Building a Family with Three Daughters, Part 1

There’s more than one way of building a family. My wife and I were told early in our marriage by a doctor whose crystal ball was busted that we’d never have children the good old biological way. So, we decided to go the adoption route. This turned out to be an interesting approach, to say the least. Building a Family

I was finishing up the research for my doctorate in pharmacology, and my wife worked full time. She told me that in her opinion the time had come to start our family. I agreed, because apparently my crystal ball was busted too. I had no idea what we were getting into. Building a Family

My wife found an adoption lawyer who handled adoptions in El Salvador and Peru. This seemed like a reasonable approach, as there are children all over the world who need help. Next thing I knew, my wife boarded a flight for San Salvador to pick up our new baby daughter. She told me I should continue working on my research so I could graduate on time. She could handle things just fine. Building a Family 

She called me to tell me she had arrived safely. Two days later she called to tell me the adoption agency had given her the baby girl. Not expecting to receive the baby quite so soon after her arrival, she found herself caring for the child in her Hilton hotel room, waiting for the adoption papers to be finalized so they could come home. She had to scramble to get hold of diapers, formula, and other baby stuff, because she had not been prepared to receive the baby so soon. Building a Family

A couple of days later I got a call from a crying wife, asking me to come rescue her. She had tried to visit the American embassy to obtain some signatures required for the adoption, and she got caught up in an anti-American demonstration by local El Salvadorans. They locked down the embassy and she got caught outside. El Salvador was about to prohibit any further foreign adoptions, and my wife got caught in the middle. This is how I found myself boarding a very old, very large passenger jet with a very brightly colored parrot painted on the side, destination San Salvador. Building a Family

I arrived and went to her hotel room. I spent several days there helping take care of the baby. Since this was our first baby, we had plenty of excitement. Then the earthquake hit, giving us a good shaking. We also discovered that a war raged in El Salvador, but at least it raged on the other side of the country. This was somewhat comforting until we looked at a map and realized that El Salvador isn’t all that large, and the war raged just across the river from us. Plenty of excitement all around. Building a Family

The bad news, my wife had bonded with the baby, and we had to return to the United States without her. This did not make for a pleasant plane ride home. The good news, the adoption agent brought the baby to us a month later. She had managed to get the rest of the paperwork signed and finalize the adoption just before the deadline for prohibiting further adoptions in El Salvador. So, daughter number 1 arrived unscathed, and our family was off to a good, if somewhat rocky, start. Building a Family

Next came the two-day pregnancy. Allow me to explain. Not wanting our first daughter to be an only child, my wife signed us up for a second adoption with a domestic agency in Washington, D.C. The agency told her it would take at least five years for our names to come up on the list. Building a Family

Two years later we got a call on a Friday afternoon instructing us to go to the adoption agency the following Monday morning to pick up our brand-new baby daughter, thus leaving us two days to prepare. Fortunately, we had a lot of friends, and they all got together that weekend and helped us set up a nursery, brought diapers, baby clothes, the works. Fastest pregnancy ever. Life changed dramatically overnight. Building a Family

The oldest daughter, then two, turned out to be the most easy-going child one could imagine. She hardly ever cried, appeared happy all the time, and was a joy to be around. The second daughter not so much; she was a screamer. She cried and screamed constantly as a baby. Building a Family

A colicky baby, the doctor put her on goat’s milk. I often fed her the bottle while my wife watched the older daughter. When that goat’s milk came back up, which it often did, I needed several baths to remove the odor. I missed a couple days of work because I feared my colleagues would toss me out a window due to that putrid odor. As a toddler and beyond she continued to scream a lot. She hated for fun things to be over, and I remember hauling her home kicking and screaming from play dates, birthday parties, and the like. Building a Family

As an over-protective father, I drove myself crazy watching over them when they were little. My back still hurts today because when each of them learned to walk I spent hours bent over, ready to catch them if they fell. The second daughter, the screamer, also had no sense of self-preservation. Once she learned to walk, she would go running through the house like a wild child, and she never watched where she was going. She must have run into the island in the kitchen a kajillion times. Building a Family

She had so many knots on her head her older sister called her “boingy-head”, and we were sure social services were going to take her away from us because of all the bumps and bruises. It was even more terrifying when she learned to ride a bicycle, because she approached it the same way, charge ahead without looking where she was going. I’m still amazed today that we got that one to adulthood alive. Building a Family

When the oldest daughter was nine, she decided to take karate. I thought this was a good idea at first. I liked the idea of a young girl growing into a woman who knew how to protect herself. Then I discovered that after the first couple of months the kids had to participate in tournaments, including full contact karate. I couldn’t handle the thought of that, so my wife and I talked her out of karate, and into dance lessons, a little less heavy on the maiming thing. Building a Family

Seven years after we adopted our second daughter, we discovered just how broken that doctor’s crystal ball had been. My wife started mysteriously throwing up and feeling bad, especially in the morning, and I sent her to the doctor. I stayed home with the girls, waiting for a call from her to tell us that she had some terrible affliction and was about to shove off this mortal coil and leave me alone to raise two daughters (not that I made it about me or anything). Building a Family

The phone rang, my wife told me to sit down, and I was shaking with fear of her diagnosis. She told me she was pregnant, and according to our oldest daughter, ten at the time, I decided to take a short nap (as in passed out). Apparently, she talked to Mom on the phone until I came back to consciousness. It took me a few weeks to fully process the situation. Building a Family

I didn’t sleep for a week, and on Friday night I wrecked my car on the way home from work. Fortunately, nothing but my pride got hurt. No one believed me when I told them that a tree had jumped out in front of me. I eventually came around. I was 44 and had made all these plans to retire at 55, and…man plans, God laughs. He got an extra good laugh that day. Truth be told, our youngest daughter turned out to be one of our greatest blessings. To this day I am ashamed of the selfish way I acted back then. But perfect I am not.  Building a Family

When our youngest showed up on the scene, her two older sisters somehow got the idea that she was a toy. When she was about one-and-a-half, I set up one of those Jolly Jumper things in the archway between the dining room and kitchen. I put the baby in the thing, and she happily giggled as she hopped around. I turned my head for just a moment, and our oldest, eleven at the time, tried to launch the baby across the kitchen towards the refrigerator. Fortunately, no one was hurt, and I tried to explain to the older daughters that the baby was not a toy put there for their entertainment. Building a Family

The middle daughter, nine by then, thought the baby was a toy doll and kept touching her face and rubbing her head. Somehow, she kept poking the baby in the eye in the process, resulting in a screaming, unhappy baby. Then this same daughter got the idea that it would be fun to place the little one, two-years-old at the time, on a plastic toy train designed for little ones to sit on and be pushed around. Building a Family

The problem: she decided to launch the little one down a flight of stairs, train and all. Fortunately, the stairs were heavily carpeted, and I happened to be at the bottom of the stairs at the time. I managed to catch toddler and train in midair and avoid any permanent damage. The toddler was actually giggling as she flew through the air, and she didn’t get hurt. My back did not fare so well as I dove up the stairs to catch her.  Building a Family

In spite of all the potential mishaps, the girls were a lot of fun when they were little. We had a playroom in the basement complete with a large plastic castle, nerf swords, nerf guns, and even a small electric car for them to ride around in. We played troll, had sword fights, laughed, and had a great time. With the exception of the little one, who somehow kept finding herself under a large blowup playpen that the older two kept turning over on top of her to make a jail. She’s an adult in her late twenties now, and she still yells at me for that one. I tried to prevent it from happening, but those two older girls were determined and sneaky. Building a Family

With respect to building a family, as it turned out it didn’t matter whether the children were adopted or biological. My wife and I told the older two they were adopted as soon as they were old enough to comprehend. The three of them were sisters in every sense of the word. In fact, at one point our youngest daughter came to my wife and me and told us she wished she was adopted like her sisters. She wanted to be as much like them as possible. Building a Family


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