After the visit

What I want to talk about is what it feels like for me after I visit birth family in Guatemala.  Not what it feels like for anyone else, because I’m not qualified to speak to that, but what it feels like for me.

And I don’t mean to imply that making contact with Olivia’s birth family is not the greatest thing I have done in my life. Because, really, it is. If I do nothing else in my life, I’ve done that. For my daughter, for her birth mother, for the rest of her biological family. And it feels huge.

But there is a sadness attached to it. The sadness of life’s realities. That circumstances are hard, that life is not fair. That situations are unstable. That some have so much while others have so little. Relationships end. People get sick. Wars happen, and people are killed. Illnesses wipe out entire families. Nine children are born, but only three survive.

When we go to Guatemala, when we insert ourselves into families’ lives, we change their perception of the world. We represent “elsewhere.” Another possibility. Someplace they’ve heard about, maybe from the man in another family who left and never came back. Who sent money for a while, then stopped sending it. Or the mother who sends it, but is still gone.

This is neither a good thing, nor a bad thing. Either way, it’s not simple. There is love, there is loss. There is longing. We each have something the other doesn’t.

We have changed the lives of Olivia’s birth family, as they have changed ours. I’m grateful and humbled.

Every visit brings back the emotions I felt the first time I held Olivia. Simply being in Guatemala triggers many memories of her adoption–good and bad. It takes a while to process the experience. Today, I give myself permission to be quiet and just feel.

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10 Responses to “After the visit”

  1. Lorrie says:

    You capture–and hold–all the complex feelings so beautifully. Thanks for sharing your amazing trip. I love that you are giving yourself “permission to be quiet and just feel.”

  2. Jessica says:

    Complex in ways I could never anticipate–aside from the usual “expected” complexities. Quiet not my usual state at home ;-) but all I can manage right now. Thanks for reading, Lorrie.

  3. lauralynne says:

    wow. powerful and real. adoption changes us on so many levels. thank you for sharing this.

  4. Jessica says:

    lauralynne: us and others, too. everyone involved, really. in unexpected ways. thanks for understanding.

  5. I loved your book, and hope that some day I can write one equally as good, with my Guatemalan story. I am founder of a charity that builds rural primary schools in the mountains of Guatemala – Feb. 8th we celebrated the opening of our 29th!
    I was never blessed with children of my own, but have “adopted” 1000s of them as a result of my humanitarian work, and many trips to Guatemala. Living both in Naples, FL and Antigua, Guatemala with regular visits to Huehuetenango, Totonicopan, Nebaj, the Lake – of course, Patzun, etc., I see contrasts beyond explanation. You just have to exerience it. I hope that you will visit our website and watch the short video on why “Miracles” exists. Give me a call some time, so we can chat. I will be in Toto next week. Penny

  6. Jessica says:

    Penny, your work is amazing. What a video. I feel as if I’m staggering backwards, reeling from the power of those images.

    I hope that you do write a book someday, about how you and your mother turned your concerns into action. Your commitment is beyond impressive. Maybe the next time I’m in Guatemala I can tag along with you to see your work first-hand. Thanks for reading my book and blog. Jessica

  7. anjie says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughtful perspective yet again.

    Love, Anjie

  8. Jessica says:

    Am grateful to you for reading and caring, Anj.
    xoxo Jess

  9. CindyC says:

    Jessica – I just finished reading a signed copy of “Mamalita” lent to me by a friend named Jill. I have a daughter adopted from Guatemala. I am just exhilarated and emotionally exhausted after reading your story. You have put into words so beautifully the joy, apprehension, love of our children through adoption I feel as though you took the words directly from my heart. Your story is a connection for me to this emotionally charged life experience, and I am blessed at having found your book in my hands.

  10. Jessica says:

    I’m so happy my book found its way to you, Cindy. “Exhilarated and emotionally exhausted”–yes, that sums up the stories of so many of us! Like you, I find it very helpful to connect with others who have gone through a similar experience. We understand. Thanks so much for writing to let me know your reaction.

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