Sunday, July 15, 2012

Happy 5th Birthday, Gemma!

Gemma is turning five today in an orphanage in Bulgaria.  We are planning on formally announcing our adoption plans today; announcing that she 'will be an orphan no more' seems like the best present we can give her from here.  Coincidentally, today, we are going a birthday party with extended family to celebrate all of the family's June, July, and August birthdays together.  

It occurred to me that I haven't really posted details about Gemma.  First off, Gemma is not her real name.  The children are given alias while they are being advocated for and "advertised" as being available for adoption.  We DO know her real name, but I'm not going to post it here, since this is a public blog.  We don't know if we are going to change her name or not.  Right now, we are simply referring to her as Gemma.

She IS five but her delays from years of neglect and starvation in her orphanage has seriously delayed all aspects of growth.  She is very small.  She weighted 19lbs at the hospital in May 2012.  She was 32 inches tall at the same appointment.  According to growth charts used by pediatricians in the USA, she weighs as much as an 11 month old and is as tall as a 18 month old. So there you go she is small!  Perhaps more shocking is her ability level is that of a 5 month old. She has laid in a crib for so long with so little to stimulate her that she wasn't sitting or crawling, walking, talking, verbalizing, crying, laughing, or showing any signs of emotions other than pain after eating (I'll get to that.)  But after news of the atrocities at her orphanage broke in April 2012, she was seen by a doctor in May and then June.  Within the month between, she learned to sit and crawl.  You see, there was plenty of toys in a unused playroom at the orphanage, but the children were never taken there!  But when things started changing, personnel began using them.  So Gemma, now crawls to reach toys!  This is huge, in my opinion!  Furthermore, with the introduction of the Babas program, she has formed a bond with her caregiver.  Again, huge!  She has the capability to show emotion and she does care how she is treated!

So now for some of the underlying diagnoses Gemma has.  First off, as with a lot doctors' reports from orphanages, Gemma's diagnoses are to be 'taken with a grain of salt,' as they say.  She has a diagnosis of epilepsy, gastritis, and neuro-dysplasia of the intestine.  We have enlisted the help of Dr. Davies from University of Washington Adoption Medicine Center. to help us sort through it, prepare as much as we can, and offer on the ground support when we travel.  He gave us the worst case scenarios to prepare for.  But basically, it is hard to tell what is a true condition and what is a result of her atrocious living conditions.  We can count on the fact that she probably does have epilepsy, although, we don't know what kind, and she that does get very bloated and very sore after eating, but we probably don't have an accurate diagnosis of why.  Worst case scenarios involve her not progressing out of her current abilities and remaining very dependent on us for the remainder of her life.  But Paul and I, hmmmm..., we just don't believe this. ;)  We think there is a little kid in there that WILL smile when she is happy, cry when she is sad, walk, talk, and has the ability to learn beyond  that.  And we are going to love her no matter where her abilities take her.

The pictures we have of Gemma



  1. We are in Washington :)
    If you get a chance read our post The Purple Tulip...
    Don`t want to be a downer but that was our Experience with UW...
    God Bless your Journey...

  2. Thank you for sending me this link to your blog, Maria! Gemma is such a TREASURE!

    I was curious and looked up the Purple Tulip post Melanie referenced above, and thought I'd post a link here for you:

  3. We are also in Washington. :) Will be praying for your adoption...we have a heart for the Pleven kiddos, too. We were so happy to see Gemma chosen.

  4. I live up near the Canadian border in Washington state as well. I was looking around on Reece's Rainbow for a family that I could sponsor on my blog and I've picked you! I have been following Susanna's blog, The Blessing of Verity for several years (since just before she was born), so I was excited to find a family who was adopting out of Plevin that lived here in Washington! My blog is actually mentioned in Susanna's second blog post on her blog, just after getting their prenatal diagnosis of DS...I'm stealing your sponsorship button for now, but let me know if there's any other way I can help out!