I am a Guatemalan adoptee. I was born in Guatemala. I do not remember much about my adoption, and I have lived most of my life in the United States. I do know that, a few hours after I was born, I was placed into foster care, where I would spend the first five months of my life until I was adopted. I only saw my birth mother once more before I was adopted, and that was so a DNA test could be performed.
I had a happy and healthy childhood. I grew up in a single parent home, and I have another sibling who is also adopted from Guatemala (we have different birth mothers). As a child, I cannot recall a time where I was bothered by the fact that I was adopted. I believe that my mom always spoke about my birth mom in a respectful manner, and had explained to me that I was adopted because my birth mother loved me, but could not care for me at that time in her life, and wanted me to have a life full of many opportunities and privileges. Although such an explanation may not have had as much meaning to me as a child, I realize that now it does, and is one of the reasons why I decided to search for my birth mother.
When I was 14 years old, I ended up finding my adoption documents. I learned a lot from the documents, including my birth mother’s name, date of birth, a brief summary of her life, and the reasons why she decided to place me for adoption. Later on I found the DNA test summary, which included a photo of my birth mother holding me when I was about three months old. I was happy to have that information about my birth mother, but I didn’t know how to feel. She was a complete stranger to me.
Around this time last year my mom gave me information about an organization that conducts birth mother searches for Guatemalan adoptees. I was interested, but I was studying for my final exams and decided that after the school year was over, I would start the search process. The school year ended, but I was still busy, as I ended up doing a lot of traveling last summer. One of my trips was a service trip with other teens to Guatemala. This was the first time that I had traveled back to Guatemala since boarding a plane in April of 2000 to go “home,” and I cried when the plane landed. This trip had a huge impact on me, because for the first time I was truly exposed to my culture and people. At the same time, things that I had been told all my life by family members (such as [If I would have stayed in Guatemala,] “you wouldn’t be able to read or write, you wouldn’t have gone to school, your life would be caring for children and cooking and cleaning”) were disproven, and I learned that, although this is the case for some children, it’s not always true. Some Guatemalans may live in poverty, but they are rich in character and spirit.
Toward the end of last year, I started the search for my birth mother, and she was able to be located. When I received the news that they had found her, I was excited and numb and in a daze, but a few weeks later, I started to feel strong and powerful emotions characteristic of grief and mourning. I had no idea that I could love and care about someone so much who I had no conscious memories of.
In January, I ended up reconnecting via social media with many members of my birth family, including my birth mother, and this enabled me to start communicating directly with everyone. Although I am glad to know my family members, I feel very much like an outsider, and have struggled with my identity. I have lost my heritage and customs that my birth family still maintains. I am learning Spanish, but I am only semi-fluent, and this language barrier has led to miscommunications and makes speaking to my birth mother hard and awkward at times.
Overall, I believe that reconnecting with my birth mother and family has had a profound impact on me. It has tested existing relationships; it has created drama and tension; and it has created a rollercoaster of emotions. It has unearthed heartbreaking details, such as the fact that my birth mother tried to get me back, that she prayed to God for forgiveness, and that He would return her daughter one day. However, I have also tried to educate myself on adoptions, and I have done research so that I can try to understand the three points of views that make up the adoption triad. While I am not opposed to adoptions, I think that open adoptions are very important, and I think it is important for adoptees to know that their feelings are normal and should be acknowledged.
I hope to meet my birth mother soon, but that is not the end of my adoption journey. For now, I call her once a week so that we can chat and so that she can help me practice my Spanish. Our phone calls allow us to get to know each other, and I am extremely grateful for them. She addresses me as “mi hija/mija/mijita”, which means “my daughter” in Spanish, and while it may seem like a no-brainer for her to call me this, it is very meaningful to me.
My story is personal, exciting, painful, and new. While it is extraordinary and unique to me, many other adoptees also have a story, just as everyone in this world - regardless of where they come from. No two stories are the same.