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Because even though my daughter was, as is required by U. immigration law, legally classified as an orphan, she had two Guatemalan parents who were very much alive.I remember being comforted by the Guatemalan social worker’s report on the case; the baby’s mother, Beatriz, children not born to them since the dawn of time.in the lobby of the Westin Camino Real, the grandest hotel in Guatemala City.The night before, my husband Walter and I had soothed our nerves running on the treadmills in the fitness center, where a polite attendant handed us plush white towels and spritzed the equipment with a flowery disinfectant.“Every day, parents look into the face of their child and they see a different race and a different ethnicity.And yet, they compartmentalize that truth and deem it unimportant.And while celebrities’ forays into transnational adoptions bring on the occasional ethics complaint, there’s no sign of a broader debate.
Because children adopted from overseas usually have little information about their history, parents are advised to document the trip as best they can, creating what is known as an “adoption story.” Reading the journal now, more than two years later, it feels so self-conscious. Walter and I already had two biological sons; now we were jetting into a Third World country with the sole aim of leaving with one of its daughters.She clearly loved her son, but said she hadn’t been ready to become a mother. And yet when it came time to choose a program, our agency told us to go with whatever we were comfortable with, as if “open” and “closed” were items on a menu. foster care system or an Eastern European orphanage; we wanted a baby who had never spent an hour in institutionalized care.We asked our social worker about a domestic open adoption; she said that because we already had biological children and were only open to adopting a girl, we wouldn’t be a very compelling family to an American birth mother. We also wanted our daughter’s country of origin to be easy to travel to, so we could go there for family vacations. We did agonize over some moral questions—the potential hardships for a Latina child raised in a white family, the ethics of choosing the sex of our child.Some parents believe it relegates them to breeder status; alternate terms include “natural parents,” “first parents,” “surrendering parents,” or simply “parents.” I call Beatriz my daughter’s “Guatemalan mother” because it feels somehow more factual, although to be honest I have never referred to myself as her “American mother.”) As more women gained access to contraceptives and legal abortion, and the stigma of unwed pregnancy lessened, fewer American women placed their babies for adoption, and those who did had more power to get what they wanted, including knowing their children’s fate.Today, almost no American woman deciding on adoption seeks anonymity; roughly 90 percent of mothers have met their children’s adoptive parents, and most helped choose them.At every step, we were reassured that what we were doing was a good and worthy thing.