A Child is Born .. in Guatemala
By Traci Radice
On February 8, 2000 our baby girl was born at 9:38 p.m. weighing 6 lbs.
8 oz. and measuring 19 long. We didnt even know about her
birth until mid-March, when we saw her picture and knew instantly that
she was our daughter. The reason? Bianca was born in Guatemala City, Guatemala.
About 2 days after seeing her picture and falling in love with this beautiful
baby, we accepted her referral. At that moment, she was 1.5 months old.
of the strongest reasons for our choice to adopt from Guatemala is that
the majority of the babies are placed directly in private foster care
from birth. Although there are some orphanages, they are privately owned
rather than state-run and the level of care (both physical and emotional)
the babies receive is higher than institutional orphanages. Some adoption
agencies allow a potential family to accept a referral prior to being
paper ready - meaning that the family has completed the paperwork
(dossier) requirements and is ready to begin adoption proceedings
- and some do not. The one that we worked with did. As soon as we accepted
her referral, we began to move as fast as we could to get our dossier
If you are familiar with the paperwork involved in an international adoption,
you will understand why it took us 2 months to become paper ready.
Each country has its own uniqueness to its dossier requirements. Guatemalas
dossier includes a state police clearance, a homestudy (which also includes
an inspection by the County health department and fire marshal, medical
reference letters, character reference letters and financial statements
to name a few), marriage license (and any divorce decrees), birth certificates,
letters that verify employment, tax returns for 3 years, copies of the
passports of the adoptive parents-to-be, and about 6-10 photos of the
house and family that the baby will be joining. Each document that is
submitted to the Guatemalan Government must be notarized, certified by
the County Courthouse, certified by the State Department and then authenticated
by the Guatemalan Embassy in Washington, D.C.
I know what you are thinking because I thought it, too: (a) after everything
we have been through it is ridiculous that we have to jump through another
series of hoops to have a baby; and (b) why dont fertile people
have to go through this paperwork? Well, if you look at each step as a
step toward your baby, the endless paperwork and disclosure of your personal
secrets are a breeze.
I broke down our experience into three (3) trimesters. First trimester
entailed the babys birth and we were matched as her parents and
received her picture (kind of like a sonogram). Second trimester was the
wait. Third trimester was the nesting and making things ready
for when baby came home and our travel arrangements.
The general time frame for a Guatemalan adoption in 2000/2001 was 5-8
months from the date the dossier arrives in Guatemala, although I know
some babies that came home at 3-4 months old. Our dossier arrived in Guatemala
on or about May 15th. Those two months of scrambling to get everything
accomplished were very stressful, and we couldnt wait until everything
However, after the dossier arrived in Guatemala, we began the long wait.
Waiting for a child, regardless of whether he comes to you biologically
or through adoption, is very difficult. Some may say that 5-8 months is
much better than a 10-month pregnancy. Maybe, but waiting helplessly while
your child is growing older and learning new skills and growing a tooth,
and sitting up for the first time, can be torture. If you work with a
good agency that has strong contacts in Guatemala, you are afforded frequent
updates on the child and that really helps the wait. My advice at this
point is not to focus on what you missing but rather focus on the end
result: you will be a parent! And when you become a parent, after waiting
so long, you will have many firsts with that child. The first time he/she
smiles at YOU is what really matters!
April, we had sent a care package to Bianca. We sent clothes, a stuffed
animal, diapers, a gift for her wonderful foster mother, and a few disposable
cameras. Biancas foster mom, Esperanza (which, ironically, means
hope in Spanish), took pictures of the baby for us, so we
would have them for her baby book. Some cameras are mailed to the adoptive
families during the long wait, however, some are just collected when you
travel to bring home your child.
Unlike some other international adoption programs, Guatemala does not
require a parent to travel to the country to visit the child first, however,
many parents do. We chose to, as well. In August, we flew to Miami and
on to Guatemala. I was a bundle of nerves! Bianca was 6.5 months old now
- what was she like? Would she like us? Would she be afraid of us? These
were just a few of the questions that were hounding our minds on our way
there. We spent 2 full glorious days with our daughter and videotaped
every moment with her. The rest of the trip consisted of sight-seeing
and artifact buying, so that we would have some things from our daughters
birth country. You may ask if it was hard to leave her there. Yes and
no. We knew that this was just a visit and that it would not
be much longer until gotcha day. Gotcha day is
known to some international adoptive families as the day their child was
placed in their arms.
We became Biancas legal parents on September 18th. With the Guatemalan
program, a family can choose to send one parent to bring the child home
or to have the child escorted. After waiting for the remainder of the
adoption proceedings to conclude, such as the issuance of her new birth
certificate naming us as her parents, we returned to Guatemala. Our gotcha
day was October 23rd - a day I will never forget. At 8.5 months old, Bianca
was our child. We had a daughter. No more childless days. No more lonely,
tear-filled nights. It was our turn. Our wait was over.
During our five (5) year journey to build our family, I shed many tears.
Upon beginning our adoption process with Guatemala, I began to feel happy
again. I knew that Bianca would soon be our daughter, and I cannot express
the happiness I was able to experience while we waited and prepared for
her homecoming. The final step in the process was a visit to the American
Embassy in Guatemala. They reviewed the entire file, passports, etc.,
and then a clerk said, Congratulations, you can go home as a family,
I fell apart. I realized for the first time during the entire process
that we were finally a family!
is now the beginning of 2001, and we are approaching Biancas first
birthday already. Although we have only been a family for two months,
it feels as if we have always been together. In late November, she said
mama, and I cried. Yes, Bianca, I am your mama
Only when I am reminded of the adoption by someone else, do I think of
her as adopted. She is my daughter. It doesnt matter
that she did not grow in my stomach. She grew in my heart, and I in hers.
Traci Radice describes her adoption
of Bianca as "the smartest things I ever did." Traci is a Board
Member of Resolve in Maryland. She can be reached at TraciNAlex@aol.com.