Sofie's Birth Story

Sofie is our second daughter who came home to us in August 2011. She actually has two birth stories. We don't know a lot about her first birth story in to this world. All that we do know for sure is that she was born in Plovdiv, Bulgaria to a Bulgarian couple.

Two months old in the orphanage

According to the file, Sofie was their first child and born full term. I believe they did what they thought was best for Sofie. The doctors probably told them that because she has Down Syndrome, the best place for her was in an institution where Doctors and trained professionals could take care of her, and where she would be with other children like her. Bulgaria has little to no supports for people with special needs. Culturally, people with special needs are hidden from society. Almost no where in Bulgaria is even wheelchair accessible. Sofie's parents wanted what was best for her. They wanted her to be taken care of and felt completely ill-equipped. Little did they know, when they gave Diyana Dimitrova (Sofie) up to the institution they were making the best possible choice for their baby! She has so much love and so many opportunities now in our family here in Canada!

Sofie remained at the hospital, where she was born, for 19 days. She received some oxygen therapy there but other than that, we think she was probably waiting for the paperwork to be signed by her birth parents and to find a spot at an institution. Sofie ended up going to the Home for Socio and Medical Care in the same town she was born. She was there with over 100 kids. 0-3 year olds were neuro-typical children and 0-7 year olds had special needs. She had rotating caregivers but they tried to keep one main caregiver regularly in charge of each group of 10 during the day shift.

During the time Sofie was in the orphanage, things were happening with Jon and I. We had a really rough 2008 and in to 2009 year. We changed a lot that year. We worked for what we had and saved our future together. In the January 2010 I got an email about a little girl about Livi's age needing a family. It got me thinking that maybe it was time for us to adopt. We had always hoped to adopt a child with Down Syndrome but this early on in our life was a surprise. I suggested the idea to Jon and amazingly he thought it was time too! Within a week we had set the wheels in motion to adopt our little girl.

We started the journey wanting to adopt a little girl, around Livi's age, with Down Syndrome. We didn't know exactly what country she was going to come from at first but we eventually narrowed it down. The whole adoption process for us took a year and a half. Those 18 months were filled with anticipation, frustration, fear, and excitement.

Sofie's second birth had a lot more stages and took much longer than a typical laboring mother. I look at it as laboring for 18 months until we met Sofie on August 1, 2011 when the pushing and actual birth started. It ended on August 14th when we were finally all home together as a family. That may seem like a weird analogy but it is how it felt and biological birth is really all I have to compare it too so that you might understand.

August 1st, around noon, Sofie walked down the hall, holding her caregivers' hand, in to the board room where we were anxiously waiting. I had barely slept that night and had trouble waiting through the delays of the morning. We had to wait while our driver delivered our suitcases to the office because they would not all fit in the small car he brought and tolerate a pit stop for coffee and a smoke. When we finally arrived in Plovdiv, an hour and a half out of the main city of Sofia, no one knew where the orphanage was. God was the only one sustaining me at that time, and I don't say that lightly.

We finally arrived at the orphanage because I remembered the name of the hooker hotel that I was told was next to it. All I could think about was that my baby was in this building that I was in.... at this moment! We did some more waiting and talking with nurses and social workers. I kept eyeing the door waiting for Sofie to come through it. Finally, she toddled in. It took everything in me not to scoop her up. She was so tiny in over sized clothes. She was perfect. I cried from amazement of her. She had actually come true! I was seeing the baby I had worked so hard for!

Meeting Mommy and Daddy

For the first three days, we visited Sofie in the orphanage for a few hours every morning and afternoon. We did most of our visits in a play room alone or supervised by a social worker. One morning we did get to visit her outside but could not take her for a walk out side the orphanage gates even though we specifically asked. We got to know Sofie a little bit and watched her explore the room and us. Sofie was already legally our daughter but the orphanage director decided that because we had skipped the first trip and not met Sofie, these meetings would help her to be more comfortable. We conceded although disagreed that it would be any less traumatic for her if we took her the fourth day instead of the second.

On Thursday, Sofie finally got to leave the orphanage that had been her home for more than three years. She had never left the walls of that orphanage since going in (aside from going to Sofia one day the week prior to get her passport). This was a miraculous day filled with relief and a whole lot of thankfulness! She was free and starting to experience real love from her Mommy and Daddy. She would no longer be abused or neglected. Our baby was safe in our arms for good. We drove the hour and a half back to our hotel in Sofia and began getting to know our little girl. She amazed and puzzled us. She was so quiet and scared but very eager for attention.

That first week with Sofie was spent in Bulgaria, trying to get to know her and survive. Sofie was easy going but had some pretty epic tantrums. She barely ate, didn't sleep well and wouldn't drink. We tried to keep the stimulation to a minimum for her but went for walks and had to eat out each meal. Sofie wouldn't nap unless we were out for a walk. She was so quiet, tiny, pale and mousy. I was scared for dehydration. I wanted to get her home so fast but we had to wait for her Canadian Visa to be given.

Finally, we were able to leave Bulgaria and bring our baby home to meet her sister and be part of a family! I was so excited. It was the only thing getting us through those 23 hours of travel. Sofie only slept 2 hours during those 23 hours, and not all at the same time. It was HELL. Literally. I felt so bad for my babe but I was completely helpless and exhausted myself. She cried for hours... I cried. Thankfully, her cries were so quiet that I don't think she disturbed to many people. She was used to her cries not being answered so she had never developed an ability to cry loudly. That has changed :)

We finally landed in Canada around 6:45pm on August 14, 2011. Sofie was officially a Canadian Citizen and we were moments away from reuniting with Livi and our family. Sofie was in a daze but handled it well. Everyone was crying and brimming a smile ear to ear. We were together. A family. I felt such relief. So blessed. Such disbelief. It was Sofie's second birth. She was in a family, forever.

We had one more leg of the trip to complete. The 2 hour drive home. It was quiet. The kids fell asleep. We transferd Sofie to her bed when we got home, and all crashed in to our own beds. The next morning we all woke up around 8 am and crawled in to our big bed for our first family cuddle morning. This was Heaven. A moment only comparable to the quiet minute a newly wed couple steals alone after saying their vows or the second you hold your new born baby for the first time. A perfect moment. Sofie was home. Our family was together. Finally.


Mama Up! said...

This made me tear up here at my desk. What an absolutely beautiful and amazing story! I'd say blessings to you and your family, but you've already got them!

Natalie said...

What a wonderful account! She is just precious!!

Artfulife said...

Loved reading your story. Your girls are just adorable! & how lucky you all are to have each other.

Unknown said...

"The next morning we all woke up around 8 am and crawled in to our big bed for our first family cuddle morning. This was Heaven. A moment only comparable to the quiet minute a newly wed couple steals alone after saying their vows or the second you hold your new born baby for the first time. A perfect moment. Sofie was home."

Ah! WOW. Perfection! Tears flowing. This is so beautiful.

Anna said...

What a beautiful birth story!! Sofie is so perfect! I was crying with joy as I read this post!