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!

Friday, August 31, 2007

The Love of Family and Friends

I am blessed that Gabriella will be my daughter, but both she and I are also extremely blessed to have the love and support of our family and friends. She is the newest member of the most loving family imaginable. From the beautiful note that her grandmother (my mom) wrote to her, to the hourly calls from my cousin Trisha, to the song that Austin sings for her – I am touched by the love! I cannot wait to share these stories with her when she is older.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Referral Acceptance Received

My agency received my referral acceptance this morning with my Power of Attorney form and DNA authorization. These documents will be on their way to Guatemala later today!

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Paperchase, Take 2 - Accepting My Referral!

One would think that accepting a referral would be easy – sign a few papers, write a check, and mail it back. But this was not the case as I found out this weekend while preparing my packet to accept the referral of Gabriella!

The first obstacle was that I felt like the instructions took a rocket scientist to follow! For example, I had 4 of the same forms to sign – 2 had to be signed in blue ink, and 2 had to be signed in black ink. What did I do? I signed all 4 in blue ink, then read the directions, and then freaked out! I told my agency about my mistake and they had to prepare new forms for me so that the forms could be signed with the proper ink color!

The Power of Attorney form was my next big obstacle. My passport number on it was incorrect because I got a new passport number after I changed my last name. Once I had a corrected form I had to get it notarized, state certified in Boston and then country authenticated at the Consulate of Guatemala in Providence (which meant more time away from work!). I had to do this all today because if I didn’t, my packet would have missed my agency’s mailing to Guatemala tomorrow and I would have been delayed by a week – and God knows every single day is precious in this process.

I then had to figure out which of the forms had to be notarized and which did not have to be. Luckily, I have a co-worker who is a notary which has been a blessing through this process.

Finally, I FedEx’ed my completed package to my agency for delivery tomorrow morning – I was given instructions not to UPS it or send it via the US Postal Service – only FedEx!

I am praying that the finished packet was completed correctly! Gabriella is already giving me grey hair and she is not even a teenager yet! Of course this is a joke and I cannot wait until she is home!

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Gabriella's First Care Package

My parents and I hit the stores on Friday and I intended to send Gabriella her first care package tomorrow. We also included items for the foster family so that they will spoil Gabriella! I got an e-mail from Hannah this evening, though, stating, "It is not such a good idea to send packages to the foster family directly, or to try to send them by courier. For awhile we had them sent to the attorney, but then they were being charged large customs duties and had to go to the airport to pick them up. We recommend sending through other travelling families, but right now we're not encouraging travel because of the problems. We'll figure out something and talk with you about it after Labor Day."

I am disappointed that I can't get these items to Gabriella.

God's Plan

I believe that everything happens for a reason and God has a plan for everybody. I sincerely believe Gabriella was meant to be my daughter. My mother concurs and she and I have discussed this extensively. Upon the referral there were two noteworthy events that further convinced me of this.

The first, most impactful realization, had to do with the name her birth mom and I chose for her. I chose the name Gabriella for my daughter. Gabriella is Hebrew in origin and means, "God is my strength." Gabriella’s birth mom chose Astrid as her name. Astrid is Scandinavian in origin and means, “God’s strength or diving strength.” I find it jaw-dropping that out of all of the possible names to choose, both her birth mom and I chose names for her with basically the same meaning. Also, with Gabriella Astrid as her name, my friend Danie pointed out, “she will have a double dose of God’s strength!”

The second is that my application was completed much quicker than normal based on my original estimates compared to typical timelines. Yet, without this fast pace, I probably would have missed the ability to adopt from Guatemala. When I contracted my homestudy agency, the social worker told me that my homestudy would be complete by the end of August; today is August 26, meaning I technically still should not have a completed application! She completed the homestudy over a month early allowing me to proceed quicker. I also had many problems getting my divorce finalized (causing delay in proceeding with the adoption), but somehow it was finalized much quicker than my attorney or I thought possible. When Hannah called with the referral she told me that my referral was one of the final ten that she would be making for quite a while because of the situation in Guatemala! I was not supposed to be ready for a referral by now, but had I not been, I would have completely missed the opportunity for a referral!

I am so thankful that Gabriella was in His plan for me!

What is a Referral?

A common question that people have been asking me is, "What is a Referral?"

Once an application is approved, a child “assignment” is made. This process is called a referral. A child referral is when the adoption agency matches what they know about the adoptive family with what they have learned about a child from the caregivers. The referral generally includes a physical description of the child, with some health and development information, and usually a photograph or photographs. Once a referral is accepted, the legal adoption proceedings begin. The referral typically throws the parent(s) into fits of panic, joy, and hyperventilation! A referral is like a sonogram of sorts, the first tangible and visible proof that there is a child at the end of the long path.

I, unfortunately, am expecting a long road before I can bring Gabriella home due to the problems in Guatemala - it may be between 6 to 9 months (or, God forbid, longer). I should have a better idea on timing after the elections in Guatemala which will be held on September 9th.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Video of Gabriella

This is a portion of the video I received of Gabriella taken on August 14, 2007 when she was 10 days old.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

It's a Girl!

Gabriella Astrid
Born August 4, 2007; 6 pounds (we think this is inaccurate because her first check-up 2 days later states 6 lbs. 6 oz.); 45 centimeters

I got the call today while at work at 1:50 PM. I was expecting a call on my cell phone, but Hannah, the agency director, called my office line. Not knowing it was her of course, I was too busy to take the call, so I let it go to voicemail! But since I knew it was an outside call based on the double ring I immediately checked the message and nearly had a heart attack when I heard it was her! I called her back directly. She told me that she wanted to talk to me about the current situation in Guatemala and then if I wanted to proceed she had a referral for me!

While I was on the office phone with her, I texted my sister, dad, cousin Trisha, and friend Danie from my cell phone to let them know I was getting my referral. Hannah gave me information about the baby; she was born Astrid Mariela in a large suburb of Guatemala City. She is living with a foster mother who has two teenage children of her own and who is a friend of my attorney in Guatemala. I learned of her birth mother's name, age, occupation, and location. Baby and birth mom tested negative to various diseases. I was told that I would receive photos within the hour and an information package via Fed Ex tomorrow with a DVD of her!

I could hardly contain myself and lit up the phone lines after I hung up with Hannah. I had to complete a phone interview and a meeting at work before I could leave. I could hardly concentrate but as soon as I was done, I checked my e-mail and the photos of my little angel were waiting. I left work early and celebrated with my parents and sister over Chinese food while staring at the photos! I later saw my cousin Stephanie and her two boys, Vincent and Andrew, who greeted me with a doll for Gabriella, a very touching card, and hugs of congratulations. Andrew's first question was, "where is Gabriella." I told him she'd be home soon...!

Ignore the date on the photos, the camera was set incorrectly. These photos were taken on August 14, 2007 when she was 10 days old.

This is a photo of Gabriella with her foster mom.

Still No News...AND The Situation is Worsening in Guatemala

Still no news about a referral. I am very frustrated.

Also, it appears that the situation regarding adoptions in Guatemala is worsening. The Marriott in Guatemala City (and I believe other hotels there too) is on lockdown due to protesting in the streets about adoptions. They have restricted all adoptive families to their rooms or the hospitality suites of the hotels. The Guatemala citizens feel that the relinquishment process is illegal because the surrender is not signed off in front of a judge. All relinquishment adoptions are done via the notorial process. All abandonments are done via a court order signed by a judge. Therefore, the Guatemalan Government is stating that all babies who are in custody of a foster mom or a hogar that do not have a judges order (an abandonment) are an illegal adoption. Apparently the Embassy is being "swarmed" as well. Rumor has it that UNICEF just gave Guatemala a huge financial sum to open orphanages and do away with foster mothers.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

No Referral Yet

Yesterday was the day in which the Director of my adoption agency returned from her trip to Guatemala. I had been anticipating that I would have received a referral following this trip but I called the agency yesterday afternoon and they had no news for me. I was very disappointed and deflated, but am hoping that after they settle back into the office I will receive a call...I am hoping it will be this week.

To make matters worse, the climate for adoptions in Guatemala is getting worse. On Saturday, August 12, forty-six children, believed abducted or coerced from their parents, were taken from Casa Quivira children's home, an orphanage/adoption home, in Antigua. The officials are trying to determine whether the children were stolen or obtained from their mothers under coercion. It was said that most of the children lacked the proper documents to be in the custody of someone other than their birth parents.

The travel situation in Guatemala is also getting worse for adoptive parents. With the raid on Casa Quivira and the inflammation of the people of Guatemala over it, it's not not only unsafe for the adoptive parents traveling, but also for the foster mothers coming to the hotel to take the child for their visits. The climate has gotten more tense in Guatemala. A hotel staff member warned another adoptive family about the situation and shared a story about a Guatemalan man running after an adoptive father with a machete yelling "American baby stealers...go home." The subject was arrested and hauled off the street, but it wasn't before the adoptive father was significantly shaken up by the situation.

I will definitely go to Guatemala to visit Gabriella and go on my pick up trip, I just will have to make sure that I adhere to my agency's recommendations and just use good "street smarts" when going to the embassy. I will not risk my or my my daughter's safety by venturing out on my own because of my curiosity or boredom. Sitting in a hotel room holding my daughter is just fine for me! Safe and sound...until the day she comes home!

Monday, August 6, 2007

2nd DNA Test Now Required for Guatemalan Adoptions

I was just made aware of the following change that was released by the U.S. Department of the State this past Thursday. It is my belief that this is the first of many process changes to come that will lengthen the wait time for me to bring Gabriella home.

"August 2, 2007

U.S. Embassy Uses DNA Testing to Protect Children Adopted in Guatemala

Effective August 6, 2007, the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala will require a second DNA test, to verify that the adopted child for whom an immigrant visa is being requested is the same child matched at the beginning of the adoption process with the birth parent. The Embassy is taking this step in response to concerns about the unregulated adoption process in that country. The Embassy already requires one DNA match between a relinquishing parent and prospective adoptive child as part of the immigrant visa process for Guatemalan children adopted by American citizens. This new procedure will apply to adoption cases finalized by Guatemalan authorities and submitted to the Embassy on or after August 6th."

Waiting for a Referral

I just spoke to my Adoption Agency. They received my package but there is a "waiting list" for infant females, as expected. The Director is leaving for a two week trip to Guatemala tomorrow. They take trips to check up on their children in foster care, and they often come back with referrals. They will be returning on Monday, August 20th. I am assuming I will not have a referral at least until that date. The wait really stinks.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

The Paperchase Saga is Complete!

I brought my dossier to the Consulate of Guatemala in Providence, RI this morning and they were able to authenticate/legalize my dossier while I waited! So my dossier is complete, state certified, and country authenticated! I just UPS'ed the completed package to my Adoption Agency and now the wait begins for a referral of a baby. I can hardly concentrate and I am jittery with excitement. While at the Consulate's office there were 2 Guatemalan baby girls- a 3 month old and a 5 year old. They were precious and further heightened my excitement and anticipation. Keep me in your prayers for a speedy referral and a speedy legalization.