Our Long Journey To Parenthood

Originally published at IntellectualCapital.com
By K. Daniel Glover

My wife, Kimberly, and I traveled to Guatemala City last month, and I could not tell you any more about that Central American nation now than I knew before the trip. There I was, an American scribe in the capital city of a foreign country, and I could not have cared less about the issues of the day.

My journalistic instincts should have moved me to curiosity about a country increasingly at the center of the war on drugs, as reported in IC just a day before we left. I should have wanted to learn more about a nation on the verge of electing a confessed killer. And I certainly should have wondered about a Guatemalan military that has slaughtered people indiscriminately — atrocities so clearly linked to decades-long U.S. involvement in Guatemala that President Clinton has apologized for our misdeeds.

But during our five-day stay, I asked not one question about a nation I could not have pinpointed on a map a year ago and gave nary a thought to the problems plaguing its 11 million people. I gave all my attention instead to Anthony Lee, the precious, two-month-old Guatemalan baby Kimberly and I now call our son.

The anguish of infertility
I have begun this story near its end, though, so let me jump back in time.

First, a few words about the enlightened redneck that Anthony now knows as Daddy. I am not your stereotypical male — the kind committed to sowing wild oats and avoiding commitment, or the workaholic who cares more about career than children. Even as a teenager, I dreamed of marriage and fatherhood. I did not meet Kimberly until I was 27, but by then, we were mature enough to know what we wanted out of life. We married four months after our first date.

Our first year was ours alone. Both Kimberly and I wanted children but thought it wise to pay our debts, save for a house and, most importantly, meld our two lives into one before adding a child to the family mix. We achieved the first two goals in short order and decided to prepare for a new addition. Kimberly quit her job so we could adjust our budget to one paycheck.
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The Right To Know Who You Are

Originally published at IntellectualCapital.com
By K. Daniel Glover

More than a half-century ago, Jean Paton, like many adopted children, decided to act on her long-time curiosity about her past. She wanted to learn more about her beginnings, so she went to probate court in Detroit, where her birth mother had lived when she decided to give Paton up for adoption. “I asked for my record, and they gave it to me,” Paton recalled in a recent telephone interview from her Arkansas home.

A few years later, Paton returned to the same court to see her record again. She was told that she first must get a judge’s approval. In the interim between her visits, the law had changed; the records pertaining to her adoption, to her life history, had been sealed, the result of a movement that had begun in the 1930s to keep the details of adoptees’ pre-adoptive lives secret.

As a social worker in Philadelphia, Paton later wondered what other adoptees thought about their pasts and laws that hindered access to their histories. Her curiosity led to the publication of the 1954 study “The Adopted Break Silence” and ultimately to a movement to unseal decades-old adoption records. That movement now has its own rallying date: National Adoptee Rights Day, which will be commemorated for the second time tomorrow (Dec. 3) at courthouses across America.

From open to closed … and back?
The debate about adoption records is an emotional one that pits the rights of birth mothers who believed their identities would remain secret against the rights of their children to know intimate details of their own lives. It also includes adoptive parents, who may fear the impact of a reunion between birth parents and birth children, and the adoption agencies and attorneys responsible for adoptions under sealed-records laws.

The laws date back to an era when there was “an incredible stigma attached to being an unwed mother” or a child born out of wedlock, said Madelyn Freundlich, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. “It was a time when people were not very open about adoption,” she said, adding that adoption agencies and attorneys often tried to match adoptees to parents with similar physical characteristics.

The thinking back then, said Jane Nast, president of the American Adoption Congress, a group working to overturn sealed-records laws, was that by eliminating an adoptive child’s true birth certificate and replacing it with one bearing the adoptive parents’ names, the children would be “starting off with a clean slate.” The birth parents would simply forget about the children that they agreed to let other people raise.
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