The words “10-day old little boy from Guatemala” pounded in my ears the same way your heart beats after a long hard run. Upon hearing them, it was instant. We were parents. We had a son. Mark and I were elated and our hearts were full of love for a child we had never even met.
And the adventure began. What was pitched to be a quick and methodical four to eight month process turned into two painful years chasing and fighting for our son. Twenty-one grueling months would pass before Andrew’s feet would hit American soil.
At First Sight
Four months into our journey, we scheduled a visit to meet him. I was a nervous, scared and excited wreck. It was the Monday after Easter when we descended into Guatemala City, and as I saw my son’s homeland for the first time, I was humbled by the stark difference between our two countries. God knows no borders.
At first sight, Andrew took our breath away! We fed him and stared at him for a couple of hours. Our interpreter, translating between us and our lawyer, said, “I need to tell you something.” My stomach knotted and I swear you could hear my heart beating across the room, louder with each breath. He proceeded to tell us that we were not holding the baby we had come to meet. The other baby had gone back to his birth mom, but this baby needed adopting — would we take him? Looking at our baby, our Andrew, I scooped him up and cried, “YES! I will take him. I will care for him.”
Naturally, I asked when he was born. They said March 9. Really? To anyone else, that was just an ordinary day — not to me. My grandmothers, two of the most influential women in my life, were both born on March 9. In 1984, my small town was rocked when a friend of mine was killed in a moped accident on March 9. I had seen and spoken to my friend that same day and then tragically, he was gone. That day, I prayed and asked the Lord to come into my life. I began my salvation journey with Jesus on March 9. Having my son’s birthday so ordained by God seemed a special source of reassurance.
It was His megaphone saying, “I’ve got this and I will carry you through.”
Wrestling With Hopelessness
Ten months into our process when we were back in the States, Guatemala officially closed their doors to international adoptions. We were one of the families grandfathered in, but the struggles we had between cultures and countries only became magnified. Andrew was in the care of our lawyer’s family. She was the matriarch and provider for their family, and we soon realized our son was her lifeline to financial safety. She used his quality of care as leverage for control and money.
We tried to stand firm and trust God, but it was easy to lose hope. Nothing about this was in our control. Time after time I found myself in Andrew’s room just wishing that he was safely in my arms, wondering how much longer we were going to be pushed around. Some days I shut the door as if his nursery didn’t exist. Other days I would quietly walk in, open his top drawer, and take out his first onesie I had saved in a plastic baggie, smell it and weep.
Mark, tired of seeing me hurt so much and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, began to take action to shift the balance of power. He began to seek the Lord, asking what it would look like for me to move to Guatemala to foster Andrew as we finish out this process.
In a whirlwind of events, including having our paperwork kicked out of the system, this imaginative, far-off idea became a gritty reality. Ten days. That’s when I would have to leave if I wanted to go foster Andrew. I couldn’t breathe. I was numb. I was willing to go in a few months but 10 days? I needed a running start to move to a foreign country by myself, but instead felt like I had just walked off a cliff.
And then, the cliff got bigger. Four days before I left, our bank account was cleaned out; checking and savings. We do not have a clue who did this, and to this day we still do not have that money back.
As if that wasn’t enough, one day before I left, I found out I was pregnant. Wait. WHAT? Six years and 12 procedures later…You will understand when I say this was the one month I was okay with not being pregnant. After a lightning-speed round of math in my head, I deduced it was quite likely I’d be giving birth in Guatemala.
I was scared out of my mind, but I was determined to be with my son. I would fight for him and be there with him — there was no question about the lengths I would go to for Andrew.
I packed what I could; we were graciously provided for by family and friends and went to Guatemala actively trying to resolve this issue. More lies and manipulation by our lawyer, a painful process of “bonding” with Andrew through trauma, accompanied by blood-curdling screams of my son, expired fingerprints delaying paperwork, losing our prepared home only to miraculously find another, and then watching my husband fly home without us summarized my first few weeks as a stranger in a new land. I was disoriented and desperate.
Longing for my husband’s strong, comforting presence, and terrified that I was alone in a foreign country, I struggled to adapt. I was pregnant and sleep deprived. I hated it there and wanted to come home so badly. Yet, I didn’t want to leave Andrew. My days were consumed with him, my pregnancy and the effort to get home.
Per Mark’s suggestion, I began to live up to my spiritual giftedness of being a “pain in the neck” and tagged along with our lawyer to ensure she got things done. Progress came slowly.
No Heart Beat
Seventeen days after Mark left to go back to Alabama, he and my parents came to visit. We scheduled a doctor’s appointment to hear the baby’s heartbeat. We never heard it. The doctor, unaware of my circumstances, flippantly said, “No heartbeat, I’ll schedule you for a D & C tomorrow.”
Uh. What? No.
Mark decided to send my ultrasound pictures to my doctor in the States where technology was better. She immediately called him. The pictures were very concerning to her. She asked if I was in pain, which I was not. She told Mark it was imperative I have surgery in Guatemala. It appeared to her that I was having an ectopic pregnancy and I was in danger. She shot down the idea of me flying back to America for surgery because of the risks involved. She was to the point. If I had any issues on the plane, I could die.
Prayerfully, we agonized over what to do. I didn’t want to leave Andrew, yet we were uncomfortable with my operation taking place in Guatemala. In the middle of this decision making process, we were presented an opportunity to go get our fingerprints re- done in Atlanta. Our choices were heavy and we struggled to decide. Ultimately, we made the choice for me to head to the US. I would leave Andrew behind with my roommate (a language student) who stepped up to care for him while I was away. God willing, I would be back with him in 48 hours.
Loss And Gain
The race was on. Atlanta found us pleading our case with tears streaming down our faces to a woman who took mercy on us — fingerprints taken care of by God’s perfect provision. Off to Birmingham and the news was confirmed — I had miscarried, but I was not in danger. Flying home was the right choice. I had a D&C, recuperated for two days, and then flew back to Andrew.
During those dark days of dealing with the miscarriage while missing my son, Mark gave me some desperately needed good news. Our papers had been released from the Guatemalan government! We were officially four to six weeks away from coming home with our son! I lost a baby and gained a baby in one day. I went back to Guatemala to the precious little boy who screamed when I picked him up. As God does with us each and every day, Andrew and I started over.
After feeling so close to victory, we soon got word that our paperwork had been returned to our Guatemalan lawyer because of mistakes she made. Our heads hung. We felt defeated. After numerous trips to the embassy seeking answers, I had made no progress.
August 21, 2008
This is a date I’ll never forget.
Our lawyer told me to meet her that morning at the embassy. We would finish this. I got up early and headed to the city with Andrew and told my driver I would call when we were finished. I did not see our lawyer so I went through the security maze to get inside. I waited over an hour when I finally saw her outside. She motioned for me to come to her. She brought one piece of paper — no phone and no credentials to get inside. She handed me the paper and basically said, “Good luck.”
What? This is on me now? Wasn’t she supposed to help?
With a baby strapped to my body and a frantic tear-streaked face, I searched for help in the embassy. Door after door literally closed in my face. No one would help. Rejected, I walked outside and turned on my phone. No more minutes. No way to call my driver. No way to contact help. The world began spinning faster, dizzying and deafening. I breathed slowly to regain composure. Inside, I panicked.
Sitting on a bench with Andrew I prayed, “God what do I do?” I heard Him plainly say, “Look for someone who looks like they own a cell phone.” I searched through the crowd, but no one seemed to look like that. In the distance, I saw a man talking on his cell phone. I motioned to him and asked to call the States. He understood and motioned back, “YES!”
I quickly called Mark and asked him to call my driver; I’d explain the rest later. Ten minutes passed and I saw my driver sprinting to me. I ran to him and collapsed into his arms. He gave me his phone and I immediately called Mark.
I gave him a more detailed account of what happened. He was furious at our lawyer for leaving me at the embassy. Mark called her and they got into an intense discussion. She responded by threatening to take Andrew. She said we would never see our son again. The translator warned Mark that he had never seen her like this, and he suggested Mark get Andrew and me to a safe, undisclosed location.
Don’t Freak Out
Back in my room, my phone rang. It was Mark. “Don’t freak out, but I need you to listen to me.” He told me to call another driver, pack for two days and he would contact me to tell me where to go. There was a flight from Huntsville to Guatemala City at 2:30 with a layover in Dallas, and he booked a seat. It was a miracle that a flight leaving so late would put him in Guatemala City that same night. As he threw clothes in a bag, he called a hotel we had never stayed at in Guatemala. This is where he told me to go. I had strict instructions — be aware, get in the room, and do not open the door for anyone. So there I was, fleeing for safety in a foreign country with my child.
Is this really my life?
Struggling through the airport, Mark asked the person in front of him if he could go ahead because his family was in danger in Guatemala. It was as if the Red Sea parted. People just moved over. Everyone! They wished him well and cheered him on. The woman behind the ticket counter rushed to get him on the plane and through security. “Go!” they all shouted. He arrived at our hotel at 9:00 that night.
After the day we had, when I saw my tall, broad-shouldered husband in the hallway, I let go. I fell into his arms and finally, felt safe. By the next morning we had gained some perspective and decided it was time to finish this.
Through a series of miracles, Mark was able to get one of the doors at the embassy to open. Someone was finally willing to hear us! Mark and this woman sat down together and combed through our paperwork. We were missing ONE signature. One! Mark immediately called our lawyer and told her if she could get this signature within the hour, he would pay her in full.
He went to an ATM and rushed to meet our lawyer in a cafe. She delivered the signature, and Mark paid what we owed her. The paper was delivered to the embassy and while we waited for our pink slip, he traveled back to our room to be with us. Andrew miraculously took a nap so we talked about the day. It was around 3:30 that afternoon when we got the email. Subject line: US EMBASSY APPOINTMENT.
It was finally time! Andrew’s visa was approved, and we traveled home that Friday.
Sweet Home Alabama
Many friends and family greeted us at the airport! Huge signs were everywhere, and as we rode down the escalator, a JOYFUL noise greeted us! “Sweet Home Alabama” started playing and it was a party! It was one of the very best days of my life.
It’s been almost six years since we came home with Andrew. He’s a very happy little boy. All the trouble we previously had with attachment has dwindled and we now have a bond that will never be broken. I am his and he is mine. We have since added our beautiful daughter Ava to our family. She, too, is adopted.
Ava’s story is altogether different but just as powerful. Her birthparents could not care for her; they even feared bringing another life into such a fallen world. We got to meet them and talk with them. Since Ava’s birth, they have come to know Jesus. They have such an incredible story and are walking with us to leave a legacy of true adoption to this little girl.
I am asked so often if my kids know they are adopted. Absolutely. We embrace it. Everyone in our family is adopted. Even our dog!
Barren No More
So where am I on the infertility subject? Same place.
My womb is closed. It’s empty; unable to produce or sustain new life.
But…I am no longer barren. It’s my life’s mantra. It’s why I get up in the mornings. It’s the perfect lead-in to my life verses (2 Peter 1:3-11). It’s who I am. I was barren SO THAT I could be Andrew and Ava’s mom. They were God’s “Plan A” all along. In my weakness and inabilities HE was made strong. For the first time in my life, I understand the Gospel.