Adoption Interviews: Erin Pratt

Just as Abby and I were getting into the adoption process a couple who used to attend our church showed up again. Andy and Erin Pratt had moved to Duluth but were now back in the Twin Cities–and they had a baby. About a year ago they adopted Henry from Guatemala when he was 5-months-old. They’ve since moved back to the Twin Cities, and just in time to share their adoption experience with us.

Andy is 29 and Erin is 32 and they’ve been married for almost five years. They’re both attorneys, though Erin is currently a full time mom. They adopted through Children’s Home Society and Family Services and the process took a little over a year (you can read about the process on their adoption blog–they don’t update it anymore, but it gives you a good insight into their journey).

1. What motivated you to adopt?

I wanted to be a parent long before Andy. And, practically, we needed to wait until he finished law school. We started trying to get pregnant soon after Andy’s graduation. Nothing happened for about seven months. Neither of us wanted to pursue fertility treatments. We knew God had planned for us to be parents and after prayer and discussion, we quickly learned that we were meant to build our family through adoption. I wish that I could write that I had always wanted to adopt ever since I was a little girl. I just never thought about it. However, once we started considering and researching adoption, we never looked back.

2. Why did you choose Guatemala?

Honestly, we choose Guatemala for practical reasons. Because of Andy’s age and the length of our marriage, we didn’t qualify for some countries. And, since Andy had just started his career as a attorney, the long stay required by some countries wasn’t possible. Finally, we wanted a younger child. These reasons lead us to Guatemala. Of course, once Henry was placed in our arms, I knew that it was God who really lead us to Guatemala and to our son.

3. How has the transition been since bringing Henry home? Was it harder/easier than you expected?

Because of Henry’s young age, we didn’t have attachment issues. Before we knew he was coming home so young, I had been reading a lot about the process of attachment for adopted children.

Andy and I had all the adjustments that go along with being first time parents. “What do you mean, we can’t stay out late on weekend nights like we used to?”

The hardest adoption related transition was that Henry had an established routine with which I wasn’t familiar. Henry had stayed with a wonderful foster mom in Guatemala. I was able to ask her questions about him, but once he was home, I wanted to ask her a lot more questions. For some reason, I could not get him to nap longer than 30 minutes for the first month he was home. Maybe he wanted a certain pacifier or music or to be swaddled, or a nightlight; I just couldn’t figure him out. It might have been some adjustment issues for Henry as well because I read (on adoption blogs) that many newly adopted children have trouble napping.

4. What was it like traveling to Guatemala to pick up Henry? Tell us what it was like to first meet Henry.

Andy and I were in Guatemala for 5 days. We arrived late at night and went to the hotel. We knew we would meet Henry the next day, but didn’t know when. We waited anxiously in our hotel room to hear from our attorney. She called and said she and the foster mother would bring Henry around 7:00 that evening. At 6:00, Andy and I went down to the hotel lobby. There was a large party in the lobby. As we were waiting to meet our son, we heard big band music and saw dressed up partiers coming and going. It was a surreal experience.

Then we saw a car park and two women, one holding a bundle, get out. We knew it was Henry. Henry had his head covered with a blanket. We had to walk all the way back to the room before the foster mother took off the blanket and we could see him. He stared at us with gigantic brown eyes. The foster mother was very sad so we needed to respect her needs and not just grab him; although we wanted to! By the time the foster mother and our attorney left, Henry was sleeping so we just held him in our arms. I remember that he felt so warm.

So the night we met Henry was wonderful. The trip went downhill from there. Henry was happy for about an hour the next morning and then he started to cry. He cried all day; only stopped out of exhaustion for two half-hour naps. We tried everything we could to make him happy, but he was miserable. The next day we had our embassy appointment to get Henry’s passport; Henry cried the whole time. I remember sobbing to my mom on the phone that “our son hates us.” He also started to have bad diarrhea. We knew we needed to get him to the doctor, but we didn’t speak Spanish or have a car, even if we would have known which doctor to call. Our attorney and her husband were so wonderful to us. They made a doctor appointment and drove us there. Henry was inconsolable in the car and in the waiting room. The doctor knew immediately that Henry had rotovirius and had developed temporary lactose intolerance. He was also almost dehydrated. After the appointment, our attorneys drove us to buy Pedialite and soy based formula. The doctor had said once the bad formula was out of his system, he would be better. Henry still cried for the next 24 hours (he did sleep “OK” that night), but since we knew there was an end in sight, Andy and I weren’t so overwhelmed.

So, our time in Guatemala was spent with a very unhappy baby, either in the hotel room, at the doctor’s office, or the embassy.

From the little we saw of Guatemala (mostly on car rides); it was a beautiful country. Very lush and mountainous. We hope to go back with Henry in a few years and have a better experience.

5. What kind of things are you doing to incorporate Henry’s culture into your family?

Minnesota is a very different place than Guatemala, but we are trying and will continue to try to incorporate Henry’s birth culture into his (and our) everyday lives. We don’t speak Spanish (yet) but we have taken a class and also listen to some Spanish CDs. We have a handful of bilingual books and every summer we attend a picnic for Latin American adoptees through our agency. I attend an ECFE class for adoptees, and there are a few kids there from Guatemala. We also live in an area of St. Paul that has some good diversity compared to the rest of the state. I’m sure we will incorporate more things once Henry gets by the basic skills, such as walking and talking!

6. Would you recommend adoption to others? Are you considering adopting again?

I would recommend adoption to anyone. It has been the most amazing experience of my life because it brought us our son. Adoption has also brought Andy and I closer as husband and wife because of all the self-examination and examination of our relationship that was required for our homestudy. Finally, adoption has given us an intimate connection with another country and culture.

Even though I would recommend adoption to anyone, I know that it is not for everyone. While adopting Henry has brought Andy and I incredible joy, it most likely has been a painful experience for his birth mother. Sometimes I feel terribly guilty that I am able to raise another woman’s son because she didn’t have the economic ability to care for him. I cannot forget that he has another mother. But I know that to truly be Henry’s mom, I must move beyond my guilt and claim him as my own. We must also accept that Henry has a bond with another family (although he doesn’t know it yet) that might exclude us. That doesn’t mean he will reject us. Studies show that the vast majority of adopted children remain close with their adoptive families throughout the lives. However, Henry will very likely have a period in his life when he wonders what it would have been like to be raised by his birth family in his birth country.

Additionally, I know that some adoptive parents have negative reactions from family members. I don’t think this happens often, but it does happen. Fortunately, both of our families have been extremely supportive throughout the whole process. They were thrilled when we brought Henry home and have welcomed him with open arms. I know he is loved by so many people.

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