becoming parents
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Becoming Parents — Kid #1

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Becoming parents isn’t always as easy as you think.

The call

It was early September 1982, just after Labor Day. I was at Sinai Hospital, post-op four days bowel resection due to a blockage. Nasal gastric tube down the throat, fuzzy-headed from anesthesia and doped up on pain meds. That’s when Ken received the call. Much of what happened the next few days, weeks and months is a blur.

Our friends Karen and Steve adopted a one-month-old baby girl from Santiago, Chile in early June. Their lawyer in Chile called. She had a three-month-old baby boy in good health available for adoption. Were they interested? They said, “no,” but immediately thought of us.

The good news: We had most of the American adoption paperwork completed, including the home study. The bad news:

  • Every document had to be translated into Spanish and notarized.
  • Documents had to be approved by the State Department.
  • I had at least a six-week recovery after discharge. Even then, my energy to prepare for a long international trip would be at an all point low.

About a week later, I came home from the hospital. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur came and went. Days where we could have worked on paperwork were lost due to the chagim (Jewish holidays).

What to do?

Somehow, we’d managed. We had to. Was this it? Were we finally going to be parents? But soon it was October, and we had to get organized. 

Via networking, we found a translator, a fellow in Lutherville. It took him at least two weeks to translate our papers. Then, we needed to get those documents to the State Department. There, they’d sit on a bureaucrat’s desk until he or she decided to review them. 

Friends from our overseas adoption parent group, who were excited for us, advised going to the State Department. Evidently, same-day approval was possible if you came in person! My dad volunteered to drive us to Washington, D.C. He would circle around the block if we couldn’t find parking.

We did it! The papers were approved. Going directly to the source cut the red tape. We were one step closer to bringing our son home.


In mid-November, we received a call from the lawyer. She was facilitating the adoption of a seven-year-old boy from Chile to a family in Northern Virginia. Included in their paperwork was a recent photo of our baby. We called them and arranged a time to drive to Virginia to get the photo.

When their son saw the photo, he jumped up and down, jabbering in Spanish. No one understood him! We wanted to think that he recognized our baby and two other children in the photo.

Deciding to travel

By then, it was early December. Like most Latin American Catholic countries, Chile shuts down in December. It didn’t make sense to travel until January if our petition to the court wouldn’t be heard in December.

Fortunately for us, Chile allowed adoptions to be finalized without the adoptive parents being present. Theoretically, if all the paperwork was complete and in good order, the judge would declare us the parents. We would only need to be in Santiago, Chile for three days—meet our son, get his U.S. visa from the U.S. Embassy and fly home.


We booked tickets for early January. Our son would be almost seven months old; still a baby but not an infant. The weeks of waiting were agonizing. However, we had time to get baby furniture, paint the nursery, buy some clothes, etc. Stewart’s Department store at the Reisterstown Road Plaza had cute onesies on sale! 

Finally, our travel day arrived. When we got the airport, Dad gave me a valium. “Here’s a pill to help you sleep on the plane,” he advised. I put the little pill in a safe place in my carry-on luggage and off we went.

Our itinerary was as follows:

  • Going: Delta Airlines to Atlanta, plane change, Delta flight to Miami and overnight, non-stop flight to Santiago.
  • Coming home: Eastern Airlines direct flight, with stops in Ecuador, Panama City and Miami. Non-stop to Baltimore after clearing Immigration and Naturalization and Customs in Miami.

Glitch #1

Our plane to Atlanta was delayed 40 minutes. But we only had 40 minutes to change planes! Time to panic! 

The minute the plane doors opened in Atlanta, we grabbed our carry-on luggage—our very heavy baggage—and ran for our lives. Atlanta Airport, the busiest in the country, is the Delta Airlines hub. Naturally, our connecting flight was in a different terminal. I vaguely remember running on a people mover, dodging other passengers. Was I going to have a heart attack? It sure felt like it.

We worried, of course, whether our luggage from BWI would transfer to the Miami flight. As advised by others, essential baby stuff was in our carry-ons. If necessary, we would wear the same clothes and underwear for three days.

Panting and exhausted, we made it to the gate. But guess what? The flight to Miami was delayed! We had a few moments to catch our breaths and to plotz before boarding.

Miami International Airport was strange. Everyone spoke Spanish. My five years of high school French did not come in handy. This was America? On the other hand, our luggage made it, and we checked into the international flight.

Glitch #2

Luckily, the flight to Santiago was not full so we were able to stretch out and relax a bit. Two to three hours into the flight (after eating our kosher dinners), I took Dad’s valium. What a mistake.

Did I sleep? Maybe. I remember only a horrible nightmare and hallucination. I’d drift off, and my subconscious had the jet engines shutting down. We were crashing! Startled, I’d wake up. All I could see out the window was pitch-black darkness. No ground lights whatsoever. The dream/hallucination repeated itself multiple times. The combination of fear, agitation and anxiety, coupled with that valium, turned me into a zombie.

Somehow, I made it through the night. What a relief it was to see the sun rise over the Andes Mountains and shortly thereafter land on terra firma.

Santiago, Chile

I don’t remember anything about the airport in Santiago. We claimed our luggage and found a taxi. The lawyer had arranged for us to stay in a small apartment. Later that day, a non-English speaking social worker brought us our baby. Telma, the “regular” social worker, fluent in English, was on vacation. Another glitch.

The baby was so very cute but not too happy. Neither were we, since we couldn’t understand what the social worker was telling us. She gave us powdered formula and an additive for his bottles. After a while, she left. I don’t remember much else except we walked our son up and down the hallway to stop the crying.

And stop crying he did, but he refused to drink his bottle! Either he was rebelling in some way or didn’t like the way I fixed the formula. No one was around to help. His only nourishment was the baby food we brought.

What happened in the next couple of days is a total blur. Here’s what I do remember:

  • not eating anything and just drinking Coca Cola. I lost eight pounds!
  • no crib in the apartment. We placed large pillows around his bed so he wouldn’t roll off. He slept; I didn’t.
  • watching the water go down the drain counterclockwise when we gave him a bath in the sink. (Chile is below the equator.)
  • trying to call home (collect) and getting frustrated and teary when my mother didn’t pick up. That had a simple explanation. Chile is east of the U.S., and we had the time zones mixed up. Instead of being two hours ahead, Baltimore was two hours behind.

I don’t remember going to the embassy on day two. Nor do I recollect how we got there, whether by taxi or with the lawyer. But the baby’s visa was issued, and we were cleared to go home as planned!

becoming parents, globe

Going home

So, what do inexperienced parents do with a baby on a night flight? They wrap him up in a towel (we didn’t think to bring a blanket) and put him on the floor to sleep by their feet.

Luckily, the Eastern Airlines flight attendants intervened. They found empty seats for me and him. While he woke up in Ecuador and Panama City, he never cried. As a matter of fact, every time the plane took off, he went back to sleep. A perfect traveler!

The “highlight” of the flight home for my husband was going to be Eastern Airline’s hot kosher dinner. Unfortunately, what we got instead was a smelly, kosher, cold turkey sandwich. I insisted that Ken not eat it. Food poisoning on the long flight home was not an option! The flight attendants were sympathetic but had nothing else for us to eat. Meanwhile, the passengers in first class enjoyed fresh fruit! Alas, we coach passengers couldn’t even get a banana!

When we got to Miami, I was ready to kiss the ground (as well as find kosher snacks). Immigration & Naturalization went smoothly as did Customs. Onwards to Baltimore!

Mom and my mother-in-law, Glicka, met us at BWI. We were weary; they were so excited! Mom shooed us to bed for a nap while she and Glicka cuddled their new grandson. And wouldn’t you know it – he took the bottle for Mom without any trouble. He just needed a grandma’s touch.

The end

Well, it never ends when you are a parent. But we settled in with a baby who slept through the night (hallelujah!) and was sweet and easy to care for. A few weeks later we celebrated with family and friends with a party at our synagogue.

Our “baby” turns 40 years old this June. Amazing!

And in case you were wondering – no, he did not speak Spanish! That was a frequently asked dumb question.

Please leave your comments below. 

Read more by Eileen Creeger.

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