Where Babies Come From

Father, daughters and son -- the story of three Guatemalan adoptions. (Photos: K. Daniel Glover)

Father, daughters and son — the story of three Guatemalan adoptions. (Photos: K. Daniel Glover)

Originally published on the FAA’s internal website and at Medium
By K. Daniel Glover

Sixteen years ago this month, my wife and I entered that new phase of life called parenthood. Some young adults dread the responsibility — the sleepless nights of infancy, the terribleness of toddlers, the drama of middle childhood, the rebellion of teenagers and the costs of college. But with our glass half full back then, we dreamed instead of the rewards of nurturing children.

For five long years we dreamed. Then one evening, in the back of a car in Guatemala City, our dream came true. That’s where Kimberly and I met our son, Anthony. Two years later we went back to “The Land of the Eternal Spring” to add our first daughter, Elli, to the family mix. And in 2005 we made one more trip to bring home the baby of the family, Catie.

Our lives have been a blur of (mostly) precious memories ever since, and along the way, we embraced another culture as part of our heritage and developed a passion for adoption.

Adoption has been part of my life since childhood. One of my aunts took several foster children into her home and eventually adopted two of my cousins that way. So when infertility temporarily dashed the parenting hopes Kimberly and I shared, we decided to adopt.

We quickly learned that adoption is more than one simple decision. Foster-to-adopt or outright adoption? Agency or private lawyer? Open or closed adoption? Domestic or international? Infant, toddler or older child? Special needs? Sibling group? Transracial adoption? We knew we wanted a baby, but the options seemed overwhelming as we reeled from reproductive loss. Even after we settled on international adoption, we had to pick a country.

A providential trip to the airport made that choice an easy one. We met a couple with a young girl from Guatemala. Her Hebrew name was Eliana, which means “God answered me.” We knew right then that not only would we adopt from Guatemala but that one day we would have a daughter named Eliana.

guatemala-adoption3Big brother came first, though. Anthony’s foster mother placed him in Kimberly’s arms almost nine months to the day after we turned our adoption focus toward Guatemala. He was eight weeks old when we brought him home hours before Thanksgiving, the perfect holiday gift. We had some fun with our adoption announcement, which proclaimed, “We finally figured out where babies come from … Guatemala.”

Anthony had our full attention for the next year — but that wasn’t always to his benefit. To this day, Kimberly calls him our “practice child,” the one subjected to the idiocy of bumbling, first-time parents. Here are just two of the embarrassing lessons we learned: 1) Don’t hold a baby in your lap while shaking Tabasco sauce onto your gumbo or you may blind him; and 2) when your son cries the first time you feed him refried beans at Taco Bell, it’s because they’re stuck to the roof of his mouth and burning his palate.

Despite such mishaps, we felt confident enough as parents by Anthony’s first birthday to try again. Guatemala had changed its rules, so Elli’s adoption took longer. We didn’t get to bring her home until she was 3 1/2 months old.

The upside is that we had changed, too. Two years earlier, we rarely left our hotel with Anthony for fear of how Guatemalans might react to our mixed family. By the time we adopted Elli, we invited a globe-trotting friend to Guatemala with us, stayed there longer, and spent as much time as possible shopping, sightseeing and talking to Guatemalans. We spent several days in Antigua and toured both a coffee finca and a macadamia plantation.

Our two years with Anthony made all the difference in our attitude. We didn’t just fall in love with him; we fell in love with his heritage. Latinos in our community also loved meeting Anthony. We once passed him through the window of a Checker’s when he was a baby so all the ladies inside could cuddle him and get a closer look.
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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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