Fathers and Sons

June 24, 1995|By Linell Smith | Linell Smith,Sun Staff Writer

Sunshine streams into the kitchen as a small, tow-headed boy and his parents bite into breakfast muffins rich with cherries from their backyard orchard in Cockeysville. There's a whisper of white noise from the room monitor tuned to a sleeping baby.

It's a Kodak moment of the '90s: Dad, Daddy and Duncan.

Psychologist Ken Morgen and his companion of 18 years, physician Sam Westrick, show all the enthusiasm -- and some of the fatigue -- of fortysomething parents caring for two children under the age of 3: Their adopted son Duncan is now "2 and three-quarters" and his brother Trevor is 10 months.

And they have broken gay parents' customary code of silence with a book about their efforts to become parents: "Getting Simon: Two Gay Doctors' Journey To Fatherhood." (Simon is a pseudonym for Duncan.)

Dr. Morgen and Dr. Westrick are one of the first gay couples to speak so openly of their quest for adoption at a time when attitudes toward homosexual parents range from enthusiasm to contempt.

State courts aren't sure what to think about gay parents either. Two years ago, for instance, a court in Massachusetts allowed surgeon Helen Cooksey to adopt the biological child of her companion, breast cancer specialist Susan Love, waiving the traditional requirement for legal marriage. Two months ago, however, a court in Virginia awarded custody of a young boy to his grandmother, primarily because his biological mother, Sharon Bottoms, is a lesbian.

In their quest for a biological mother, the Morgen-Westricks placed ads for adoption and for a surrogate mother in the statewide advertising circular, the Pennysaver. During the next year, they interviewed about 90 women, eventually reaching an agreement with a woman in central Pennsylvania who already had children, was pregnant and eager to find a good home for her unborn child.

The arrangement worked out so well that when she unexpectedly became pregnant again, she contacted the Morgen-Westricks to adopt that child as well.

"Gay people don't have unplanned pregnancies; that alone suggests these are among the most wanted children in the world," says Dr. Morgen, who will be speaking at a lesbian and gay parenting conference today at Towson State University. "I liken our story to that of heterosexual infertile couples. The search can be saddening and heartbreaking. There's no manual. You have to be resourceful, creative and tenacious."

As parents who are gay, however, Ken Morgen and Sam Westrick can expect curses as well as blessings. Their story generates a lot of skepticism in a world where most people believe families should include a father and a mother.

As relatively new parents, they have discovered that taking care of babies is exhilarating, emotionally draining and filled with unexpected delights.

"Even if you're used to being on call as a doctor, you still end up being sleep deprived," says 42-year-old Dr. Westrick, who practices family medicine in Charles Village. "Intellectually I expected it, but at the time, I remember thinking, 'Will this ever end?' "

'Tag team' child care

Their initiation began when they took Duncan home the day after witnessing his birth at Franklin Square Hospital in September 1992.

"I didn't realize how much I had to learn about parenting," says 44-year-old Ken Morgen, a therapist in Towson. "The past 2 1/2 years have been one of the most challenging periods of my life. Building this house, getting a Ph.D., was a breeze compared to this!

"Duncan's teaching me about patience, sensitivity, empathy. He's also teaching me more about unconditional love."

The couple shares child care equally in a "tag team" arrangement. One father is at home with the children while the other one sees patients. This schedule, which they began shortly after Duncan was born, allows each to have "quality" time with the baby without feeling overwhelmed by infant care.

While Daddy Sam is at work during the day, Dad Ken is at home. While Dad Ken goes to the office, Daddy Sam feeds the boys, gives them their baths, gets them in their jammies, and puts them to bed: Trevor at 7 p.m., Duncan an hour later.

Next, he fixes supper for the couple to eat at 9:30 or 10. Then it's time to clean up and crawl into bed.

Dr. Morgen says his favorite moments come before the workday begins. "We all wake up about the same time. Trevor has a bottle and Duncan has a glass of milk and we all just hang out together."

"Ken and Sam seem like all my friends who have had young children: Their schedules completely revolve around the kids, and they both seem totally absorbed in being parents," says Judy Glass, Duncan's godmother and a special education coordinator for Baltimore County. "They talk with delight about each little developmental milestone."

Pull up a chair, and you'll hear about Duncan's first steps, Duncan's chicken pox at his second birthday party, Duncan on the training potty holding the Wall Street Journal, Duncan's first word: "apple."

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