We were an American man by way of Poland and Denmark, and an American woman born of Eastern European Jews (and one Italian) with their American daughter of Mayan ancestry. We were in a beautiful restaurant courtyard in Antigua, crying and hugging our family who traveled 5 hours on rough road from the remote hills of Guatemala.
What crazy twist of fate, what wrinkle in the Universe could have caused such unusual circumstances? Welcome to Thanksgiving 2016 and our adoption miracle.
Today was all about Julia’s birth mother Marina Alvarez Perez. The moment she and Julia saw each other, they fell into one another’s arms.
The tears flowed but as they pulled back to lock eyes, I saw that Julia was smiling through her tears and comforting Marina. Julia was the strong one. I have never been so proud of my daughter. She handled this delicate situation with poise and compassion and maturity.
Julia has two big sisters, Marcy and Maria Beatriz. The girls grew up well aware of their American sister, and they would wait for pictures of her. Their love for Julia was obvious today. And Julia was happy that finally – finally! – she is taller than someone in her family!!
When Julia was born, Marina named her Heyde. That’s “Heidi” in Spanish. Heyde is an unusual name in the US, so we chose to change her name to Julia Faith. Today we learned that Marcy named her first child Heyde after her sister “Julia”.
It was so sweet seeing Julia with her nieces and nephews. Truth to tell, Julia isn’t really a “kid person” (unlike her mother who wants to hold every baby she sees!) But sassy little Dorcas (Maria Beatriz’ daughter) wouldn’t let any of us hold her except “Tia Julia.”
We were able to communicate through an interpreter. I shared Julia’s baby book with the family, and this was how I could show Marina that Julia always knew about her birth mother. Marina was part of Julia’s origin story, even before Julia was old enough to understand. This came as a great comfort to Marina. She told us again and again how important it was to her that Julia never felt abandoned. Today she was able to tell Julia that she loved her even as she was forced by crushing poverty to give up her newborn baby to an unknown American family.
And Gregory? He made himself useful talking to the guys, including Marina’s husband (not Julia’s father) and Marcy’s husband. He was able to find out more about the family’s living conditions, their health and how we might be able to help. (My husband is awesome.)
As for me, I was finally able to say “thank you” to the woman who gave me my reason to live. In fact, I couldn’t seem to stop thanking her. And Marina must have said “thank you” to us 100 times for bringing Julia back to Guatemala and for taking good care of her and for our support over the years. It was a recurring loop of gratitude! Our words could never seem to express what was in our hearts.
I do believe the day brought a degree of closure for Marina. But the truth is, no woman wants to give up her baby and I suspect Marina will always carry an ache in her heart.
After lunch, it was time to say goodbye. The four hours we had together flew by. Goodbyes were emotional. To be sure, the whole day was emotional for all of us. But the tears were different this time. There was gratitude. There was family. There was love.