Monday 20 September 2021

A Tearful and Unexpected Family Reunion in Costa Rica

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Genesis is a young lady in Costa Rica who feels that her life has been filled with blessings -despite the fact that her mother, Ana Acevedo, made a difficult choice 17 years ago: She gave up her baby daughter to Shirley Gomez, an infertile neighbor.

Génesis says she has two mothers now: Ana Acevedo y Shirley Gómez | Photo: La Teja, AUXILIADORA ZÚÑIGA PARA LT.
Génesis says she has two mothers now: Ana Acevedo y Shirley Gómez | Photo: La Teja, AUXILIADORA ZÚÑIGA PARA LT.

Thanks to a daily tabloid newspaper in Costa Rica, Genesis traveled to Playas del Coco earlier this year to meet her biological mother and maternal grandmother for the first time in her life.

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Sensible readers beware: The story that follows is a weepy.

La Teja is a tabloid newspaper that is known in Costa Rica for its sensationalist news coverage, crude slang and full-page spreads of scantily-clad Ticas in seductive poses. Within the pages of La Teja, however, you will also find compelling human interest stories such as this one.

17 years ago, Shirley Gomez began celebrating Mother’s Day despite never having being pregnant. She is 41 years old today and still gets very emotional every time she hears her adopted daughter call her “Mami,” that endearing Spanish diminutive of “Mom.” You see, to this day Shirley cannot have children; but, this was not yet known to her on the day she met her baby daughter.

At the time, Shirley lived in the Caribbean province of Limon. She was celebrating her 25th birthday when a neighbor approached with an unexpected gift. With a heavy heart, Ana Acevedo turned her baby girl over to Shirley. Genesis was but a few days old when she arrived in Shirley’s life; she was Ana’s fourth child. Shirley’s family knew their neighbor Ana well. They knew about her tribulations and about the man in her life who physically abused her, and yet they were surprised by this gesture.

Shirley took a few days to reflect on this matter. She thought about something some of you may be thinking about right now: What kind of mother gives up her baby that way? The answer is simple: There is no single kind.

In the Hebrew Tanakh and in the Christian Old Testament, the Book of Genesis ends before we learn of a mother who gives up her baby boy to keep him safe from a despot. That boy was adopted and grew up to become Moses, one of the most important prophets in the Judaic, Christian and Islamic faiths. On any given day, millions of children around the world are waiting to be adopted, and many of them were given up by their mothers shortly after they were born. This can happen in Costa Rica or anywhere else.

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Poverty and tragedy can hit you pretty hard, and this is what happened to Ana when she was Shirley’s neighbor in Limon. She was going through hard times with no foreseeable ending. Although mothers in Costa Rica enjoy considerable protection and welfare from the government and the community, Ana’s fourth pregnancy left her crestfallen. In her heart, she knew that giving up her baby daughter to be raised by Shirley was for the best for everyone.

The Right Decision

Shirley found out that Ana had somehow slipped out of the hospital with her baby daughter without going through the process of getting a birth certificate. This was in 1996, long before the Responsible Fatherhood Act was enacted in Costa Rica. Shirley and Ana went to the Civil Registry and spoke to officials about the situation. The baby girl was registered as Genesis and took Shirley’s last names.

Ana knew right away that she had made the right decision. Shirley’s family welcomed Genesis and gave her a happy and nurturing home. At the time, Shirley was engaged to Rolando Torres, who quickly accepted his role as a new father. He did not know then that Genesis would become a true blessing and the only daughter he and Shirley could have.

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Genesis was still learning to walk when she attended her adoptive parents’ wedding. The family then moved from Limon to Santa Cruz, a district in the Turrialba canton, province of Cartago. Genesis’ biological mother moved to La Cruz, province of Guanacaste. At the time, the two women thought it would be better to cut ties and communication for the sake of Genesis.

Shirley eventually learned of her infertility. She tried different treatments to no avail. Instead of sulking, Rolando and Shirley thanked God for bringing Genesis into their lives and focused on giving her the live that her biological mother Ana knew she couldn’t give her.

The Picture and the Yellow Dress

The only mementos of Genesis’ early days with her mother Ana are a family picture and a yellow baby dress. Shirley kept these items, which one day a curious young Genesis found. The picture is of Ana with her three sons and Genesis. Shirley felt that the time had come to tell Genesis about her true genesis, and she also promised her that one day she would meet her biological mother and her siblings.

Genesis told La Teja that she often thought about her biological mother and her blood relatives. These thoughts would often come to her during rainy afternoons. At the age of 17, her love for her adoptive parent is stronger than even; but still, she wanted to find out about that other part of her life.

La Teja published the story above as part of a series of articles leading up to Mother’s Day, which is one of the most closely observed national and religious holidays in Costa Rica. One of Genesis’ adoptive aunts was acquainted with Marco Tulio Quesada, a man who works as a delivery driver for Grupo Nacion, publisher of La Teja. She wondered if the journalists of La Teja could find Genesis’ biological mother and arrange a reunion.

It so happens that Marco Tulio himself was given up for adoption as a baby as well. He knew exactly how Genesis felt. He took it upon himself to help, and he went old-school with his search. He started with the Civil Registry and ended up looking up old phone books from the Guanacaste province until he found a possible lead in Playas del Coco.

The lead turned out to be Genesis’ maternal grandmother, who never knew about her granddaughter. That phone call from a newspaper delivery driver left her in tears. She agreed to help with the family reunion.

An Early Mother’s Day Gift

La Teja arranged the family reunion to take place in the days leading up to Mother’s Day, but not before warning Shirley about a couple of things.

  • Since Genesis was given up as a baby, her biological mother Ana gave birth to three more children. None of these three boys were given up for adoption.
  • There was a chance that Genesis might want to spend a lot more time with her biological mother after the reunion. This could have positive or negative consequences.

Still, Shirley had promised Genesis years ago that one day she would meet her biological mother. Shirley had every reason to be worried; meetings between biological parents and their children can often present issues of disappointment, remorse, conflicts between parents, and more. However, Shirley also saw this as a chance to give Ana an early Mother’s Day gift in return for having given her an opportunity to be a mother, something that Shirley is unable to biologically accomplish.

Deep down, Shirley had thought about this moment. She wanted to thank Ana for giving her the gift of motherhood; what better way would there be to show her gratitude than to show the beautiful young lady that Genesis had grown up to be?

The Reunion

The tears flowed copiously in La Cruz, Guanacaste. Ana was speechless, but after crying and holding on to Genesis for what seemed forever she said:

“I don’t know what to say; I am very happy and grateful.”

It was the photos that did it. Pictures of Genesis when she turner just one year old, then at kindergarten, then First Communion and at her quinceanera (Latin American coming-of-age celebration for young ladies). These pictures really stirred up Ana’s emotions.

Genesis, for her part, was cool about everything.

“I am at peace. I have two moms and I am happy.”

Then it was on to Playas del Coco, about an hour away, to meet her maternal grandmother. Let’s not forget that Maria Acevedo did not even know that her daughter Ana ever had Genesis until a few days ago.

“I love you” were the only words this 62-year old mother of seven and grandmother of many could muster once she saw young Genesis for the first time in her life. She was overcome by a crying fit. Once she regained composure she told Genesis:

“You have here a grandmother who has loved ever since I knew you existed.”

So what about Genesis’ six brothers? She says that she keeps them in her heart and is ready to meet them one by one now that she knows who they are and where they live. Her three older brothers are all family men in Playas del Coco. Two of them live with their father and the youngest is still with his mother Ana, who admits her life has been tumultuous until recently (she found Christianity).

On August 15th, Shirley did what she has always done on every Mother’s Day in Costa Rica over the last 17 years: Thank God and Ana for giving her the chance to hear Genesis call her “Mom.”

Article by Costa Rica Star

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Carter Maddox
Carter is self-described as thirty-three-and-a-half years old and his thirty-three-and-a-half years birthday is always on March 3. Carter characteristically avoids pronouns, referring to himself in the third person (e.g. "Carter has a question" rather than, "I have a question"). One day [in 1984], Carter, raised himself up and from that day forward we could all read what Carter writes.

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