"Families Without Borders"

A family in an open international adoption tells their story from several perspectives.

A family in an open international adoption

Tristan’s Mother:

We Made the Call

This summer, our family will be returning to Guatemala and Colombia, where our children were born. It’s a voyage we have dreamed about since they were placed in our arms as infants.

Our daughter, Kahlea, will be visiting her foster family in Guatemala for the second time. She has maintained contact with them over the years, and it has provided her with an important, loving link to her past.

We are more anxious about our visit to Colombia. Waiting for us is a large, warm, and loving family — our Colombian family, my son Tristan’s birth family. Together, we have waited 10 years to unite our two families as one.

My husband, Jean, and I adopted Tristan at the age of four months from the orphanage La Casita de Nicolas in Medellin. When the adoption was finalized, I was handed a package containing Tristan’s birth certificate, hospital records, and family information, including his birth mother’s address. I also received a recorded interview with his birth mother, in which she tells her heartbreaking story of “why.” Her love for my son — our son — was obvious. “I love my son,” she says at the end. “I do not want him to suffer with me.” I realized that, in giving her child a chance to escape the poverty of her homeland, she was accepting a life of grief and guilt, never to know if she had made the right choice. I knew then that I would contact her.

For the past eight years we’ve been in touch with Tristan’s very large birth family. We have sent them videos and hundreds of family photos. Tristan has an album of photos of his birth mother, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. He also has a scrapbook full of letters that are rich in family history and culture. Tristan is fortunate, because he knows where he came from and whom he looks like. He knows why he was adopted and where he belongs.

It’s likely that mixed with the joy and excitement of reunion will be some sadness, confusion, and regret. But I believe we are ready. Both of Tristan’s families have acknowledged and accepted our differing roles in his life. There is room for all of us who love this child.

by Leceta Chisholm Guibault (Tristan’s adoptive mother)

Tristan’s Birth Mom:

He’s in Good Hands

My name is Piedad Yamile Agudelo Correa. I live in Antioquia, Colombia, and I am 32 years old. I am the mother of Katherin, Andrés Felipe, Andreza, and Jimena. I am the biological mother of Tristan.

As a mother, I never planned to give up my son for adoption. I had in mind to have him and raise him as I did my two older children. I made the decision in the last 15 days of my pregnancy because I didn’t have the support of the father and, most important, that of my family. I was alone and without work to provide for my children. I did it so he would be better off, and I don’t regret the decision, because now I know that he is better off. I want adoptive parents to know that it pains biological mothers to have to make this choice. It’s even worse when there are other children in the family asking why. Was it because I didn’t love the new baby?

The hardest part was when I was told it was time to leave my son at the orphanage. I couldn’t be sure he would be adopted. There were children at the orphanage who had been there for 10 years. The only information I received about the child’s future was that he could be adopted by a family from another country that had good financial stability. They never offered me help to raise my son because he no longer was going to be in my care. I never knew that he went to a family in North America. The orphanage didn’t tell me anything, even though I went back several times to ask about him.

When I returned home after the adoption, my family did not offer me support. Seeing that they didn’t care, I told them the baby had died. I don’t have words to express how I felt being so young and alone with two very young children and having to leave another one to be adopted.

When the first letter and pictures of Tristan arrived, they were delivered to someone who should not have received them. My family reacted badly because they didn’t know he was alive. I was distressed too, because, before giving birth to Tristan, I did not approve of adoption. On the other hand, it was joyous to know that he was well and in good hands. It was obvious that he would not be better off with me. Today all of my family is happy, supportive, and at peace.

I am a happy woman when I receive news from my son and his family, and I miss it when I don’t. My contact with my biological son is good because he accepts me, and I don’t feel that he resents me for giving him up. But it affects me to think that I will soon see him and have to let him go again.

I have benefited in many ways from our open international adoption. Most important is in knowing that my son’s parents are giving him a good education and a stable situation. His adoptive parents have helped me too, with reassurance and moral support.

My hope for my son’s future is that he becomes a great professional, and that he achieves his dreams.

My son’s visit to Colombia will make me very happy. I want to share with him and his family everything about my country, my family, and my life, and to tell them personally how I feel. I look forward to it, but I am also preparing myself: He is something of mine, but he doesn’t belong to me.

by Piedad Yamile Agudelo Correa, Tristan’s birth mother

Tristan, 10:

I Adore My Two Families

In July I am going with my family to Colombia. I will see my brother and sisters and birth mother for the first time, and I will hug and kiss them. I am very happy to have been in contact with my birth family since I was little. They send me letters and photos. They look really nice and they are a good family to me. I would like them to come to my country but they are too poor. I think that my Colombian brother is like me — brave and strong and good-looking. My birth mother looks a little like my normal mother, and I feel she is a very good and excellent person. When I am in Colombia and maybe hurt myself, it would be funny if I called “Mommy” and they both came. My boo-boo would not hurt any more because I would be laughing.

I adore both of my families exactly the same, just like my parents love my sister and me the same. Sometimes I worry about my Colombian family, like if there was a war or something. I want them to be safe like us. When I was seven, I told my mommy that I wished we could all live together in a big castle. It would be cool because me and my Colombian brother would ride our bikes and skateboards in the castle hallways.

by Tristan Andrés Guibault

Kahleah, 13

Tristan’s adoptive sister
I can’t wait to meet Tristan’s birth family. I must admit I have always been somewhat jealous of my brother because he has contact with his birth family. But I’m very happy for him. In my heart they are my family too, and I want them to know that I love them very much already. I often wondered what it would be like to have a big family with lots of sisters and brothers, and then one day I realized that I did.

Andrés Felipe, 12

Tristan’s Colombian brother
Tristan is a very good brother. Regarding the adoption, in my opinion, he is in good hands, and he has a very lovely family. I believe he is lacking nothing except his Colombian family, but we are going to meet. I want to share my joy, knowing that I have another family on which I can count, because although we are only able to communicate by email and letters, I believe that we, both families, love one another very much.

Katherin, 14

Tristan’s Colombian sister
Tristan has always been special to me. I love him very much in spite of the fact that we are far away. Through letters, we have learned that he is studious and responsible. In his pictures, we can tell he is happy and likeable. When the two families get together, we will share all our feelings. I believe that being adopted is not a problem, it’s a privilege, and if you have contact with your biological family, you can have a very beautiful relationship.

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