Korea, in May.

Upon waking yesterday morning, I did what I always do.  I grabbed my phone and looked at e-mails received overnight.  Still on holiday and quite sleepy, I was expecting nothing of significance.  As I scrolled through numerous routine e-mails, there it was–the one e-mail we have been awaiting for months, subject line, “Summons for Court Date.” 

The past weeks have been challenging.  Heightened rhetoric from Pyongyang and Washington, D.C. has me on edge, as does the Government of Japan’s recent guidance on how to react if a ballistic missile is headed towards you.  While keeping our family–including, of course, our soon-to-be-son residing in South Korea–safe is my primary goal, I appreciate that there is little, if anything, I can do to ease the political tensions in this part of the world.

The good news?  After waiting for so long to welcome our son, I understand the virtue of patience.  The bad news?  I’ve failed to master it.


Alas, Forward Movement!

For weeks, I’ve been blindly reaching for my iPhone upon waking.  Blurry eyed and laying in bed, I’ve been scanning my e-mails looking for that e-mail from our adoption agency.  This morning, I quickly glanced at my e-mails and stopped when I read the subject matter “Pre-Travel Online Meeting.”  I looked at the e-mail and was left no better informed than I was before reading it.  It was then I scrolled down and saw five other e-mails from our adoption agency.  Our exit process paperwork has been approved by the Ministry of Health and Welfare.  Finally.  Next up?  A court date in Korea this Spring. 


Milestones and Missing the Birthday Boy

Parents know the how much happens in the first year of a child’s life.  Indeed, while the specifics of [S]’s first year remain fuzzy as a result of sleep deprivation, I know that she grew and developed at an astounding pace.  No longer was she a helpless babe, unable to sit, stand, or communicate.  She signed.  She stood.  She sat up.  And for her first birthday celebration, she fed herself pie, ice cream cake, and carrot cake.  (Yes, that milestone deserved many celebrations.)

Today, [S] and I sang the Happy Birthday Song to her soon-to-be baby brother.  It didn’t matter that he is nearly 800 miles away from us.  It didn’t matter that he doesn’t know who we are.  And it didn’t matter that we don’t know when we might be united with him.  What matters is that we are ready.  We are ready to be a family of four, rather than three.  We are ready to welcome him with open arms.  And we are ready to celebrate all of his future milestones, together, as a family.


The End of the Paper Chase, For Now.

This week we received notice that USCIS would be transferring our petition to bring our son to the United States to its field office in Seoul, Korea.  Upon receiving a copy of the notice, our case manager congratulated us for reaching the end of the paper trail.  At least for now.  Once an adoption decree has been issued, the necessary paperwork to get him home will be required, but it will be completed locally, in Korea.

In the meantime, we will continue to do what we have become accustomed to doing:  waiting.  We will do so knowing that our waiting time shortens with each passing day and that miracles occur every single day.

An Eight Ounce Gift of Love?

Next month our son will turn one–an occasion worthy of celebration.  Were he living with us, we would make a cake, light candles, and sing rounds of the Happy Birthday song.  But he’s not.  So, we’d like to do what we can, which is to send him a gift.

Unfortunately, that has led me into a gift-giving conundrum.  To send a gift to our son, necessitates I send a gift to his foster mother and family.  What to send him, let alone her, eludes me.  The gift, which must weigh no more than eight ounces, must be sent to our adoption agency in the States, which will then be forwarded to the adoption agency in Korea and then passed along to our son’s foster mother.  It is unlikely that our son will receive our gift in his birthday month.

The thing is, I can’t send him love.  Indeed, there is nothing I can send him that will demonstrate our family’s love and dedication to him.  There is no gift that can explain to him that we are his family, awaiting his arrival.  There is no gift that can convey our eagerness to be united.  But we will try.  We will try to select a gift that will bring a smile to his sweet face.  We will try to select a gift for his foster mom that shows how thankful we are that she is caring for our son.  And we will try to remember that this time of waiting is temporary.

More Bearable, the Waiting Continues.

Last weekend, our family had the opportunity to meet staff members from our adoption agency, A.A.C.  A.A.C. is based out of Colorado, but they made a special trip to Okinawa, after visiting Korea.  Unfortunately, our adoption case manager did not make the trip, but we were able to meet two women with whom we have had limited contact in the past.

While our time together totaled only a bit more than an hour, the meeting left us optimistic that we will be united with our son, [L], sooner than expected.  What will happen, of course, is anyone’s guess and will not be influenced directly by anyone present at the informal meet and greet.  Regardless, putting names to faces and having an in-person conversation about the adoption process provided a greater sense of comfort and security than one might imagine.

We were shown photos and videos taken of [L] days earlier.  He appears to be a thriving little boy, who is curious about the world around him, focused on toys given to him, and enthusiastic about moving.  Indeed, he is already standing and trying to walk at 10-months old.  Shortly after the visit we were provided additional photos and videos of [L].  The series of photos and videos begin with a sign bearing, in part, our surname and [L]’s full name, tangible proof that the process is progressing.

Since receiving the videos, we have watched them several times with [S].  She signs for more after each video has concluded, wanting to see more of her soon-to-be-baby-brother-[L].  In fact, she will tell you her brother’s name is Baby [L], a loving affirmation that his American name suits him.  Yesterday, as I watched [S] draw on her whiteboard, she held up the blue dry erase marker and said, “Mine, mine, mine.”  I looked at her in silence, unprepared for her next set of words.  As she began waving the marker in the air, she said, “No, [L], no, [L].  Mine.”

On Waiting.

Earlier today, I surprised myself by engaging in an atypical showing of emotion.  It was unexpected.  Obviously.  And it was brief.  It occurred as [S] was playing in the living room and I was reviewing some documents, not an unusual scene in our home.  I started crying.  No, this wasn’t an instance of elegant eye watering.  Tears freely rolled down my cheeks and my nose began to run.  Not pretty.  But it was real.

What was the source of such an uncharacteristic outburst?  A mix of joy and gratitude.  Right before the tears began to roll, I was reviewing 50-plus pages of adoption acceptance paperwork, which was mailed out today.

A couple of weeks ago we received our second referral–an eight-month old boy.  The referral was unexpected, received weeks ahead of the expected time frame.  If his photos are any indication of his personality, he looks to be lively, loving and happy.  After a bit of back and forth with the agency, we accepted him as our son.

But he is far from ours at this moment.  Approvals are needed by South Korea and the United States.  On average, the process will take another 18 months before finalization.

Last night, I confided to Russell my concerns that the adoption won’t go as planned.  What if his birth mother changes her mind?  What if the court finds we are unfit parents?  What if we are unable to obtain an age waiver?  My Husband, as lovingly as possible, instructed me not to worry.  Useless advice to a champion worrier.

What struck me was that my concerns–my endless what ifs–were no different than when I was pregnant with [S].  What if she comes early?  What if she comes late?  What if she doesn’t want to come at all?  What if she’s not healthy?  Yes, the nature and quality of the concerns differ, but the intense desire for the best for our second child is the same as it was for our first.  My worrying is a manifestation of love at a time I am unable to hold and care for our son.

While I was taken aback by the torrent of emotion earlier today, I shouldn’t have been.  We started looking into adoption nearly eight months ago.  We’ve submitted nearly 300 pieces of paper in support of our endeavor.  We’ve undergone physical and mental examinations, psychological testing, disclosed our financial records, obtained criminal clearances, submitted abuse registry clearances from each state of residence, submitted referrals from friends, undertaken hours of online parenting classes, submitted fingerprint cards, provided our tax filings from years past, undertaken interviews, and submitted copies of birth and marriage certificates and passports.

This has been a labor of love in the truest sense.  For now, we are done.  All we have left to do is wait.  We will await movement from USCIS.  We will await action by the government of South Korea.  We will await the appointment of a court date.  And we will await being united with our son.


A Referral.

The international adoption process varies from one country to the next, as is to be expected.  Regardless, waiting for significant periods of time is not only expected, but built into the adoption timeline.  Currently, we are awaiting the completion of our home study.  Yes.  Still.  The good news is that time is passing quickly and we are hopeful that the crowning document of our dossier will be finalized shortly.  Without it, we are unable to proceed further in the process.

Typically, upon submission of our home study, we would receive a referral from our adoption agency.  In adoption nomenclature a referral is when prospective adoptive parents are provided with a child’s file–and photos–to be considered for adoption.  As a result of several unique factors at play, we were provided with a referral earlier this week.  It took us by surprise.  And, personally, I was unprepared for what followed.

We received a brief medical and social history of the child and his parents.  And we were provided with a description of his current living situation (foster care) and developmental milestones (on track).  To be sure, we reviewed the documents with care and looked at the photos many, many times.  But that is the clinical assessment of the child.  Did his mother drink while pregnant?  Why was he given up?  What is his head circumference?  Weight?  Does he sleep through the night?

Nothing could prepare me for the emotional struggle of weighing whether this child is the right child for our family.  And let’s be clear, it’s not all about us.  For the past several nights, I’ve laid awake in bed wondering what will happen to this beautiful 10-month old boy if we take a pass.  I stare at his photos intently with a open heart, knowing that our decision–whatever it may be–directly affects his life.  For me, it is unsettling.  And it is a decision that weighs heavily on my mind and heart.

I have given much thought to both Blue and [S] these past few days.  I picked Blue.  He was one of seven puppies up for adoption, all from the same litter.  And we were given [S], if you will.  I worried about them both.  What if Blue had a poor temperament?  What if [S] had colic?  What if Blue runs away?  What if [S] runs away?  You get the point.  And there is no reason for the pattern to change with our second child.  I will worry.  I will wonder.  I will want the best for him or her.  In the end, I take great comfort in knowing that parents throughout the world are opening their homes and hearts to children in need.  And that love always wins.

A Sense of Accomplishment

A few minutes ago, after re-reading my e-mail and double checking that I had actually attached the document, I pressed the send button.  The e-mail was to our adoption home study professional and the document was our completed questionnaire, totaling 50 pages.  How do I feel?  Relieved.  Excited.  Happy.  Elated.  Relaxed (at least a bit).  Lighter.  We are moving into the next phase of the adoption process, which will prove to be a challenge for me, no doubt:  waiting.  But that takes nothing away from this moment.