CHAPTER TWO-by Kim Straus
Remember my saying that we as older soon-to-be dads were not prepared to take on the special needs of a special needs child? And don’t get me wrong, I’m in awe of those parents who do and I’ve met adoptive parents who have raised multiple special needs children. Well, we quickly learned of José’s special need.
José arrived in New Mexico sound asleep in his umbrella stroller. He and Jack were met at the airport by me, Jack’s Albuquerque cousins, and our good friend and my boss, who would later become José’s godmother. One of the reasons we felt so confident in becoming parents was the support network we had in Santa Fe. As we went through the adoption process we met other adoption families, including several gay dads, with whom we formed a small support group. We felt Santa Fe would be a great place to be gay parents and had read a statistic that Santa Fe had the second largest per capita number of lesbian and gay parents in the nation after San Francisco.
Not only did we get support from other gay dads and lesbian moms but also many straight friends, including a number of close women friends. One of Jack’s former colleagues from his time teaching at Zuni Pueblo lived with us for a year before she bought a home down the street. We still belong to an adoption group that consists of straight and gay families – and several Guatemalan children.
One recommendation we received from parents who had adopted internationally was of a pediatrician in town who understood health issues that might arise in these children.
We took José to see her a few days after his arrival for a good check-up which proved extremely, I mean extremely, fortunate. She ordered a blood test and when she received the results, called us immediately.
José had hypothyroidism. Basically, José’s thyroid wasn’t working at all. This explained his small size and lack at seven months of some basic early motor skills. It may also explain why our adoption process went so quickly. We speculate that the doctor seeing José for his check-ups in Guatemala either knew or suspected something like the hypothyroid condition and urged the process move quickly.
All babies born in this country get checked for this and perhaps those up for adoption in Guatemala do, too, but the diagnosis isn’t revealed for fear it would jeopardize the adoption. Most adopting parents want a perfect baby unless they specifically request a special needs child.
Our doctor said run, don’t walk to the pharmacy for medication which José takes daily and will probably for the rest of his life. Our wonderful pediatrician also connected us with an amazing pediatric endocrinologist in Albuquerque; we all love our visits with her. José’s development is on the normal scale although as a Guatemalan Mayan, he will never likely be very tall.
I won’t deny that becoming a parent later in life is a real challenge. You get set in your ways, used to your routines, thinking about a future that never before included diapers, play dates, baseball practice, science fair projects, and PTA. I admit that tucked way back in my brain was a bit of resentment about such drastic change in lifestyle. But all this was greatly overshadowed by the joys that happened every day, some of these I think of as miraculous and magical. When José would fall asleep in my arms as a baby, reading bedtime stories and singing songs, and, yes, going to baseball games.
José attended a pre-school in our neighborhood and every morning I would pull him to school in a wooden wagon made in the Wisconsin town where my mother, who turned 100 last year, was born. The miracles and joys still happen and I am still amazed at being a parent.
José is thriving, as best we can tell, and so are we. We are having unimagined
adventures. Last year we took José to Disneyland and I did something I swore I’d never to do again — went on not one but several rollercoaster rides. What we won’t do for our kids!
One last adoption story for now, at least: When we were going through the process, one of the forms for Guatemala Jack had to submit and get certified by the New Mexico Secretary of State was a doctor’s statement that he was “in good health and showed no signs of homosexuality.”
Jack’s own doctor requested that he not have to do it, so I asked my doctor if he would sign the statement, to which he agreed. My doctor was not only a hero in the gay community for his early treatment of people with HIV/AIDS but was soon to retire. He was not worried about any ramifications. Besides, the statement read, “shows no signs” and since Jack was not his patient, my doctor could truthfully say after an examination that Jack was in good health and ‘showed no signs.’ As Jack sat in the waiting room for the appointment, he casually picked up People magazine. Then he realized that might be a sign, and quickly picked up Sports Illustrated.
Warmest hugs to all you adoptive and adopting parents from two very lucky dads.