What’s a Guatfest and how did I end up at one?

Florida Guatfest 2010!

It’s a long story. Three, four, maybe five,  probably when I was approaching 40 I started seriously thinking about having a family, and time was moving on. I was married when I was 30 and widowed the same year. I’d gone on a few dates since then, but nothing serious. My cousin adopted from China (3 times) and every time she came back she told me that there were alot of single women there adopting children!  But how could I do it? Thank God for the internet. I browsed adoption websites and fantasized about having a baby. I looked at waiting children lists in the US through the foster care system and tried to imagine myself with an instant family. How could I do it though? I was living in a one bedroom beach house, working from home.  How would I tell my family? Would they support me? How would I take care of this child when I had to work? What if I lost my job? Maybe I should just have a biological baby? Ok, maybe alot of this stuff can wait for when I write my first book, the story is ALOT longer than I thought.

I joined a group online called Single Mothers by Choice (SMC). I read about it on and off for a few years. I was in the “thinking” group, discussing the benefits of adoption, artificial insemination, making a decision, how to tell your family, friends, employer. Then September 11th happened. I got distracted. I got a dog. I moved to Florida part-time. I bought a condo there and became a snowbird at the ripe old age of 38.  A few years passed, I sold my condo and bought a 3 bedroom townhouse in Florida, I sold my New York house and bought another beach house that I shared with my sister and her family for the summer.

For Mother’s day one year my Mom and I brought my dog Belle the dog beach and I told her I was thinking about getting another one. “Why don’t you just have a baby?” she asked me.

Whaaaaat???? We had never discussed this before. I think this is the moment you could call the tipping point. So I started researching in earnest. Have a biological baby? I thought about that for about 2 weeks and decided I just didn’t want to do it by myself. I felt like I could love any child in the same way, and that adoption was the route for me. 

I did alot more research on the internet and joined several other web groups- Adoption Agency Research, Waiting parents of children from China, adoption forums, and questioned other single Moms on the SMC boards in the adoption group. In September 2006 I filled out an application with an agency for an adoption from Guatemala.

Then began the paperwork. It was quite a bit of work to put it all together. Every piece of documentation required had to be notarized and authenticated by the State that the notary was valid , and then a seal from the Guatemalan Embassy that served that state had to be attached. I had documents traveling back and forth from New york, Florida and even Italy. I had to get a copy of my husband’s death certificate and our marriage certificate sent to me and then I shipped it all to the Guatemalan Embassy in Rome, paid for their seal via Western Union, and then have the whole thing translated into English, notarized, and authenticated again here. By the time I received the form I needed from USCIS (Immigration!), it was March.

I let my agency (FTIA- Families Thru international Adoption) caseworker know on Friday afternoon that I had received the final form. My intention had been to be put on the waitlist to adopt a girl. I felt that being a single mom I would be better suited to raising a girl- after all , I was one! I knew all about girl stuff. I had a girl’s name picked out. She advised me that the waitlist for a girl was about 8-12 weeks, and that there were boys waiting to be referred.  Boys waiting? This threw me for a loop. By the time Monday morning came I was listed as “either or”. And on Wednesday afternoon I became a Mom to a 5 week old baby boy. Just like that. She emailed some pictures over to me, gave me some background and medical information about the baby and the birthmother, and gave me a new list of paperwork to get together.  Carlitos at pickup trip

 I remember walking the dog that afternoon, feeling like a crazy person, before I called and told anyone in my family, thinking, here I am, I’m a Mom, and nobody knows.  

Over the next months while I waited for DNA results, social workers, judges and lawyers to do their thing, I thank God I had the internet, and all of the adoption groups I belonged to. Updates on the status of adoptions in Guatemala. Groups of other parents waiting to pick up their children organized by my agency, lists of things to bring for visits or pick up trips, suggestions on lists for single parents, parents of children adopted from Guatemala, international adoptive parents from Florida, attachment issues once home, etc.

 Each month I received an updated set of pictures, height and weight, medical information, etc. I sent packages to Guatemala, and the foster mother would occasionally email me. I celebrated every milestone with a group of people who could understand it- we got approved by family court, the DNA is a match, we’re in PGN, KO’d 2x. I got to know the lingo.

I became friends with the future Mom of a little girl also being taken care of by Charlie’s foster mother at the same time he was there. His foster sister. She’s also a single Mom, and I hope someday we can meet them in person. I followed the stories of some adoptive parents whose process was delayed- by the courts, changes in the adoption laws in Guatemala later, birthmothers not showing up for DNA tests, etc.

If you’re not involved in it, you would be amazed to know the community that is out there. So I had one parent who I was Facebook friends with who “liked” a new group called Florida Guatfest and suggested I like it too. Why not? Part of my role as a parent to an internationally adopted child is to help him understand his birth country and culture, and to help him be comfortable with who he is, as a part of our family.

So this is a group of families who have all adopted or are in the process of adopting children from Guatemala.  They were organizing an event at the Nickelodeon hotel in Orlando, just 90 minutes from our house.  I thought about it, and decided I’d better just go, even thought I didn’t know anyone that would be there. Another single mom posted that she’d be open to sharing a room (they’re all suites), so I contacted her and we set it up.

On the way there in the car I was thinking, oy vey, what have I gotten myself into now? Well, at least I had Carlitos with me, we’d enjoy Spongebob together no matter what. It turned out to be awesome! We met some really nice families, some that live pretty close to us in Sarasota.  One family was actually leaving to pick up their son up the following day- he was referred to them on the day that Carlitos was born, and due to an unbelievable amount of snags in his process, just came home last week. Can you imagine? I just cried thinking of all the time I’ve had with my son and how they must be feeling. Adoptions from Guatemala are currently closed due to the changes in the process and the ratification of the Hague Convention, besides those that were already in process back in the beginning of 2008. The Florida Guatfest group is sponsoring a child in Guatemala through a fundraiser/raffle held at the event.

Carlitos had a great time hanging out with his new friend we shared a room with, who is just a year older than him. It was really nice to meet so many people in person who had families that look like ours. I’m going to work on incorporating more of the Guatemalan culture into our lives, and I’m looking forward to developing friendships that will last for many years. It will be nice to have some people to ask advice of as things come up. If anyone is reading that I met at Guatfest, welcome to my blog! I call Charlie “Carlitos” here, you can go back and see one of my early posts and see why of you’re interested. I occasionally forget to do it though.

I’m sorry for the length of time between posts,  I’m working on getting better!



About debratap

Mom, artist, analyst- taking some time to figure it all out!
This entry was posted in Adoption, Family, Friends, Living it up!, Parenting and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to What’s a Guatfest and how did I end up at one?

  1. christina says:

    Ms Deb your journey to carlitos is amazing. I’m glad that you did not second think yourself and pull out – carlitos is wonderful with a loving family group and your’e a great Mom!

  2. katie says:

    it’s great you took “Carlitos” to this event – good for you and him to meet other families like your own. Since you like to cook that is an easy way to start incorporating the culture into your lives.

  3. Christine says:

    I love this! How great to get to meet so many families and make so many new connections. The pictures are terrific, so glad you had such a great experience.

  4. Mom says:

    Loved being part of your very rewarding experience and very happy to have Charlie in our family.

  5. Ana's Rescue says:

    Deb, great post! I am so glad you posted it on the Group’s page. If I ever open a blog oe webpage for the group, can I “link” you?

  6. Jeanine says:

    What a wonderful story!

  7. rebecca says:

    Each time I read this I get something else out of it! I feel very privileged to know you. Your writing is stellar. You are such a cool mom. And I can’t wait for the day that Carlitos knows all of this, understands it in his core and vocalizes it to you! This is all the beginning of your book…I can just feel it when I read your posts. There is a man in my networking group who helps people get published. GO FOR IT. I will be one of your biggest fans! Hugs, rb

  8. Noreen Dengler says:

    I save your blogs until I have a good amount of “me” time to read. WOmderful as always. What a courageous thing you did. And how wonderful life is. Being a mom is a blessing, and you are a wonderful one. I’m glad to call you my friend. Love you! Noreen

  9. Pingback: If I talked to you on the phone tonight, here’s what i’d tell ya! | Living it up!

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