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When Vivian was referred to us in November of 2007, my husband, Craig, our 2 ½ year old son, Mark, and I moved ourselves down to Guatemala to be with her. After adopting Mark in 2005 (he came home at 5 months old), we were determined that if we adopted again, we would be there to love and bond with our child from the beginning. When we came to pick her up from the Hogar, I could not believe how tiny she was. She was 2 months old and weighed 5 pounds. We later found out that she was born 2 months pre-maturely and weighed only 3 pounds when she was born. My heart felt for her like a huge opening velvety rose that just wanted to wrap around her with love, security and nourishment. I put her on my chest and, seriously, barely put her down for the next 7 months. We made a huge bed that the 4 of us slept in together at night and spent our days playing, walking, cooking and visiting with friends. The three of us doted on Vivian and enjoyed watching her grow from a tiny, sickly infant to a robust and rather chunky, spirited and happy baby. Life was great. Seven months had past and we felt close to finishing the adoption when we were told there was one last hurdle to go through- the government was now requiring an interview with the birthmother to determine that she did indeed wish to relinquish her baby. We knew Vivian’s birthmother and knew this interview would be easy. We were excited at the prospect that the case would be finalized shortly after that.
The interview came and Vivian’s birthmother traveled the 12 long hours by bus to appear at the Attorney General’s office in Guatemala City. The interview lasted 4 hours. She was made to hold Vivian the whole time without food or fresh diapers for her. After two hours, the attorneys were told to leave and she was left alone with no representation and no translator (she does not speak Spanish). As we later found happened to many birthmothers, she was pressured (by a cleaning women working there who spoke her language) to say she wanted to take Vivian back. When she adamantly said she did not want to, they told her that she must have been offered money for her child. In the end, they took Vivian and remanded her to a Catholic Children’s Home in Guatemala City. She was placed under “protective custody” and not allowed visitors, even us, her only family. For the first week, I traveled everyday from Antigua to Guatemala City to beg the nuns to see her only for a minute, to make sure she was okay. They had to refuse as they were now under court order. The story is endless about how we spent the next 4 months meeting, writing, and petitioning to free her or at least see her. I spent every single day hard at it- the Guatemalan courts, the District Attorney, the Attorney General. I interviewed 5 lawyers looking for someone that could help us. I finally hired a legal team that eventually encouraged me to come back to the States- it was going to be a long battle.
Our case was with the District Attorney for over a year. After interviewing the family of the birthmother (trying to get them to take Vivian), the hospitals in which she was born, the delivering doctor, the pediatrician and the anesthesiologist, all charges were dropped. Over the last three years, the birthmother has had to make her long journey to Guatemala City 15 times to testify that she wishes to have Vivian adopted by us.
Vivian’s birthmother later had another baby for whom she could not care for either. With adoption now an unavailable choice, the baby stayed with her and died of malnutrition.
Unfortunately, Vivian is not alone. There are over 400 children caught in her same situation. For two years, these children, including my little Vivian, have not known the love of a family. For two years I have only held Vivian in my heart, never in my arms…
I am sad, I am mad and my love for Vivian has transformed from a sweet, velvety, enveloping rose to the fiery, drum-pounding heart of a mother lion that will not stop until her baby is safely with her again. And to the U.S. government, UNICEF and others who supported the closure of adoption, I simply ask – Vivian does no have her family of birth nor her adoptive family, how does that serve “the best interest” of Vivian?
Be The Answer for Vivian by visiting the Guatemala900 website and signing up to receive updates on the children waiting in Guatemala and what you can do to help.