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Our adoption journey to Guatemala

April 03, 2005

Our Long Journey to Parenthood

I love to tell the story of how we came to adopt from Guatemala. In fact, I wrote that story for, where I worked as the associate editor when we adopted Anthony. The publication is no longer available online, but I'm republishing the article in full here. It will always be one of my favorite editorial works because it's about "our firstborn child" and the namesake of our first daughter, Eliana. I hope you enjoy it.

Our Long Journey to Parenthood
by K. Daniel Glover
Thursday, December 16, 1999

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.

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.

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."


  • At 4/06/2005 11:18 PM, Blogger RichardQuerin said…

    Wonderful post. We have a beautiful 3 year old daughter and while we didn't have fertility problems, my brother in law and his wife are unable to have children (at least up to this point). Your remark about finding it hard to truly rejoice at your sister-in-law's good fortune really hit home. My brother in law really wants to become a father. It must be very hard for them. You opened my eyes to this fact. It really is amazing what you take for granted in life.


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