My husband and I have been contacted by 2 families within the past couple of months who are preparing to make their journeys to Korea. Just like we did in May of ’09, these families will board a plane with their own suitcases, plus one extra duffle with the items they hope will make a good impression on their new little family member. I am envious of the thrill and adventure they have ahead of them! I always tell people that adoption is the biggest, most thrilling, most mind-blowing leap of faith you can take. As fulfilling as my life is, I don’t think I will ever experience anything so exciting as the anticipation leading up to and meeting our son for the first time.
My husband and I recanted our stories and coached the families on what to bring and do. I thought about my huge red duffle that I packed with 60 pounds of “what ifs” and “just in cases”. “What if he has allergies to the soap we use? I’ll pack unscented detergent and soaps.” “What if he doesn’t like cotton and prefers fleece? I’d better bring 2 blankets!” “Just in case he gets a rash, flu, or fever, I have my emergency medical kit!”. What I didn’t know was that #1, his wonderful foster family would send us home with everything we could have possibly needed, including a big stuffed bumblebee, formula, diapers, pollock soup, burp cloths and several outfits. #2, much to our relief as first time parents, Maximus didn’t really need anything else. At 8 months, he just wanted to be clean, fed, and entertained.
When we first saw him, he was on the floor with his bumblebee and an airplane eating corn puffs with his foster mother. He stayed with her for about 2 minutes, then his curiosity got the best of him and he came over to us. We picked him up and tossed him around and zoomed the bee and plane around his head. He giggled with his big wide gummy smile. We asked some questions about his caretaking though our translator couldn’t really speak English. I watched his foster mother get teary as she answered our questions. Soon it was time for us to go and we were told to report to the agency at noon the next day.
The next day we showed up and Maximus was there with his foster mother and one of his foster sisters. Their eyes were puffy and glassy and he looked like he belonged with them, not with us. As happy as I was, I felt awful for them. Thankfully Maximus didn’t seem to be phased at all. We got all of our instructions and documents for Immigration, exchanged presents, then it was time to go. We tried to express our profound gratitude and promises to give Maximus every opportunity in life, but who knows what his foster family really thought our parting words were. They sent us home with 4 photo albums they had taken of Maximus since he had come to them, and it was clear he was a beloved member of their family for those few months.
And then there we were, taking photos of our new little family in front of the agency in Seoul. Maximus’ hair was a wispy crown right at the top that made him look like a cockatoo from the side. When he was in the Baby Bjorn, his head bobbed back and forth from front to back like a parrot. He was so cute I couldn’t believe my eyes. He still is. I say to him all the time “Do you know that you are enchanting?”. He looks at me, smiles coyly, and says “Yes”. Anyway, we took him back to our room and got down to the business of being parents. First time parents, to be clear. We had to call my friend in the States during the first diaper change. He was so squirmy that I didn’t see how it could be done. In addition, all his clothes had buttons instead of snaps or zippers! We actually went to a department store searching for just 1 onesie with snaps or a zipper, and it didn’t seem to exist. I admire the patience and dexterity of the Korean people!
Maximus slept a full 8 hours his first night with us (set aside that this didn’t happen again for another 3 months). It was the strangest most wonderful thing to wake up next to this cuddly little fuzzy headed baby for the first time. We had no idea what to do with him so we just followed his lead for the next 2 days until we headed back to the US. We tucked him into the Baby Bjorn and set off sightseeing, meeting several American couples along the way in the midst of an adventure like we were. We spent our first full day with an American mom, grandmother, and new family member baby Jenna. We still keep in touch with them. When you meet another family going through the same completely surreal experience in a completely disorienting place, the bond is pretty tight!
Maximus made the transition so easy. Setting aside a harrowing 22 hour journey home, he was very gentle on us. Sure he had his time zone issues for the first 2 weeks, but he adapted to our home, dog, and lives like a champ. Sometimes if he cried I wondered if he was crying for his foster mom, and maybe he was. But he was willing to take comfort from us too. He was a smiling, cuddly bundle of joy with everyone he met, and still is to this day.
I can’t believe it’s already been almost 2 years since we had our adventure of a lifetime. I think about my friends who had their adventures in the delivery room, and I know that theirs can’t even possibly come close. They all knew what to expect – at least 80% of the thrill they can share with other friends or read about in books. No one ever has the same adoption story. We had no idea what to expect – it was a blind leap of faith the whole way through. I still can’t believe how lucky we are.