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Our Long Journey to Parenthood
by K. Daniel Glover
Thursday, December 16, 1999
Comments: 51 posts

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Issue of the Week: The Right to Know Who You Are : A look at the movement to unseal adoption records.

Pro & Con: Adoption, the Open Option : James Gritter defends the right of birth parents to maintain ties with the children they place in adoptive homes.

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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

The author's adopted son, Anthony Lee
The author's adopted son,
Anthony Lee
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.

That was in September 1996, eight months after we had begun trying to conceive a child. Four more months of failure and we officially entered the ranks of the infertile (6.1 million American women and their partners, or about 10% of the reproductive-age population, according to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine). And thus began the worst two years of our lives.

Infertility is one of those nightmares few people can understand unless they live it. To those who want children, a life without them is, to a great extent, no life at all. And it is often impossible to convey the depth of that emptiness to fertile women and ignorant men -- of which I, who once begged my wife to give me just one month without crying when we failed to conceive, am one.

Pregnancy becomes an obsession to the infertile and sex, an obligation -- the means to an end rather than a blessing of marriage. Privacy ceases to exist in a world where you have to chart the intimate details of your sex life for a year just so some paper pusher at your health maintenance organization can know you are doing everything right before paying a dime to help you make a baby.

Infertility stared Kimberly and me in the face everywhere for two long years. All of our favorite television characters conceived -- even against the odds. Commercials for home-pregnancy tests seemed to fill the airwaves. A leading automaker even sold cars by pitching them as salvation for women in labor.

We listened in horror to the stories of unfit mothers who abused or even killed children that we would have given anything to have. We fought back tears (or let ourselves cry) when we saw small children at the mall, or when, for example, the three-month-old infant we were babysitting looked up from my lap at dinnertime and smiled. We tried to rejoice when our sister-in-law, who had said she could not get pregnant without fertility drugs, conceived within weeks of marriage. But our own sorrow at being barren proved far more potent than the joy of knowing we soon would have another niece.

The ecstasy of adoption

Adoption was always in the back of our minds, but no infertile couple should adopt until they accept their reproductive loss. Kimberly and I did not reach that point as a couple until earlier this year, after a final infertility test put our odds at conceiving far below average.

Our fertility specialist suggested in vitro fertilization, but we had no desire to make a baby in a bowl -- or to pay up to $30,000 for one shot at conception that likely would fail. As I had earlier in our infertility ordeal, I suggested adoption.

Kimberly had wanted to adopt some day but had been reluctant to admit reproductive defeat. The diagnosis that IVF was our best shot at conception convinced her that we should seize control of our parental fate from the hands of money-grubbing fertility doctors who too often make grand but empty promises.

And seize she did. Once we decided to adopt, Kimberly's demeanor changed. The inconsolably downtrodden and pessimistic wife I had come to know became a dynamo and a fountain of optimism. She contacted adoption agencies, trolled the Internet for adoption information, became a regular on adoption-related bulletin boards and absorbed, not just read, every article and book on adoption she could find.

So complete was the transformation that Kimberly became a die-hard adoption advocate. She gently nudged our infertile friends to forget the drugs, the tests and the monthly cycle of expectation/depression endemic to the single-minded pursuit of pregnancy and experience instead the joy of adoption. And she made a similar sales pitch to anyone who would listen, young or old, fertile or infertile.

As for our personal adoption journey, we initially had planned to adopt domestically. But after Kimberly read, at our agency's request, the book The Spirit of Open Adoption, by James L. Gritter, we had second thoughts. The idea of having an adoption agency dictate that we allow a birth mother, whether fit or not, to be an active player in our child's life was enough to make us consider international adoption, despite the higher costs.

Then came our providential trip to the airport. As we waited for the departure of my flight to Chicago on business, Kimberly spotted a young couple with a daughter of an obviously different ethnicity. She asked the mother about the girl's heritage.

Danny, Kimberly and Anthony Lee
Danny, Kimberly
and Anthony Lee
Their daughter, 6 months old when they brought her home, was from Guatemala. And her name? Eliana, a Hebrew name that means "God answered me."

Our 'firstborn' child

That was in February of this year, on President's Day. Soon after, Kimberly and I changed agencies and completed the home study, the background checks and the paperwork. Almost nine months to the day after we met Eliana, just as if we had conceived a son and Kimberly had carried him to term, we found ourselves in Guatemala with all the emotions of expectant parents.

Before the trip to Guatemala, we had waited four agonizing months for a referral, all the while finding plenty to worry about: the investigation of Guatemalan adoptions ordered by the United Nations during the summer; the threat of a Y2K-related delay if our adoption went beyond December; the tax impact a delay would have on our budget; and the difficulty of getting airline tickets to travel just before Thanksgiving.

But when our first-time foster mother, tears streaming down her face, placed Anthony in Kimberly's arms at about 5:45 p.m. Central Time on Nov. 19, four years of anguish and anxiety just disappeared. And when Anthony smiled at me the next morning (and Kimberly later in the day), proving wrong all the experts who said even two-month-old adoptees are slow to bond with their new parents, our son made us whole.

Kimberly said it best just this week as we realized that conceiving a child now would be anti-climactic, and that our son, though adopted, is our "firstborn" child. "Anthony will always be the one I cried and prayed for," Kimberly said. "He's the one who filled the emptiness in my life."

K. Daniel Glover is the associate editor of IntellectualCapital.com and a former editor and reporter at Congressional Quarterly. E-mail him at danny@voxcap.com.

Related Links
The astute IC reader may have seen a pattern in Glover's writings this year, as he and his wife moved closer to adoption. He convinced his colleagues to select for "Issue of the Week" packages three topics dear to his heart: parenting, infertility and, of course, adoption. The Glovers used Homestudies and Adoption Placement Services in New Jersey to adopt Anthony. Visit the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse for fact sheets and other information on adoption.

How, if at all, have you or people you know coped with their infertility? What conditions, if any, should insurance companies place on infertility treatments? What are the pros and cons of international adoption? Of domestic adoptions?

Below are the last ten comments in chronological order.
Click here to view the full comment history.

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12/21/99 6:53:39 PM Living In Virginia   
Sorry about another post, but this is just so exciting. A new baby is wonderful news. And there are so many questions: Where did he get that cute little shirt with the Santa on it? How many pounds is he? Who is the puppy dog and what does Anthony think of him? What is his favorite toy?

12/21/99 7:01:23 PM Kenny   
Living in Virginia, (whispering) I was responding to your comment about "pushing" other cultures on the child. My comment was probably stronger than it should have been, in insinuating that you wrote something disagreeable. // There definitely are many rich cultures to draw from on this planet. Re: Antarctica. I understand that the Chilean sector of Antarctica actually has some children who were born there. Apparently Chile wanted to have some "citizens" there in order to increase their voice at international discussions. The other twenty or so nation presences are very temporary in nature, but typically have a strong micro-culture. But with no indigenous flora, and minimal fauna, the cuisines are pretty boring. We did have Antarctic Cod for Thanksgiving one year, when the scientists caught a couple of big Cod, did some minor experiments and turned them over to the kitchen. Other than that, and according to the treaty, you can't bother any living creature without a scientific purpose.

12/22/99 12:20:12 AM OC   
Danny & spouse - As a second generation American and the first generation of my family to be born here, my advice is to emphasize Anthony's American culture. He will grow up in this country with 'American' playmates and as an adult do business with 'American' professionals. He must not feel alienated in his own country. This is not to say that he should not be exposed to the culture of his birth nation - indeed he should but first and foremost he should consider himself a red-blooded American boy. There is too much divisiveness in this country and we are headed in the wrong direction. There should not be a 'them-against-us' attitude in this wonderful nation - or it will be the ruination of America.

12/22/99 9:21:16 AM AUNT KAY kboyd15839@aol.com   
Danny, As the proud aunt of Anthony, I want to welcome him to our family, and I also want to say I love him.

12/22/99 9:48:23 AM Jose Rodriguez   
Dear Glover family: Season greetings once again! After reading your heart-warming story, and right after having contributed my two cents to the mostly-positive comments, I reconsidered a bit my position (for the better that is). Iremember as a Central American child having mixed feelings toward American "Greengos"! On the one hand I've resented and criticized US military aggression which through every Marine invasion and/or millions-and-weapons-to-dictators has become all too well known around the world. On the other hand, after attending a Maryknoll (I believe that's the catholic missionary group's name) school in Central America, and through my witnessing the hard work of kind and dedicated nuns and priest I have had tremendous appreciation and admiration.

12/22/99 10:01:25 AM Jose Rodriguez   
(cont...) And then, there is the American trashy media's polluting messages which represent perhaps the most prevalent incursion into "native" cultures around the world today! Your srtory is too positive to allow me touching on this topic of world cultural pollution! Your story, as I've tried to emphasize, fits into my positive mental construction of what America and Americans should be all about! My adopted family is from Texas! They're all terrific, despite the great contrast in skin color between theirs and mine! I, like Antony I suppose, am of Mayan descent (an almost completely destroyed ethnic group --- lately with the help of much American military and media might of course). Most "rednecks" (as you invoke such nickname), however, still consider me a foreigner, and still ask me "when are you going back to your country?" "America is my country," is of course my response! I'm happy for thepositive welcoming reception Anthony has had so far here at IC, I must stress! To Anthony, my fellow originally-from-Central-America human being, I say, "Dear Anthony, America is also your country! God bless you and your family! God bless America, the Good!"

12/22/99 12:54:35 PM Jack jglover@hgo.net   
Are Grandpa's allowed to comment? Grandma and I have four wonderful sons, of which Danny is the second. We now have six wonderful grandchildren. Anthony is the latest in that group. We traveled to Dulles to meet Danny, Kimberly and Anthony upon their return from Guatemala with great anticipation. When Anthony was placed in my arms, the joy was worth the wait. We both knew what Danny and Kimberly had been through, and were happy about their decision. I got to spend Thanksgiving and the next few days (as all traveled back to WV later) cuddling him in my arms, while walking and talking with him (a Grandpa thing, yes he answers back). We are glad he is a part of our family, and he will always hold that certain special place in our hearts. Each grandchild has special memories that surround his/her birth into our family. As we look back through the photograph albums, we laugh and remember those times, as none are close (in miles) to us. This little guy is certainly going to take his place in our family, and we will have many special memories surrounding his birth into it. We LOVE you Anthony!!!

12/23/99 1:17:01 AM wife of author/mom to Anthony   
To Jose: Thanks for your postings and your well wishes. You are probably more familiar with these books than I, but just in case I thought you or some of the other readers might be interested in reading about the Mayan culture. "I, Rigoberto Menchu"-has won many awards, basically describes her life growing up as a Mayan Indian. "Searching for Everardo"-written by an American woman married to a Mayan Indian. Details America's involvement in Guatemala's Civil War. The same writer also wrote "Bridge of Courage"(I may have the title wrong). I've heard that this book is even better than "Searching for Everardo"-I believe this one discusses the Mayan Indian view during the Civil War. Again, thank you all for your kind comments, I've enjoyed reading them.Kimberly

12/23/99 2:29:17 AM Jose Rodriguez   
Kimberly: Thanks!

12/23/99 11:29:15 AM S Hemlock ...Purple Parsley   
In this time of miracles, Anthony arrives to the wild applause of IC posters...You, Anthony, must be the very first on the Web to be so honored..."Said the night wind to the little lamb, do you hear what I hear?...a song, song, high above the trees...and a voice as big as the sea..."___I do also appreciate the books recommended by Kimberly....my blessing to all of you and Grampa and Aunt and all...

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