By Betsy Buckley
We planned for an early October flight from St. Louis to Houston, then on to Guatemala City. Six months after clutching our son’s photo, my husband boarded a plane with our attorney to travel to Guatemala to pick him up. Our attorney went along for moral support and to facilitate the remaining legal steps necessary to complete the adoption process. Our four-month old infant had now reached the age of ten months. “You’ll call me as soon as you get him,” I said to my husband before he boarded the plane in St. Louis. I suppose I was subconsciously setting the stage for my role as a parent–giving instructions to do the obvious. “Look both ways before you cross the street, we don’t put things like that into our mouths, and it’s not nice to hit,” I was convinced, were soon to follow.
Upon arrival, the two men were greeted by our agency’s guide, Eduardo. He was a Spanish-speaking taxi driver, errand runner, and general “smoother-over”–a man of many talents. I was told he was missing one of his front teeth and that a few of the others glittered like gold when he smiled. Fortunately for my husband, nothing needed to be smoothed over, unless a person took into consideration a case of nervous stomach.
His second day in Guatemala–after numerous anxious phone calls attempting to confirm a definite time–my husband met our son in the lower-level parking garage of his hotel. After being handed our new son, whom we decided to rename Michael, my husband, accompanied by the Guatemalan attorney, the foster mom, and our attorney, went up to the hotel room to help ease the transition period. It gave my husband an opportunity to learn as much about our new child as time and patience would permit. Our attorney, fluent in Spanish, relayed my questions long distance, via my husband, to the foster mom. The video tape I later viewed revealed Michael playing happily on the bed while the foster mom cheerfully stood alongside and answered our questions in her native language. “He eats refried beans and bananas. Food no problem. He is a very happy baby. He has a bath every day at 11 A.M.” My husband had one hand on the phone and was talking to me as I was pouring out questions. He had one eye on Michael, who was taking in his new surroundings with gusto and keenness. “He’s beautiful,” my husband said.
I was still firing off questions when he cut me off. “Gotta go, love you, everyone’s leaving. I’ll call you tomorrow,” and click.
In less than an hour, my husband was alone with his feelings and an unfamiliar child. Unfortunately, I did not witness some of those valuable moments, nor were they captured on videotape. Moments like Michael’s first diaper change, the first night of sleep in his hotel crib, his first meal and then his first burp, his second, third, and fourth diaper changes, his second night of sleep, and so on. I got the impression that the trip was patterned closely after Three Men and a Baby, except there were only two men. “A lot of fumbling went on,” the attorney told me upon their return. I learned he had gotten an adjoining room to my husband’s. That first night they communicated on the shared wall in Morse code. One knock meant, “Are you doing okay?,” two knocks, “Can’t you quiet that baby down?,” and three, “I’m calling the foster mother to come back!”
The next morning I awoke feeling rested and exhilarated. I recall thinking that it had been the best sleep I had gotten in eighteen months. Our child was in the safe, though inexperienced, hands of a new daddy.