Tuesday, May 29, 2012

First meeting

I do finally stop worrying long enough to sleep--for a few fitful hours. None of us can sleep past 6am so we are up and bickering with each other for an hour or so before breakfast begins. We wrap the million gifts we have for the foster family and social worker and pack them carefully away in subway-proof backpacks.

I try to remember what each task feels like:

This is taking a shower on the day you meet your son.
This is putting on a dress on the day you meet your son.
This is trying to fill in your eyebrows with hands made shaky at the thought of meeting your son.

My mom comes up to hang with the big kids while Sean and I nervously stuff our pockets with "essential" items that we will forget about as soon as we leave the hotel.

Suddenly we are on the street. We are on the subway. We are at the right stop, searching for the appropriate exit. We are stricken.

We are early--about 40 minutes early for our assigned "check-in" time.
We sit in the cafe at ESWS, our placing agency. The cafe employs single mothers; thus helping to support women who choose to parent their children (women who are largely seen as "unemployable" due to their single-parent status). We are nervous and self-conscious as we order iced americanos. We are overly thankful to the barista and we sit and sweat in shamed silence as we sip our drinks.

Finally it is time to check in. Our assigned social worker is busy in appointments all day, so another woman guides us through paperwork. It is so busy at the agency that we are seated in a waiting area outside of a room where a family is meeting their child for the first time. My eyes water as the door to the playroom opens. A tall and beautiful woman steps shakily out--her eyes are damp too but she is laughing. I know who she is immediately--an Australian woman I "met" through the internet. We greet each other and laugh and cry together.

We are led on a tour of the agency.

We are taken up to the floor that houses that baby reception room. Currently there are 50 babies there, waiting for foster or forever homes. About 15 of the babies are sick and are in a separate room to receive extra care. The babies are SO small.

Next we (about 10 families in total) file into a room to listen to a presentation by Dr. Kim, president of ESWS. Dr. Kim tells us about the history of her country, the history of adoption in Korea and the many projects that ESWS runs to care for at-risk families/women/children.

I am trying to pay attention, but in my head I am only thinking about the fact that we will be meeting YH in two hours.

Now one hour.

Our social worker finds us and chides us for not bringing Nana and the kids to the meeting. She leads us to a playroom and we sit nervously on the floor.

The door opens and we see this.


Mrs. S pulls a package of crackers out of her purse and immediately starts feeding snacks to YH as a way to ease him into the room.

He looks around at us and then dives into the toys. He plays and plays, leaving each toy after a few seconds of attention. I try not to reach out to him, hoping that his ambulatory circuit will bring him naturally to my side. I try to ask Mrs. S the questions I formulated months ago, when none of this seemed like a real event.

Mrs. S answers in paragraphs with sweeping arm movements. I look at her while she speaks, waiting for our social worker to translate.

He is very busy. He gets bored with toys easily. He isn't interested in books. He waits for his Appa to come home each night, and then leads him through his evening routine. Appa, take off your shoes. Appa, wash your face. He loves smart phones and can use a touch screen readily. He drinks a few ounces of water or milk each night before bed and then goes to his room. He lies down and waits for Mrs. S to rub his back until he falls asleep. He is sensitive to the word no, and does better with redirection. When he doesn't get his way he screams. He climbs onto everything, opens every drawer, hides bits of paper int he corners of the apartment. He loves flowers, trees and big dogs. He is attuned to the moods of others and will comfort those he thinks to be in distress.

So many details about his life. And I haven't even touched him yet.

Finally, he wanders my way with a balloon in his hand.
 This is it. This is my son.


Later, Mrs. Shin will ask us questions about why we didn't pursue a "standard" referral (ie: one without identified medical needs). "You qualify, right?"
We explain what led us to the waiting child program.
She asks us why we want to parent this boy--she has another child with a similar background/profile who is almost three. This child will be transferred to a government orphanage soon, with no hope for being adopted, because no families have expressed interest in his file. (For the recond *YH* is almost three; this boy's fate could easily be his own).

We talk a bit about how we have prepared ourselves for his potential needs, and the personal connections we have to his "risk factors".

She asks us how he seems to us--developmentally.
I say he seems perfect, exactly the boy I was hoping to meet.


In the middle of our hour-long meeting, YH's foster brother calls his father (YH's "Appa") on the phone. YH talks animatedly to him in gibberish. He smiles at the phone and listens intently to his beloved Appa's responses. This is a routine for him; talking to the man he loves best, in a language noone can understand.

Mrs. S asks if we can come back the next day. Mr. S has the day off from work and wants to meet us.
Yes, we say, of course.


  1. oh internet... how strange and wonderful you are. here is this woman whom I barely know, except for how I knew I adored her - from what I had learned at derby... now I am reading about this amazing experience... and tearing up.

    thank you for sharing. and for being the writer you are. and for being the momma that you are.

    Aimee (Sinnerfold)

  2. Oh....I vividly remember the feelings I had the morning of meeting both our sons. It was a nervous, anxious feeling like none other I've had. It's funny, because I felt the same way for both boys. I would have thought it would have been easier the second time around.....not so much. Thanks so much for documenting your journey, so we can follow along with you.
    Michelle Rutta Wahe (mrutta on A. T.)