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A Guatemalan birthmother, and a surprising discovery
Leceta Chisholm Guibault
I have permission to share this story. I mentioned in my travel journal from Guatemala that while attending the "Return to Guatemala" conference in Antigua, July 17, 2004, we had the privilege of hearing a birthmother, Rosa, share her story. It was afterwards that I realized that I actually knew the mothers who had separately adopted Rosa's two oldest daughters. I promised to share with the mothers what I had learned about Rosa as they had never met her. I am confident that Rosa is not unlike many of our children's birthmothers. Below is what I wrote to the mothers on an email list. I've changed names and any possible identifying information.
My husband Jean and I sat at the back of the conference room. Mid-morning we noticed Rosa walk in with her husband and sit to our left in the back row. I knew immediately that she was the birthmother scheduled to speak. She looked so nervous. She clutched her album in one hand and Kleenex in the other. It was obvious she was trying to take deep breaths to relax.
I was impressed at how supportive her husband was. He held her hand and rubbed her shoulder. I kept thinking about how in many ways, she looked out of place there and was totally impressed with her bravery. Imagine getting up to share your sad, sad story with a bunch of American adoptive parents and professionals! (Okay ... and two or three Canadians.)
When it was Rosa's turn to speak I saw and heard her take a BIG deep breath before making her way to the front of the room to the microphone. Her husband gave her hand a reassuring pat. I mention this as I think it's important for you to know that she appears to have a loving support.
When Rosa spoke it was in short sentences. She could not look her audience in the eye. She either looked up, down or closed her eyes as she spoke. She mostly closed her eyes when sharing the most difficult memories of her life.
I can't remember word-for-word what she said as I am more the type of person to "feel" the experience. She did share with us her life of abandonment from the time she was born. I believe she was raised by her grandmother. There were years of abuse. She married the first time in her teens. She talked about "her girls" and how difficult their lives were with her. She left her abusive husband (escaped) and did what she had to do to support her children and herself. She told of becoming pregnant with her sons and placing them for adoption in infancy. It was obvious that her greater pain was making the later decision for her daughters. You could literally feel her pain, grief and guilt.
The up side was when she shared the fact that all four of her birthchildren now reside in the U.S. and that although they were adopted by different families, they all have contact with each other. This gave her GREAT comfort! She then mentioned that she had photos of her children. Her face said it all. So many times she reminded me of Tristan's birthmother Piedad. So strong, courageous and faithful that they made the right decision to relinquish. Photos give such comfort and reassurance.
Rosa told us that today she is married to a wonderful man and with him she is raising their son. She said it is NOT easy but she does have some peace. She worries about what her relinquished children will think of her and hopes that they will understand someday.
We were all touched by Rosa. Everyone stood to applaud when she finished. She was overwhelmed by the attention. As she walked back to her seat I reached out for her. I grabbed her hand and said, "Gracias". She wrapped her arms around me and started to cry. I wanted so badly to comfort her! Jean moved over one seat and offered her the seat between us. He poured her a glass of water. I put my arm around her shoulder as she wiped her eyes.
I have a very limited vocabulary in Spanish but something inside me urged me to follow my gut feeling to ask to see the photos of her children. I thought it might make her feel better to share the photos with another Mom. I almost fell off my chair when I thought I recognized the girls and THEN came across a Christmas photo of your family. I literally started to shake.
In simple words I took Rosa's hand and asked if her girls now lived near Chicago. She said, "Si". I asked if she knew the names of the adoptive mothers. She said, "Si". I asked if their names were "Mary and Jane". She cried "SI! SI! SI!" She was getting very excited and I knew she was asking me if I knew her girls ... your girls.
I quickly called over a friend to translate. I explained that yes, I did know the families. She started to cry again. She then told me that before she came to the conference she had prayed to Our Lord for the possibility that at least one of the families who had adopted her children might be in attendance. It was her motivation for agreeing to speak. She looked at me and told me that God had answered her prayers ... I was close enough at that moment.
The importance of this meeting was not lost on me! I did everything in my power to comfort Rosa and told her of the wonderful and loving mothers/families the girls had. I told her of your love and commitment to the happiness and well-being of both girls and that the two of you were great friends. We held each other for a long time.
It was such an honor to meet such a brave soul. Hearing her story, her life, made me think, "there but for the grace of God go I". I had this feeling many times during our trip to Colombia and Guatemala. I got the impression that Rosa did what she felt she had to do for the survival of all involved. I felt like she tried her very best and felt she failed. I also think that having updates on her birthchildren, like the ones Tristan's birthmother sends me, frees her from most grief and guilt and allows her to be a better parent to the child she is now raising.
Rosa found me again later, after the conference, outside. She was leaving with her husband. She came up to me one more time for one more hug. She is a good, good woman and (birth)mother. She cares ... she really does. One must just look into her eyes. Her eyes alone tell her story.
Hug your daughters for me. For Rosa. Tight. Rosa is a warm, soft and heartfelt hugger. I am not much older than her but I felt like I was hugging a hurt child ... a child that needs you to hug "just a little bit longer".
~*~ Leceta ~*~
Copyright 2006 Leceta Chisholm Guibault, firstname.lastname@example.org
First published at Family Helper, on Oct. 29, 2006.
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