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Mia Reed, 6 months, in her new room in Decatur. Mia was adopted by April and Bill Reed from Guatemala after months of trials and paperwork. The family spent about a year trying to adopt a girl from Guatemala.
DAILY Photo by Emily Saunders
Mia Reed, 6 months, in her new room in Decatur. Mia was adopted by April and Bill Reed from Guatemala after months of trials and paperwork. The family spent about a year trying to adopt a girl from Guatemala.

REAL PEOPLE
Ronnie Thomas
rthomas@decaturdaily.com

Long paperwork pregnancy
Couple spent about a year navigating through foreign adoption procedures

Bill and April Reed believe that if God taught them anything during a yearlong adoption process, it is patience.

They do not mind the lesson. It got them the daughter they wanted, and a sister for which their 5-year-old son, Riley, had asked Santa.

Sunday night, about 15 other family members gathered with them around the Christmas tree at their Conan Garden Street Southwest home for a belated holiday celebration. They welcomed Amelia Maria Grace Reed, their little "Princess Mia," whom the Reeds brought home Saturday night from Guatemala City, their first trip outside the United States. She was 6 months old Wednesday and weighs 13 pounds.

Mia's birth mother, Celeste, had named her daughter Maria Celeste. The Reeds nicknamed her Mia, after the girl in the Walt Disney movie, "The Princess Diaries."

Bright-eyed and smiling, Mia crawled on the carpet of the den floor, playing with her toys. She won't know the kind of life from which the Reeds rescued her. Her childhood would likely have been spent in a one-room dwelling with a dirt floor and a tin roof about five hours from Guatemala City.

The Reeds' Guatemalan attorney told them that Celeste, a single mother who also has a son, gave up Mia because she couldn't afford her.

"These people really need our prayers," April Reed said. "I thank God for bringing Mia into our lives and pray he blesses Celeste for the sacrifice she made for Mia."

Shortly after their son's second birthday, the Reeds, 1998 graduates of Decatur High School, began wanting another child. She couldn't get pregnant. They went through various fertility treatments for almost two years. In December 2004, they decided to try in vitro fertilization. She backed out.

Adoption was always a possibility, but they knew the stories of couples adopting children in the United States, only to have one or both biological parents wanting them back.

Her sister, Stacie Cochrane, suggested they consider international adoption. They looked at China, Guatemala and Kazakhstan. Since they wanted a daughter, they focused on China, known for an abundance of available baby girls. They soon realized each country has its own adoption regulations. For example, to adopt in China, prospective parents must be at least 30. That disqualified the Reeds.

"I have always loved the Hispanic people, and you can adopt young babies there, and travel usually requires less than a week," Reed said.

She soon discovered that adoption is a "paper pregnancy," involving piles of paper. Her husband says it is "hurry up and wait." They got their approval letter in June, but missed the chance because the baby's mother was a minor.

Their attorney told them that it would take months for a custody transfer. He advised waiting. He said another baby should be born within a couple of weeks. A healthy Mia arrived July 18, weighing 6 pounds, 8 ounces.

They thought they would get Mia on Dec. 20 and return to Decatur on Dec. 23. But their attorney told them there was a problem getting Mia's visa because the Civil Registry, already behind, was closing during the holidays. On Christmas morning, he e-mailed them photos of Mia.

On the morning of Jan. 11, her foster mom, a woman named, Gilda, handed Mia to her new parents.

"I was elated, but concerned," Reed said. "There I stood, blond-haired and fair-skinned. Will she take to me?"

She did.

But the journey to that moment often had been frustrating. Reed lost his job in July, when a Florida firm bought his company.

"I was in tears," she said. "He began putting his resume out, calling everyone we knew. For the adoption to go through, we had to maintain a certain financial status. My part-time job as children's music teacher at Central Park Baptist Church wouldn't do it."

Her husband got a better job than the one he lost. In September, he began work as national accounts manager for a Brentwood, Tenn., firm. He will continue commuting while they plan for relocation.

April Reed said the adoption cost about $28,000. With support from her sister and their mother, Darlene Britnell, and April Reed's mother-in-law, Mary Toth, they held garage sales, made place-mat purses and "I Support Adoption" bears.

Riley, a kindergartner at Crestline Elementary School in Hartselle, collected aluminum cans.

"He's excited about being a big brother," his mother said. "He wants to do everything for Mia, except changing her dirty diapers."

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Ronnie Thomas Ronnie Thomas
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