August 18, 2006

Adoption: One familiy's story of finding each other

Editor's Note: This is the story of adoption, something that has touched my family on three ocassions bring four beautiful boys into our lives. For me this was a bit personal as I searched to find what it was that my Aunt Laura and Uncle Gil and their spouses were seeking to fill their homes and hearts ...

-- Published in Fort Polk Guardian (Aug. 1, 2006) --
By: MICHELLE LINDSEY, Guardian staff writer

“I've always wanted to be a mom. After going through fertility treatments and then going to Panama where we didn't have the ability to pursue that as aggressively as we wanted to, I finally said I want to be a mom one way or another. That's when we decided that adoption was the way to go,” said Luz Montour, recalling the events of nearly 14 years ago. At the time, her husband, Command Sgt. Maj. Joe Montour, 2nd Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, was stationed at Fort Gilick, Panama.

The Montours had tried for many years to conceive a child. Their time in Panama led to a decision that would change their lives forever.

“We always wanted to adopt kids, we just thought we would be able to have our own, too. We had talked about it when we first got married,” Luz said. “In Panama there were a lot of Americans who were adopting Kuna (San Blas Indian tribe) babies. I thought this would be a very good idea for us.”

Joe said the decision was sealed for him after a visit to the shoppette.

“One day my wife and I were at the 24-hour shoppette (at Fort Gilick). One of my wife's friends was there with her adopted daughter. I watched this little girl take a candy bar and put it up on the counter. She then looked at her Mom and said ‘Mommy I can't have this ... can I?'

“I knew right then and there that was the one thing missing in our lives. I told my wife as soon as we got in the car to start looking into the adoption process,” he said.

Once the decision was made, the Montours began their search for a child to join their family.

“I was a member of Protestant Women of the Chapel and asked the group for a prayer,” said Luz. “If this was something God wanted us to do, we would need guidance.

“A few weeks later, a woman in PWOC called and asked if we were serious about adopting because there was a child from the San Blas Islands that needed a home. It happened really fast after we decided to adopt.”

Joe continued.

“On Feb. 14, 1993, my wife received a phone call from a woman named Sonia, who was helping us through the adoption process. She told my wife that there was a little girl born that morning who needed a home. After two minutes of discussion we decided to bring this little girl into our home and our lives.”

The next few weeks were difficult. Joe said that while Luz was happy to finally be getting a child, he was concerned that the biological mother would change her mind.

“It was hard,” said Luz. “We didn't know who her biological mother was, we only knew that she came from the San Blas Islands, and the only way to get to the islands was by plane. Someone flew the baby into Panama City and from there they took a bus down to Colon where we picked her up.

“We knew she was coming, but we also knew the mom could change her mind at any time,” she continued. “It was scary because she was supposed to arrive and she didn't show up that day or the next. By the third day I said, ‘This one must not be meant for us. I'm OK with it.' Later that day we got the call to come pick up our baby.

“I had assumed the biological mom had changed her mind, but we were told when the plane flew over (the part of the island where people with the baby were waiting) they didn't see anyone so the plane kept going.

“The plane only stops if they see someone there,” Luz explained.

Joe said it was worth the wait when they finally got to hold their daughter.

“I will never forget that day; I was very nervous and at the same time anxious to bring this little girl into our life. We showed up at Sonia's apartment around 3 p.m. that afternoon. As soon as we walked through the door we could see Sonia and her cousin standing there with our daughter. Sonia handed my daughter to Luz and she began to cry. She was so happy there was nothing else she could do.”

“The first time I held her was very emotional for me,” Luz said, her eyes tearing at the memory. “I remember when they placed her in my arms I started to cry. I can't explain it, I was so happy, excited to have a baby. Right away I knew this was my baby. No matter what happened this would be my baby.

“I wanted to name her Lucy Linda but somehow we combined them to Luzinda, meaning ‘beautiful light.' It was something unique,” she added.

The reality of having Luzinda began to set in when they took her home and settled into their routine as parents.

“I remember telling myself it was no longer Lucy and I,” said Joe. “Now I had a daughter that I would be responsible for raising with my wife. Even at the age of 30 that was a scary thought. I now have another life I am responsible for, making sure she understands the difference between right and wrong, providing a safe and healthy environment for her to grow. I thought about all the things my folks did for us when we were kids and thought to myself, ‘Am I going to be able to do all of that for this little girl?'”

“We were lucky in getting a child so early (in the process), but there were still roadblocks after she came home with us,” said Luz. “In Panama, the child is placed in your home and then the adoption process is started. We had to get a lawyer and go to court.”

There were other obstacles as the Montours completed Luzinda's adoption. First, they had to find certified personnel for a home study and obtain money for legal fees. But the biggest roadblock was the legal system, said Luz.

“During the invasion of Panama (December, 1989), the courts and records office had been bombed. The person helping us seemed to hold it against my husband.”

“When you are dealing with a government that has a revolving legal system (like Panama), each time you go to court you see a different judge,” Joe explained. ”Each judge has a different opinion on how the paperwork should look. We were turned turned away and told to resubmit once we had all the paperwork needed to complete the adoption.”

“It was so frustrating,” Luz said. We kept having to go back with more paperwork.”

The Montours also had to get remarried in Panama. Problems arose when Luz, a citizen of Mexico, needed a copy of her birth certificate. Then the marriage had to be certified in Mexico.

“Basically we were married in the United States, Panama and Mexico. I told Joe he couldn't get rid of me now,” she said laughing.

Despite the setbacks, the Montours said they would do it again to have Luzinda in their family.

The adoption was final on Nov. 1, 1993, Panama's Dia del Nino or Children's Day.

“I remember the day because when I went to get the adoption papers they were having a big parade,” said Luz.

The Montours said their families backed their decision, readily accepting Luzinda into the family.

“I was very surprised with my father's reaction (to Luzinda) because I thought he would have a hard time (accepting her), but they were all very supportive,” said Luz. “She was 18 months when (the families) finally met her and she was a part of them from the moment they saw her.”

Luzinda filled a void in the Montour's lives.

“She has given me the chance to be a mother and that is the greatest experience you can have,” Luz said. “You never realize how much you truly love someone until you have a child and it is an amazing feeling. I'm glad now that we were unable to have kids. We might have lost the chance to have (Luzinda) in our lives.”

Luzinda, now an active 13-year-old, is grateful, too.

“I think I am very lucky because if I was still in Panama I would be living on the streets. But by being with them I feel complete,” said Luzinda. “I wouldn't be traveling all over the world with my mom and dad or have a great education. I talk to my friends and they don't see me any differently. They don't believe me at first (that I am adopted), but they treat me the same.

“I think I appreciate what I have more. I wouldn't have what I have now (without the adoption),” she added. “There was never a defining moment where I felt I was adopted. I have always felt like a natural part of the family.”

“We have told her from the beginning about her adoption,” said Luz. “My husband did not know his stepfather was not his biological father until he was much older and it was a big shock for him. We learned from that and have told her. We tell her God knew where she belonged and this is where he put her.”

The Montours said they have learned that being a parent is less about being pregnant and more about what you do after the child is born.

“My wife and I decided to adopt because we knew we would be good parents. It did not matter that we did not carry the baby for nine months,” said Joe. “We both had our minds made up that we wanted to be parents and were willing to do everything we could to make that happen.

“Adopting Luzinda is something I will never regret, bringing this young lady into my life has, without a doubt, been one of the best things that has ever happened to me,” he continued.

“Going through the adoption process, there were days when we wished there was another way. If you are adopting, don't get discouraged,” he added. “It is worth every headache, every frustrating obstacle and every cost. There is no way I can describe the feeling I get every time we talk about how Luzinda came into our lives.”

Luz has this advice for couples considering adoption: “Go for it. I know it is a hard decision, but if you really want to be a parent don't let money or anything else get in your way. If you can give a child a loving home, everything else is secondary. There are so many kids out there who need a home.”

Luzinda offers her own advice to kids: “Be thankful for what you have and that your parents love you.”

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1 Tea Party Guest:

raven said...

I was adopted. So I know how it is. You don't know what you have when you dot have a kid and it brings so much happiness into your life I'm writing about my life how I was adopted out