Guest Post: Kim and Jack adopt José Toxpop
CHAPTER ONE – by Kim Straus
It was early February. I had just finished reading the book, Gay Dads. My dentist, his partner, and their two sons were featured in a chapter. As I closed the book that evening I turned to Jack and said, “We could do this.” Well, the next day, Jack was on the internet looking up gay adoption. When I made that comment I had no idea of the depth of Jack’s feeling about wanting to be a father, about wanting to start a family. While we’re both from big families, his is very close; mine is not. He had far better role models for parents than I did; I likely always feared being the inept parents mine were.
And, you see, most gay men of our generation grew up thinking that we’d never be fathers. For us adoption was still a relatively new and uncommon idea. And when we did hear of gay adoption, it was often a news story involving discriminatory state laws and hateful attitudes.
Nevertheless, despite a few reservations, we plunged into the process of endless forms, background checks, home studies, parenting classes, affidavits, etc. One of the first decisions we made was that we would do an international adoption. We knew others who had made this choice and we felt it would be safer. We’d heard those stories of domestic adoptions that had been reversed by distant relatives of the child. And, sadly, we knew that there was the chance that a child put up for adoption in this country could have fetal alcohol syndrome. Jack and I are not spring chickens – he was turning forty and I was fifty-one. We did not feel we could truly handle a special needs child. But then all children have special needs. As it turned out, ours did, but it was something we could handle.
We connected with an adoption agency here in New Mexico that prided itself in helping gay people adopt (the same agency my dentist and his partner used) and we soon learned that New Mexico has one of the best records for gay adoption in the nation. We examined the countries that would allow a single man to adopt a child – no countries that I know of allow a gay couple to adopt. Our choices were somewhat limited. Fortunately, one of our best choices was Guatemala. Jack had spent two years in the Peace Corps there. He knew the people, customs, places and Spanish. His Mayan dialects were rudimentary. Because this was to be a single parent adoption at first, it was logical for Jack to be the adopting parent. As far as Guatemala knew, I didn’t exist; or if they knew about me, it was that I happened to be another man living in the same house. We didn’t have to hide our relationship in this country.
In August we received photos and a video of a small plump Kekchi Mayan boy named José Felipe Tox Pop from the Cobán region. He was three months old and living with a foster mother in Guatemala City. Jack and I were asked, would you like this boy to be your son? How could we say no!
From there the process became one of Guatemalan courts and lots of money. We began hearing stories of adoptions that dragged on for months so we figured it would be the following May at the least before we could dream of bringing our son home.
However, in November, nine months after conceiving this idea, we got the call from the agency that José was ready for us (Jack) to come get him. Wait, we’re not ready! Jack’s a teacher and wanted to finish out the semester. And we’d just bought tickets to spend the holidays in Guatemala. So we asked if Jack could pick him up at the beginning of January and the two of us spent ten days beforehand seeing the country Jack had told me so much about. I returned to Santa Fe the day before Jack was to meet our son. We thought it best for me not to be there and, after all, I had to assemble the crib.
I’ve heard Jack’s recollections many times of that moment when José was put in
arms for the first time. Scary, exhilarating. But this man is lucky. Who should be at the Marriott Hotel in Guatemala City where most of the adopting families stay but a woman he knew who had served in the Peace Corps a year ahead of Jack’s group. She was there visiting the child she was adopting; she helped with that first diaper change and gave sound advice on bottle feeding and getting José asleep that first night. As it turned out, José preferred sleeping in the umbrella stroller we had brought with us.
Two days later Jose and Jack were on a plane bound for home. After a stay-over in Miami they arrived in Albuquerque on January 7, 2005. One exhausting journey was over; another joyful one was just beginning.