Guatemala Part 3: Family

Anyone who has read my book, Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir, or anything else I’ve written, knows that I am an advocate for open adoption whenever possible. I believe that inside every person, at a very basic and profound level, is a need to know who they are and where they come from. And by that, I mean who they are biologically, who they are in their DNA. A person needs to know who shares her blood.

That need, in my opinion, in no way undermines my role as an adoptive mother. Rather, it acknowledges a life–and a biology–that existed before me.

That’s one reason why I am here with Olivia in Guatemala, so she can visit with her birth family. Are our visits straightforward and uncomplicated? Honestly, they aren’t, for any of us. Not only do we grapple with the complexity of adoption, but we also face the challenges of two vastly different cultures and lifestyles. Speaking elementary Spanish and no K’iche is the least of it.

Despite the challenges, though, these visits with family are the most important days of our year. I believe I can speak for everyone involved when I say we feel healing, and unity, and love. When we started Olivia’s adoption in 2002, never did I dream that nine years later, we would walk down the calle of Panajachel with her birth brother and sister, or drink Coca-Cola in the mercado and shop for hair barrettes and blue jeans. Nor did I imagine kneeling beside her birth mother and Abuela in church, offering prayers in each of our languages. But that’s the reality of our family. That is who we are, now and forever.

For anyone who has been to Guatemala, or hopes to visit, below are a few scenes from Panajachel. My enormous fruit cup at Hotel Kakchiquel, the  vendors, the bus to Solola, the church steps. This is a beautiful country. We feel lucky to be here.

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9 Responses to “Guatemala Part 3: Family”

  1. Marcia says:

    I read this with a huge smile on my face!! Family is what it’s all about. As I’ve always told people who asked why we have such open adoptions, you can never have too many people who love you!!
    Enjoy the rest of your trip! Can’t wait to be there myself in 11 weeks!
    Marcia

  2. Lynn says:

    If you would, tell the lake that I’m coming back someday! I will be forever grateful to be tagging along with you and Olivia through your stories. Love to you, your famly, and Olivia’s family.

  3. Marianne Lonsdale says:

    I am so enjoying hearing about your trip and the pictures are an added bonus. Miss you.

  4. Dilyara says:

    OMG! So beautiful, so touching. Now I so want to visit Guatemala. Thank for journaling your travels.

    I used to think parents who opt for an open adoption are brave ones. Now I think that it’s the only way as well. I see the desire to know where one is from, what was there in the beginning, why on earth someone would give you away… Although I can imagine how not easy and maybe outright awkward those visits might be (hello even my mother’s visits from MY country are often awkward :) I think in the long haul it is one of the best gifts you are giving to your children.

  5. Jessica says:

    Marcia: YES! And I wish you buen viaje when you come in a few weeks. The weather is gorgeous and no crowds. Although sounds like you’ll be here for Semana Santa? Lucky! Enjoy!

    Thank you, Lynn. Remembering our wonderful time together by Lake Atitlan. Am sending besitos from you!

    Marianne: Miss you, too! Looking forward to reconnecting with the Writing Mamas when we return. Thanks for reading and follow our adventures.

    Dilyara: You would love Guatemala. A beautiful place. Every family is different, but for us, open adoption works. (Not always possible, of course, either. From many countries, and in many situations.) From my observation, the need to know who you are is deep and profound. Funny about your mom’s visits–you understand the cross-cultural element very well!

  6. Kathryn says:

    This is so beautiful. I too feel the same way about my children’s birth families..like they are extended family to ours. I have a love in my heart for them but we haven’t been able to connect on the level that you have wh/ is so special. I hope to one day. Your stories give me encouragement for our future. What a wonderful gift you are giving your children. Thanks for sharing. Kathy

  7. lauralynne says:

    love this! and as you know, i’m a huge advocate of openness in adoption. it’s just so inhumane the other way. adoption is family and family is love and there is enough for everyone! good for you!!

  8. Jessica says:

    your relationship with birth family continues to inspire me and all who know you, <L2. indeed, adoption is family and family is love. and there´s enough for everyone. xoxo

  9. Jessica says:

    Kathy: Isn’t it true–the circle just gets wider. Every family is unique and comes to things in its own way–when the time/circumstance is right, you’ll find a connection. So far, this arrangement has been positive for our children. Thanks so much for reading and commenting.

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