In Antigua
Jac and I in Antigua

Hello amazing family and friends!
My son and I traveled to Guatemala in August and it was another wonderful trip! The big news from that trip … it seems the birth mother search might be back on. 
Most of you have read many of my blog posts/newsletters about my son’s desire to find his birth mother. If you haven’t and want to catch up on the history, you can do so at these links:
The Birth Mother Search Begins in Guatemala
The Conversation About a Birth Mother Search Continues
The Birth Mother Search – Hold on Just a Minute!
Revisiting the Birth Mother Search Conversation with my Son, Jac
Guatemala Adventures-a Trip for the Record Books
I included that last blog post because in it I skimmed over the part about the shaman, and that was the most important part of why we are where we are now and what was so important about this trip to Guatemala, including the search for Jac’s birth mother.
In 2015 our family went to Guatemala for Jac’s Heritage Journey – his first trip to his birth country since we adopted him in 2004 at 3 1/2 months old. The intention was NOT to find his birth mother but to see his homeland, experience his culture and connect our family more deeply. It was an amazing trip! 

Jac, JJ and shaman
Jac, JJ and the shaman 2015

During that trip we visited a shaman – as an experience related to our son’s Mayan heritage, not as an information session. While we were with the shaman, without warning, Jac asked if his birth mother was still alive. We were totally taken aback. Jac is a very thoughtful child, and very deep – many folks tell me he is an ‘old soul’. We had no idea that thought was weighing so heavily on his heart while we were in Guatemala. In response to Jac’s question, the shaman said many prayers, he lit candles and invoked all the spirits, but as he read the embers, he said in hushed voice, that he believed Jac’s birth mother was dead. 

Because of the language barrier, we were working through a translator (and now good friend, and guide, JJ). JJ wasn’t sure how to talk about what the shaman had said with Jac. We had all heard the word “muerte” very clearly, but JJ dug a bit deeper with the shaman. After talking for a few minutes, JJ explained to Jac that he thought the shaman meant that she was ‘not here, not present’ – but we honestly weren’t sure if she was alive or dead, nor how to receive and process what the shaman had said. 

Jac couldn’t let go of it. He heard the word dead and he was worried sick that something had happened to her. We had many conversations about his birth mother over the next few months and Jac wanted to know when we would begin the search. He was very persistent so we began considering the reality of a search.

A birth family search is a big deal and I wasn’t sure if any of us was ready for that, but Jac thought he was. We talked about it openly for many months and even reached out to a searcher at one point in time.

Sadly, when Jac entered 7thgrade (2015/16) he experienced two very traumatizing bullying incidents at the beginning of the school year. On top of the bullying, his grandmother, who he was very close to, died. We had wanted to begin the search but decided to pull back (Jac’s counselor adamantly agreed) for a while to get Jac stabilized. He was in a very dark place that year.

In 2017 we began discussing the search in earnest but I also wanted to go back to Guatemala again. I thought maybe Jac would find some solace there – anything that might help him heal. I was very concerned with him being mentally prepared for what we might find if we found his birth mother but I also know how connected he is to his birth country. 

Jac, JJ and the shaman 2017

So in the summer of 2017 Jac and I went to Guatemala alone and spent two weeks there. It was a wonderful trip! Tons of adventure activities – climbed a volcano, jumped off a cliff into Lake Atitlan, kayaked, hiked, and so much more! We also took Spanish lessons and most importantly, we made time to see a shaman, but it was a different one.
This time the shaman, a woman, not only did the traditional fire ceremony, but she also performed a very special ceremony (in a private room) just for Jac. Before she did the ceremony she asked Jac if he believed in her connection to the spirit world and he unequivocally said “yes”. She asked if he would abide by what she told him and he said “absolutely”. She rolled out a bunch of crystals and red beans, poured oils and incense, lit a fire, prayed intensely, invoked all the spirits of his Mayan heritage as well as important Christian deities. At the end of the almost 2 hour ceremony she had answered all of Jac’s questions. She told him that his birth mother was indeed alive and that he had siblings as well. But sadly, she explained that his birth mother was not ready to have a relationship with him. The shaman said his birth mother was in a very tumultuous time in her life and meeting Jac would not be a good idea. So we called off the idea of another birth mother search, for the time being.
I’ll be honest, I’m not sure how much I believe in what the shaman says but I’m trying not to insinuate myself into that. The shaman is important to Jac and it seems very personal to him. Like I said, he’s an old soul, and he’s very spiritual in his own way. I am too; I just haven’t wrapped my head around all this yet. If this situation were only about logic, then I’d bow out. But this experience is about my son’s heart and his beliefs, so I MUST be all in.
When we arrived in Guatemala I asked Jac how he felt about me writing about our experiences and he gave me full permission, so here I am. I have been struggling with how much information to give out in my newsletter/blog posts so I haven’t written much about this journey the past few years. And I’ll be honest; this is Jac’s story to tell, not mine, thus my reluctance. But so many people ask me about birth family searches that I feel like sharing our journey helps others that are in the same position as we have been the past few years. It can be a tumultuous time and talking about it gives others’ permission to do the same. 
So … come back next week if you’d like to know the current state of affairs and how our trip to Guatemala this summer went. I’ve been told that folks lose interest after a certain amount of words so I’m splitting this up into two weeks. I’ll look forward to seeing you next Thursday!
Meanwhile, if you are panning a trip to Guatemala or any of the destinations we specialize in at Motherland Travel, give me a shout. Just schedule a 30-minute Discovery Session with me at when you are ready to chat! I’d love to help you plan the trip of a lifetime!

My very best to you,

Jac and I
My beautiful boy

Bambi Wineland is the mother of two internationally adopted children, a traveler, a writer, a Certified Professional Coach, and the Founder and CEO of Motherland Travel. Motherland Travel began by designing Heritage Journeys for families with internationally adopted children. The emphasis of those Heritage Journeys has always been on deepening family connections, building self-esteem and cultivating pride in a family’s multi-cultural heritage. Motherland Travel also uses the philosophies of Transformative Travel for designing family trips with purpose – building rich connections, with each other and the world! Read more about her here >>

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