Life in an institution – a scar that never disappears

By 21.06.2019Blog

Nevena is a “child of nobody”. Born by a mother but raised by the state. She doesn’t know maternal love, dad’s embrace. Instead, she spent all her life in childcare homes along with other boys and girls like her – abandoned. During her time there were no foster parents to replace loneliness and isolation with true love and care. So there was no way out for her and for the thousands of other children like her.


Life in a home has left its heavy scar on the heart, soul, behavior and habits of Nevena. She is 35 years old, mature woman, but only at age. Some daily tasks and activities are a challenge for her – it’s difficult, sometimes impossible for her to get close to somebody, to build a friendship and a complete connection. Accustomed to institutional life, even today, after so many years, she can’t get away from it – for 5 years she lives in a Temporary Placement Center in a small town with her husband, who is rarely coming home and constantly working so they can get out of there. Despite all the challenges, they both dream of a child and decide that despite the difficulties, they will make their dream come true.


Two years ago, Hristo was born – a wanted and waited boy. Nevena and her husband are in the seventh sky, but the mother’s euphoria passes quickly. A few days after they get home, she falls into a deep postpartum depression. She doesn’t know how to care for her child, her husband is not at home and there is no one to support her.


“The depression just stirred me. It took my throat and didn’t want to let me go”, said Nevena.


Frightened and confronted by the challenge, Nevena feels like she can’t cope with the child, and maybe it is better to separate it from her. Then the Center connected our Community Support Center “St. Sofia” and our specialist in early childhood intervention Petya Uzunova started to work with the family.


Petya Uzunova - Senior Early Childhood Intervention SpecialistIn the beginning, Petya’s meetings with the mother are weekly and the conversations are almost daily. They talk about many different topics, discussing the stages of each child’s development, for which Nevena knew almost nothing. The mother says she didn’t expect the child to need constant attention and care and Petya tells her that she can’t expect at three months the child to be able to take care of itself – to eat alone, to be alone. They talk a lot about the whole life of Nevena, who, after the first meeting, understands that she can trust Petya and she is there only to help her. She shares a lot of things with her – she remembers her childhood and gradually, encouraged by Petya’s advice and comments, she starts to understand herself, her reactions to her child and her fears.


Nevena realizes the truth – she never had a family, a mother and a dad to love her and that this, after 35 years, affects her relationship with her child.


But she realizes something else – she couldn’t cause this life to her own child, and whatever it costs, she and her husband will do it and they will not be separated from their child.


Meanwhile, Petya makes a screening assessment of the child to make sure it is growing up normally. She says that despite her fears, Nevi takes good care of the child, it is always dressed well, fed and despite all the challenges – it grows up well.


“The biggest challenge for Nevena now is to overcome her inability to attach to Hristo, to devote herself entirely to love, to let it embrace her without any fear”, said Petya.”


Our support for Nevena and her family continues. Petya keeps visit them at the Center and together they go on a walk – Nevena tells her about her daily life and about Hristo, who has already walked, and soon she is expecting to hear his first words. They were even our guests at our Day of the Child holiday. Petya guides her, gives her advice on how to stimulate his development. He also talks to his dad, whom she encourages, despite his busy schedule, to be more active in the care for his son. Petya recently shared another joyful moment from their family life – their refurbished room at the Center, which is now much more welcoming, better furnished and better for the little Hristo, for whom is yet to “conquer peaks”. Nevena and her husband are encouraged that they will soon have their own home.


Yes, the consequences of living in the institution leave traces, always lurking and choose the “most appropriate” moment to remind about themselves. But the story of Nevena and her son is another example of how with proper support given on time, the tracks are slowly erased, and someday – maybe they will be erased forever.