From Jersey City to Santiago Chile: An International Adoption Story

Read More: The Changing Face of International Adoption, A Great Film about International Adoption, An Introduction to International Adoption, Reuniting with Birth Families in International Adoptions, International Adoption Statistics, FAQ’s on International Adoption

Adoption STAR’s Intern Tells her Adoption Story

Map of North and South America from Jersey City to Santiago ChileEver since I can remember, I have been aware in some shape or form that I was an international adoptee. My parents had made the point to use adoption language with me, to incorporate understanding of where I came from and how I came to be with them. At the time my parents adopted, they were a 45-46 yr old Caucasian couple living in Jersey City, NJ, and wanting nothing more than to grow their family. They had a period of struggle with infertility and loss before they came to the mutual decision to adopt. In fact, they had always considered adoption as a good option in a world that was over-populated and had many children needing homes. When deciding on how to adopt, either domestically or internationally, my parents chose the path of international adoption as through their reading and other research they found that international adoption was the better suit for them in what they thought their family would be. International adoption also seemed more promising because in the late 1980s domestic adoptions were difficult for those over 40 years of age. They discussed openly with themselves and the agency they worked with what they ultimately believed they could and could not handle, and what they believed would be the right fit for their family.

After talking to my godfather Vance and hearing about his friend who had recently adopted a baby boy from Chile from an agency they were already looking into, and when they met the baby, thought he was adorable, they made the definite choice to work with that agency. The agency they ended up working with was doing international adoptions with Chile, and it just so happened that after nearly a year of waiting, that a phone call came one day with the message that a healthy baby girl was theirs to adopt and they had been selected! My parents were ready, they had made all the necessary preparations to their home; creating a nursery and filling it with baby necessities, baby proofing, and making sure all the cats were going to be well behaved. They were ready, mentally, physically, and emotionally, but they still knew it would be a road in which knowledge and education would come constantly into play as they would not only need to teach me, but themselves. The journey of adoption, they knew, was a two-way street and one in which all parties would need to be aware of everything on the table.

After a year’s work of preparing and gathering the necessary documents and translations, they made the long awaited journey to Chile to complete all the necessary paperwork and court appearances to finally have me, have that baby, and have their baby in their arms. Jersey City was then winter, which meant Chile was summer, which meant packing for the season. After being notified of my birth, my parents were first told to prepare to spend Christmas holiday in Chile and they made plane reservations for Christmas Eve, but that plan was quickly and repeatedly squashed. In Chile came some legal struggles–the particular lawyer in Chile was doing everything he could it seemed to halt the process with constant delays in paperwork and court proceedings, so much so that by the time it was finished it was mid February, and I was 4 months old. They were met at the airport and the lawyer drove them to the outskirts of Santiago where they picked me up. They later heard from other care givers that the nanny who cared for me had not just me but numerous infants to attend, and it seemed obvious that I was not given that care and affection babies need by any means. There was an instance where I was being given a bath in a large tub and the caretaker averted her attention and I went under and started spinning in the water. My mother was luckily there and pulled me out—I was struggling and screaming, and my parents were shocked. They wanted me out as soon as possible. There were further problems at the US Consulate because the lawyer had neglected to make an appointment. My mother persevered and convinced the consulate staff to meet with my parents, and at the end of the week they were able to leave with me for home. In the plane ride home, that very long ride, they realized they had a baby and they had their family. In airport arrival, my godfather picked us up, I was so bundled up due to the winter that I must’ve looked like a little pink Eskimo, but as new parents they were being extra cautious.

My parents say that as an infant I was quite fussy and did not sleep through the night, they believed it to be due to the lack of adequate food and care and the possible experiences I had gone through in the first months of life. Over time that changed and I learned to sleep through the night. I do not remember much of my young baby years, but I do remember making friends with other internationally or domestically adopted children and always telling my friends that I was adopted. Even when I was a toddler, they would occasionally say, “We love you so much, we are so glad we adopted you.” They wanted me to hear that word in a very positive way even before it was time to know what it meant. When I was older, maybe around 5 or 6 my parents told me that I was adopted. They included information they thought I could understand and answered my questions and made sure that I understood I was loved and that they were very lucky, and although not everything was easy, it was the best choice they could ever have made. Through my parent’s awareness to teach me my Chilean background and teach me what it meant to be adopted, I had a desire to do the same towards family members and friends, I was proud to be adopted and proud to be their daughter and I wanted to share that.

I believe that my parent’s immense openness in relation to adoption especially in connection to myself was the reason that I never questioned my birth family background. I wanted to know why, but I never asked things surrounding connecting attributes. I believed genuinely that the way I was was due to my parents and my parents alone; that I was their child and adoption did not change that. I believed I was an equal measure of my parents, and that even though they were 5’10 and 6’2 without dark hair and dark eyes that I was their child, I was them. I was musical, a lover of animals, a yogi, a bookish type, stubborn, a cook, and in a nutshell their daughter.

Being so proud of being adopted is what led me to social work today. For a time I thought I wanted to be a lawyer and practice adoption law, but I soon found out that with my personality social work in the field of international adoption was better suited to me. To this day, I enjoy researching and understanding adoption, and understanding myself through adoption. To this day, I have vowed to myself that everyone, every child deserves a home in which love will be paramount. I have vowed to not see color or sexual preference as a pre-cursor to being a good parent and have vowed to never work for an agency that does not share that belief.

In being an adoptee, in working with children all my life, I can honestly say that no matter how we get here, we are all the same, whether adopted or biological to the family, love is and should always be the common denominator. I owe it all, I owe who I am and who I will continue to be to my parents, to the people who taught me the power of love through knowledge.

The Author asked that we do not post her name or her parents’ names. She wishes to remain anonymous.