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!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Another Update on the Paperchase

I thought I was going to have exciting news to post tonight, but it turned out to not entirely be the case. I thought I was going to be able to share that my paperwork part of the adoption process was done, but I am not quite there yet.

We had a Manufacturing Recognition event over the past two days at the Quincy Marriott and I knew that recreational activities were planned for this afternoon. We could choose from Golf, a Duck Tour in Boston, or a Tour of the Freedom Trail. Since my Homestudy was completed, approved, signed, and notarized and my paperwork collection was complete, I opted to skip out on the afternoon events to pick up my Homestudy, get my documents State Certified (or Apostilled), drop a copy of my Homestudy off at the Immigration office to complete my I-600A application, and then take the Certified packet to the Consulate of Guatemala in Providence for approval. Once I receive the Consulate's approval I can turn the packet in to my adoption agency and wait for a referral of a baby!!!

It turns out that my plan was a bit too aggressive, though, because I was not able to make it to Providence. I did, however, pick up my Homestudy, get my documents State Certified and make it to the Immigration office to complete my I-600A application. Following is a picture of my State Certified packet which I will be hand delivering to the Consulate of Guatemala in Providence tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM. They have a one business day turn around and I will be giving them a prepaid Next Day UPS envelope so, God willing, I will have an Approved Dossier on Thursday morning and my Adoption Agency will receive it on Friday morning.The Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth was not happy when I arrived today with 23 documents that I needed them to certify. They tried to send me away and asked me to come back tomorrow to pick them up. I begged and two hours later they were ready!

This trip into Boston was a bit easier than last week's trip because my father picked me up from the Marriott, drove me to Waltham to pick up my Homestudy, drove me to the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, directed me to the Immigration Office from the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, and then returned me to the Marriott. This saved me from having to find parking and getting lost! He's the best! Thanks Dad!

Say a prayer that I can share the news with you tomorrow that the paperwork part of this journey is over!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

My Homestudy Evaluation Report is Complete!

My Homestudy report, which is the final document that I have been waiting on prior to being able to proceed, is now complete! I received an e-mail from my Homestudy Social Worker at 12:24 PM today with the document attached for my review. Once it is reviewed by her supervisor and my adoption agency it will be notarized. Hopefully I will receive it on Tuesday. I will then have to take it to USCIS in Boston to complete my I-600A application. I will also have to take my entire dossier packet to be certified by the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in Boston and I will have to take the entire certified dossier packet to be approved by the Consulate of Guatemala in Providence. I am praying that I can accomplish all of this on Tuesday as my work schedule will be flexible on Tuesday.

The following were taken from my Homestudy report (it made my head grow a bit!):

Four personal references were received in support of Melissa’s adoption. All the references received stated that Melissa is an exceptional woman. She was described as “a caring, helpful, people oriented person.” Other quotes in support of her adoption include: “Melissa is great with children. She is nurturing and loving. Children really seem to appreciate her gentle nature.” “I am quite impressed by Melissa’s integrity, hardworking nature and her empathy towards her 9 year old ‘Little Friend’.” (Melissa mentors for the Big Friends / Little Friends Program) “Melissa has a nonjudgmental nature. She is an excellent role model and possesses all the qualities one looks for in a mature and responsible adult” “Melissa is both talented and accomplished.” “Melissa comes from a very loving home and because of her upbringing has become an outstanding adult.” “Not only can she offer a financially secure future to a child but above and beyond that she offers a heart full of love and compassion.“ “Melissa is meant to have that special bond with a child blessed enough to call her ‘Mommy’.”

Melissa is a committed, reliable, sensitive, nurturing, and strong woman. She has a large support system, which she utilizes. She has demonstrated a good understanding of adoption issues and is willing to continue to educate herself and seek support as needed. Her home meets the standards for adoptive homes in the state of Massachusetts. Post-adoption support will be offered through this agency.

It is this worker’s assessment that Melissa is emotionally, physically, and mentally stable and will provide a loving and secure home for any child that is placed with her. For these reasons, Melissa is approved to adopt a female from Guatemala as young and as healthy as possible."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

My I-600A is Filed!

I spent the morning in Boston at the Immigration Office filing an I-600A ("Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition") and getting fingerprinted. Even though my application was not complete because I am still waiting to receive my Homestudy, the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS / Homeland Security) is allowing people to file incomplete applications to be able to "lock in" the current filing fees. The I-600A filing fee and fingerprint fee will be increasing on Tuesday from $615 to $830 (35%!). I was technically not supposed to be fingerprinted today since my application was not complete, but I charmed the Immigration Office Supervisor and engaged her in conversation about her, her husband who she has been married to for 33 years, the sapphire ring she received for their 30th wedding anniversary, her son's upcoming wedding, her soon to-be daughter-in-law who plays the bride in "Joey & Maria's Italian Wedding" in Boston, and the cheesy wedding favors that they will be handing out at the wedding...I got her life story! After initially telling me that I could not be fingerprinted today, she took a liking to me and got me an immediate appointment for fingerprinting! The fingerprint processing should take 2 weeks (which is very speedy compared to many other states) in which time I will be able to get my Homestudy filed to complete my application - so I bought myself quite a bit of time. After the I-600A is complete and approved the USCIS will issue an I-171H ("Notice of Favorable Determination Concerning Application for Advance Processing of an Orphan Petition") which I will have to send to Guatemala as part of my Dossier.

My time in the Immigration Office was quite an experience. It was neat to be able to sit and people watch and observe so many different ethnicities. I saw a man and woman take an Oath, become US Citizens (at least this is what I assume was happening), and leave the office with a US flag. That was pretty cool.

The one thing that I found quite frustrating was that they seem to make the rules up as they go (but this also worked to my advantage, I guess, with the fingerprinting)! I have been trying to make sure that everything I do as part of this process is perfect because I don't want anything holding me up. So last night I reviewed my I-600A application and prepared my check. I double checked to make sure that they take checks and confirmed that checks were acceptable. The I-600A instructions state, "Make check or money order payable to...". So as I was waiting to get checked in at the Immigration Office I noticed a sign that says, "We only accept Money Orders" I was thinking, "you have got to be kidding me!" Sure enough when I checked in they told me that I had to get a Money Order. The officer told me that even though this was not a USCIS requirement, it was a rule for the Boston site. So I left the office (losing my place in line...I was the first person in a VERY long line and had left my house at 5:30AM to get that place in line), found a CVS, got a Money Order, and went back. It wasn't the end of the world, but certainly frustrating, and definitely causes worry about what other rules will change along the way.

And The Winner Is...

I cannot wait to decorate her room!

Friday, July 20, 2007

I Couldn't Resist...!

I love to shop and I am so excited to buy things for Gabriella. I have really been focused on resisting the temptation to shop, though, because I am so nervous that something is going to go wrong and all of my purchases will be painful reminders. The "supersticious" part of me also doesn't want to "jinx" this process. I have bought a few items on occasion, like cute dresses, a couple toys, and onsies with spanish sayings on them (like ¿Que Pasa? - What's Up?). But I have had to work hard to control myself!

I do have a very hard time resisting buying children's books, especially books I remember from childhood, like the Serendipity book collection by Stephen Cosgrove. Gabriella already has quite a collection of books!

I couldn't control myself today, though, when I saw this precious tutu. I just couldn't pass it up!

One more thing that I may not be able to resist purchasing any longer, or at a minimum selecting, is a crib set. I have Gabreilla's room set up, but it is not decorated. I was shocked by the price of crib sets. A crib set costs at least double what I have ever paid for a comforer for my bed and it is only about a quarter the fabric of a queen sized comforter! So whatever crib set I choose has to last until she needs a toddler bed set! I am very indecisive and need your help in selecting a crib set...

#1 - Annabelle Antique

#2 - Kidsline Twinkle Toes

#3 - Lady Bug

#4 - Sumersault Gabriella (Ironic Name!)

#5 - Tropical Punch

An Update on the Paperchase

My paperwork compilation is complete, with the exception of my Homestudy report. I mailed the packet yesterday to my adoption agency, Adoptions International, for their review. My Homestudy social worker has returned from her vacation and says that she will be working on writing up my Homestudy review this weekend! With a little luck I will be able to drive my packet up to Boston next Friday and get it certified and sent to the Guatemalan Consulate and to the Department of Homeland Security.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

America - the Melting Pot?

America is no longer as homogeneous as it once was. Inter-racial marriage, adoption, immigration, etc. are much more common. One would think that prejudices and crazy comments from ignorant people would be very rare, but they are not as uncommon as I had hoped. I belong to a couple Yahoo! groups about Guatemalan adoptions where people share stories, advice, and experiences about their Guatemalan adoptions. Two moms recently shared their eye-opening stories.

One mom shared a story from her daughter’s gymnastics class waiting room. The parents were sitting in the waiting area behind the glass. They were pointing out their children and commenting on how cute they all were. The mom pointed out her daughter and another woman said, "THAT's your daughter? The LATINA?! SHE's your daughter?" The mom said, “Yes, she’s my daughter,” and the woman repeated the "Latina" thing again. The mom told her she was Guatemalan and her daughter. The woman then asked her how she "found" her daughter!

Another mom was in Target with her two year old son who had been adopted from Guatemala. A woman approached her and asked her, “Is he yours?” The mom said, “Yes, he’s mine”. The woman repeated, “Really, he’s yours?” The mom replied, “Yes, he’s mine.” Again, she repeated, “REALLY, he’s yours?” The mom pushed the cart forward and walked away without another word. She was furious but her son was oblivious to this ignorance.

This same mom was chaperoning a field trip this past year with her son who is now in the first grade. A classmate asked the mom, very casually, “You’re his mom?” The mom said, “Yes” and the classmate asked, “How come he doesn’t look like you?” The mom simply said, “Because he’s adopted” and the child was satisfied with the answer. The funny thing is, that evening the son said, “Jake (the child who asked the question) doesn’t look like his mom either.” The mom said, “He doesn’t, how come?” The son’s response was, “Because he’s young and she’s old and he has short hair and she has long hair.” (Sweet innocence…!)

Another mom was at a store with her son, her sister, and her nephew who is almost the same age as her son. A sales clerk asked how old the boys were. They said that they are cousins and about the same age. The clerk then said something like "Wow, so you were both pregnant at the same time". The mom, of course, said no, that her son was adopted. The clerk seemed extremely shocked and said "Oh, I'm SO sorry for you". The mom said, "Actually no you really don't need to be" and left the store.

I will have to be prepared with how I will handle these questions and situations. Gabriella will take her cues from me; if I get upset, she will think there is something to get upset about but if I remain calm and nonchalant, she will think nothing of it.

I intend to raise Gabriella to be confident; she will not care about what others think or say. She will be aware of her surroundings and proud of her differences. She will enlighten those with prejudices, but will do so graciously. As her mom, I must set this example for her.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Adaptive Weight Gain?!

Women have cravings and gain weight when they are pregnant. Men gain “sympathy weight” when their partner is pregnant and this has been proven scientifically - “Dr. Toni Ziegler, senior scientist at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, has shown that male marmoset and tamarin monkeys gain weight when their partners are pregnant." The question I have is...

Where is the research about adaptive weight gain for adoptive moms?!

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Paperchase

The first step in my adoption process is completing a mountain of paperwork.

For the Bureau of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS / Homeland Security), I have to file form I-600A with supporting paperwork: Birth Certificate, Marriage Certificate and Divorce Decree, Homestudy Evaluation and $615 (yes, this is a very expensive process!). The I-600A is an "Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition." I will also have to be fingerprinted for this application.

For Consulate of Guatemala (as required by my agency), I have to gather the following:

  1. Birth Certificate - My birth certificate took forever to arrive, but it is here
  2. Marriage Certificate
  3. Divorce Certificate
  4. Letter from Employer stating annual salary, length of employment, and position
  5. IRS Form 1040 with W-2 attached for the past 3 years
  6. Medical Form - I am on round 3 with my doctor to try to get this form filled out correctly!
  7. References: 3 Regular Reference Letters from three different people (Thanks Danie, Katie, and Kathy), 2 Reference Affidavits from two different individuals (Thanks Steve and Jimmy) and 2 Witness Statement Certificates from two different individuals (Thanks Mrs. McNamara and Lyndsay).
  8. Bank & Investment Letters on letterhead, stating accounts and balances
  9. Police Good Conduct Clearance from local police station on their letterhead
  10. Adoption Homestudy Report - I was so lucky to have the coolest Social Worker ever. It is very stressful having your home and life evaluated, but she totally put me at ease. For the Homestudy Report I had to complete an autobiography and a Guardianship Statement to show that I have a plan in case something were to happen to me.
  11. Name Affidavit Forms with every possible version of my name: first name (alone and with last name(s) ), birth names, nicknames with middle name, with initials etc...
  12. Singles Letter from my Social Worker explaining my “single” status, sexual orientation, and male influences for child development
  13. Immigration Advanced Processing Approval Form I 171H - U.S. Immigration will send me this form upon my approval.
  14. 8-10 Pictures of Family Gatherings
  15. Pictures of My Home including all interior rooms and exterior with a picture of the child's room - this was quite a chore because the baby's room was previously a storage room, but it's done. Thanks Candace and Danie!
  16. Passport Photocopies
All of these documents have to be notarized then then certified by the state. Once all documents are state certified (Apostille) they can go to the Guatemalan Embassy for approval. I am going to have to open my own personal UPS account to be able to speed things along.

For the most part I have everything, but I am waiting on my Homestudy Evaluation document and my divorce decree. Once I get these 2 documents I can begin running again. This is such a hurry up and wait game.

My major issue is that I am up against a major deadline. Guatemala adoptions will be closing - it is thought that they will close on December 31, 2007. Adoptions in Guatemala will be closing because there are problems with the adoption process there including conflicts of interest, lack of government oversight, unregulated foster care, and the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption which Guatemala has not yet enacted. The Guatemala government is planning to implement new adoption processing procedures to increase protections. The United States is scrutinizing individual cases more closely than before. It is believed that anybody who has a referral and a Power of Attorney in Guatemala will be grandfather in. I am going with that hope that all will be okay assuming I have my referral and POA by December 31st - but anything can happen. I tried to minimize the risk by choosing a very reputable adoption agency who are well connected in Guatemala and very ethical. They will help to make sure that all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed.

So, if you've been wondering what I've been up to, this is what I've been doing!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Baby Cupcake!

My 5 year old cousin, Andrew, knows that I will be having a baby and he knows that she will not be coming from my belly, that she will be coming from Guatemala or “Gualemala” as he says it. I asked Andrew what I should name the baby. He thought about it and suggested “Gracie” but I told him that it would not be very nice to name her the same name as my dog. He then suggested “Grace Grace” which is our nickname for Gracie. I told him that wouldn’t work either. He though about it again and proudly suggested “Cupcake.” I told him that was a great name and I would think about it!

The next day Andrew was with my parents and saw an airplane. He shouted, “There’s Melissa.” My mom asked him where Melissa was going and he replied, “She’s going to Gualemala to pick up Cupcake!”

I’ve decided on a name but it won’t be Cupcake! She will be named Gabriella and I will keep her birth name as her middle name. Gabriella is Hebrew in origin and means, "God is my strength."

I'm Going to Be a Mom!

I've never kept a journal but as I embark on this journey I wanted to make sure that I will be able to remember every particular detail about it - not only for me, but for my child. I am not sharing this experience with a significant other and, therefore, will not be able to reminisce about this experience with him - so I wanted to document my experiences, emotions, and milestones during this process.

I'm usually pretty exclusive in sharing private details and emotions, but there is so much about this experience that I need to share with my friends and family. So much has already passed, left uncaptured, but I will officially begin the story now. Here goes...