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 29, 2008

Pre-Trip Preparations, Excitement, Anxiety...

I have been running ragged trying to not only get ready for my trip, but also to finalize everything here at home in preparation for Gabriella's arrival. I tried to prepare as much as possible beforehand knowing that I would not have much notification before I would have to travel, but the to-do lists never seem to end. My biggest obstacle right now is trying to limit my packing for her and I to only one suitcase...a feat that seems next to impossible for me and, in five trips, has not been accomplished! I have never travelled to Guatemala with fewer than two checked suitcases and two carry-ons. Hopefully this sixth time will prove successful! I have to try extra hard this time since we will have a baby travelling home with us and will have a difficult time if we are bogged down with tons of bags.

Ken will be driving my mother and me to Logan Airport in Boston at around 3:00 AM tomorrow morning; our flight leaves at 6:00 AM. We have a one hour layover in Atlanta and arrive in Guatemala at 11:30 AM Guatemala time which is 1:30 PM Eastern Time. We have always flown US Air through Charlotte, but as of September 2nd US Air is discontinuing their Charlotte/Guatemala leg, so this trip will be a bit of a change in routine for us. Gabriella will be dropped off to us at the hotel at 3:00 PM Guatemala time. I am so excited to see her and anxious to see if she remembers us. It is wonderful to think that from that point forward I will never have to "give her back" as I have had to in the past. She is mine forever!

Ken finished installing all of the child-proofing "devices" around the house last night. We are both very excited. We are also curious about what it will be like when she is home and, at times, a bit nervous...all of the same nerves new parents feel - will we be good parents, will we make the right decisions for her, will we be so exhausted that we won't even be able to see straight, etc. It will be amazingly different to have a toddler as part of our household. I find myself going through my daily routines and picturing her as part of it. We are also very nervous about her adjustment. This will probably be a tremendously stressful and potentially scary time for her and we have to work very hard to make her feel secure and loved.

This part of the journey that we are about to complete this week has been filled with lots of excitement, anxiety, sadness, fear, tears, and stress, but we are finally at the end of one road and embarking on another. This trip to Guatemala marks a major turning point for both Gabriella and me and is an enormous event in what will become our history. This trip will be forever burned in my memory and I look forward to looking back on it with happiness as I reminisce about it with Gabriella.

So starts a new chapter in our lives. I am thrilled to begin this part of our journey and am so excited to share this journey with all of you.

Susan, Evan's mom, shared this poem with me today and it is perfect for this occasion:

One last road to travel-
One last way to go.

One more day to forever-
Just to let you know.

The wait is finally over-
The journey now is through.

And know this comes to let you know,
Dreams really do come true.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

New Photos from Gabriella's Foster Family

Coming Home!

I made our travel reservations today. We leave for Guatemala this Saturday, August 30. We will arrive back home on Friday, September 5. We could have come home on Thursday, however Delta doesn't offer the Guatemala flight on Thursdays, and Delta had the best fare. We paid $370 per person versus around $660 on Delta or $800 on American. I actually had to pay $100.12 for Gabriella to sit on my lap on the way home! Crazy!

There will be a group of people meeting us at the airport on Friday evening to meet Gabriella. If you live in the area and are anxious to meet her, you are welcome to join the group at the airport. We will be landing at 11:57 PM on Friday, September 5 into Boston's Logan Airport.

This feels so surreal!

Gabriella is COMING HOME!

I just received my Embassy Appointment! Our appointment is on Tuesday, September 2 at 7:15 AM. Gabriella is finally coming home! Oh, Happy Day!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Gabriella's Bedroom

Gabriella's bedroom is ready and waiting for her.

DNA Results are at the Embassy!

Gabriella's 2nd DNA results arrived at the Embassy this evening at 5:45 PM or 3:45 PM local Guatemala time. Now, I just have to PATIENTLY wait for the e-mail from the Embassy letting me know when my final interview date and time is. As I have clearly demonstrated many times during this process, patience is a trait that is running very thin. As soon as I knew the package had arrived, I called the Embassy! The Embassy only accepts calls from the public two hours per week. If I do not have my interview information by 4:00 PM tomorrow (2:00 PM Guatemala time) I will call again since 4:00 - 5:00 PM (2:00 - 3:00 PM Guatemala time) is one of the hours that they accept calls.

Sick Again

I received an e-mail today from D. asking me to call N. because Gabriella was sick again. Gabriella was getting better and they started to give her lactose-based powdered milk; she has been on Soy formula up until now. Gabriella woke up today with diarrhea so they are adjusting her treatment a bit.

As for the DNA sample, I am still tracking the package. It is in Guatemala as of 10:30 this morning. Now I am waiting for it to arrive at the Embassy.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

One Year Ago Today...

One year ago today I received Gabriella's referral from my adoption agency. One year ago today the agency director had called my work phone and left me a voice message asking me to call her back. I saved that voice message and actually listened to it again this past week. I still get goosebumps listening to it. The director hadn't left any specific information about the baby or even that she was calling with a referral, but I just knew that that was why she was calling. I remember the excitement and anticipation that I felt while I was talking to her and soaking in all of the information about Gabriella while I feverishly took notes. I remember sending text messages and calls to loved ones about the wonderful news. I remember waiting for Gabriella's photos to arrive in my e-mail inbox and staring at them in a conference room at my work in disbelief that this beautiful baby was my daughter. I remember showing off the photos to everybody I knew. I remember celebrating after work over Chinese food with my family. I remember anticipating the wonderful spring and summer we would have with her when she arrived home as I certainly expected that she would have been home by spring.

One year ago today, my life changed for the better. God brought my daughter into my life one year ago today.

Where in the World is the DNA?!

It was in Tennessee at 1:30 AM this morning and arrived in Miami, Florida at 7 AM this morning. At least we are inching our way closer to the border!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Pick-Up Trip Paperwork

About two weeks ago I began readying all of the paperwork that I have to be prepared to present at my final interview at the US Embassy. I am completely paranoid that I will forget something and that they will not let me take Gabriella home with me.

I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person, but I feel that you have to be a complete braniac to be able to correctly complete all of the immigration forms, that is, after you figure out which darn forms you have to complete in the first place. My adoption agency has not provided much assistance or guidance and, even after I asked them my questions, I do not feel like I got a complete or accurate answer. So, I have had to rely on families who have already been through this process and on the various internet adoption forums that I follow. I have deduced that I need an I-600, an I-864?, and a DS-230. I say an I-864"?" because I still do not know if I need the I-864, the I-864A, or the I-864W; so, what do I do to be on the safe side, I completed all three! Not only did I complete each of these forms, but I am taking 2 blank copies of each of them; 1 copy completed but not signed; and 1 copy completed, signed, and notarized. I will take the unsigned copy because the Embassy official may want to witness me signing it in front of them and I will take the blank copies in case I made any mistakes. I was told that the lawyer should prepare the DS-230 for us, but why take any chances!

As for other documentation, the requirements differ for families that have visited their child prior to finalization of the adoption and for families that have not visited. This is because children whom have had a prior visit come home on an IR-3 Visa. Children whom have not had a prior visit come home on an IR-4 Visa. IR-3 Visa recipients are automatically considered citizens the moment they land on US soil. Also, with an IR-3, the adoption is processed in the country of the baby. Gabriella will be coming home on an IR-3 Visa. Even though her adoption will be considered complete in Guatemala because of her IR-3 status, I plan to readopt Gabriella here in the US so that we do not have any issues in the future. Because of the different Visa classifications, different documentation is required by the Embassy. More paperwork is required for the IR-4 Visa. So, paranoid me, just to be on the safe side, has met all of the document requirements of the IR-4 Visa. I have prepared both notarized copies and regular copies of my past four years of tax returns, my past four years of W-2's, my latest pay stub, my main passport page, my passport pages showing my visits to Guatemala, my license, my homestudy, a copy of my homestudy agency's license, and a non-notarized copy of my original dossier.

The other thing that I have had to prepare is collecting crisp $20 bills! I have heard from various people that the Embassy requires payment in crisp $20 bills. So, last Thursday, I asked my bank to order me new $20 bills. They were supposed to be in yesterday, so I went to the bank today to get them, but they did not have them in and did not know if they would be able to get any. A very kind bank teller, though, spent about half an hour with me this afternoon searching through a stack of $20's for ones that appeared newer and crisp!

Insanity, right?! I know that this all probably sounds pretty crazy, but after the year I have had with this adoption, it seems completely warranted to me! I am too close to the end and I refuse to make a mistake that could cause any type of delay in Gabriella coming home! Despite all of this preparation, though, my brain is constantly thinking of anything additional that I may need to prepare or take with me. Let's pray, though, that I have everything I may need.

Update on DNA Results

I received an e-mail today from my adoption agency stating, "Please start looking for your interview and pink slip information around Tuesday to Friday of next week." How exciting!

I also received a copy of Gabriella's DNA results. It basically states that the genetic data of Astrid Mariela Draper is identical to that of the genetic data of Astrid Mariela M. C. (Gabriella's birth name). It also states that the likelihood that the two genetic profiles correspond to two different individuals is 1 in 24,780,139,272,110,809,000! That's a pretty big number!

The DNA results officially left Greensboro, NC at 4:59 PM this afternoon and are on route to the the US Embassy in Guatemala. As of this moment, we are on track for them to arrive at the Embassy on Monday.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Information on the Final Interview at the US Embassy

I think I have officially harassed everybody associated with Guatemalan adoptions and my name is probably on the "WATCH OUT" list in every office in Guatemala! My philosophy with this adoption has become one of a ruthless nature, and it involves begging, cheating, and stealing! Not literally, of course, but I am certainly not above begging! The maternal instincts have kicked in on full gear and I want my daughter home and will do what I need to do to get this accomplished.

I just got off the phone with the US Embassy in Guatemala! I told them that they would be receiving my 2nd DNA results on Monday and I know that when booking appointments they probably allow time for the families to travel to the appointment. I told them that I would be willing to travel the end of next week if they could book the appointment for then. They informed me that they only have appointments on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. I asked if they could book my appointment for Wednesday and they said it would not allow them enough time to receive the DNA results and process them, that that takes at least one day. They said they are booking one week out from receipt of the 2nd DNA results. So, more than likely, my appointment will be sometime during the week of September 1st. I probably will know the date on Tuesday or Wednesday. Oh well, I tried!

Another DNA Update

The DNA processing is complete and the results were a perfect match to Gabriella's first DNA results, not that there was any concern of a mismatch. The DNA company will have the original results from the lab tomorrow and will FedEx them to the US Embassy in Guatemala tomorrow. The US Embassy will receive them on Monday. The Embassy should assign me my final interview date next week. In the adoption community this is know as being "Pink" because the Embassy issues the appointment on a pink sheet of paper. I AM SO CLOSE TO HAVING MY DAUGHTER HOME FOREVER!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Gabby is Feeling Better

Geovani and I called N. twice today to check on Gabriella. She is feeling better, thank God, but they are still planning to bring her in to the doctor tomorrow for lab work.

Gabriella is Sick

Geovani and I just got off the phone with N. again. They just returned from the doctor. The doctor said the problem is caused by one of three things: 1) a virus, 2) a reaction to the vaccines, he said that a reaction to the vaccines typically shows up five to eight days following receiving the vaccines, or 3) a urinary infection. They are going to run labs on Monday to figure it out. In the meantime, they gave her an injection to stop the vomiting. I thanked N. for keeping me informed and for taking such good care of Gabriella. Geovani and I will call again tomorrow to check back in with them and see how she is doing.

Gabriella is Sick

I just received a phone call from N. It is 1 AM here and 11 PM in Guatemala. N. was calling to inform me that Gabriella is sick and to get permission from me to take Gabriella the doctor tonight. N. is wonderful at keeping me posted on these types of issues; she is such a wonderful lady. I can understand Spanish a bit and can speak it even less, but at 1 AM after I've been woken out of a sound sleep by a phone call, my Spanish is terrible! But I did understand, "La niña es malita" which is "the little girl is a little bad." I called Geovani immediately and Geovani translated for me. He has honestly such a life-saver, always willing to help when I need him. There are not many people willing to take such a late night call and translate! He even offered for me to call him back when I get the call from Norma to tell me how she made out at the doctor. From what I was able to comprehend at 1 AM and in my panicked-state, Gabriella would not take her bottle much yesterday and vomited a little last night, but began vomiting a lot tonight. She does not have a fever. I have absolutely no idea if this is a possibility or not, but am wondering if this was caused by her one-year vaccines which she received a week ago Thursday.

N. put Gabriella on the phone and Gabriella was crying. I was thinking, and still am, how I wish she were here so I could help her and care for her. I need to get her here so she can see a pediatrician who I trust. Also, I am not supposed to get these late-night phone calls about or from my daughter for at least another fifteen years; "mom, can I stay out past my curfew tonight" or "mom, the concert is running late and I will not be home for another hour"! I am not supposed to be getting these calls when she is only one year old.

I will be waiting for N.'s return call to find out how they made out at the doctor. Let's pray that it is nothing serious and that they are able to stop the vomiting and get her feeling better.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Verified

The DNA is, in fact, at the lab.

The DNA Sample Has Finally Arrived

Gabriella's DNA sample arrived at the lab, at the correct address this time, at 11:59 AM! I have been in contact with John, who works for the DNA company, and he has contacted the lab to make sure that somebody can physically put their hands on the package to verify that it is in fact there! Our trust is gone! Hopefully the results will be processed and on the way to the American Embassy in Guatemala in about three days. At that time, the Embassy will be able to assign our pick-up interview. Let's pray we have no more anomalies from here.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Nonsense Continues

Even though we were told yesterday that the issue with the address on the DNA sample was corrected at FedEx, FedEx attempted to deliver the package to the old address AGAIN. I am on the phone right now with the DNA company and FedEx trying to get it straightened out once and for all. A supervisor at FedEx is promising us that it will be delivered to Salt Lake City, Utah, the correct address, tomorrow. I have a bad feeling, though, that this package is going to get lost.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

If It Can Go Wrong, It Will

So apparently the doctor used an old air bill, so the package was destined for the wrong address. When the lab moved, the doctor was supposed to have destroyed the old air bills with the old address, but apparently did not. Me and Gabriella were the ones to discover this issue; lucky us! The DNA company has been a real pleasure to work with, though. They were on top of the problem even before I called them. They were able to track down the package and get it re-shipped to the correct address. Now, the DNA sample will not get to the lab until FRIDAY or MONDAY at the latest to begin processing. So, this sets us back exactly one week from when the sample should have gotten there if we had not encountered problems along the way. The DNA step should have been the simplest, stress-free step, but I think it has been the step in the process that has caused me the most anxiety so far.

YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME?

Somebody has to be playing tricks on me and secretly filming me to see what it takes to make me absolutely insane. Gabriella's DNA sample was in Houston this morning on a FedEx truck out for delivery to the lab. The FedEx tracking information is now showing "Delivery exception - Customer not available or business closed, Incorrect address - Recipient moved". YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME? How is this possible?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Monday, August 11, 2008

Just My Luck...

The DNA Sample has officially shipped. The only problem, though, is that it arrived to the FedEx Shipping office in Guatemala City at 5:11 PM, eleven minutes past the 5:00 PM cut-off. The FedEx shipping details state "Package received after FedEx cutoff". What this means is that instead of the package arriving tomorrow, it is now not scheduled to arrive until Wednesday. We are now delayed one more day...

The DNA Sample

Geovani and I called the doctor's office. The doctor has been paid, the DNA sample should be picked up from the doctor's office any minute now, and it should be on its way to the lab in the United States. I have a FedEx tracking number and will be able to track it. I am still amazed and in awe of the series of events, but am thankful that I caught it before too much time had passed.

Another DNA Update

The doctor has NOT sent Gabriella's DNA sample to the lab yet. The lawyer owes fees to the doctor for taking Gabriella's DNA sample and for Gabriella's one year vaccines, but the lawyer could not pay the fees. The doctor will NOT send the sample until the fees are paid. My mother is sending the money right now by Western Union and hopefully the sample will go out today and arrive at the lab on Tuesday. The sample was supposed to have started processing on Friday, but now, the earliest that it will begin processing is Tuesday; I have lost two business days. Why was I not contacted to resolve this earlier? That is a great question. I had to call the lawyer to find out where the sample was, they did not contact me. If I had not been in contact with the lab and with the lawyer's office, who knows how long this would have gone on for. I cannot get too confident in the fact that I am so close to the end; I have to remain persistent and resilient and cannot relax until Gabriella is home.

DNA Update

I just spoke to the company who is processing Gabriella's DNA sample. They are based out of North Carolina and the lab is based out of Texas. The lab still has not received Gabriella's DNA sample and the doctor in Guatemala who took the sample did not provide the tracking number so there is no way to find out where it is. The sample was taken on Thursday morning, should have been mailed that day, and received at the lab on Friday. Perhaps the sample was not shipped on Thursday. I am so close and cannot afford to have this hold me up. Can't anything go smoothly?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

New Photos from Gabriella's Foster Family

Gabriella's foster family took her to a fair yesterday. D. said that Gabriella was very happy all day. The other baby in the photo is S.'s and D.'s baby, Alejandra Gabriella.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

New Photos from Gabriella's Foster Family

Gabriella received the traditional Guatemalan vest that she is wearing in these photos for her birthday. She looks so cute!
Gabriella with D.'s mother:

Friday, August 8, 2008

DNA Update

I called the lab today to see if they received the DNA sample, but they either had not received it or it had not been logged into the computer. The samples are sent in next-day, prepaid envelopes, but the doctor who had take the sample did not send the lab the tracking number. I asked them if there was a fee I could pay for expedited handling to process the sample and they are still looking into that.

Patience is a virtue, but my patience was gone a long time ago!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

DNA Test

Gabriella's DNA sample was taken this morning and should be mailed off to the lab today. Payment and the forms are all set with the lab as well. I am expecting results in about one week. Gabriella had her one year vaccines today too.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

I am Orange!

Orange is the term that the adoption community uses when the 2nd DNA authorization is received because it comes from the Embassy on an orange slip of paper. Gabriella's 2nd DNA Authorization was received this morning and her 2nd DNA test is scheduled for tomorrow morning! The lab has to process the sample, send the results to the US Embassy in Guatemala and then the Embassy will issue a pink slip with my final interview date! Let's pray we keep things moving at this awesome pace!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Gabby's Passport is Complete!

N.'s appointment this morning at the Embassy was for Gabriella's passport photo. They waited for the photo and received the completed passport!

The final step now is the 2nd DNA test. I have to wait for an "Orange" slip from the Embassy giving permission to take the 2nd DNA test. After the results of the 2nd DNA test are received by the Embassy, they will issue a "Pink" slip with our final interview appointment - this is when I will go to pick her up. We are getting so close...!

N. said that Gabby was very quiet today, as if she knew something were happening. I get so sad when I hear that. N. has been crying during each of our recent conversations because they are going to miss Gabriella immensely. I promised that we would always have a relationship with them; their family is part of my family now. N. asked if they could come to the airport with us when we leave and I agreed. Saying goodbye is going to be so hard for them.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Process Update

N. told me this evening that she has to take Gabriella to the US Embassy tomorrow morning at 7:30 AM. She did not know what the appointment was for but I am assuming it is for Gabriella's passport photo. I doubt it is for the DNA swab, but that sure would be nice. N. said they would e-mail me after the appointment.

Gabriella's First Birthday Party

I received photos from Gabriella's birthday party which was yesterday. The theme was Dora which is the same theme I would have chosen for her!

There was a photo of Gabriella and I on her cake. The guests at the party were commenting on how much Gabriella and I look alike.
They had 2 piñatas - one for the older kids and one for the babies.
There were two other babies who are being adopted, in addition to Gabriella and Evan, at the party. They had a crawling race! Evan won! I hadn't even realized that Gabriella had learned to crawl. N. says that she is crawling and pulling herself up to a standing position.
The banner in the background translates to "Year of Sanctity"
It looked like she enjoyed her first bite of cake...
...but then something upset her.
It looks like the presents were her favorite part of the day! N. said that she was tightening up her whole body and sticking out her tongue because she was so excited by all of the presents!

HAPPY 1st BIRTHDAY GABRIELLA!

Happy Birthday Gabriella!

My friend Geovani, who lives in Guatemala, purchased cards, translated birthday wishes from my mother and I, and mailed them to Gabriella for her birthday. We have met so many wonderful friends in Guatemala and I am so thankful for them.

This is what I wrote in the card that I had sent to Gabreilla:
Happy 1st Birthday baby girl! Mommy loves you so much and wishes she could be with you to celebrate. You are such a special and amazing little girl and I am so blessed that you are my daughter. You have so many people who love you like crazy. Everybody is waiting for you and can’t wait for you to be home. We have a big party planned for you when you come home. Have a great time at your party and have a wonderful birthday! Eat lots of cake and enjoy your special day!
I love you lots
Hugs and kisses
Love, Mommy

This is what my mother wrote in the card that she had sent to Gabreilla:
Happy Birthday to my special girl. I am very sad that mom and I cannot celebrate your first birthday with you in Guatemala. I am very happy, though, that your wonderful family who cared for you for your first year will be celebrating your first birthday with you. Remember how much we love you. Grampy and I are counting down the days until you come home.
Happy, Happy Birthday
Love, Grammy and Grampy

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Tomorrow is Gabby's Big Day

Tomorrow is Gabby's big day - her first birthday. We helped N. arrange a birthday party for Gabriella and today N. was having the party. I think about Gabriella often every day, but today, especially, I have been thinking of her and of her having fun at her first birthday party. I was wishing that I was there or that there was a way that I could have listened in to the party via phone at least. I keep checking my e-mail for photos of the party but have not received any yet. I am longing for any type of connection to celebrate her first birthday with her. The date that she will be home, though, is getting close - very close. It is going to happen and I just have to keep that thought in the forefront of my mind to help me through these final crazy weeks.