I’m continuing the series of post about our time in Korea last year with the heartbreaking, sad and emotional things I never want to forget.
-On our first trip we stayed at the Guesthouse of our Korean agency that was established and made available for families to stay at. It is just two buildings down from the agency, very cost efficient, and has good accommodations. The Guesthouse rooms are also located in the same building as our agency’s baby reception center. Two of the floors in the building are reserved for caring for the babies once the birth mother has made an adoption plan. They are cared for there until they are either adopted in country or placed in a foster home to wait adoption. On Sunday morning Brad and I were up early and had decided to go out for some breakfast. As we walked out of the building and onto the street we could hear the cries of the babies from up above in the reception center. It was a very somber sound. There is no real way to explain how I truly felt hearing those cries. My heart ached for each one. I thought about each of those precious little babies and how each one so desperately needed a mommy and daddy to calm and love on them as they cried. Fortunately, most all of those babies will find families. However, that’s not the fate of hundreds of thousands of children around the world. I’m reminded of a quote from Orphan Justice: How to Care for Orphans Beyond Adopting by Johnny Carr, “Man made orphanages for children, but God made the family for children… As followers of Jesus we cannot be satisfied with children living in orphanages as a long-term solution.” Baby reception centers, orphanages, institutions, whatever you want to call them, they are man’s plan for the fatherless, but not God’s plan! Families are God ordained and His plan for children!
-During our first trip to Korea we had two visits with Benjamin. At both visits, when it came time to say “Good-bye” I was fine. I had been able to leave without having a meltdown. My heart was full and happy! I thought that if I was going to have an ugly cry it would have been during these times, but I had prepared myself for them and knew good-bye wasn’t for forever. However, when it came time to leave Korea it was a different story. I honestly thought I had made the trip without any meltdowns or tears. But as we were leaving our room at the Guesthouse, on our way to the elevator, the tears came. (I’m tearing up now thinking about it!) I had held them in as long as I could. Even though I knew he was being very well taken care of it was hard to leave without him. It was very hard to leave behind something, someone, you’ve prayed, waited, dreamed and hoped for for so long. I was leaving, but I was leaving without a piece of me. By the time we reached the bus stop I had regained my composure.
-They day Benjamin was placed in our arms forever was one filled with great emotions. Happiness. Nervousness. Sadness. Our dream of being a family of three was finally coming true! We had waited 10 years for this day! Our hearts were overflowing with joy, love, happiness, and excitement. At the same time I was nervous. I would now be responsible for someone other than myself. This little person would rely on my for everything. EVERYTHING! What if I couldn’t do it? Would I know what to do when he cried? Would I know how to help him feel better when he was sick? Would I be able to cheer him up when he was sad? What if he didn’t like me? I hoped these were normal first-time-mom jitters.
We were to take custody of Benjamin at the adoption agency. We were given about 45-60 minutes with him before we left the agency. The foster mom told us he liked riding in a stroller and being outside. We put him in a stroller and took him out on the porch/balcony. We spent time just the three of us and he did great. He never cried, but it was like he sensed something was about to happen.
As we were preparing to leave the agency, they graciously allowed us to barrow the stroller for a few days. (This proved to be a lifesaver!!) Our social worker escorted us to the elevator. As we waited for the doors to open his foster family stood there too. We told Benjamin to wave bye-bye and they said something to him too. He looked up at them and smiled his little smile and waved. I looked at his foster mom and she was crying. That’s all it took and my tears started flowing. I reached over, hugged her, and thanked her once more for loving and caring so much for Benjamin. As we got into the elevator she said something and our social worker translated and said, “She wishes for him to have a happy and healthy life”. And the doors closed.
-The next few days would be hard. Benjamin grieved severely. It sounds odd to say, but this is what we wanted and had hoped he would do. (It meant he had a secure bond with his foster family and would greatly increase the chances of him forming a similar bond with us.) Even though we expected this, and had been trained on how to handle it, it still didn’t make it easy for us to watch. Anytime we were in our hotel room and hew was awake he could cry. He loved being in the stroller and being outside (I think he thought if he was in the stroller it meant he was going back to his foster mom). Our hotel had an outside putting range on the 5th floor. This became our “go to” spot. It soothed Benjamin to be out there and he enjoyed playing with the golf balls. We even ate out there a time or two.
The day we got him, after being in the room and unable to console him, we took him for a ride in the stroller. He fell asleep before we made it half way around the block.
The second day at nap time we let him lay on a palate. That day he cried himself to sleep. He kept crying for “omma” (mom/mother) and “appa” (dad/father). HEART. WRENCHING. I laid next to him, rubbed his back, and cried silently.
For three nights when it came time for bed we would push him up and down the block until he fell asleep. We were just surviving at this point. I spent two nights “sleeping” (I really didn’t sleep much) in a chair holding him. It seemed anytime we laid him down he would wake up and start crying. However, day three became the turning point. He was already realizing he could trust and depend on us and that we were not going to leave or neglect him. We ditched the stroller and began using the baby carrier, he didn’t cry every time we were in the hotel room, and we felt comfortable sightseeing around Seoul with him.
-The day finally came for us to head home. We had enjoyed our time in Korea, but we were definitely ready to be home. As we boarded the plane an instrumental version of “What a Wonderful World” was playing through the speakers. Here are a few of the lyrics:
“I see skies of blue,
And clouds of white.
The bright blessed day,
The dark sacred night.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world…
I hear babies cry,
I watch them grow,
They’ll learn much more,
Than I’ll ever know.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.”
The music was playing so softly and tranquil. Another burst of emotions came over me and the tears came once more. It was a bitter sweet moment. I was sad because we were leaving Benjamin’s homeland that he may never fully get to experience. I grieved because we were taking him from the only home he had ever known. I was brokenhearted over all the loss and changes he had already experienced in his short 17 months of life. Yet, it was like the emotional burden of everything we had experienced on our journey had been lifted. The ups and downs, the waiting and unforeseen delays, the times I thought I would never be a mother, they were all over They were all behind us now. The sleeping baby I held in my arms was really ours and he was finally coming home! He would no longer be called fatherless, but an heir, a son! Appropriately, the meaning of his name is “son of…” We were headed home with the child we had dreamed of, prayed, hoped, and waited for for over 10 years. The next chapter of our lives was just beginning!!