Adoption journey

palm trees from below with haiku

“waving fronds” by Annette Makino is 5×7, painted with sumi ink and Japanese watercolors on textured paper.

As I shared in my last post, in April I flew to the Marshall Islands with my sister Yuri to help her adopt a baby. After changing planes in Hawaii and flying across the international date line, we landed in Majuro, on a spit of land so narrow it appeared we were landing right in the Pacific.

adoption journey
we fly into
tomorrow

On the ride into town, on the atoll’s single road, we tried to take it all in: the coconut palms; the brown-skinned children swimming in the lagoon; the jumbled cement ugliness of the town. This was the country where Yuri’s soon-to-be son was born, and we wanted to learn everything about it.

There followed whirlwind days of meeting Yuri’s baby for the first time, along with his birth mother Florine and extended family; going through the adoption hearing; and putting in his visa request at the US Embassy. Just two days after we landed, but after a long and winding journey of many years, Yuri officially became a mother.

Enakai Paulton Makino, age three months at adoption, instantly captured our hearts. He turned out to be a beautiful, bright-eyed, lively little guy, quick to smile, interested in everything, and generally a delight.

When he came to us, he simultaneously had to separate from his birth mother, wean from breastfeeding, and learn to fall asleep without the breast. Despite all this, he was amazingly cheerful and good-natured most of the time.

baby drool
so much 
to taste

mother and baby on beach

I love this photo of my sister Yuri with her baby, Enakai. I took it at Eneko Beach on Majuro atoll in the Marshall Islands in April 2014.

Over the following weeks, Florine came to visit every couple of days, usually with her cousin. Although we faced a language barrier, we gradually learned more about Kai’s background and culture. We confirmed what the adoption agency had said: there is a strong tradition of adoption in the Marshall Islands, where it is considered a joining of two families. In a poor country where women give birth to an average of seven children, many children are adopted out. Florine’s extended family lives better than many, in a real house instead of a plywood shack, but when we visited, their refrigerator was completely bare.

Though I could understand her decision, at times I cried at the thought of what Florine had to do: turn over her beautiful baby, whom she clearly loved, to a stranger. Of course, I don’t know everything that went into her choice, but during our time there, I came to believe that it was precisely because she loved him that she was putting him up for adoption, so he could have the chance for a better life and infinitely more opportunities.

Day by day, through bottle feedings and diaper changes and nap time walks in the garden, Yuri and I tumbled deeper in love with the baby. She did most of his care while I focused on logistics, but I still got plenty of time to stare into his shining dark eyes, talk to him, and carry him around while singing the songs I once sang to my own kids.

In the weeks of waiting for Kai’s visa to arrive, we fell into a dream state; some days, we made it no farther than our hotel room balcony, with its view of palm trees. It was a time out of time as we adjusted our days to the baby’s rhythm.

After two weeks on the island, I flew home and our sister Yoshi arrived to take the second shift.

homeward bound
I fly into
yesterday

It was a tremendous gift to have been part of this magical time for Yuri and my new nephew Enakai, whose name means “glowing sea” in Hawaiian. We are grateful to all the people who helped bring this darling child into our family, especially Florine.

named for the sea
he crosses the ocean
to find his way home

Makino Studios News

Open Studios: Humboldt friends, please join silk painter Tina Gleave, feather artist Marianne Odisio and me from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. this Saturday and Sunday, May 31 and June 1 for North Coast Open Studios. We’ll be showing new work, demonstrating our tools and techniques, and serving free refreshments in the historic Samoa Women’s Club, in Samoa, California. This Times-Standard article has details.

Powell’s: I’m delighted to share that Powell’s Books on Hawthorne in Portland, Oregon, considered one of the world’s best bookstores, is now carrying my cards!

Haiku Awards: Two of my haiku received top honors at the annual ukiaHaiku Festival in April, held in my old hometown of Ukiah, California. (See my post from last year, Ukiah Backwards.)

rhythm of rain
the dog curls tighter
in his sleep

(1st place, General Adult, ukiaHaiku Festival 2014)

drought season
we run out of things 
to say

(1st place, Dori Anderson prize for haiku about Ukiah, ukiaHaiku Festival 2014)

Summer Show: I’ll have a solo show at Humboldt Herbals in Old Town Eureka, California in July and August. The opening will be during Arts Alive Saturday, July 5, 6-9 p.m. Hope to see you there!

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2 Comments

  1. Lisa
    Posted April 14, 2015 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    Hello there! I stumbled across your site while researching Marshallese adoptions. Is there any information you can give me to help us on our journey? We just submitted our paperwork yesterday to an agency in Minnesota just to see if we can get on the rather extensive waiting list! I know it will be worth the wait, though! My husband and I have been married for 10 years, and trying to have a biological child for 5 with no success. We have been researching the Marshall Islands and immediately fell in love. Any information you can give us would be wonderful! I know it was your sister who actually adopted, so I would be fine if you shared my email with her as well. I look forward to hearing back from you! Have a blessed day!

    • Posted April 15, 2015 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      Hi Lisa, Thanks for your note! I will share it with my sister, as she really is the expert on this. But overall it has been a great experience for her. There is much evidence that open adoptions such as practiced in the Marshall Islands are emotionally healthiest for the child and birth mother. Good luck with your own adoption journey!

      PS Here is a post I wrote on my nephew’s first birthday: http://makinostudios.com/uncategorized/small-miracle/

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