Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Love at Face Value

Love at Face Value
A poem for Matthew

Only a photo? I’ll take it,
If that’s all we have for now.
Two adorable photos:
one with eyes open,
One with eyes closed,
Both looked upon with love by your daddy’s and my adoring eyes.
The same two photos are everywhere in our home—
in big frames hanging on walls, in stand-up frames propped on pianos,
in medium-sized frames next to our desks at work,
and in tiny sizes, tucked into wallets and purses
for those spontaneous moments of parental boasting.
We can’t wait to bring you home, Matthew…
into our arms and into our lives.
There is such hope and such joy living in our hearts
where once there was none.
May you travel safely and peacefully on your journey to us.
Know that already, you are loved, little boy.
I’m not sure how to explain or understand
the feelings that I have.
I mean, how can I truly “love” a photo?
But I do.
And I love not just the idea of you, but YOU, yourself.
How can I love a stranger half a world away?
Again, my only answer: I just do.
What if we were matched with someone else? But we weren’t.
We were chosen for you, and you for us.
Enough analyzing: I think I’ll just take this love at face value
and not spend a lot of time or deep inquiry
questioning what can only be explained as
“the way things were meant to be.”
You were in the stars—in our stars.
You have already wiggled your way into our hearts and our lives.
Now, all we have to do is get you home.
Your room is ready:
The lights are soft and warm and dim.
The rocker is in place.
The lullaby CDs are sitting on the shelf, and the lovies are in the crib.
You have blankets and shirts and socks and tons of colorful toys.
And, of course, you have us!
I love you, my son. How can one little face be so perfect?


Excerpts of a Letter I Wrote to Matthew's Birth Parents

TO: Matthew's Birth Parents
FROM: A Grateful Mom

Where do I even begin?

Because of you, my child exists, draws breath, smiles, cries, hopes, and dreams.

Because of you, Matthew is a beautiful person, inside and out. He has inherited genetic traits and characteristics of both of you—and although I may never meet you, I can only imagine how beautiful you, yourselves, must then be!

Because of you, my child walks on this Earth and will make such a positive, joyful contribution to ensuring that future generations also walk on this same Earth, look up at this same sky, and still enjoy and revel in nature’s gifts and God’s miracles.

The connection that all of us, as human beings, have to one another is quite extraordinary. We are forever linked...we have this incredible child as our common connection.

After having made this incredibly difficult decision, your feelings of loss must be overwhelming and quite painful. But I know that you had your reasons for doing this. You made a thoughtful, conscious choice that was practical and in Matthew's best interests. Every day, I give thanks that your decision (in all of its painful finality) allowed me to have the child I’ve longed for all my life.

I hope that you know just how seriously Jeff and I take the responsibility you have bestowed upon us, in allowing us to raise Matthew as our own and be the person he will call “Mom” and “Dad.” What an incredible and humbling honor! Matthew Seong-jin will always know that he has not only Mom and Dad, but also a birth mother and a birth father, in this world. Our child will always know that he came to us out of a love so incredibly vast and deep, it can never be fully explained, perhaps, until he becomes a parent himself. The love that it takes to let sends shivers up my spine. I honor you, and I bow to you with deep respect and admiration and tremendous gratitude.

As Matthew's mom, I can promise you this:

We will surround Matthew with light and love, every day of his life--and long after we are gone. We will be eternally available to him.

We will instill in him a strong sense of confidence, high self-esteem, fun, joy, and warmth, and we will help him see that above ALL ELSE, he is loved. Indeed, we are a family that loves to laugh and play. Matthew will see that for himself soon enough!

Matthew's role will be, simply, to be a child! To laugh and jump into piles of raked leaves in autumn and makes snow angels in winter. To try to touch the sky with his feet while on the swing set. To know joy and happiness, and to have a strong sense that this is definitely where he belongs in life. To make our day simply by smiling at us.

I write this letter with so many feelings: tremendous respect, sadness for your situation (whatever it is that led you to this brave choice), happiness for us and Matthew, and a genuine wish that your life, as you move forward from this day, will be full of music, laughter, loved ones, and happy times. Both of you are a blessing from God, and the best gift that my world has ever received. So if you ever doubt for a moment this decision, please remember the words I’m sharing with you today.

I wish you the best, and please know that all of us--Jeff, Matthew, myself--will always be thanking you, and honoring you, and remembering you from the depths of our hearts. You made it possible for us to be a family, and for that I’m not sure that I can ever say enough.

With great love and deep respect,

Kathleen (Matthew's Mom)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Quotes That Bring Me Comfort

In my quest to not totally lose it today, I just googled "quotes on patience during adoption" (whatever did we do without the Internet?) and here's what I found (with my favorite passages in italics):
Our children are not ours because they share our genes...they are ours because we have had the audacity to envision them. That, at the end of the day...or long sleepless how love really works.
Not flesh of my flesh, Nor bone of my bone,
But still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute,
You didn't grow under my heart--but in it
-Fleur Conkling Heylinger

And here's a great primer on the "real" definition of those words that are innocently (but mistakenly) used by so many well-meaning people in the presence of us adoptive parents (please think before you speak, as these terms really hurt, even if you don't mean to hurt us!):

Natural Child: Any child who is not artificial.
Real Parent: Any parent who is not imaginary.
Your Own Child: Any child who is not someone else's child.
Adopted Child: A natural child, with a real parent, who is all my own.
-Rita Laws
The Gift of Life
I didn't give you the gift of life,
But in my heart I know.
The love I feel is deep and real,
As if it had been so.

For us to have each other
Is like a dream come true.
No, I didn't give you
the gift of life:
Life gave me the gift of you.-Unknown
How Could You Know?
As you lay sleeping far away as still as you could be...
How could you know the joy today this photo brings to me?

A few short weeks and you'll be mine, and "I" will soon be "We."
How could you know the love I feel? It's something you can't see.

So have sweet dreams, my precious babe. Sleep well and tenderly.
Some say that you're the lucky one. How could you know it's me?
-Kris Laughlin

Remind Me About Patience Again...

...and how wonderful a trait it is? Today, I am forgetting.

{insert HUGE SIGH here}

Turns out I didn't quite understand the process and how it works (no surprise there; just when I think I understand it, another loophole or twist is explained to me).

Here's the latest from our caseworker in response to a recent e-mail (see my sidenote in unitalicized brackets):

This is not the one we're waiting for
[that is, the form I referred to in my recent posts]. This is good, because it shows that you have been refingerprinted, but it is not the baby's approval to come into the country. Your I-600 and legals were sent to CIS on 9/4, so you're waiting for child's approval. Give CIS until second week of October, then send email asking about it. [The woman in charge of adoption paperwork at CIS] has been slow to get approvals done, but I don't want this to hold up arrival.

All I know is this: Our son is not here yet basically because of bureaucracy, paperwork, red tape, and ONE WOMAN'S busy schedule. ONE WOMAN! I definitely would not want her job.

Second week of October translates to "he's not coming in mid-October."

The woman at CIS saying "Wow, this week is SO busy for me! I didn't get to nearly all the approvals I wanted to" translates, for us, to "Add another week to the wait." It's interesting how the actions of one person can dramatically and directly affect us waiting families.

Chin up, I know. I'm not letting it get me down but it is disappointing. I just never anticipated this much roller-coaster activity this late in the game. You all have been great with all of your support; keep it coming.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

What Our Caseworker Just Said...

My question to Margie (our caseworker) in an e-mail from today: "We're still looking at November as a likely arrival time, right?"

Margie's response: "Really, it could be mid-Oct to mid-Nov as our best guess. CIS has cabled Seoul to let them know of your approval, so we're finished on this end."

I'M FREAKIN' OUT! In a good way of course...

The Much-Anticipated Letter Has Arrived!

Wow, was yesterday an interesting day. After a long bout of hysterical wailing in the car (panic-stricken emotional outbursts included "What are we doing?" "This wait is driving me crazy!" and the realization that "Shit...we don't know what we're doing!") on the drive home from work, I got home to a little piece of news that literally turned my night around...

There was Jeff, standing in the kitchen, smiling and holding the very letter we had been waiting for from USCIS!

Let's back up, for a minute, to this past Monday, September 14. I had sent an e-mail reminder, asking our contact at USCIS what the status was. Isn't it interesting that we received the letter exactly two days later in the mail? (She's in Baltimore, so 2 days makes sense if one were to, say, drop it in the mail to us on Monday, the day of my e-mail!) ANYWAY, I don't even care...I'm just glad I listened to my little voice saying "nag USCIS"--and that my efforts paid off!

So here's the government gobbledy-gook (get ready: It's Acronym/Legalese Central!): We received an I-797C, "Notice of Action," that basically approves us to do the next step: File our I-600 ("Petition to Classify Orphan as an Immediate Relative"). The details beyond that are too confusing for me to (a) explain to you (you'd probably stop reading my blog at this point) or (b) understand myself. I just do what our caseworker tells me to do.

And now here's the translated version, in good old American English: This letter is the trigger for what happens next, and it means that things can now proceed. Apparently, the next step is for us to photocopy the letter and mail it to our caseworker in Baltimore (done as of a few minutes ago) and then they forward it on to Holt Korea (our international adoption agency, which is the agency that Matthew's current foster parents are affiliated with) in Seoul. I believe (don't quote me on this; I have to ask Margie again) that this letter gives Holt Korea the green light to gather Matthew's travel paperwork and get him ready for his trip to America. Still looking at November for an arrival time, though.

Patience. Deep breaths. This too shall pass.

Oh, and guess what the address listed is?

Thornberry Land.

I just had to laugh out loud! After all that to-do with the USCIS fingerprint guy (read my earlier post for a classic story of bureaucracy at its finest)!

I'm not even going to worry about it. Apparently the universe, and USCIS itself, really, really wants us to live in a land and not on a lane.

I'll take it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

November Adoption Celebration

November is Adoption Month, and in the spirit of that, our agency has an annual Adoption Celebration. This year, it's in Ellicott City (we couldn't go last year; we were in Hawaii! Can't believe it was a whole year ago!). They have all kinds of cultural events and demonstrations, ethnic foods, and of course, socializing with everyone. Our caseworkers will all be there, as well as everyone in our current parent support group meetings, as well as "alumni" of the support group (i.e., people who have since gotten their children and no longer attend the meetings). And, of course it goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway): THE KIDS! What a reason to celebrate!

Cool thing is, Jeff was asked to drum at the you may or may not remember, he is a skilled percussionist, with a special focus on West African drumming (instruments such as the djembe). He'll be solo'ing at the celebration. It's in early November. Pretty cool, huh?

No more news. We're still waiting for that magic piece of paper from USCIS that will essentially give the green light for Matthew to travel; then the wheels will start REALLY turning.

Have a great rest of your week!

The Power of Positive Thinking

This past week has been filled with some interesting ups and downs. I'm not going to go into any details, but please think positive thoughts for those parents who are still waiting to be matched with their children. I have several friends who are going through some tough times right now regarding their wait and the adoption process in general. Obviously, I'm not going to mention details, but I believe in the power of positive thinking, as well as the energy shift that can happen when a group of people are focused on a positive outcome. Join me in helping shift some energy in the universe, so that these friends can and will become parents VERY SOON! To those of you out there who are waiting for your children and have yet to be matched with a particular child, rest assured that I REMEMBER being there, and I'm never going to forget to pay it forward. I continue to think of all of you every day, and regardless of where you are in the adoption process, you are in my prayers and thoughts every night before I go to sleep. THIS WILL HAPPEN! Make it your mantra!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Latest From Our Caseworker

So, here's the message I just got from Margie, about "what's next" (these caseworkers put in way more than 40 hours per week!):

Your approval will be sent to Korea, showing them that the U.S. government will allow him to come into the country. Now it's up to Holt [our international adoption agency] to finish the processing on their end. THEN we'll get notice of his arrival!

Gimme an H!
Gimme an O!
Gimme an L!
Gimme a T!

What's that spell? HOLT!
Louder: HOLT!
Louder: HOLT!
(Do you think they can hear us all the way over in Seoul? Given my lungs, I wouldn't put it past me.)

Ha ha! And I was never even a cheerleader!

Seriously, everyone think good thoughts that Holt will respond quickly and bring him home to us soon! We are SO CLOSE! Reading all of these adoption articles just makes me want him home with us even more!

More Things I've Been Reading

As I held his perfect little body against mine, grief for Sam's birthmother came crashing over me. I wept, wondering how she'd found the strength and courage. When she placed that child in my arms, she must have felt as though she were giving birth a second time. The mama I became the moment my first child was entrusted to me is the mama I would have become no matter what....The baby himself made the mother, not the cell tissue he was made of. Joy is not uterine-dependent.

Now, as a mother through adoption, I find myself the recipient of e-mail after e-mail from friends of friends who are exploring adoption....They want to know if they will love an adopted child as much as they would love a biological child.

Adoption is its own gestation, I sometimes respond....the wait...for a referral...brings a physical and emotional shift in your heart and body. When the wait enter a final trimester of hope and terror. When you deliver, just as when you adopt, the placement of a healthy child into your arms is not a certainty until that baby is there with you, breathing quickly, and with a softness so precious you think it can't possibly be real.

Those mamas whose pregnant bellies I envied, whose baby showers I sat through in silent rage, had nothing over me in the feelings department...

[NOTE: This woman has one adpoted child and one birth child, and here, she speaks of the difference in mothering...or lack thereof]:

There is no difference in the way I run to one when he bumps his thick head, or crumple when the other tells me that someone hurt his feelings. I felt the same joy when each of my baby boys smiled at me for the first time. When Sam kicks a ball harder than the imp who picked on him in line, I explode with pride. When Marcel sees a picture of Darth Vader and starts humming the Star Wars theme song, I delight in his brilliance.

My boys have completely different, irreverent temperaments, so I respond to each child in a different way. But as far as how I love them, it is the same.

(Source: Adoptive Families magazine, October 2009, "True Love, Times Two," by Catherine Maryse Anderson, pp. 23-24)

Things I've Been Reading

The latest issue of one of my adoption magazines had a great article about "Surviving (and Thriving) Through the Wait." Here are some nuggets that I took away from this article:

Where have you people been all my life? There is something special about the adoption community. It takes someone with a big heart, I think, and at least some sense of adventure, to adopt. I am so grateful to have met so many incredible people on this journey. I mean it.

And so do I. We have made lasting friendships already, even before Matthew has gotten here. I just know that these people who have helped us through this long wait (either because they are in this with us, or they had already been there and had sage advice about how to survive the long waiting period!) will continue to be there for us, and us for them, years from now. Just when I thought I had packed my life so full of friends, I couldn't fit anymore, here came these wonderful people to shine their light on our life. I am so thankful.

Here's another thing that resonated with me:

The uneasiness may disappear when we get our referral, but maybe it is always important to feel uneasy. Being a prospective adoptive parent is complicated. Obviously, the people REALLY going through something are the birth families and the children. Their losses are much more difficult and devastating. If I am lucky enough to become a parent, I must continue to question. I will do my help those who come after me, and to help those who are left behind.

The feelings of joy and anticipation are substantially less complicated. In January 2008, our social worker let us know we were Waiting Family #103. Today, we are #3. We want this more than anything. I can't wait to see my husband be a father. I can't wait for my parents to meet their grandchildren. I can't wait to sing someone to sleep, to make someone laugh, and to bandage a skinned knee. We are ready for our joyful, uneasy, happy ending.

And I am officially crying my eyes out. This is exactly how I feel! I love this magazine!

(Source: Adoptive Families magazine, "The Stages of Waiting" by Julie Corby, October 2009, pp. 21-22)

Dotting All the I's

Sounds like, um, SOMETHING, good is happening. Not sure what, but I guess we'll find out soon. Here's the message I got from USCIS (which, by the way, stands for "U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services"--I always thought the "C" stood for "Customs") today via e-mail:

I have received both fingerprints and I will get your amended I-171H out this week.

Apparently, in addition to the I-600, the I-600A, and the I-797C, there is also the I-171H. Talk about confusing. What the heck is an I-171H? (sigh) Guess I'll look that one up, too.

So many I's to dot...where are all the T's?