It seems that recently I’ve been reading a lot about big families with multiple adopted children. Erin over in the transracial adoption blog recently wrote about the positive aspects of big families; the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute’s April e-newsletter also recently had an article on the subject that I enjoyed reading.
Large families fascinate me. As a child growing up in a small mining town in Northern Canada, I had several friends who came from very large families. Whenever I visited their homes, I loved the way there was always someone to play with and that with so many children around, the parents didn’t notice every little thing you did. Having three older sisters, I certainly wasn’t deprived of siblings, but I always wanted younger siblings, and grieved as each sister left home to make her way in the world, eventually leaving me alone.
Today I am bringing you a story of a large family that I feel particularly close to, even though I have never met them in person. The “madre” of this story is a remarkable woman, with patience, compassion and humility far beyond anyone I’ve ever known.
Gloria is the mother of ten children, five of whom were adopted from Guatemala at various ages. I “met” her online while participating in a yahoo forum when we were in the process of adopting Ella. On days that I was short on time, I made a point of reading her postings, as they were filled with a unique combination of kindness and valuable information about Guatemala and the adoption process as well.
When people on the post got nasty with each other, she would ask them to reconsider their mode of correspondence, and remind us that we are all just trying to bring our children home as soon as possible and need to support one another.
When one of my extended family members was having a serious holdup with her son’s adoption, I asked Gloria if she could speak to her about adoption supervisors. Even though she is busy taking care of ten children and home schooling as well, she was only too happy to help.
In my interview with Gloria, I’ve asked her to talk about some of the issues she has had with her adopted children. In the past, she has had personal experience with Deborah Gray, the author of “Attaching in Adoption,” a book I recommend that everyone read, regardless of the age of your child when he/she is brought home.
I’ve also asked Gloria to discuss the use of adoption supervisors, because she was the first person I personally knew that used them, and when she shared this information with other people helped many of them complete their adoptions as well.
1.Gloria, you’ve adopted five children from Guatemala, and have five biological children. Tell us a little about your children and their ages.
Yes, I feel blessed to be the mother of 10 children; 5 thru the gift of birth and 5 thru the miracle of adoption…… each of them a unique jewel.
Our eldest son is Jacob – he is 14 years old. He is extremely creative – loves to draw, build and do most things with his hands. He is currently learning woodworking skills alongside his carpenter dad. Jacob is very social and loves to be around people.
Hannah is my eldest daughter and a gem. She just turned 12 years old and is blossoming into a lovely young lady. She is gifted at the piano and loves to play for the family. She is an amazing artist and poet. She is just a dear in all ways. As the oldest girl she really does nurture the younger ones, but still she is a “dreamer.”
Rachel is 10 yrs old and is my “nurturer”….. she loves to mother everyone and everything. She is a mommy in making and loves all things domestic. She has loved and accepted all her adopted sibs and is precious.
Samuel is 9 yrs old and is our eldest adopted child. He was born in Guatemala City, and we adopted him at almost 5 years of age. He is my quiet, gentle boy with a “big heart.” He is always on the side of the underdog, and is the most patient child I have ever met. Samuel is also a gifted speller! He has received 100% on every spelling test that he has taken this past school year. Amazing child – very resilient.
Rebekah is my 4th bio child, and definitely my “athlete” …… she is gifted in any sport and is incredibly agile and coordinated. She loves animals and hopes to become a vet one day. Bekah is social, smart, and very cute.
Ammon is one of our 6 yr old adopted twins and was born in Puerto Barrios. He and his brother Aaron were our first adopted children to come home. They have been home for 5 years and have made amazing strides. Ammon is social, very happy and extremely athletic. He always can be found with a huge smile on his face. He endured a lot of neglect his first year of life, so we have had to go through a lot of attachment therapy with him, at home and with a therapist. He has come a long way – he still struggles with some impulse control, but is making strides. The twins will be 7 in June.
Ammon is playful where his identical twin, Aaron is my ‘thinker’…… he loves to read, and study, and observe……. right now he is especially interested in frogs. Aaron, like his birth sib, is gifted athletically. Aaron has also come a long way with his attachment issues. He still struggles with significant impulse control,and we do have to work with him on this on a daily basis. These boys have come a long way since we brought them home.
Sarah Grace, our youngest bio child, just turned 5! She is all “tomboy” and loves to follow her twin brothers around. She is learning to write her name and enjoys helping mom in the kitchen, “stirring” whatever I am making! Sarah is a daddy’s girl and loves to sit on his shoulders.
Alma Jon, is our youngest son, age 3 1/2 and adopted from Guatemala at age 15 months. Alma also suffered neglect, so we had to work with him considerably as well. He has come a long way as well. He struggles with melancholy (depression – yes there is such a thing as childhood depression), and we wonder if there are any chemical or genetic tendencies. As he matures we will be able to have a better grasp on this. Meanwhile, he has come a long way this past year – learning how to speak (he was delayed) and also learning how to be ‘happy,” something that he has struggled with so much. When he is happy, he is delightful to be around and is a very loving child. He is very attached to his family and especially his dad. He showers us with hugs, and “I love yous.”
Our youngest child is Naomi Rose, and she is truly the “princess” around here. The youngest child of a large family does get a lot of love and attention. She was adopted from Guatemala at age 3 months and is now 2 1/2 yrs old. She is a spunky, sweet and a determined little soul; very loving and affectionate and independent too! Her newest words are “I can do” “I can do”……typical 2 year old. She is a JOY and a treasure in every way.
2. One (or was it more?) of your adoptions got held up, and you went to Antigua to foster for several months. Could you tell us a little bit about that experience?
Living in Antigua was an amazing experience, and we truly count ourselves blessed to have had this experience. Our children still talk about it, and we all miss it so much. We chose to foster for two reasons:
1. We wanted to gift all of our children with the experience of living in the country that has blessed our family so richly. We wanted them to experience what life in a third world country was like, and how the world is so different from life in the U.S.
2. We also were concerned about Naomi’s foster care at the time, and felt it was critical to care for her ourselves. It was a fabulous experience! We arrived in Nov. 2004 and stayed for eight months. Part of our hearts will forever be in Guatemala!
My husband stayed behind in the U.S. while I lived in Antigua with my children. We were blessed to have a fabulous living circumstance – a lovely home complete with a wonderful live in nanny and housekeeper, whom we grew very close to. My husband was able to visit once a month for about 4 days, and while he would visit we would rent a car and choose a destination to visit and explore. While we were there we visited Tikal, Lake Atitlan, Montericco, Maya Ruins, and local sites as well. It was an enriching and life changing experience for us all. My older children were able to take Spanish courses and we immersed ourselves as much as possible.
3. You are very knowledgeable about the Guatemalan adoption process and have used adoption supervisors in the past. At what point do you think it wise to contact supervisors? Who would you recommend using?
Adoption Supervisors or “Servicios Judiciales,” played an instrumental role in our adoption process. After being “told” we were in PGN for seven months, we felt we were getting no where with our agency. So we called Edwin and Manfred [adoption supervisors] and they personally came to our home in Antigua and visited with us for a few hours.
We immediately sensed their sincerity and “know how” of the process; to put it bluntly “they were a breath of fresh air.” We chose to hire them after realizing our agency had consistently lied to us. The communication had also broken down between us and our agency, and our agency’s Guatemalan director had left the agency. We felt very “alone” in our process.
We hired them [Edwin and Manfred] in June of 2005, and we were completed and at the embassy six weeks later! They were amazing – excellent in their communication and very knowledgeable. The only regret we have about working with Adoption Supervisors is that we didn’t hire them sooner. I advise families to seriously consider using them when they feel their agency is misrepresenting the facts (lieing), and when the communication has broken down and is not longer effective. I strongly encourage families to work with their agencies, but unfortunately some agencies lose their credibility when they lie to their clients and fail to communicate effectively.
4. You are of Cuban heritage yourself. Does it make it easier for your Guatemalan born children having a “Latina Momma?”
I am not sure if it’s easier for the children to have a “Latina mommy” as Latinas can be pretty “spicy” as my husband says! But I do think it helps *me* as far as instilling within my children a love for their birth country and culture, etc. It’s a natural for me in many ways. I love and am passionate about Guatemala, and I hope that my children feel that from me.
5. I know that you home school all your children. Could you tell us more about that?
We chose to home school when my eldest son was approaching schooling age. We gave it lots of thought and prayer and chose this route for various reasons. Although it is very time consuming and challenging at times to be the mom and the school teacher, I feel home schooling’s benefits still out weigh the down side. I love the closeness that it produces between me and the children. I love the flexibility in schedule; we can choose to take a day off or keep moving ahead as we wish. Home schooling does take a big chunk out of my day. From 9:00 am – 2:00 pm I am the mom and the teacher and sometimes that is hard on me, as I just can’t run off and do “my thing.” But, with the exception of the occasional hard day, (like anyone’s full time job), I do enjoy it and find it rewarding. I hope the kids do too!
6. What kind of special challenges do your Guatemalan born children face in your community (if any?)
So far we have been blessed to live in areas that have been fairly diverse. We lived in the Seattle area for 14 yrs, and it was a great place to live for the transracial family. We now live very rural, and it’s a bit more challenging to find others of “color.” There is a Guatemalan Support Group that I hope to get involved with here in the Kansas City area. I do miss being around other adoptive families – something we enjoyed immensely when we lived in Seattle.
7. I read your personal blog daily and am very impressed with your family dynamics. How did you prepare your biological children for the adoptions, and how did you ease the transition for everyone?
Our family is very “eclectic”……..we have adopted children as infants, toddlers and at school age…….. each age has their joys and challenges. It was much easier on all the kids to integrate the baby. That was a piece of cake. It was more challenging with the others. The best way I think to help the others accept the “new” child is to give them “time;” they need time to get to know one another, and also not to expect immediate bonding to happen over night. Other than with the baby, it took time for our kids to truly integrate the new child into the family. They came with their personalities already in place and their quirks and fancies. There is an adjustment period – lasts a good year, where every one needs time to “get to know each other.” Bonding and acceptance does come – but with time. I never pushed it with my children – I tried to let it come on everyone’s time table…….. one day at a time. We are a very close family but we are not perfect. We have our squabbles just like everyone else does,but for the most part, we have grown together through our experiences.
8. I’m fascinated with how you manage to raise ten children and yet find time to write a wonderful daily blog and help others when they need advice on Guatemalan adoptions. Tell us how you do it.
By God’s grace! I tell people all the time “I don’t do it, God does.” I have a strong faith that with God all things are possible. Sure, I have bad days, where I feel like crawling into bed with a good book and some chocolate. But, because I have been blessed with these children, they keep me going, even when I feel like stopping. I also believe that mothers need to take time for themselves, and I do this often by going for walks, spending time with other female friends, etc. I take time to “feed” my spirit, so to speak, because I have learned that I am a much better mom when I take time to take care for myself. I also love writing, so blogging is “fun” for me. It’s something that helps me release some stress and enjoy life.
Well, dear readers, you have now met the amazing Gloria, mother to ten beautiful and talented children, and a generous and loving spirit indeed. I hope you’ve enjoyed this interview; I never tire of hearing about her children and for that reason follow her daily personal blog.
If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to post them in the comments section, or email me privately at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you Gloria, and bless you and your family.
Photo: Gloria and Dru’s ten children,courtesy of Gloria.