“At the age of 19, I learned of an opportunity to volunteer in Quito, Ecuador. I spent 3 months there in numerous orphanages, helping with the sweetest little children and babies. I went down with a group of 12 other volunteers, who were all strangers to each other. Our very first night there was New Year’s Eve 2005. The director of the program asked for a volunteer to go spend the night at a local children’s hospital with one of the babies who had special needs and was chronically ill. She had spent most of her first year in and out of that hospital. No hands were raised to volunteer to go be with her. After all, who would want to volunteer to do that instead of spending the night at a New Year’s Eve party, having fun, and getting to know the rest of the volunteers?
After no one volunteered, the director looked around, pointed at me, and said, ‘I’m going to send you.’
Soon, I found myself at the bedside of this little girl in the old, run-down hospital. She was in a room with three other babies, each of whom had a mom sitting at their bedside. I immediately felt scared, alone, and quite honestly, very upset I was the one chosen. I didn’t fit in, I didn’t speak the language, and I felt completely unprepared to care for the needs of this child I had never met. Why was I here instead of out at the party? Why was I the unlucky one to be chosen?
I arrived to find a tiny little bundle wrapped in a pink blanket. She had a tuft of unruly black hair. She looked much smaller than her almost one year, but instead looked the size of an average 3 or 4-month-old. She sat silently in her crib because was used to being all alone. I sat begrudgingly at the bedside of this little girl for hours on end. I barely looked at her, but instead stared out the window or counted the cockroaches that ran across the floor. After some hours had passed, the little girl began to softly cry. I watched her for a time and then reluctantly picked her up and rocked her. Soon, she was fast asleep in my arms.
Over the course of the night, my heart completely changed. Instead of feeling picked on, I felt the sacred privilege it was to spend these hours with this beautiful child. I understood this little girl had no one in the world to call her own and my ‘problem’ of missing the party was completely inconsequential compared to all she had faced in her young life. I looked into her dark brown eyes and felt the incredible sadness of knowing this innocent child had spent her entire life with no consistent caregivers as she fought through difficult medical challenges. It was heartbreaking to think about all she had been through on her own as a tiny infant.
I volunteered every day thereafter to spend the night with this little one until the day she was discharged from the hospital 6 days later, on her first birthday, January 6, 2006. I remember vividly standing on the corner with this sweet girl in my arms, hailing a taxi with my fellow volunteer and getting in to take her back to her home at the orphanage. Partway there, my friend and I decided we needed to celebrate her birthday since turning one is a big milestone, and even more importantly, we wanted to celebrate her leaving the hospital. We stopped at a corner bakery on the way and ran in and bought a cake, even though we knew she would not be able to eat it. We wanted her to feel special and loved anyway.
Pretty soon, I was completely connected to this beautiful little baby. I went directly to her each morning when our shift at the orphanage started. I spent all the time I could with her during our 3 months and I built a bond with her I didn’t fully understand and couldn’t describe at the time. It was only after I gave birth to my first baby I understood it— the love I felt for my brand-new baby was completely familiar because it was the love I had felt for that beautiful little baby in Ecuador.
At the end of our 3 months in Quito, my fellow volunteers and I spent a week in the Jungles of Ecuador as a bit of a retreat before we headed back to the United States. Upon our arrival back in Quito, we had one day before we flew home the next morning. We all headed back to the orphanage to say goodbye to our ‘babies.’ I rushed in, having missed my sweet girl so much, only to find she was not there. During our time in the Jungle, my little one had been moved to an entirely new orphanage. Because of her special needs, it was a better fit for her. Still, I was devastated, thinking I would never again know where she was or how she was doing.
Our director asked around and by complete divine intervention, found out she had been placed in an orphanage clear on the other side of the city. Knowing how important it was for me to say goodbye to her, a driver was arranged to take me across the city to see her one last time. What I originally viewed as a horrible thing was, in fact, a miraculous blessing. This sweet girl had been moved to an orphanage that was run by a woman from the United States. She spoke English and allowed me to take as many pictures as I wanted, something that was not allowed in the orphanage. Furthermore, she used email— something that was not done in the Catholic-run orphanage. She promised me she would keep in touch and send me updates on my baby. She did so for many years. Of all the babies I grew to know and love during my time in Ecuador, there was only one I was able to keep track of at all in the ensuing years— this one. Over the years, I received countless pictures and short emails detailing what milestones she met, what progress she was making, and what activities the kids at the orphanage were taking part in.
When my future husband and I became serious, I told him I was a package deal and there was a little girl we were going to adopt one day. I truly had no idea how difficult it would be, but I was determined to adopt this little girl that had stolen my heart. In truth, my now-husband was not shocked by this news. I had been writing him letters during my time in Ecuador because we had been friends before I left. I sent actual letters and had often talked about the little girl I had fallen in love with. I had even sent him a picture of her at one point after I returned home. When we started dating and I brought up my desire to adopt her someday, my now-husband was not surprised but was instead incredibly supportive and encouraging.
My husband, Devin, and I married a short time later and began our family. We had our daughter, Hallie, and I was pregnant with our son, Jace, when on my 25th birthday, my husband gave me a very special gift. After I had opened my presents, he told me he had one last thing for me and pulled up the computer. It took me a minute to understand what I was looking at. It was a bank account with money in it he had set aside for us to begin the adoption process, completely unbeknownst to me.
Ecuador’s adoption laws are extremely difficult and the process took us 18 months, but through what can only be described as a series of many miracles, we finally traveled in December 2011 to pick up the baby who had completely stolen my heart years before. Seeing her again for the first time after 6 years was one of the highlights of my life. I expected her to run right to me and into my arms, but instead, she bypassed me and went straight for my husband. The two have had an incredible bond since day one.
Our daughter, Flor, left the orphanage for the last time right before her seventh birthday. My husband, our then 3-year-old, and our 9-month-old baby spent 10 weeks in Ecuador finishing our daughter’s adoption process. I am always open and honest about the adjustment process. It was not always rainbows and butterflies. It was hard work on the part of each of us. Flor had been in numerous homes and despite having wonderful caregivers over the years, she still carries the scars of being institutionalized. We worked hard together as a family to form deep attachments and these processes took time. The efforts were and continue to be 100% worth it for Flor to be a part of our family.
Our beautiful daughter, Flor, just turned 16 years old. She has a condition called 1P36 Deletion Syndrome, which causes severe intellectual and physical disabilities. Flor has an incredibly sweet, happy, and loving spirit. She is the joy of our lives and I am forever reminded of how blessed I am to have her in my life. There are no coincidences in this story, including I was the one chosen to spend that first night with her in the hospital. God is in the details and mountains were moved for Flor to be a part of our family. Since Flor’s adoption, we have also added another beautiful daughter from Ecuador in 2015, our daughter Mishell, and another biological daughter, Lizzie, who is now 4.
For anyone considering the adoption of an older child, I would say to do as much education as you can. Take training courses, get expert advice, and learn all you can about the attachment process. Love is wonderful, but it is not always enough to help children who come from difficult backgrounds through no fault of their own. Learn the resources in your area and be willing and ready to seek out help. There will be joy and there will be hardships, but it will all be worth it to be blessed by having the child in your family.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kim Perry. You can follow their journey on Instagram. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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‘Your parents gave you away because they didn’t want you.’ I was taken in at 19 days old. My life became a mental game of ‘Who Could Be My Birth Mother?’: Adoptee reunites with biological mom, ‘I found my long-lost soulmate’
‘They bluntly asked, ‘So, where is your real Mom? She didn’t want you? Is there something wrong with you?’ Everywhere I went, I stuck out like a sore thumb.’: Transracial adoptee says ‘it’s okay to grieve the loss of your birth family’
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