At her grandmother’s 90th birthday in early 2005, surrounded by family, Kym had an “ah-ha moment” that propelled her, at 38, to adopt a baby as a single woman. “I had a stable career, a supportive family, and a wide network of friends. I also had a lot of love to give and knew I wanted to become a mother.” She decided to make her life happen rather than let it haphazardly unfold. And happen it did. Her daughter Lucie just turned 17. Since the day they met in Guatemala City, the two have built a life together, and Kym says their family is proof that babies grow in hearts and wombs.
Kym, our senior manager of directories and recognitions, shares some lessons learned from her experience in international adoption.
Despite the avalanche of forms to fill out and steps to take, adopting was not that complicated. Time consuming? YES! But I was highly motivated and I took it one step at a time.
I used Adoptions from the Heart and initially considered both domestic and international adoptions, but pretty quickly opted for the latter when I learned that US birth parents select their child’s parents and typically favor two-parent households. I was adopting as a single woman.
Next up was choosing what country I wanted to adopt from. After a tutorial on the Hague Convention, which regulates international adoptions, I attended several information sessions to learn about other people’s experiences adopting internationally. In the end, I followed my instincts and embraced Guatemala. I was open to a girl or a boy who was younger than 18 months. For several months, the process was like a second full-time job, with home visits, required letters of recommendation, forms to notarize, and figuring out finances to cover the costs.
My daughter, Lucia Kathryn, “Lucie,” was born on Guatemalan Independence Day. I saw her for the first time when an email popped up at work with the subject line: “Baby Girl Liebler – Yuri Alejandra” on November 2, 2005. I gasped. Co-workers peered over my shoulder as I opened the email and saw a picture of the little bundle that was headed my way. She was real and in the world! The agency sent me photos of her every month until I brought her home at eight months old.
From my first visit to Adoptions from the Heart in Wilmington on my 39th birthday to Mother’s Day 2006, when I met Lucie in the lobby of the Guatemala City Marriott, it was 14 months beginning to end.
The best part is really all of it. Lucie is my pride and joy, and my greatest priority. It’s fascinating to see how nurture and nature shape her. For example, I’ll catch her binging unsolved murder mysteries on Dateline and say, “You’re me!” and she’ll smile and say, “Nurture!” Or on an unfamiliar hike, she’ll not only open the compass app on her phone, but she knows how to use it! I’ll marvel, and she’ll explain it with one word: “Nature!”
But I also struggled with feeling selfish during the adoption process. I adopted to give myself a family—not to selflessly “rescue” a child. Whenever I get mired in that, inevitably a friend says, “Why do you think any of us have kids?” That helps.
Don’t be afraid that your child won’t look like you, or have the same traits, strengths, and aptitudes. You’ll be surprised at how instantly you will connect with your baby and/or older child when you fold them into your lives. I don’t think my experience of bonding with Lucie is unique.
Follow your heart and take the plunge and plow through the paperwork and procedures. And then like any parent, look for a support system for yourself to be able to support your child. For me, Morgan Lewis has been fantastic. Lucie plays lacrosse and I didn’t miss one afternoon game last spring. There have been times when I’ve needed flexibility, grace, and understanding, and have gotten it straightaway. I can count on that support and I know I’m not alone. It’s my experience that parents at Morgan Lewis—biological and adoptive—trust that our colleagues will rally to help cover our projects and client needs so we can focus on family without feeling torn. It is not just lip service from the firm.
Of course, every adoption, and really every parenting relationship, is nuanced and presents its own unique issues. Don’t be surprised when that unconscious loss that your adopted child experienced manifests itself at some point—whether it is struggling with identity or a sense of belonging or an overwhelming curiosity about her birth family. It’s okay. It’s part of their life story, one that their peers and family members simply cannot relate to. But it is a part of your life story too, and I wouldn’t change any of it—even the challenges are still part of the best decision I ever made.
Left: The day Lucie and Kym met, in the lobby of the Guatemala City Marriott. Right: Lucie and Kym on a recent trip to New York City.