‘An option of grace’

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Rosirio (last name withheld) has spent her whole life working with children. In 1994, she moved from her native Bolivia to live with her sister and work as a nanny for a family in the United States. She has worked with three sisters since the oldest was 2 months old, she said, pointing out the girls on a Christmas card hanging from her kitchen wall. When she married Oscar (last names withheld) in December 2003, the two hoped to have a few children of their own.

Yet after years of trying to conceive, Oscar and Rosirio remained childless. They considered adopting a child from Oscar's native Peru. One day at work Oscar found the diocesan Catholic Charities Center for Adoption Services and decided to pursue a domestic adoption through the agency. The couple would take a boy or a girl of any race, but prayed that the child would be a newborn, said Rosirio, as she knew the joy of raising a child from birth.

The waiting was difficult, said the couple. One Mother's Day, the charismatic Christians felt too heartbroken to attend Sunday services, said Oscar. But through the years of waiting they learned never to close their hearts to God or to the opportunity to love a child. Rosirio said, "I had lows and highs until I understood that everybody goes through testing, because God gives you what you can deal with. My friend taught me that God is going to give you your daughter or your son not in the way you want it, but the way He wants it," she said. "That brought peace to my heart."

Three years after applying, Oscar received a call at work that a birth mother had seen their photo and had chosen them to be parents to her baby girl, hoping they would teach her Spanish. Oscar and Rosirio had just 10 days to prepare for the arrival of their new daughter, Alina. Friends from church helped ready the room that would become the nursery, and the family she worked for gave her old baby clothes and items. One friend even provided breast milk.

Finally, they were able to meet their daughter. "When I saw her the first time I didn't know whether to laugh or cry I was so happy," said Rosirio. Now she is a stay-at-home mom to the 2-year-old Alina, whose photos cover the walls of their home. One of Rosirio's favorites is of the family's first Mother's Day together.

When the South American couple adopted the little Ethiopian girl, they knew there was no hiding that Alina was adopted. Still, "staring at the mirror we don't see any difference," said Oscar. True to her birth mother's wishes Alina is bilingual, English and Spanish, but they also try to keep her own heritage alive by taking her to Ethiopian restaurants and buying traditional Ethiopian garb. Lino laughs thinking about the day they bought Alina the African clothes. "The storeowners were staring, thinking, "What are they doing with this (Ethiopian) girl speaking Spanish?'"

In the Latino community, adoption isn't talked about very often, said Oscar. More than that, there often are many barriers that stand in the way, especially for Hispanics. "The paperwork is tedious, it requires a certain investment and you (to possess) the heart to raise a human being that didn't come from you," he explained. In addition, at least one parent has to be a U.S. citizen. In their case, Rosirio became a citizen a few years ago while Oscar is still in the country on a work visa.

Despite the difficulties, the couple hopes more people will open their heart to adoption in a world where so many children need homes. In our culture, Oscar said, we humanize pets instead of looking around at the many fatherless and motherless children in the world. "I tell people even if I pay a hundred thousand dollars it's still worth it."

Though it took the couple years to find Alina, they said the journey taught them great humility and an acceptance of God's plan. They never lost hope, but they also knew that their fate could involve a life without children. "You have to have faith in order to accept that, to be humble, to let go," said Oscar. "To be children and not the Father, who rules everything."

Now the small family is looking into finding a sibling for Alina, but is ultimately content. "Honestly our hearts are totally full," said Oscar. "It was an option of grace."

Di Mauro can be reached at zdimauro@catholicherald.com or on Twitter @zoeydimauro.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2016