By Kelly Pramberger
“Adoption is complicated, but it is also rich with narratives of strength.”
My husband Derek and I made three trips to Guatemala during our journey to become a family. Our first one was to visit back in 2008 when Luis was six months old.
We decided to arrive in Guatemala a couple of days before Luis’s foster family would bring him to us at the hotel. He and I hired a driver to take us to tour the old capital city of Antigua, the famous handicrafts market in ChiChi, and even traveled to Lake Atitlán.
We desired to get to know, see, smell, and taste everything about the spot where our son was born so we could teach him about his birth country as he grew up.
That week with Luis in our hotel room, parenting for the first time, was magical. We played with toys and read stacks of board books repeatedly. We took him with us to eat at the hotel’s restaurants. I relished being a mom.
Leaving Luis in Guatemala was heartbreaking. The days and weeks that followed were depressing. I needed updates and hoped for new photos of Luis. I was hopelessly impatient.
However, as hard as it was for me to leave Luis, I was beginning to understand that this was all part of the Guatemala adoption process during 2008 – a process known to take one to two years to get through all of the adoption bureaucracy and legal requirements.
Frequent trips would not be a reality as our adoption agency didn’t see this as a good fit psychologically. But, when Luis was still not home with us at a year old, we made another trip to visit him. Second trips were prohibited because our adoption support agency thought it disrupted the children. However, my husband – god bless him – begged and pleaded with our social worker that we could go to Guatemala to be with Luis shortly after he turned one. We celebrated his birthday with swimming and cake and gifts. We also received notice via a call to the hotel from our social worker back in Connecticut at the time that we had passed a significant milestone:
Rosa Maria is trying to contact you about the news that the government agency named PGN approved your adoption case! Congratulations, and how wonderful you are being with your little guy to celebrate! Edna will fill you in on what will occur over the next couple of months, and she will send you a checklist of paperwork to prepare. Enjoy the day!
One thing I found myself praying for while going through our adoption process was to find someone my age who would understand the ups and downs of waiting, wishing, and surviving the countdown to our child being at home with us. It was challenging to handle infertility at times, to feel alone among my peers that were getting pregnant, going to baby showers, and family members that bombarded me with invasive questions about the adoption. I’d cling to my computer, hoping for an email with news and comparing our timeline to every other one discussed in online chat rooms about adoptions from Guatemala.
Everyone wanted updates on when Luis would be home with us. What could be taking so long? It made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough to get him to the US. It was out of our hands, but the constant defense I thought I had to put up was a lot. I couldn’t concentrate. Shortly after that birthday visit trip, when it seemed like he would be with us soon, I quit my job. I didn’t tell my husband that I was doing it. I just gave my notice. My rationalization was that we planned to have me become a stay-at-home mom anyway. My mental health was suffering, and I was hyper-focused on having the child I had fallen in love with and how he was still in Guatemala.
God sent that friend to me. I genuinely believe it. A woman from our required adoption parenting class had connected with another woman who lived near me and shared her email, I reached out, and we decided to meet for coffee. Looking back at our email chain, seeing such hope for connection is wild. I call her my Angel Friend, a gift from above.
Hi Kelly, I got your email address from Diane. She told me that she passed mine on to you as well. We live close to one another. I am in the process of adopting a little girl who turns one on April 2. We started the adoption a year ago. I never imagined it would take this long. Thanks to Central Authority, we are still in PGN. This week we marked our 7th month of PGN. How about you? I would love to chat with you, so email me. Having people to talk to that understand helps me get through this incredibly long process and all the waiting that goes on!
I look forward to hearing from you. Tina
We became close quickly because of our interests, hobbies, similar physical appearance, and age. I was praying for someone precisely like Tina. I encountered so many older women that I could chat with, but I didn’t have the connection of someone my age being unable to have a child.
Tina and I discovered that our children were two months apart. We even found that she and her husband would be traveling to Guatemala to bring their daughter home at the same time as our first birthday trip to see Luis. We thought it was fortunate that we’d be in the country simultaneously! They helped us celebrate Luis’ first birthday, and we got to witness their pick-up trip experience. Luis and Ava played together, and we swam and had family meals with each other. We’re still close and very much connected with them today.
Fifteen years of friendship has included planning and participating in the ceremony for Ava’s Quinceanera last year. I am Godmother to their younger son and was present in the courthouse when he joined their family through foster care adoption, ultimately giving me the courage to try that out. We even have sister puppies!
I often think of how much richer my life is with Tina. We joke that she’s the female version of my husband! Her strong faith has inspired me at some of the lowest points in my adult life. She’s always there when I need a friend. We’ve battled adoption injustices and celebrated life’s big moments together. I believe our daily texts, annual birthday trips, and all the Monday and Friday playdates we shared when the kids were younger helped our friendship blossom.
Please prioritize yourself during the wait for your child. Find a close friend, a support group, and research resources to help you cope. Connect with them while building your family.
Kelly Pramberger lives according to what brings her joy and inspires others to do the same. Most days, you can find her entertaining her family’s Goldendoodles while sipping coffee and reading and writing from home in Western Massachusetts.
Join Kelly on Instagram (@coffeeuntil).