Monday, June 25, 2007

Guatemala or bust!!

Lilypie Date is set PicLilypie Date is set Ticker

We're going to Guatemala to meet Our Little Pea!! We will be in Guatemala 8/14/07 - 8/21/07 and staying at the Marriott in Guatemala City. Once we arrive, the in-country coordinator for our agency and the foster mom will bring Eli to us at the hotel. He will then stay with us for the duration of the visit. WOOHOO!!! We're so excited!! We're also a little nervous as we will be meeting our boy for the first time in a hotel, in a foreign country. We can't believe they are actually going to leave us alone with Eli. Don't they know we are first time parents and have no idea what we are doing? HA!! No convenient calls to mom for help!! But, lots of adoptive families stay at the Marriott so we won't be completely alone. In fact, there will be at least 2 or 3 other families from our agency staying there at the same time. We hope to do some sight seeing in Guatemala City and plan to take a day trip to Antigua. Most of our time, however, will be spent bonding with Eli. We are already trying to gather "stuff" for our trip. We are quickly learning how much babies require! Thank goodness for garage sales! Eli is going to have his own suitcase. Most of the things we take down (clothes, toys, bouncy seat, etc.) we will leave with Eli's foster mom. That leaves an empty suitcase to fill with souvenirs!

Wow. I can't believe we are going to meet our son. Are we ready for this??!!!

Do not wait! The time will never be 'just right.'
Start where you stand and work with whatever tools you may have
at your command and better tools will be found as you go along.
-Napoleon Hill

Sunday, June 24, 2007

How much can you fit in a Ziploc bag?

A whole boatload!!

We are so lucky to have the opportunity to send a care package for Eli with another family from our adoption agency traveling to Guatemala for either a visit or to pick up their child. How that works is we send our package to the family and they take it to Guatemala in their luggage. Once they get to Guatemala, they give the package to our agency's in-country coordinator. The coordinator then delivers the package to Eli's foster family the next time she visits. We sent our first care package to Eli a week after we received "the call." It was so fun to get it all together. We are limited in how much we can send with a traveling family so everything we send must fit within a gallon size Ziploc bag. So, the question still much can you fit in a Ziploc bag? Well, my friends, you will be shocked and amazed at how much stuff we crammed into that bag. Here's the list:
  • 6 onesies
  • 3 sleepers
  • 1 pair of soft shoes
  • 1 hat
  • 4 washcloths
  • 2 disposable cameras
  • 1 blanket
  • 3 pairs of socks
  • 1 rattle
  • 2 bottles of Bath & Body Works lotion for our foster mom
  • card for foster mom

What is our secret, you ask? Foodsaver. Yes, it works! We stuffed all the clothes and the blanket in Foodsaver bags and vacuum sealed them. Works wonders!! Granted, we could not get the zip lock bag zipped so we had to wrap it in packing tape! I think we busted 4 or 5 Ziploc bags before getting it right! Hopefully, the package arrived in one piece!

Our Little Pea is growing!

Our Little Pea is seen by the doctor every month for a check-up and any needed vaccines and /or medical treatment. So that means we receive updated measurements every month. We received our first updates last week and Eli is growing! He saw the doctor on 6/5/07. He weighed 8lbs 8oz (gained 2lbs), measured 20.8 inches (grew 1.5"), and his head circumference was 14.4 inches (grew 1").

We should receive updated pictures this week!! We can't wait!! Stay tuned.......

When just starting out on a new journey it's only natural to feel vulnerable. After all, it may seem that you have much to lose. But may I remind you that never again, at any other point in the same journey, will you have so much to gain.
-Mike Dooley (a.k.a. 'The Universe')


We have been asked so many questions about our adoption: Why Guatemala? Where is Eli living right now? When is Eli coming home? Why does it take so long?

So here it goes....

Deciding to adopt required us to ask ourselves some very difficult questions: Should we adopt domestically or internationally? How do we feel about an open vs. closed adoption? Should we consider adopting from foster care? Are we willing to accept a child with medical issues? Are we willing to accept an older child or siblings? Are we willing to accept a child of a different race/ethnicity? Do we have a gender preference? Can we afford adoption?............................

Why Guatemala?
As you can imagine, we really had to explore all of these issues in depth and it was not easy at times. Through much research and soul searching, we ultimately trusted our hearts to lead us in the right direction and we were consistently led back to Guatemala. It's really as simple as that. Even so, there are many factors that also influenced our decision. Guatemalan adoptions are typically quicker than some other countries (though this is not necessarily the case anymore). Most babies live in a foster home during the process (as opposed to an orphanage) so they receive a lot of one-on-one love and care. The foster families are typically not allowed to foster more than 2 babies at a time (besides their own children). We are only required to travel once and that is when the adoption is finalized. When we travel, the typical stay is 3-5 days. At the same time, we have the opportunity to visit Eli as many times as we want during the adoption process. Guatemala also allows adoptive parents to stay in Guatemala and foster their own babies while the adoption is being processed. I also have a personal connection because I studied abroad in Guatemala while in college. My time in Guatemala was transformational and I am just astounded that Guatemala is transforming my life not once, but twice!!

Where is Eli living right now?
So, Eli is currently living with a foster family in Guatemala City. We do not have much information on the foster family other than their names. We do know that Eli has a foster sister born 10 days after him. She is in the process of being adopted by another family with our adoption agency. So, our foster mom has her hands full with two newborns!!

When is Eli coming home?
This is the million dollar question! Our agency tells us that the average time frame from the date of referral is 6-10 months, though most families' time lines seem to be on the longer end of the time frame. We hope that he is home by Christmas, but it is more realistic that he will not be home until February.

Why does it take so long?
Adoptions in general can be very complicated and there are so many factors that influence the process. International adoptions are especially complicated because there are two governments involved, which means two sets of laws, two cultures (at least), two languages, and more. Guatemalan adoptions are especially unique and complicated. There are many steps that need to be satisfied on both the U.S. and Guatemalan sides.

Here's the Cliff Notes version of the Guatemalan adoption process:
  • Dossier: This is all the paperwork we had to complete and send to our agency before we could be added to the waiting list. This portion of the process is "affectionately" (ha!) referred to as The Paperchase. Just to give you an idea of what a huge undertaking it was, the dossier instructions we received from our agency was 40 pages long! It was not an easy task, to say the least!
  • POA: After we accepted the referral of Eli, we had to complete a Power of Attorney appointing our attorney in Guatemala to act on our behalf. He will be completing all of the legal steps for us in Guatemala.
  • DNA Authorization: One unique aspect of Guatemalan adoptions is DNA testing of the birth mother and child. This test confirms that the child placed for adoption is the biological child of the woman placing him for adoption. After reviewing our file, the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala grants authorization for our attorney to schedule the DNA test. This can take 2-8 weeks. We received DNA authorization June 20th!!
  • DNA testing: Our attorney schedules the DNA test to be completed with the birth mother and Eli. The birth mother and Eli must be present together for the test. This is actually a very critical step for 2 reasons: The DNA must match for the adoption to continue and, if the birth mother is going to change her mind, this is usually when it happens. It is very rare for either of these things to happen, but it does happen sometimes. The DNA test can be scheduled fairly quickly or it take a couple of months.
  • Family Court: Once our dossier is translated and certified by the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Guatemala, we are submitted to Family Court. A social worker is then assigned to interview the birth mother and see the foster mother and Eli. The social worker writes a report with a recommendation approving or denying the adoption. The Family Court judge then signs off. Average time line is 6-12 weeks.
  • Pre-Approval: Once we receive DNA results, the U.S. Embassy reviews our case and approves the adoption. The Guatemalan government must have this approval before continuing with the case. Average time line is 6-8 weeks.
  • PGN: Once we have approval from Family Court and the U.S. Embassy, our case is submitted to PGN, which is the equivalent to the U.S. Attorney Generals office. Our case is randomly assigned to a PGN reviewer who verifies that our file fulfills all aspects of Guatemalan law. This is the legal review of all of our documents. More often than not, the reviewer will request corrections to documents and they have complete power to require changes. In rare instances, some cases are approved within 2 weeks, but most cases take 2-3 months.
  • Final Adoption Decree: Once PGN approves our case, the birth mother must sign the final adoption decree. Once she signs, Eli is legally our child. *It is very important to note that the birth mother can change her mind at any time during the process up to this point, though this is very rare.
  • New Birth Certificate: A new birth certificate is issued in our names. Eli's last name will be changed on this birth certificate, but not his first name. We will have make that change when he comes home. This process takes 1-4 weeks.
  • PINK!!: The U.S Embassy reviews our case one final time and issues Eli's visa packet. This is referred to as "pink" because of the color of the cover sheet. This take 2-5 days.
  • Embassy Appointment: Once we receive pink, we are scheduled for our embassy appointment in Guatemala and we travel for our pick-up trip.
  • Home forever!!!

Clear as mud?? As you can see, we have a long road ahead of us!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Call!!!

On May 11, 2007 we received the call that changed our lives forever. After being on the waiting list for 5 weeks and 5 days (but who's counting?!), our baby boy finally came into our lives. What an incredble day!

Our son, Eli Oscar, was born on April 11, 2007 at 9:25am in Guatemala City, Guatemala. At 8 days old, he weighed 6lbs 8oz and was 49cm long.

We received "the call" from our adoption coordinator at 5:30pm. When I saw the caller ID on my cell phone I immediately started crying! I managed to pull myself together enough to answer the phone. Our coordinator asked if I was sitting down and then proceeded to wish me a Happy Mother's Day because our baby boy was here!! Our coordinator e-mailed pictures of our little pea after we hung up. The rest of the evening and weekend was simply a whirlwind of emotions. We just couldn't believe this day had finally arrived!! It was simply awesome!!

The next morning we waited for the fedex truck to arrive with our packet of information. Every time we heard a noise outside, we both rushed to the door in anticipation. Finally, just as were starting to distract ourselves with chores, the truck arrived. Jason grabbed the camera and snapped these great photos. The delivery guy saw Jason take a picture of the truck and as he walked to the door he said "Did you win the national prize?" I told him he was delivering our baby!! He said "Oh wow!! That is awesome!!" I think we made his day!

We witness a miracle every time a child enters into life.
But those who make their journey home across time & miles,
growing within the hearts of those who wait to love them,
are carried on the wings of destiny and placed
among us by the grace of the universe.
--- Kristi Larson

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The beginning

As many of you know, our journey to parenthood has been a long and bumpy ride. Our journey started five years ago when we decided we were "ready" to start a family. Through the last five years we have endured much heartache and shed many tears before realizing that we just couldn't do it anymore. We were mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and physically exhausted. It was time to stop the madness! The moment we decided to walk away from the world of tests, injections, stirrups, and countless disappointments, our lives shifted. Through all of the infertility procedures we endured, I never felt a sense of peace in my heart that we were doing the right thing. In fact, I was constantly plagued with doubt, which weighed heavily on my mind. The moment we decided to move forward with adoption, however, I felt this overwhelming sense of relief and "YES! This is IT!!" That is the moment I knew we were finally on the right path to building our family. What an amazing feeling it was! On December 11, 2006, we mailed our application to Families Thru International Adoption and we haven't looked back since!

I am creating this blog for several reasons. I have kept a journal ever since my parents bought me my first journal at the age of 12. I am generally a very private person and journaling is quite therapeutic for me. This blog is an extension of my personal journey and a positive way to spend the long months ahead as we wait for our baby to come home.

This blog is also for you - our friends and family. We have been overwhelmed by all the love and support we have received. We are very humbled by your open hearts and your support. We are so blessed to have you in our lives and we quickly realized that we cannot do this alone. This blog enables us to keep everyone updated on our process and share this amazing experience with the people who mean the most to us.

I really don't know how this will evolve, but this is just the beginning. I hope that you check back often to see how we are doing! We still have a long road ahead of us and need all the support we can get!