When Lucia Barbosa embarked on her adoption journey, she had no idea that it would start so badly and end so well. She also didn't expect to adopt an older child. Now, one year after her daughter joined her family, everything has fallen into place.
There were times when Lucia Barbosa despaired that her dream of becoming a parent would ever be realized. Only her determined, optimistic character, and her enduring faith, pulled her through those long, dark days.
Over a period of ten years, as well as her marriage ending, Lucia endured the pain of five adoption plans falling through. On one occasion, she attended the birthmom’s delivery only to find that she had a last minute change of mind. Lucia’s fourth adoption plan didn’t work out because the child’s birth father claimed the baby. “That almost did me in,” explains Lucia, “but I have a lot of faith in God and a voice in my head kept whispering, “Keep hanging on.” Thankfully, she listened to that voice.
Around this time, Lucia went on a business trip to Mexico. She recalls running on the beach and praying, “God, if you could afford me this one thing, please give me a child.” That night she Googled “adoption in BC” and discovered AFABC’s website. A few days later, Lucia sat in the AFABC office, spoke to adoption support coordinator Jennifer Hillman, and embarked on a new stage of the journey—one that would finally bring her a child.
Though Lucia had originally envisaged adopting a baby, she applied to adopt from the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) and decided that she would consider an older child. “I realized how badly I wanted to have a child and to give this child my love and an opportunity to grow. Age was no longer a relevant factor to me,” she explains.
Eventually, Lucia was told about Daniella, a six-year-old girl who needed a family. They met on Valentine’s Day. “No words I can give you, could express my feelings when I set eyes on Daniella. It was a Valentine’s day party in Daniella’s Grade 1 classroom, and Daniella’s foster mom had come with her. I came and sat in. At one point, Daniella came up to me and asked, “Whose mummy are you? Will you read to me?” recalls Lucia. On that day, Lucia was wearing a pink T-shirt with a sequined heart on it and she recalls Daniella saying, “You have two hearts, one on your T-shirt and one inside you.” The rest, as they say, is history. Except, of course, it wasn’t that easy.
Am I ready to parent?
“I received the medical reports on my daughter—there were over 75 pages—I read them very, very carefully. I then consulted with medical professionals for their expert advice. I also spent a day with a foster family that had children with the same spectrum of medical diagnoses to help me make a determination of whether I had the emotional and physical skill set to appropriately parent a child with this type of medical background.” Only after that process did Lucia move on with her plan.
Lucia also took a step that few parents take—she had herself assessed by a psychologist. “I didn’t take a Disneyland approach to becoming a parent,” she explains, “I’m very logistical, and I like to make informed, solid decisions. Adoption is about parenting; it’s a decision to love, it’s not just a feeling, you have to look at yourself very carefully to make sure you can provide a child, especially if they have special needs, with all the support he or she needs. You have to have the infrastructure in place.”
The grief of separation
Though Lucia was happy to have an open relationship with the foster family, she feels that they struggled with the adoption plan. “The separation was excruciating for them. I had great sympathy. I don’t think some foster parents are ever really ready to loose a child. Nothing could have prepared me for their reaction; it was a real emotional bomb. “ Lucia feels that adoptive parents and foster parents need more support in navigating that difficult stage in adoption. Naturally, Daniella didn’t find the separation any easier. “She grieved and grieved for them,” says Lucia. Now the families have an open relationship and things have settled down considerably. Last Christmas, the families spent time together. Daniella also has regular visits with her extended family and, on occasion, she stays overnight with her grandparents.
The joy of being a mom
Now, after a year, Lucia and Daniella have well and truly claimed each other and are happily settling into their new life. The little girl, now seven years old, is thriving. She takes art classes, swimming lessons, and she’s hoping to take up soccer. Mom’s happy too. “Before I adopted Daniella, I had a Vincent van Gogh print on my office wall—now I have pictures that Daniella made for me.” Lucia fondly recalls one of the many precious Mom moments she’s had since Daniella became her daughter: “Daniella was last in the pack at a track meet, and she looked really disheartened and was slowing down and crying profusely. I ran across the field in my high heeled shoes and crossed the finishing line with her.”
Differences like that have made the other adjustments that Lucia has made since she became a mom, easy. “I haven’t taken up serious dating opportunities but, if I did, I would assess any future partner very differently now. I’ve focused on bonding with Daniella, my extended family and friends with children.”
Lucia wanted to tell her story to encourage other single people to realize their dreams of becoming parents. “Don’t dismiss the Waiting Child Program or the idea of adopting an older child. These kids have so much love to give, and they need it so much,” she says. Lucia was also happy with her experience of working with the MCFD. “They treated me with great respect. I can’t say that being single was an issue. They saw that I was proactive in making sure that I had the support I would need in place.”
Lucia sums up her feelings about finally becoming a mom: “It is such an honour to share my heart with her. I had a fulfilled life before, but now I have a real purpose. I believe that someone who wants to proceed with adoption should be the greatest leader with a servant’s heart. When Daniella joined my family, it was not about receiving—it was only about giving.”