I remember the day so clearly as if it were only yesterday...
It was a few days after Christmas, the house was chilly despite the heater kicking off and on through out the morning. The kids and I were sitting on on the couch snuggled up in blankets, doing a devotional, when the phone ring. As I had done for the past 2 years my mind quickly sent up a silent prayer "Please Lord let it be our adoption agency with a referral." After 2 long years, our prayers were answered. On the other end of the phone was our adoption caseworker announcing "we have a baby girl!"
Thirty minutes later, after the cheers settled down, we received an email of what we thought was the most beautiful baby girl in this entire world...
And 6 long months later the day finally came when our dream came true... the baby girl we had prayed for, dreamed of, and loved before she even existed, was placed in our arms in the comfort of a hotel room in Guatemala.
The miracle of adoption...
there is simply nothing more beautiful in my book.
And yet, as with any adoption story, there is another side that we often choose to ignore. The side that goes unnoticed on our adoption announcements, the side that the photo of the proud parents holding their child for the first time doesn't show. The side we'd just as soon forget ever existed...
The empty arms of another.
For the past 8 years, from time to time, I would allow my mind to go there... I would wonder if she was okay, what she was like... did she have her eyes, did they share the same laugh?
And I wondered, if she too, wondered the same...
About a month ago I came to the decision that I needed to know the answer to these questions if at all possible. While I didn't and still don't feel that Aleigha is old enough to handle meeting her birth family, I also didn't want her to one day say to me- "we were right there serving the people in Guatemala and you didn't even try to see if they were okay?" And so, with the help of two friends- the search began.
It didn't take long actually... we had the general area from her adoption paperwork and so Felis and I simply drove my Guatemalan friend (who speaks the native language Cakchiquel and Spanish) to that area and we started asking if anyone knew of her. We were careful not to let them know why we were asking out of respect of her privacy. We also didn't know if she would even want to hear from us and we certainly didn't want to cause her any harm.
After about the 12th stop we landed at the home/store of her brother-in-law..
There we were told that she no longer lived in the area, that she and her children and husband worked in the fields somewhere near the coast- but that sometimes they came back to visit. And so, with little hope, we left them a phone number, knowing we had at least tried.
Two days ago my Guatemalan friend called and told me that he had just received a phone call from her because her brother-in-law told her a Guatemalan man and two gringo's had come by looking for her. (so much for trying to be nonchalant). Apparently it is rare for Americans to visit their area in the mountains. :) Anyway, after a short conversation she was thrilled to hear it was us and agreed to meet with us. We warned her that Aleigha would not be with us, and while she was of course disappointed, she understood and we promised her we would bring pictures.
I have to admit I was pretty nervous. So many thoughts and emotions kept going through my head- I can only imagine how she felt. We sat in the car waiting and waiting, ready to give up when all of a sudden I looked up and saw a family standing near the side of the street and our eyes met. There was something about her- something so familiar. Then suddenly I felt myself needing to look away because the look of saddness I saw in her eyes pierced through me like a sword. Eyes that told a story of a loss deeper than any I could ever imagine. This woman, who had given me one of the most precious gifts I have ever been given, stood before me now, dirty, unkept, and yet beautiful all at the same time. A woman to whom I owed- more than I would ever be able to repay.
The first few minutes of our meeting felt somewhat awkward... neither of us knowing where to begin or how to break through the barriers of culture, language, and lifestyles that stood between us. We exchanged a quick hug and were then hustled into a small, Guatemalan restaurant that held 2 picnic type tables. Not knowing what to say or what to do- I thrust 5 pictures of Aleigha towards her that I had held in the grip of my hand. As she and her family poured over the pictures I began to search their faces... I saw traces of my daughter... her nose, his eyes, her silky straight hair, his hands. Something I knew Aleigha and I would never share, no matter how much she was now 'my daughter'. And in an instant, just like that, my love for this family became fierce. A part of them, was a part of me- and I felt a sense of protectiveness I didn't expect to feel.
As the moments passed we both seemed to begin to relax. Questions that both of us had carried for years were asked- and answered. One thing that is important to me that you know is- quite often people somehow believe that a child placed for adoption is 'unwanted'. While I know that every story is different I also believe that often that is the farthest thing from the truth. Aleigha was placed for adoption for one reason and one reason only- poverty.
And her precious birth family still faces this same struggled 8 long years later.
Aleigha was born just a year after her brother. There was simply not enough food. And, not enough food equals not enough breast milk for a mother to feed two children. My heart breaks just thinking about it.
I will never understand, as long as I live, why one of my greatest blessings had to come in the form of someone elses greatest loss. But what I do know is that God understands- first hand-about the loss of a child. His one and only. And I trust that He and only He can bring about complete healing to this family.
And I also know He has us here now, for this very reason... to teach others the way to receive that healing and to bring hope to those who have so little.
Along with the pictures of Aleigha I gave to her birth family, I gave them the one thing I know that is more valuable than anything else in this world- a Bible.
And my biggest prayer is that through it they find the answers to eternal hope and salvation... and if they and the Lord allow it, I am more than willing to walk by their side through it.