Huehuetenango, Guatemala: On Adoption & Orphanages

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We had been married less than a year when we decided to adopt. We’d been ‘trying’ to get pregnant, but it hadn’t happened yet, so we decided, “Why wait?” We’d always talked about adopting again, so that Kyah wasn’t the ‘only one’. That was the ‘plan’. But life is what happens while you’re busy making plans like other children.

There never seemed to be a chance to adopt again. The babies just kept coming. We did look into adopting in the Dominican Republic. Greg talked about doing it in Belize.  Sleepless nights, countless diaper changes. Feeding, dressing, bathing – you have to do everything for them. And traveling with babies – wow! I never remembered how challenging it is.


On a recent trip to Xela, we drove on to Huehuetenango to visit an orphanage – Fundacion Salvacion.

I’ve been to orphanages before. I know what to expect. But I’m still always shocked by the stories I hear:

  • Newborn babies being found in garbage dumpsters.
  • Mentally challenged women being raped, resulting in two or three unwanted children.
  • Prostitute mothers who drug their child so they won’t wake up while she brings men home at night.
  • Children beat to the point of being bloody and bruised.
  • Little bellies going hungry without enough food to eat.
I grew up somewhere between poor and middle class. Sometimes I felt that my life was ‘tough’ because funds were tight, and it seemed that we were at the ‘low’ end of the scale.

At times I felt deprived because we couldn’t have the latest and greatest, or buy name-brand clothes. I remember one time we received a bag of hand-me-downs that had a pair of Guess Jeans just my size – except they were for boys. You could tell they were for boys, because the boys’ Guess symbol had a green triangle, and the girls had red. I REALLY wanted to have a pair of Guess Jeans, but I was too embarrassed to wear boys jeans. So I painted the triangle with red finger-nail polish. I think only a few people noticed.

That’s the kind of things that consumed my thoughts – name-brand clothes, ‘fitting in’ and never ‘being cool enough’. I wanted to be able to buy Discman’s and the newest CD’s. That’s what my peers were concerned with. That was the world we knew. That’s what mattered to me.

Back at the orphanage in Huehue, we play with the children and hold babies.


I was holding this little girl (above), when Aaliyah (5) asked for a turn. I sat the baby on her lap and she held on tight.

After a few minutes, the baby’s small, soft brown eyes looked up at me, and then around at each of the faces in the room, searching for one that was familiar. She was looking for ‘mommy’, the one recognizable face that you can always count on, the one ‘sure thing’ in the world.

All at once my heart broke with the forcible reminder that she has no mother. Despite what I thought I ‘lacked’ in coolness during my childhood, I had what counted most – a roof over my head, food to eat and a mom and dad that loved and taught me. My heart aches and tears well up in my eyes. My little children have me to look to everyday. Who do these children have?

Outside in the courtyard, I share my experience with my husband. I tell him about the pitiful plight of a baby without loving parents. “Maybe we should adopt a baby,” I say to him, but then the ‘rational’, ‘logical’ me retorts. “But I DON’T want to adopt a baby.” Those are no small orders. It’s easy to stay comfortable and to ‘take on less’.


There are lots of miserable places [and situations] in the world. The way to live comfortably is to not think about them.”

Only one of these children lives with parents who love him

I may not see the ugliness, or think about it, but it’s still there. Someone’s child is going hungry tonight, even if it’s not yours. Some woman is being abused. Somebody’s mother is sick.

Children starve. Babies are abandoned. Women are raped. Disease. Poverty. Illiteracy. Violence. This stuff really does happen.

I can’t save this baby, or any other baby at this orphanage. Guatemalan law doesn’t allow you to adopt a child you know. You can’t make any requests (and you have to be a resident of Guatemala to adopt here).




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