from Bulgaria at the age of 2 ½. He has been home for 2 years this month, and we have a hard time remembering life without him.
I’ve always wanted to adopt, since I was a child. Children are very easy for me to love, so it always seemed obvious that I should adopt children who need a family. Luckily, I married a man who worked with me to bring home a little boy who had lived his whole life in an orphanage, and now is our beloved youngest son.
After doing a lot of research on both agencies and countries, we decided on MLJ Adoptions and Bulgaria. For many reasons, Bulgaria was a good choice for us. We met the requirements, it was a Hague country, and, most importantly to us, there was a real need for families to adopt young children. Also, although there were two trips, they were shorter trips than many countries, and this was helpful since we had to worry about childcare for our children at home. We were also encouraged to see that MLJ’s Bulgarian coordinator, Lydia Tarr, is both an adoptive mom and a Christian.
Waiting was stressful. We had been open to a boy or girl, or two siblings, ages 5 and under, and we were open to many, many special needs. In the waiting times, it was hard to picture who our child was, because there were so many variables. However, being open to many possibilities led us to not having as long of a wait for a child.
We met our son the first week of October 2014. We went to the orphanage every morning and again every afternoon, for about one to two hours each time. The week flew by; our time with Gyunay was brief, but we really enjoyed exploring Sofia during our down time. Gyunay was reserved at first, but we started to see glimpses of his playful nature. And we have to add that the in-country staff from Vesta was really wonderful.
Bulgaria is a wonderful country to visit, and we hope to go back there someday. The people are friendly, and in the capital, where we were, nearly everyone spoke some English. It was very easy to get around, order food, etc. Travel with a flexible attitude, and realize that the Bulgarian staff really is taking care of things, and it should be a positive experience. Leaving was so hard, but we waited and prayed, and we were finally able to bring him home the last week of January 2015.
I stay at home with the kids, and we did cocoon with him for the first month. Gyunay and I rarely left the house, and when we did, it was mainly for doctor’s appointments. It was a big adjustment for him, but he grew more attached to us all really quite quickly. We had some difficult times after the “honeymoon” period, but we had been well prepared through our education at MLJ and additional reading we had taken on, so we were expecting it. Overall, we know that Gyunay’s adjustment was easier than most, and we were so grateful for that.
One thing that helped Gyunay get used to us was his picture book. We had a cloth book filled with pictures of Nathaniel, me, our other kids, and even our dog, and we left it with him after we met him on the first trip. His nannies agreed to show it to him, and it was obvious that he became familiar with it during our separation. The first time we skyped with his siblings from the apartment in Sofia, he eagerly pointed to the picture of them in the book, and then at the screen. Once we were home, we gave him a second book with pictures of his grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles, so he could get used to “seeing” them as well. When he met them in person, he already felt a connection to them. We also put pictures in his books of him with us, so he could get used to viewing himself as part of our family. He still loves looking at pictures!
Gyunay obviously has only one full-sized arm, but that is really no obstacle for him. He can physically do just about anything that your average 4-year-old can do. His speech disability is far more challenging for him (and us), but we feel that he is getting the therapies he needs to thrive. We were familiar with and ready to use the early intervention services and IEP process here in our county. We had used some of these same services with one of our older children, and so we have felt confident in the services available here for preschoolers with special needs. I encourage anyone looking into adopting a child with additional needs to reach out to their local agencies to see what is available locally.
Gyunay fits perfectly into our family. He has added so much joy to our lives! We are so thankful to everyone who helped bring him home.