Adoption and Parenting: In Peru

[Every Friday for the first two months of 2013, DWLA will feature a story from Barbara Shipka’s blog about her personal experiences with adoption and parenting.  We will sample a story from each of eight categories: 1) Before; 2) In Peru; 3) We’re Home; 4) 2 – 6 years old; 5) 6 – 12 years old; 6) 12 – 18 years old; 7) 18 + years old; 8) Musing / Thruout.  Barbara’s son Michael’s video was showcased in Gifts to the World.]

First Mother’s Day

by Barbara Shipka

Michael was now five months old. I had been told the adoption process would take about two weeks. I planned for six weeks…just in case. Three different friends had come for two weeks each.

Now I was on my own as a new mom. I had gone straight from being a confident business professional to feeling totally incompetent. The experience left me breathless!

We had been in Peru navigating a challenging adoption process for almost three months already…with no end in sight. And now there were new complications in our process as my first Mother’s Day approached.

The outcome of the adoption was uncertain. Michael might now be allowed into the US. Then what?

And in the meantime, I felt lonely and despairing with nothing to do but wait as money and my consulting business evaporated. I sobbed as I tried to wash away my fear and self-pity.

A German entrepreneur was staying at the same small hotel as we were. He was overseeing the building of a school in one of the barrios on the edge of Lima. He knew how down I felt.

As the day of the school opening approached…which just happened to be Mother’s Day…Robert asked me whether Michael and I might like to attend.

Even though I’ve seen such scenes many times before, I was amazed at the physical poverty in the neighborhood! No running water, no electricity, etc.

Cholera had recently arrived so the price of admission to the school (including new school clothes…a la the photo) was for the mothers to attend a class on cholera prevention.

As the program began, Robert introduced us. One of the mothers got up and came over to me with a Mother’s Day gift! Here were these women who had NOTHING…giving ME a gift! Imagine! It was a butter dish.

In that moment, I understood at a very deep level how completely and profoundly I also was living in poverty. The difference was that my form of poverty was spiritual rather than physical.

More than 20 years later it still brings tears to my eyes to remember the grace and healing that occurred for me through that gift. Those mothers…who had nothing…giving to me. Such generosity! And, at a deeper level, they also gave me a sense of belonging to the community of motherhood.

[Photo by Barbara, Lima, Peru, Spring 1991]


Barbara is a single mom and was in her mid-forties when she adopted her son, Michael.  He was 10 weeks old at the time. Together, they spent many months navigating through the rather overwhelming legal processes for adoption in Peru.  Today, as a junior at the University of Minnesota, Michael is majoring in Native American Studies.

For much of her career, Barbara has been an executive leadership coach and organization effective consultant for Fortune 500 companies.  Another part of her career has been working in education and with non-governmental organizations in Europe, The Middle East, Africa, and The Caribbean.  Over the last twenty years, in addition to becoming a mother, she has also become an author and artist.  You can learn more at

These blog posts are snapshots from Barbara’s collection of stories about her experiences of their life together from March 1991 to today.  Visit her blog, Adoption and Parenting, to read more of her stories.  When you arrive, click on “Label” under “Home” where you see the tabs Recent…Date…LABEL…Author.  This will rearrange the stories into 8 categories:

Categories via 'Label'


  1. Barbara, this is a beautiful story of a growing realization within yourself. What an enlightening (and difficult) time of your life. I love the photo of the children.

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