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Adoption stories

My kids Laura and Eliot at the Cleminson farm in Lakeville, MN where we board our three horses. August 2005.

Sherril Garahan
St. Paul, MN

Birth Country: United States
Decade of adoption: 1980s

In 1989, I was on the verge of turning 40. I was single and couldn't face the thought of growing old without children. I attended an information meeting at a local private social service agency and signed my name on the dotted line to adopt a baby from Paraguay. I had no idea of the turmoil that was about to occur in Paraguay, surrounding international adoptions.

Paraguay had just gone through a military coup which overthrew their long-time dictator, Stoessner. Americans hoping to adopt healthy beautiful babies started coming to Paraguay by the hundreds. Along with the mulitude of adoptions, came the rumors of corruption i.e. baby stealing, baby buying and bribes. Paraguayan officials attempted to investigate and put controls on adoptees leaving the country, which left American families in limbo and panic, about whether or not they be bringing their Paraguayan babies home to America.

Many families spent months in Paraguay, while the Paraguayan and American governments sorted through the corruption. I had the "advantage" of waiting for my daughter at home, in Minnesota. I waited eight months from the time that she was identified for me, to the time I traveled to Ascunsion. By the time I flew to Paraguay, I was covered in hives from head to toe, from the stress of the wait, the lack of control, the rumors and the unknown. My daughter was born prematurely and had lots of health issues that were of concern. During my wait, she also required surgery.

When I arrived in Paraguay, I was placed in a hotel in a remote part of the city. I might have been placed away from the other American couples to downplay the fact that this was a single parent adoption. There was a lot of attention in the news on the number of Americanns adopting Paraguayan babies. There were rumors of Americans buying babies for organ donations.

I spent two weeks in beautiful Ascunsion getting to know my gorgeous eight month old daughter, while the manditory paperwork was completed which got me out of the country in record time: two weeks.

I brought Laura from a 95 degree climate to a Minnesota winter, which was experiencing a bitter cold spell. When we arrived, it was 20 below zero and Laura hated every bit of it. Bringing Laura to Minnesota was a tremendous adjustment for both of us. Her arrival was complicated by the fact that she had contracted RSV [respiratory syncytial virus] before leaving Paraguay and required hospitalization shortly after arriving in St. Paul, where she contracted the measles. She was very ill the first month in the U.S. and I was afraid I might lose her. But Laura is strong and she rallied.

It took years before our lives settled into any kind of comfort zone. With everything that Laura had experienced in her short life, she had developed reactive attachment issues and I was a first time parent without any skills. These times were the most difficult days of my life and I was sure that I would never adopt again. But this didn't hold true.

In 2003, Eliot joined our family. Eliot was an eight year old Guatemalan child who was brought to Minnesota (with his two sisters) by another Minnesota family, with the original goal of adoption. The family decided on the plane ride home from Guatemala that they would not be able to parent him due to his disabilities. I heard about Eliot being available for adoption, and he sounded like a perfect match for me and my family, which he is!

Eliot brings his own challenges, but with a background of rich experiences, I am able to embrace his challenges. He keeps me busy, but there's not a day that I'm not enchanted with him.

Adoption has touched my life in many ways. All of them have been a blessing! But I have been quoted to say that, "Adoption is only for the hearty!" The majority of my friends are families who have adopted and I have now chosen to work as an adoption placement social worker in a local government agency. My life is truly blessed by adoption.

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