Growing a Family Through Adoption: A Local Mom Shares Her Story in Honor of National Adoption Month | Parents

There are many paths to starting a family, and adoption is the path local mom Caitlin Waddington has found herself on in pursuit of her dream of becoming a mother.

“I always wanted to be a mom and would love to be married to a man, but that never happened,” she shares. “When I was around 36, I thought, ‘I can handle never being married, at the end of my life, but I could never handle not being a mother.’ So I chose to be a single mother and to adopt.

Waddington’s sister had adopted her daughter from China just two years prior, so she felt equipped to pursue an international adoption. At first she completed the paperwork and home study process – in which a social worker spends time visiting expectant parents in their homes to provide education and support as they prepare to welcome a child in their family – with the aim of adopting a girl from China. But deep in her heart, Waddington knew she was destined to mother a son.

Caitlin Waddington, center, is seen with her parents after adopting her baby boy, Peter, in Guatemala.

“One day, towards the end of the home-study process, my father called me and said, ‘I don’t know if you know this, but China prohibits adoption for single people, and you don’t can only adopt older children and not babies.’ I already knew that, but I said, ‘OK, that’s good to know’. Let me call you back in a minute,” Waddington said. “I had this reaction of, oh well, now I can have my son! So I called the home study social worker and asked if we could change countries and adopt a little boy from Guatemala. I trusted my instincts.

Peter was born in October 2006, and on January 29, 2007, he was placed in Waddington’s arms “forever and ever”, she recalled. “It was our Baby Gotcha or Family Forever Day.”

Peter has five names, including Spanish names to honor his Guatemalan heritage. “I always wanted five kids,” Waddington shares, “so I had my five kids in one,” she laughs. “I’m so glad I had Peter. He is absolutely supposed to be my son. That’s why I know it was meant to be. It was divine intervention happening somewhere, somehow.

Before meeting Peter in person, Caitlin received a photo of her birth mother holding him and a social story. She sent a special blanket, clothes and a disposable camera to her host family in Guatemala. “I had dreamed of being a mother since I was little, so for Peter and me, the attachment was immediate,” she recalls. “When I got the photo of him, I immediately felt like he was my son.”

Peter and Caitlin Waddington1

Caitlin Waddington holds her son, Peter, during their first Family Forever Day on January 29, 2007.

When Waddington and her parents traveled to Guatemala to bring Peter home, he was swaddled in the blanket she had sent him. His foster family had filled the disposable camera film with photographs. “They had taken pictures of the first Christmas, the first doctor’s appointment and being held on the back of a pony with his adopted sister – those premieres that I had missed,” Waddington describes. “They did a wonderful job helping me find out what happened to my son before he came to see me. They wrote down everything that happened in his day, in different colored markers, in Spanish: what his day was like, that he really likes to talk in the afternoon – which he always does! she laughs.

She expressed her gratitude to Peter’s foster family for filling the first 14 weeks of his life with love. She remembers the tears her adoptive parents cried when they said goodbye to her and was moved by their love for her son.

“He’s on his way, and we’re family,” Caitlin says, reflecting on how her son, now 16, grew up. “He’s a swimmer at Oceanside, he’s super smart and very social, and he likes to be the class clown,” she smiles. “He’s been swimming year-round since he was 7 and now works as a lifeguard and toddler swim instructor at Park West.”

Peter and Caitlin Waddington

Peter Waddington, who just turned 16, and his mother, Caitlin, recently visited family in Vermont.

Adoption is a way to grow a family, and with it come unique nuances that Waddington hopes more people will become aware of. Here are a few things she learned along the journey:

Every adoption starts with a loss. “Whether it was a loss of connection with the biological mother, experienced in the womb, where the child knew her voice, the sounds of the house, or the loss of a particular domestic environment, room or classroom for an older child, every adoption begins with loss,” she wisely recounts. Sensitivity and empathy for the child’s experience of these losses is important, even in the middle the joy of being welcomed into his adoptive family.

Language matters. Historically, the term “to be put up for adoption” dates back to slavery. “Being ‘set up’ for adoption is actually like being auctioned off for slavery,” says Waddington. “Being ‘placed for’ adoption is the birth mother’s choice. Someone might put their baby up for adoption because of poverty, health issues, skills, addiction. It’s a process they go through.

Celebrate diverse cultural backgrounds. Internationally adopted children crave positive examples from people of a similar cultural, racial or ethnic background. “My son needs male influences,” Waddington shares. “And being willing to find doctors who are male and Latino so he can see that. I’m consciously thinking about exposing it to various people in a variety of roles, different ways of being in the world.

Find a support village. “Be open to resources and help, because it really does take a whole village to raise a child,” she said. “Make sure you have a good support system. Some families have had to let go of certain family members who didn’t want a culturally diverse family. You need to know what your biases are or what they might lean towards.

Respect all families. “Find the right avenue, the best path for you for adoption, because there are many different ways, and every path is good,” Waddington shares. “Make sure you are emotionally intelligent, as much as you can, at all times in your life, and that you continue to evolve. And enjoy the ride – adoption is just another way to create a family.

Caitlin Waddington is a real estate agent at Carolina One Realty, which gives her the opportunity to be a mother and help other families find the best places for them. She is also happy to speak with anyone interested in adoption, from a parent’s perspective. Visit to contact her.

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