Within seven years, I’d undergone three miscarriages, two ectopic surgeries, one failed adoption, and been sucker punched when our county adoption agency rejected our application. We’d been naive when the intake social worker pressed us for details and we’d been too eager to recount how the Children’s Home Society in San Jose had botched our adoption and then had shown us the door. Mind you, there were dozens of Latino babies and toddlers waiting for homes, but we were cast as troublemakers and blacklisted. I do have the immense satisfaction of telling the social worker, her supervisor, and then the director where they could shove their application.
My Man and I were researching and gathering the requirements for an international adoption when we received a phone call on our ninth wedding anniversary that enticed us to fly down to Ciudad Juárez, México. We were to meet with the director of DIF, Mexico’s version of our Children’s Protective Services, who might offer us the opportunity to adopt one of their orphans.
Chapter VI – October 1997
“… By nine o’clock most of the people in the lobby had met with one of the social workers. Some walked back out within five minutes clutching papers, their eyes haunted. When our name was called, we followed a social worker and re-entered the world of interviews, forms, and psychological evaluation exams.
After the testing we entered the nursery. Imagine a large rectangular room with a carpeted sunken pit area where eighty-plus children, ranging from toddlers to young teenagers, spent the day with precious little to do.
The second we walked through the double doors, every single child, as if on cue, turned our way. The noise settled down from one corner of the pit to the other. Some of the kids smiled, some looked away, others stared, but the older girls approached us.
One of the girls asked about my citizenship when I greeted them in fluent Spanish. They eyed my clothes. A doe-eyed beauty with a swollen, stitched-up lip gently touched my earring, and the leader of the pack snatched her hand away, reminding her of her manners.
“You speak Spanish well, for a gringa.” They giggled.
“Gracias.” I told them my mother would be pleased by their compliment.
“Do you want a boy or a girl?”
When I said it didn’t matter, they eyed me with what seemed like suspicion.
“Do you want an infant or toddler?”
Before I could answer, they pointed out the favored candidates. Those toddlers didn’t cry much and had light curly hair. A couple of the girls trotted off and returned with fair-skinned babies.
Surreal. These young girls knew their chances of ever being adopted were slim to non-existent. When we asked them questions, they politely stated the rules unless, of course, we wanted to adopt them. Their eyes held hope.
An older girl, a few yards away, seemed to be massaging a toddler’s small head.
When I asked her what she was doing, she answered, without looking up, “lice,” refusing to make eye contact or conversation with me. In a far corner of the room a group of older girls each attended to a baby while little boys ran around playing with and fighting over broken toys. With fierce determination they protected pieces of plastic and metal and wailed when they were left empty-handed.
We wandered into a large, stifling-hot sleeping room filled with rows of metal twin beds on either side. Toddlers everywhere—crawling, walking, crying, having their diaper or clothes changed by women who consoled them and played with them for a few minutes before needing to go on to the next one. The room smelled of soiled diapers, sweat, and baby powder. We held the little ones, who wailed when we put them down to pick up another. How did one choose? Were we going to choose? Was I holding our child and didn’t know it?