I imagine a room, wall-to-wall with baby cribs. The cribs aren't all the same. They've all been painted white though to match the stark white walls of the room. I imagine every crib containing at least two children. The children range in age from newborn to three years old.
I imagine most of the cribs are still set to the height for infants. It does not seem to matter if the children within are almost two years old; the cribs are set too high because the children are not sitting up or walking.
I imagine a quiet room. The room is not silent because many of the babies labor in their breathing, but besides their raspy breath, not much else is heard.
I imagine that at one end of the room, there are three rocking chairs. The chairs are currently occupied by middle-aged women. The women begin talking and laughing to each other as they rock with empty laps.
I imagine many of the children are sleeping - despite the fact that it's morning. If a child is not sleeping, he is sitting up, staring into space.
I imagine one baby, who appears too thin, waking up. This baby has not yet learned that crying does not gain a reaction from the caregivers. For now, he still cries out for someone - anyone - to meet his most basic needs.
I imagine many of the children being woken up by this crying. A few of them turn toward the direction of this noise. Most children just continue to stare blankly into space.
I imagine a pile of toys in the corner of the room. These toys have been donated by well-meaning parents who have adopted from this orphanage. These toys are age-appropriate and would be beneficial for the children. The babies though, are rarely allowed to play with them. The caregivers have limited the children's use of these objects because the toys then need to be picked up and cleaned.
I imagine a small, dark-skinned, almost three-year-old boy on the far end of the room. The boy is darker than most of the children because of his gypsy descent. Many of the caregivers have reacted negatively to his presence in the orphanage. His mother, an uneducated prostitute, seems to be helping keep this orphanage open and filled to capacity; This boy is her eighth child.
I imagine one of the caregivers, who the verbal children refer to as Koka, wears her reading glasses around her neck on a chain. She is an older woman, and probably needs the glasses for reading each child's care chart. She carefully documents how much each child eats, and when his last diaper change took place.
I imagine the frustration she feels when she sees it is time to feed the dark-skinned boy along the far wall. He is unable to chew and swallow properly, so feeding him is an extra difficult chore. She finds a container of puréed food and a spoon to bring with her to his crib.
I imagine the dark-skinned boy becoming delighted with the prospect of feeding time. He loves to eat, despite his inability to chew.
I imagine his crib-mate, another dark-skinned child, attempting to push towards the caregiver in hopes of getting a meal for herself instead.
I imagine Koka moving the girl out of the way in order to begin the long and painful process of feeding the dark-skinned boy. He struggles to swallow and keep the food down, but he continues to fight for this food, as he does not know when his next meal will come. His feeding needs are great, so many of the caregivers choose to skip his feelings on their shifts.
I imagine Koka's reading glasses hanging over the side of the crib as she reaches to feed the boy another spoonful. This dark-skinned boy is inquisitive and reaches for her glasses. She has only a small number of earthly possessions, so she quickly bats his hand away. She is frustrated by the smudges he left on the lenses, so she grabs his ear and gives it a violent twist. She covers his food and declares his mealtime over.
I imagine this boy sitting in his crib crying. He is able to stand up and cruise around the railings, but the defeat of his discipline and his unfinished meal have left him weak. In his frustration, he begins slamming his head into the side of the crib and biting his hands. He cries harder at this point, but not because of the pain - he stopped registering physical pain long ago. He cries harder because of the frustration and hopelessness of his situation.
I imagine the hopelessness. It's as thick as smoke in the room. Every child in a crib is loved by their Father, but they don't know love from those who care for their basic needs.
I imagine that many of the children have their physical needs met on a daily basis, but they struggle in every other area.
I imagine that many of the children from this baby orphanage will live with longterm, negative effects because of their first three years of life in such a place.
I can imagine this so vividly because these are the tales my dark-skinned son told me this week.
My boy has begun reenacting and retelling his days from his first orphanage.
He demonstrates the frustration of crying in a crib without having anyone hold him. He tells of the harsh words spoken by his caregivers. He speaks of a woman named Koka who pulled his ear because he wanted to touch her glasses.
He comes into my room at night, trembling, claiming to have seen Koka. He asks to be held and hugged because he is afraid.
My son still bangs his head in frustration and bites his hands when he is angry with his own emotions.
Because of the stories my son has told me, I can imagine the orphanage in which he spent his first three years.
I have never been to Nasko's baby orphanage. We requested to do so while in Bulgaria, but it was not allowed. Much of my knowledge of infant orphanages in general comes from my time volunteering for an orphan outreach group and from this blog post. The blogger's knowledge, first-hand account, and writing style inspired me to put into words what I believe I know. This knowledge has been confirmed by my son as he has struggled through multiple flashbacks in the past few weeks.