In November 2006 my dad turned 70. Him and my mom, who live in Argentina, were coming to Miami to spend his birthday, Thanksgiving, and to be with us for the birth of my first daughter, Sophie, whom we expected on or around December 1. As a surprise for his birthday, my sister Cecilia and I planned a weekend getaway in Sanibel Island with both our families. My sister and I grew up in Miami and we used to spend our summer vacations in Sanibel Island so we made reservations to spend a weekend there.
It was a very special moment in my life. It was the beginning of a new stage. I was about to meet my daughter, about to become a mother and start our family.
We stopped for lunch at a Cracker Barrel restaurant. It was my first time there and I loved the charming store at the entrance and the relaxed environment. We sat at a large round corner table and ordered sandwiches and salads. When they were done eating, my nephews Benji and Tommy, 6 and 3 years old, installed themselves in the rocking chairs infront of the fireplace and pretended to play chess.
“I love this place,” I said to Jean-Marc. “We have to come back with Sophie.” We finished our meal and spent some time trying out the rocking chairs in the large porch. Benji and Tommy climbed into each one of them and selected their favorites. Very soon Sophie would join them in their games.
Sophie didn’t get to play with the boys. She died of SIDS, 3 days before she turned 4 months. During the very painful months that followed her death, Jean-Marc and I realized that when a child loses his parents, he or she is an orphan, but when you lose your child, there is no name for it. You are lost. We started to think that this sadness, this emptiness that we felt must resemble what an orphan feels, and we knew that one day we would adopt a child.
Zoe was born in December of 2008, way ahead of time. Her due date was April 2009. She weighed 1 pound and a half, and spent 4 and a half months in the NICU. After many surgeries and medical complications, Zoe went home and by the time she turned 3 she had caught up on most of the developmental delays associated with prematurity. By then, adoption became a frequent topic of conversation between Jean-Marc and I.
Making the decision to adopt is only the first step. There are so many options, agencies and sources of information that it is hard to know where to begin. We did our research, spoke to domestic agencies and to adoptive families, and settled on adopting a 2 to 3 year old child internationally. The question now was from where. We emailed several adoption agencies and received colorful glossy brochures and follow up calls by adoption officers. The waiting time in China was 5 years, Thailand was closed, Russia was a very long process. In Latin America, the program in Guatemala was temporarily closed and Colombia had a minimum age for international adoption of 5 years old.
We randomly found out that Chile had international adoption, although there were no certified agencies in the US so you had to work directly with a local lawyer. The process was complex and we had many unanswered questions, but we decided to move forward with the home study, the first step to be approved by the US government to adopt a child.
I Googled “home study for adoption in Florida” and made a list of the 5 first agencies that came up. The second call I made was to an agency called Joshua Tree Adoptions. Hours later I received a call from Jaci, the owner of the agency, who walked me through the process and costs of the home study.
“Would you be interested in considering Ecuador for your adoption?”, she asked.
The process was quick and the minimum age for international adoption was 3 years-old. It was exactly what we were looking for.
That afternoon Jaci emailed us information on the process, costs and timing of adopting from Ecuador. There were no fancy colorful brochures but the word documents included a detailed account of the steps involved in the adoption process, along with the costs for each step – including the cost of living in Ecuador for 4 weeks all the way down to the cost of the taxi from the airport to the city center. I liked that at the bottom of the page with resources for financial help, there was a scripture: “With God, all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
Joshua Tree Adoption is located in Clearwater, 5 hours from our house, and we agreed to meet half way for the first interview for the home study. As we drove into the parking lot of the meeting place, I recognized the Crate and Barrel restaurant where we stopped for lunch five years earlier.
Zoe slept in her stoller while Jaci, Jean-Marc and I ordered coffee and biscuits and started our meeting. I looked towards the large round table in the corner where we had lunch in November 2006. A family of four was having dinner. Two young boys around the age of my nephews at the time played with toy cars on the table.
Jaci is a good listener. She has a warm smile and an understanding attitude. I liked that her and her husband had adopted not one, but five children from Ecuador. Joshua Tree Adoptions is her mission in life, not her job.
It was a very special moment in my life. It was the beginning of a new stage. We were starting the process to expand our family, and sometime soon I would be the mother of another little girl.
After a while Zoe woke up, walked to the rocking chairs in front of the fireplace and pretended to play chess with me. We finished our meeting and spent some time trying out the rocking chairs in the large porch. Zoe climbed into each one of them and selected her favorite. Sometime soon, her little sister would join her in her games.