This is a guest blog post by Candice Warltier…
I can’t remember a time I didn’t want to be a mother. I also can’t remember ever thinking I’d do it as a single woman. I always assumed it would just happen in the traditional way. I’d graduate from college, move to Chicago, land a job, meet a great guy and settle down with two kids and a dog. At 40, I had left a corporate PR firm and started my own. Too many dates were ending up on a road to nowhere, and it finally hit me: Maybe this dream wouldn’t become a reality. I may have to create my own destiny.
I pursued adoption and decided to fulfill my dream of being a mother. While scary and sometimes feeling alone, I found great comfort in knowing that I was among a growing number of women who have chosen the path to pursue motherhood while searching for Mr. Right.
For Rebecca Gruenspan, adoptive mother and founder of RG Adoption Consulting (featured in TCW’s May issue), being a mother was her biggest dream in life. “While I thought it would be in a more ‘traditional’ manner, it turns out, that part wasn’t as important to me as being a mother was,” she says.
Kate O’Malley, president, K.O. Strategies, who adopted her son as a single woman, advises other single women considering pursuing motherhood on their own to reach out to some single moms to get a sense of what they’re going through. “I connected with a group called Single Mothers by Choice, and it was really terrific to meet professional, accomplished, single women who were already parents,” she explains. “Talking with those moms and seeing them interact with their children only reinforced my decision to pursue motherhood as a single woman.”
While many of us share the same bond of motherhood, our journeys – filled with uncertainty, happiness and fear – are all very different. My journey to motherhood took me across the world to Kathmandu, Nepal.
My mother and I boarded the plane from Bangkok to Kathmandu, the last leg of our long journey from Chicago to Nepal. As I stared in wonder out of the windows at the beautiful mountaintops, I was filled with excitement and nervous energy. All I could think about was the serious little girl with the dark, sullen eyes in the small photo I clenched in the palm of my hand. I tried to stay calm and focus on what brought me to this moment – adopting this beautiful, little girl. And, despite what many told me was the final chapter in my journey, I knew my journey was just the beginning.
As we left the airport and made our way into the chaotic streets of Kathmandu, it was over 90 degrees and you could feel your chest tighten from the pollution in the air. Soon after we settled into our small room, I received a phone call from a woman at the U.S. Embassy. I listened in disbelief as her warm welcome turned to shocking news that the U.S. had closed the Nepal adoption program while I was en route. I could barely make out her words as she tried to explain that some prospective adoptive families would be ‘grandfathered’ into the program, but this would cause unanticipated delays in the process.
What did this mean? I couldn’t help but imagine what my life would become if I couldn’t bring Antara home with me. It had taken years to get to this point. Single and approaching 40, I had made the very difficult decision to pursue adoption. I had yet to find the man I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, but I knew that I wanted to be a mother.
I just stared at my mother and asked, “What will I do?” She simply replied, “We won’t leave Nepal without her.” Those words changed my life.
That first evening, we got a taste of life in Kathmandu – two power outages, brownish water sputtering from the faucet and a painfully slow Internet connection. But we settled in and continued with the plan to visit the orphanage the following day.
My heart beat quickly as I stared out the window of the taxi on our way to meet Antara, winding our way through the congested streets, lined with homeless children. When we arrived, I walked tentatively toward the door of the three-story building where I would finally meet the little girl who looked so sad in the photo I received months before. We greeted everyone with “Namaste,” slipped off our shoes and entered the orphanage. We climbed up a narrow stairwell to a small room filled with many children. My eyes circled the room lined with cribs and mattresses until I saw her, the sadness still lurking behind those big eyes. I immediately wondered if I could make her smile.
We spent the next several hours playing with Antara. She was a big girl, by Nepali standards, with round cheeks you just wanted to squeeze. She was almost a year old, standing on her own but not walking just yet. Eventually she opened her arms to me and stumbled over toward me, falling into my arms.
The next day at the Embassy, the six families who were in Nepal adopting children sat in disbelief as the U.S. Ambassador and other Department of State (DoS) officials relayed to us that they had closed the adoption program, and while we could move forward with our adoptions, we wouldn’t be granted U.S. visas to bring the children home until the DoS did further investigations. They explained that the process could take months, with no guarantee we’d ever be allowed to take our children home.
From the beginning, I knew that international adoption could be a roller coaster ride. But this was stunning – families I knew had returned from Nepal with their children just a few weeks before! My heart sank. The outlook was grim. Should I adopt her and risk not obtaining a U.S. visa for her?
Each day, life in Nepal became more difficult. My mother was not holding down food and could no longer make the arduous drive to the orphanage, which often took hours on the dusty, unpaved roads in a cab without air conditioning. But I visited daily. After just a few days, her eyes began to light up when I entered the room. I couldn’t bear to think what would happen to her if I didn’t adopt her.
Finally one evening, I knew I had to make my decision – the next time I visited the orphanage, she’d either become my daughter or I’d never see her again. I searched deep within myself, a rush of mixed emotions colliding. I skimmed through emails from supportive friends urging me to continue on my journey, along with frantic messages from others who were afraid that if I adopted her I’d be forced to live in Nepal for years.
I tried to put my fears aside. How could I possibly leave this little girl to a life without a mother? I couldn’t help but think that Anu would be left to a horrific future living on the street or ending up in the hands of sex traffickers. How could I possibly leave her and go back to living my life as it was? I couldn’t.
“We won’t leave Nepal without her.”
The next morning, I woke my mother up and told her to get dressed — we were going to the orphanage to adopt Antara. I always dreamt that this day would be idyllic, filled with bliss – not clouded by the bureaucracy now standing in our way. I was frightened and surrounded by uncertainty, but one thing I knew for sure – I wasn’t leaving Nepal without my daughter.
On August 18, 2010, Anu became my daughter. But the happiest day of my life was also the scariest.
Just a couple weeks after the adoption, my mother had to return to the U.S. Suddenly, I was faced with more uncertainty – a new single mom in a third-world country, alone. But some of the other families had moved forward with their own adoptions, and I soon moved in with another woman and her daughter. We bonded quickly. Both single moms, we attempted to create a home for our children as we waited for word on what our futures held.
Weeks turned into months. The days were filled attempting to create some semblance of normalcy out of our situation. I was adjusting to being a new mom and bonding with Antara. In many ways, we behaved as if we were at home and went grocery shopping, cooked dinner at home and went out to restaurants. Many of Antara’s firsts happened during this time – she learned to walk, said her first words (mama)and learned how to say “Namaste.”
I spent time learning about the Hindu and Buddhist cultures and, when possible, fit in some sightseeing between naptimes. We took a few mini trips to the mountains and tried to take advantage of Nepal’s beautiful country. I even began volunteering at a school for young Nepali nuns. Though many days were filled with the joy of seeing Antara grow, the evenings brought on great worry with the uncertainty of when we’d go home. We spent many evenings emailing legislators and other advocates in an effort to help.
The small amount of optimism I grasped onto like a lifeline soon started to fade. It was getting colder outside and I had only brought clothing for warm weather. Although I attempted to see the positive in the time I was able to spend bonding with Antara, I became increasingly worried that the day we could go home might never arrive.
Life went on like that for several more weeks, until one evening three months after I first arrived in Nepal, I opened an e-mail from the DoS. I had to read it several times to interpret the legalese, but Antara had been granted a visa.
We were going home. That was three-and-a-half years ago. I can’t imagine a life without her. Now nearly five years old, my daughter is full of life. Her laugh is infectious. She loves to sing, dance and has a heart of gold. I still find it surreal that I traveled across the world and was handed a gift that I had dreamed of for so long. To this day, people tell me how lucky Antara is and that she will now have a better life. And that is true. But the greater reality is that my precious child saved me as much as I saved her. She saved me from just existing. She gave my life a true purpose. I am the lucky one.
It doesn’t matter how you became or become a mom, whether you are a birth mother, adoptive mother, a prospective adoptive mother, step mother or a ‘non-traditional’ mother who helps raise children. Motherhood is in your heart and shown through everlasting unconditional love.
About Candice Warltier
Candice Warltier is the founder/principal of Communication Strategies Group, a Chicago-based strategic communications firm. She works with a team of individuals to help clients achieve their business and communications goals by creating awareness, changing opinions and influencing behaviors of key audiences through targeted, effective communications programs. She is a mom and involved in advocating for international adoption. She has conducted numerous interviews on the subject in media outlets including, NPR, The Talk, Chicago Tribune, WGN-TV and Washington Times.
Next Up: My adoption journey begins