Not flesh of my flesh
nor bone of my bone
but still miraculously my own.

Never forget for a single minute
you didn't grow under my heart
but in it!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Post-Trip Update

Gia and I spoke to Gabriella's foster family yesterday. We had called them on Christmas day to wish them a Merry Christmas, but the family was at Church. N. stated that Gabriella was very "serious" when she returned to the house following our visit, but is back to acting like herself. N. also said that Gabriella is wanting to sit up more and sit outside and look around at things. I think our visit further jump-started her development and curiosity for new things which is wonderful.

The holiday was very hard for me, but I kept reminding myself that she should be home in a few months and that this would be the only Christmas that I would have to spend without her. Gabriella received lots of Christmas presents, too, which made her feel more present to me.

Gabriella's Christmas Presents:

Saturday, December 22, 2007

It Was So Hard Saying Goodbye (Goodbye For Now)

Mom and I are back home in the States now. The week flew by and I didn't get a chance to post about our third and final days with Gabriella.

We had another laid back day on Thursday - Eating, napping, and playing! Instead of getting Gabriella on a schedule, mom and I simply adjusted to her schedule! Her favorite toy was the activity playmat. She would lay under the toys on the bed and coo and talk and reach for the toys.

We also took Gabriella to the "family room" in the hotel where adoptive families congregate with their children. Gabriella tried a new toy there and played in it for a little bit until she got fussy. This photo puts into perspective what a little peanut she is!:We went to the pool for a short while and I tried to bring Gabriella in again, but the water was too cold for her.

We savored the evening with Gabriella knowing that it would be the final evening of the trip. We dressed her up in her Christmas dress, mom gave her a little bracelet, and we went to dinner. It was a bittersweet evening.

On Friday morning we were very sad to have to say goodbye to Gabriella and spent much of the morning crying. When N. and S. walked in Gabriella recognized them and lit up! That made me feel some relief. I told N. what a wonderful job they are doing and how thankful that they are taking such good care of her and loving her so much. N. said that they love Gabriella. As hard as it was leaving her, it would have been impossible to leave if I wasn't positive of the care and attention she is receiving in her foster home.

We already loved Gabriella prior to this trip, but we have fallen even more in love. We are already planning and anticipating visit trip 2!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Our Second Day in Guatemala

Yesterday Gabriella "napped" from about noon to 4:00 PM and then fell asleep again while we were at dinner! Mom and I were positive that she would be up all night...not the case! She fell asleep around 9:45 PM and slept all the way through until 6:00 AM! She woke up for an hour, we played for about an hour and a half and then she fell asleep for another two hours!
We woke up at 9:30 AM from a call from the attorney's office that we had a meeting with the attorney and that someone from the office would be at the hotel at 10:30 to pick us up. We jumped up into action and were down to breakfast by 10:00 AM.
The streets of Guatemala are pretty insane - lots of traffic, lots of fast driving, and lots of pedestrians crossing in front of cars. We passed by a market on our way which was pretty cool to see. Gabriella slept the whole way.
The attorney, his wife who picked us up, and his daughter who works in the office are all very nice and thoughtful. The attorney shared what has happened in our case so far and shared the forthcoming timeline. Gabriella should definitely be home by March! Even though I want her to come home with us on Friday, that was wonderful news to hear!
While in the attorney's office we realized that Gabriella has her first tooth! She is not even 5 months yet - she will be 5 months on January 4th.
Gabriella has really seemed to bond with me. She also has seemed to make a lot of progress developmentally in the past couple of days - she reaches for toys now, she is sitting up better now, and she stands with me holding her and supporting her. Again, I am thankful for the great start her foster mother has given her.
We spent a little time playing dress up today!:

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

We're Here and We're In Love!

The day began very early yesterday morning as we embarked on our first visit trip to Guatemala. My father drove my mother and I and a couple tons of luggage to Logan Airport at 5:00 AM. This is what packing looks like for one person and one baby for four nights (mom had one additional suitcase and one additional carry-on bag):
When we got to the airport, Christine, a lady who my mom used to work with, checked us in! What luck! I had three overweight bags and avoided the $300 overweight baggage charge! Plus, she was able to upgrade us to first class for free for our return trip home.

We had a layover in Charlotte, NC. We were supposed to land in Terminal B and had to get our connecting flight in Terminal D. We were worried about the long trek and making it to the gate on time; but miraculously that was all solved when the pilot made the announcement that we had a gate change and would be landing in Terminal D!

While at the Charlotte airport we met a lady who was also on her way to Guatemala, but to pick up her baby to take her home. Mom instantly started crying and began working on a plan for getting the attorney's office to speed things up to get Gabriella home sooner.

We were about a half hour delayed leaving Charlotte. The flight from Charlotte to Guatemala was pretty uneventful but anxiety-provoking due to the stress from the anticipation of getting there. We landed at 3:00 PM local time and were supposed to meet the baby at 4:00, so as soon as we landed I called the attorney's office to let them know we were running a bit late.

Prior to the trip, I had arranged for a driver, Victor, to pick us up at the airport. I figured that would be the safest option, I didn't know how reliable the airport shuttle would be, and I didn't know how mom and I would handle all of those bags on our own! Victor spent two years of high school in Kentucky, so his English is very good. Victor works with a lot of adopting families - he drives them places, gives them tours, etc.

The hotel was only about three miles from the airport, but took us about 45 minutes to get there due to the traffic getting out of the airport garage and the traffic in the city. That was the most anxious part of the whole trip because it was approaching 4:30 and I knew the baby would be waiting for us! I tried my best to remain calm, though, and Victor gave us some insight into the country and culture of Guatemala. One interesting thing that he told us is that the reason why Guatemalans to not like Americans adopting their babies is because they think we take their babies for their organs! How crazy! But Victor says that he takes every opportunity to educate these people and shares how loved these babies are.

When we arrived at the hotel I worked with bellhop to get our bags unloaded, all the while knowing that my baby was there in the lobby. We walked in and my mom spotted her instantly. N. handed Gabriella to me and my heart melted. I kissed Gabriella first then N., S., and N.'s husband. Gabriella was bundled up like a newborn and the poor thing was sweating underneath all of the layers! Guatemalans are very conservative with their babies and are very cautious about them getting cold! They gave lots of instruction about how often she eats, how often she sleeps, the nose drops that she needs because she has been congested, and the face cream that they use on her cheeks! I was completely overwhelmed and afraid I would forget everything, but figured I would figure it out as I went along! I handed the baby to mom and N.'s husband commented on how calm Gabriella was with her! Mom held the baby while I opened my suitcases in the hotel lobby and removed contents to send home with N. I had some gifts for N. and her family. Also, I brought 160 jars of baby food and 5 cans of rice cereal and knew I would only need a little for the four nights. I also had tons of toys and clothes that I would need to send home with her on Friday, so I figured I would send as much food home as possible so that she had less to take home on Friday.

After N., her family, and the coordinator from the attorney's office left, we checked into the hotel and went straight to the room. We laid Gabriella on the bed and talked to her and played with her. She was cooing and smiling and acted pretty relaxed. I took out some of the toys that I brought for her and we played with her.
She went to sleep around 10:00 PM and woke up around 3:00 AM. I fed her, changed her diaper and she fell back to sleep until around 7:00 AM. After she woke up we played with her for a bit and then I bathed her. That was quite an experience! I kept apologizing to her and telling her that I am still learning! She seemed to enjoy the bath and the time following her bath when I was putting lotion on her. I think she enjoys being naked - probably because she is always bundled up to the max!
We went to breakfast and then sat out by the pool where she napped in my arms!
After she woke up, I put her in her bathing suit and took her to the pool. I sat her on my lap in the kiddie pool and she was enjoying it until a big kid ran through the pool and splashed her. She immediately started crying and I had to take her out.

She is laying in the bed right now with my mom while I update this blog.

She is not very fond, yet, of the camera. The flash shocks her, so her eyes are wide open in many of the pictures I take of her!

She LOVES sitting in the stroller that we brought for her. She loves looking around and seeing what is going on. There is so much activity in this hotel - probably much more activity than she has ever experienced. We are staying at the Westin Camino Real in Guatemala City. The hotel is very nice and there are a lot of adoptive families here with their babies.

Gabriella also loves watching television! When the TV is on she looks toward it and is mesmerized. I brought a portable DVD player with some Baby Einstein DVDs and she loves watching it.

Gabriella responds to her name - especially to Gabby!

I can tell that she is very loved in her foster home and gets lots of attention. She loves attention and loves being held. She fusses a bit, but for the most part is very happy. The more time I spend with her, the more difficult it will be to leave on Friday. But I am so thankful for the time I get to spend with my daughter and the time my mom gets to spend with her granddaughter.

I will post more as the week goes on.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

DNA Authorization Received

I found out today that we have received DNA Authorization. This authorizes the DNA testing of Gabriella and Gabriella's birth mother. We are hoping that the Social Worker Interview of Gabriella's birther mother will be scheduled next week. The DNA test and Social Worker Interview will occur on the same day.

The time during the DNA test could be the last time that Gabriella's mother will see Gabriella. I pray that Gabriella's birth mother feels confident that she is making a decision that is the best decision for Gabriella. I also pray that she realizes that the decision that she is making is one made out of love. Finally, I pray that she has wonderful friends and family, as I do, to support her during this time.

Guatemala Adoption Law Approved

The following was published today by the Associated Press. This is the news I have been praying and waiting for.

GUATEMALA (AP) — Guatemalan legislators approved a new law Tuesday to tighten adoptions, while allowing pending adoptions — mostly to U.S. couples — to go through without meeting the stricter requirements. The legislation had upset thousands of would-be parents who had invested their savings to adopt a child from Guatemala, which is second only to China in sending adoptive children to the United States. Many feared thousands of children would be left in limboHowever, the law approved by Congress stipulates that pending adoptions, some 3,700 children already matched with prospective parents, will be allowed to move forward without being subject to the new rules. It requires the signature of President Oscar Berger.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Burning of the Devil (Quema del Diablo)

Today is Burning of the Devil (Quema del Diablo) day in Guatemala. Every December 7th, to initiate the holiday season, Guatemalans drag old household items, waste paper, clothing and every other combustible thing out in front of their houses and set it all afire to represent burning the devil and to purify their households for the holy weeks ahead.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Guess Who's Going to Guatemala...FINALLY!

My mother and I will be heading to Guatemala on December 17 and returning on December 21! I am on Cloud 9 right now with excitement and anticipation. I cannot wait to squeeze her and kiss her and enjoy her for four days!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

3 Month Photos (From Gabriella's Foster Mother)

I just received these photos from Gabriella's foster mother!

Update on the Guatemala 5000 Initiative

From a posting by the Joint Council on International Children's Services (JCICS):

Through our collective efforts, the Guatemala 5000 Initiative has resulted in 203 Members of the United States Congress supporting the completion of all in-process adoptions via their signature on letters being sent today, October 31, 2007 to Guatemalan President Oscar Berger, UNICEF Executive Director Ann Veneman and UNICEF Guatemala Director Manuel Manrique. The 203 Senators and Representatives represent the largest number in the 22 year history of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption and the first time the Coalition has addressed UNICEF.

Hopefully these letters will encourage the continuation of a legal and expeditious adoption process for the thousands of children currently in Guatemalan orphanages and foster care, including Gabriella.

Eighth Call to Gabriella's Foster Family

Gia and I spoke to Gabriella’s foster family this evening. N. said that Gabriella is getting very fat and is very cute. She takes 5 oz. of formula at every feeding and they give her a bottle every time she cries. She is not on a consistent sleeping schedule and she likes to be rocked to sleep.

I asked if she plays with any of the toys I sent (I sent TONS of toys to her!). N. said that they show them to her but she mostly likes to play with her hands. N. said that she is starting to want to hold her bottle on her own.

N. said that she tried e-mailing me photos on Friday and she asked if I received them, but I did not. So that means that there are new photos of my precious baby girl stuck somewhere in cyberspace…very disappointing! N. said that she would try again. I will certainly post any new photos that I receive as soon as I receive them!

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Seventh Call to Gabriella's Foster Family

Gia and I spoke to N.'s daughter, S. this evening. We even got to "speak" directly to Gabriella. The conversation consisted of me saying her name and how much I love her and her making sounds of frustration because she couldn't get the telephone in her mouth!

S. said that Gabriella went for her shots last week and weighed 11 pounds at the visit! S. also said that all of the clothes that I previously sent are either snug (probably the 0 - 3 month clothes) or fit just right (probably the 3 - 6 month clothes). Looks like I will be bringing larger clothes for her during my trip in December.

The director of my agency brought a package from me and my mother to Gabriella during her trip last week. The package consisted of a baby carrier, bottles, a couple onsies, more photos, and another cassette with music. The director took more photos and another video of Gabriella while she was there, so I should be receiving those soon.

S. said that Gabriella stays awake more now. She takes one two hour nap during the day and goes to bed for the night at around 6 PM.

At the end of this conversation, as I typically feel at the end of these conversations, I felt satisfied that she is well take care of and loved, but very sad that I cannot have her home and experience these changes with her directly.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Red Thread Legend

"An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break."

This is a Chinese legend and it underscores the belief that when a child is born an invisible red thread connects that child's soul to all those people, present and in the future, who will play a part in that child's life. As each birthday passes, those threads shorten and tighten, bringing those people closer who are fated to be together.
The China Adoption community has has embraced the tradition of the red thread bracelet as a means of connecting with the children who wait to be united with their new families. Moms-to-be generally wear their bracelets from the time they begin the paperchase to the day they bring their new daughter or son home. The red thread bracelet is also similar to the red thread Kaballah bracelets which are thought to bring its wearer good luck and protection from harm. Goodness knows that I openly welcome a little extra luck during this process!

I obviously am not adopting from China, but with the uncertainty in Guatemala I find it necessary to embrace comforting traditions - and this is one that I will be embracing. I will be wearing a red thread bracelet until Gabriella comes home.

Order one for yourself to symbolize your connection to Gabriella (and to add some extra luck to our process!):

Red Thread Bracelet ($3.98) -

Monday, October 22, 2007

Sixth Call to Gabriella's Foster Family

Gia and I spoke to Gabriella's foster family again this evening. N. said that Gabriella is gaining a lot of weight and her strength is increasing. When the family picks Gabriella up she straightens her legs out. N. also said that Gabriella splashes her legs in the water when they give her a bath. N. said that when they leave her lying down she inches herself around, although she is not quite rolling over yet. She also said that when Gabriella has hiccups they give her a bit of sugar on her lips and Gabriella really gets into the taste and smacks her lips. It sounds like Gabriella is doing great, changing lots, and getting tons of love!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Fifth Call to Gabriella's Foster Family

Gia and I called Gabriella's foster family this afternoon and spoke to Gabriella's foster mom.

We asked what types of "new" things Gabriella is doing. N. said that when they give Gabriella a kiss on one cheek, she turns her cheek so they kiss her other cheek too! She's a little princess already! N. also said that she makes sounds and tries to talk a lot. She loves to watch television and talks a lot when the television is on. N. said that Gabriella says “mama” really slowly.

I heard Gabriella cry while we were on the phone with N. It was a VERY loud cry with short outbursts!. N. said that that is the cry she does when she wants a bottle, quick loud cries. N. said that all she wants is her bottle; when she’s awake she wants her bottle! N. said that Gabriella has gotten really fat and has lots of fat rolls! Definitely sounds like my daughter!

N. said that Gabriella's cold is better and she will be going to the doctor on Saturday for her shots.

N.'s daughter, S., took my e-mail address so she can e-mail photos. Now I won't have to wait as long as I do currently for the attorney's office to send them.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A Statement From the Guatemala President

The following is a statement from Guatemalan President Berger’s administration, as it was sent to the Joint Council on International Children’s Services via email.

1. The President of Guatemala, Oscar Berger Perdomo, has NOT issued a statement about the suspension of all intercountry adoptions.
2. President Berger supports a new adoption’s law (Initiative 3217), which regulates the adoption processes, will give more judicial certainty to a social noble institution, as the adoption, and which will be in accordance to the Hague Convention.
3. Guatemalan children, who are going through an adoption process, are minors under the protection and shelter of the Guatemalan Constitution, hence, the State of Guatemala has the right and obligation to assure their best interest. Therefore, the Government supports a new adoptions law, in harmony with the Hague Convention, that will foster secure and dignified adoptions and above all adoptions with judicial certainty.
4. As from December 31st 2007, it is the will of the Government of Guatemala, that the Hague Convention on International Adoptions, enters in force, as reflected on the Legislative Decree No.31-2007. From this date, ALL ADOPTIONS from Guatemala must meet the Hague Convention standards.
5. The Congress of the Republic of Guatemala will soon pass the Adoptions Law (Initiative 3217, with amendments). IF this law is approved, this will regulate the procedure for the pending adoption cases or adoption cases which are already in-process.
6. The Government of Guatemala has nominated the Social Welfare Secretariat (Secretaria de Bienestar Social) as the Central Authority for adoptions (Government Accord 260-2007). The Central Authority will issue an official statement regarding adoption processes in the next few days, which will be sent and notified to international authorities, through official channels.
7. The Government of Guatemala reaffirms that it is in favor of adoptions with all countries and families that will GUARANTEE a secure and dignified life for the Guatemala children, but it will not tolerate adoption processes outside the law.

My I-600A Approval Arrived Today

My I-600A approval arrived today (very quick since it was only mailed yesterday from Boston) via form I-797, Notice of Action, Notice of Favorable Disposition Concerning Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition. I faxed the form to my agency and they, in turn, faxed it to my attorney in Guatemala.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I-600A Was Approved Today

My I-600A (Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition) was approved today and forwarded to the National Visa Center. As soon as I receive the "approval letter" in the mail I will fax it to my agency. My agency will then send it to my attorney in Guatemala to continue to proceed with my case.

My application had been "approved" a couple months ago, but the "official" approval couldn't be processed until October 11th when my divorce was final. When the "adoption coordinator" at USCIS shared the news with me that she couldn't approve it until October 11, she saw how devastated I was. So she gave me her personal office line after making me promise that I wouldn't share it with anybody else and stated that I could fax her the final certificate on October 11th and she would immediately approve my application. So, the plan was to get my final divorce certificate on October 11th and then fax it to the USCIS worker who would immediately approve the application and then I would be done with my I-600A. So my plan was in place.

On October 11th I took the day off from work and went to the Taunton probate court to get my divorce certificate. There was a sign on the door of the courthouse stating that they had moved to Fall River! Nothing's easy! So I called the phone number and got directions to the Fall River courthouse. I attempted to follow the directions but managed to get brutally lost. After driving around and pleading for help from a kind man on the phone at the courthouse, I finally found my way. When I arrived, I proceeded to the entrance only to find out that the fire alarms were going off and they wouldn't let anybody enter the building! Just my luck! I really began stressing because I had to get home to take care of Gracie's and Riley's new puppies that had been born only three days earlier. I finally got in, got my certificate, and made a call to my contact at the USCIS. Another lady answered the phone and I explained the situation and she stated that my contact no longer worked there and that a fax was not acceptable! Again, I have the worst luck! I explained the story and pleaded with her. She said she would make a determination next week (the week of the 15th). I hadn't heard from her, so I called her today to follow-up. She said she would call me back shortly. She called me back and stated that my application was approved. I think she rushed it through because she was sick of hearing from me! But at least I am one step closer to bringing Gabriella home.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Guatemala 5000 Initiative

The situation is Guatemala right now is a complicated mess wrapped up in power, politics, and money. Rumors, notices, and warnings from the United States government change constantly. It's a very volatile time and I have almost become numb to it.

Guatemala is in the process of changing its adoption laws and made a statement that in-process cases that did not complete by 12/31/07 would not be honored under their current laws. The U.S. Department of State issued a statement warning in-process parents that they and their children may be "out of luck". They then updated their statement to say that they would encourage Guatemalan officials to abide by the laws that were in place when the in-process families started.

I feel that the the United States government should support its citizens in the contracts they enter into and encourage all parties to abide by the laws governing the process when it was initiated - no retroactive enforcements. That's basically what is being threatened.

There is the potential for bad things to happen, which is why I chose the reputable adoption agency that I am working with. They may not get Gabriella home the quickest, but they are one of the most ethical agencies that I found while doing my research. It is a possibility that if this is not resolved, Gabriella's adoption may take even longer to process or could come to a complete halt altogether. What happens to Gabriella if adoptions stop completely; no one really knows. Guatemala does not have an infrastructure like we do here in the United States such as foster care and welfare. I am paying for her foster care, formula, diapers and medical visits through my adoption agency. There is a potential for a terrible outcome, but I am keeping faith and asking for the prayers and support of my friends and family.

What can you do to help?

Sign the online petition:

And support the Guatemala 5000 initiative from the Joint Council on International Children's Services:

Fourth Call to Gabriella's Foster Family

Gia and I spoke to Gabriella's foster mother's daughter, S., this evening. Gabriella had her monthly doctor visit this past Thursday, October 4th. She weighed 9 pounds! I knew from her pictures that she was finally gaining weight, but I was relieved to hear the number. She had a stuffy nose and could not get the shots she was due for, but has to go back on Friday for them so long as her congestion has cleared. S. said that she looks at the photos of me that I sent to her. She said that Gabriella is trying to "talk". It is great to hear that she is interacting more.

Gabby Girl!

My cousin Trisha has nicknamed Gabriella, "Gabby Girl." Trisha has officially coined the nickname with the gifts below!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

2 Month Photos

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Third Call to Gariella's Foster Family

Gia and I called Gabriella's foster family this afternoon for the third time. I didn't post last week after speaking to N. because although I knew Gabriella had been sick, I found out that her sickness had been serious enough that she had been hospitalized two times for three days each time in August. I was quite upset and spent my time investigating why I had not been contacted about this. It turns out that she was hospitalized for the effects from her lactose intolerance and it was during the time in which the referral was being made and before the referral had been accepted by me. It turns out that my adoption agency did not know about the hospitalization either and I was told that we certainly should have been contacted and received an apology.

Gabriella's foster mom, N., stated that she had many sleepless nights while Gabriella was in the hospital. N. said that she placed her hand on Gabriella's stomach and prayed for her to get better. N. stated that Gabriella had a strong will to live and fought to get better. This is quite disturbing news for a mom to hear, especially when I have absolutely no control and cannot do anything to help her or to ensure that she is well. I just have to trust that God is watching over her and taking care of her.

N. stated that Gabriella is feeling much better and is prospering now. She said that Gabriella is gaining weight and her weight gain is visible in her cheeks, thighs, and belly. She also said that the formula is not going through her like it was. She has a monthly doctor's appointment on October 4th at which time I will get her weight and new measurements.

I had sent my first package to Gabriella through another adoptive family who picked up their son on Friday. The package weighed 17 pounds and contained tons of clothes sized 0-3 months and 3-6 months, a Build-A-Bear teddy bear with a message that I recorded in it, a microcassette player with a cassette of "Gabriella" songs and a cassette with recordings of me reading her books, a blanket that I slept with, a doll, 3 disposable cameras, photos of me and my family (it was amazing to me that stores sell photo albums designed for babies and many baby toys in which you incorporate photos), pacifiers, books, and lots of stimulating toys, plus a few items for the foster family. While I was shipping the package, the bag was so packed that anytime I bumped the bag the Leap Frog toy would start singing the ABC's and other toy's sounds would activate! I was nervous that the bag may be considered suspicious because of this and not make it the full way, but it did!

N. stated that Gabriella loves the music and cries when the cassette stops! She said that she sleeps with the teddy bear and the doll. She also said that she stares at the photos of me and my family. N. stated that she prayed that Gabriella would have a mother that loved her and is so happy that Gabriella has a mom that loves her so much.

N. stated that they will be going to the attorney's office on Monday for new photos, so hopefully I will be receiving the new photos and posting them in the next couple of days.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Another Beautiful Handmade Gift

I received a beautiful knit blanket on Thursday from my great friend Katie, knit by her for Gabriella. The blanket is precious and I can't wait to snuggle Gabriella in it. I am amazed by the talent of people like Katie. Thanks so much Katie!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A Beautiful Gift

I received a beautiful quilt today from Jackie, a lady who I work with, handmade by her specially for Gabriella. It was a wonderful surprise. Thanks Jackie!