YH came up to me distraught. In his hand was THE microphone--the one with his foster mother's recorded message on it. He held the microphone out to me, saying and signing "Help. Please. Help. Please." over and over.
I took the toy and pressed the "play" button.
No words. No Umma's voice delivering her message to YH.
Just a tinny "click" followed by sickening silence.
YH stood before me with tears in his eyes.
"Help. Please. Help. Please."
His little hands smacked together harder and harder each time he signed "help".
I pulled him into my lap and told him there was nothing I could do. Umma's voice was gone. Someone had accidently deleted it; no way to know who.
I'm sorry baby. I miss her too. Should we look at some pictures of her? I'm so sorry baby.
Then I burst into tears as he said "No. No. No." over and over.
We've been a family for three months now.
We are riding the waves of grief and transition as they come--for all of us.
The big kids are grieving the way our lives were before YH joined us. Back when we could be more spontaneous, stay out at the pool later, eat at any restaurant. When it was easy to buckle themselves into their booster seats (no cumbersome car seat smushed in between in the backseat of the Honda Fit). When our days weren't carved into tiny windows of time between meals and nap.
YH is grieving his former life too--his foster family, his first home, all that was familiar. His grief shows up in many ways. Fussiness. Tantrums. Frustration. Constant eating. Crying. Needing lots of physical contact.
Along with the grief there is joy. My Sweet Bubs has found his groove as a big brother--and YH *loves* him so much. YH calls out his name and follows in his footsteps. He repeats every word Sweet Bubs teaches him and copies everything he does.
Miss A also loves to teach YH new things and she claps loudly at his every accomplishment.
YH has started calling us "Mommy" and "Daddy". He draws out "mommy" into at least eight syllables, rising and falling like a song.
That part is bitter-sweet. We miss being called "Umma" and "Appa", but we are happy that he knows he is loved by a Mommy, a Daddy, an Umma and an Appa. (And his first mother).
At three months home we've found a normal, but I don't think it is the normal. I imagine it could take years to get to that point. I do know that I love my little family. I love the work we're doing, and the way we can laugh our way through the uncertain parts.
The day after the worst thing ever happened, I received an email from YH's foster mother. I try to send her a written update (translated into Korean) on YH's growth and development every other week. I know she is worried about some of his special needs, and I want to be sure she knows that we are doing everything we can to help him rise up.
This email was the first response we received from her. She said she was glad YH was doing well and receiving the medical attention he needs. She said it has been hard for her family to be in their apartment without YH. That she was very sad and missed him very much. She thanked me for sending emails and lots of pictures of YH in our home. She asked after the health of my mother, and sent her love to the big kids.
Then she said she was sending three videos to YH--would we show them to him? Three videos: a video message from each member of the family, each telling YH he was loved.
I cried when I watched them (I cry a lot these days).
As soon as YH woke up from his nap, I sat him in front of the laptop and pressed "play".
There was Umma--her face, her hands, her voice.
And YH's face LIT up. The hole left by the deleted microphone was filled. He laughed and waved at the screen. He kissed his foster family's faces. He turned to me and yelled out "Mommy!" in delight when his Appa appeared on the screen.
And I cried again, but this time it was happy tears. What a gift--and what perfect timing.
It was the best thing ever.