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“My husband and I are often told how lucky our two sons are to be adopted by us, but that could not be further from the truth. WE are the lucky ones. Like a lot of adoption journeys, ours started before we even filled out our first bit of paperwork — before we even knew we were going to adopt. Our first son was born 9 months before we connected with our adoption agency. Our second son was born less than a month after we came home with our first son. Both journeys to our boys are full of God winks, coincidences, and proof of God’s faithfulness.
Both of our boys are from Korea. We are asked a lot, ‘Why Korea?’ The short answer is, ‘Because that is where our boys are.’ We knew this was our path, and we followed it.
Shortly after filling out our initial intake paperwork with Dillon International, our program director called me and said she had a file for a little boy she thought we might want to see. She emailed over all the records, including photos, and we dived right in. I poured over all the photos while my husband (who is a registered nurse) looked through his medical information. I began falling in love with this boy with every photo I saw. He had the sweetest pudgy cheeks, fluffy black hair, and a smile that was seriously the sweetest thing I had ever seen. That was my baby. My son. After a couple days of talking and praying, we said yes. This precious boy was going to become OUR boy.
We completed the additional paperwork, home visits, and interviews as quickly as humanly possible and sent the signed documents to Korea. Finally, the clock starts, in terms of hitting milestones that would get us closer to meeting and bringing home our boy. A lot of things must line up before you can even meet your child. Our agency told us, up front, it can be a long and hard wait. We were sent photos and updates from the agency in Korea each month, which made the wait a little more bearable. Every month, we sent care packages to the agency in Korea to give to our son and his foster family. Shopping for these care packages became one of my favorite things to do.
It felt like a lifetime of waiting. We sent a birthday care package for his second birthday. We wrapped the inside of the box with wrapping paper and filled it strategically with as many little toys as possible. It broke my heart we couldn’t celebrate with him, but I just knew he’d be home for the next birthday.
After what felt like a million years, we finally got the call we had been issued a court date in Seoul and would get to meet our son. We had a little over one month of notice (which is standard) to book our flights and hotel. We booked everything the next day and prepared for the trip. When the day finally came to travel for nearly 20 hours (including a 15 hour flight to Korea) we could not have been more excited. Even me, who is absolutely terrified of flying. But I knew my baby was at the other end of those flights, so off we went.
Our first of two meetings with our son, was the morning after we arrived in Seoul. We woke up early, because of jet lag, and got ourselves together. We made our way to the agency and got there early. The agency runs a coffee shop that employs single mothers, so we let our social worker know we were there and sat down for some delicious Korean coffee. A little while later, we were brought into the office to fill out some additional paperwork. While doing this, in walked our son with his foster mom.
I froze and stared at him. We tossed our camera to another family who was waiting as well, and they took some pictures of us meeting for the first time. Our sweet boy. There he was. Right in front of us. His foster mom had a photo book we had sent. She showed him our photo and kept pointing between us and the picture saying, ‘Mommy! Daddy!’ He was more interested in playing with the toys in the room than anything. He did look us over, and I could tell he was trying to make the connection on who we were.
After a few minutes, we had to get back to the paperwork. Our son and his foster mom were sent to our official meeting room to wait for us. The moments we had in that room on that day are something I will never forget. He played with us and had no fear. We were able to ask some questions of his foster mom and we soaked up all we could. In a blink, our meeting time had ended. We knew we would have another meeting, and we had court to prepare for. We left feeling so much joy I thought our hearts might burst.
We had our court hearing with several other families who were adopting as well. We made friends with a couple who we ended up spending almost all of our time with in Seoul. It was a wonderful trip. As part of the adoption process in Korea, after your court hearing, you return home and wait for final approval. It hurt to leave our son. But, we were so close to having him home forever. We returned home and waited for our call back.
About a month later, we flew back to Seoul to bring home our boy. All approvals were issued, and we took custody and got home as quickly as possible. We were greeted by friends and family when we landed home, which felt like the best icing on the most perfect cake. We made it home and began to figure out our lives as a family of three. What we did not know, was about a month after we came home, our second son was born, and we’d have a very similar journey to bring him home!
About a year and a half later, we started the process to adopt our second son. We raced to complete the mountain of paperwork. I kept an image of that precious dark hair, pursing lips, and sparkling eyes the whole time we worked on our paperwork. Once everything was completed, we were officially matched with him, and our clock would start. We began putting together care packages every month and anxiously awaited our monthly updates and photos.
We spent a lot of time preparing our oldest for what was about to happen. We read books about becoming a big brother. We talked about what might happen when little brother came home. We planned for our first trip to Korea, as he would be coming to meet his brother and see his foster family again. Another lifetime seemed to pass; a birthday care package sent (with the inside of the box wrapped with the same birthday wrapping paper big brother had); and we finally got a court date. We were elated.
After an unexpected delay and upcoming changes to immigration field offices, it was well received news we could travel! We were in the home stretch! About six weeks later, we were on our way to Seoul. But this time, with a 5 year-old in tow, who was headed back to his birth country. He was nervous about going back. I was nervous about flying. My husband was nervous about nothing and kept us all pieced together. Bless him. When we landed in Korea, my husband snapped a photo of our oldest looking out the plane window. At that point, I just wanted off the plane we had been in for 15 hours. But I am so glad he got that photo. He took a similar photo of him when we landed in the U.S. after taking custody. The difference in the two photos is amazing, as well as the similarities.
We planned our stay in Seoul for nearly two weeks because we wanted to make sure we had time to do whatever we wanted and not be rushed like we were the first go-round. Our first week was the ‘big’ week. That is when we would meet our youngest son and go to court, just like last time. It was also when our oldest would see his foster family again.
Our first meeting was wonderful. We got to the agency early and went to the coffee shop. As soon as we sat down, in walked our son with his foster mom. My husband saw him first and waved me over. We knelt down and said hello. His foster mom was explaining who we were. He studied our faces and then locked in on our oldest son. He was who he was really interested in.
It became evident very quickly, this little dude was an ‘Appa’s Boy’ (Daddy’s Boy). His eyes lit up every time my husband interacted with him. He would bring him toys and motion for him to help him on the slide in the room. We also got a true glimpse of his personality. He was so sweet, and his demeanor was so trusting and calm. And he was so big and strong! I told my husband he was going to be our gentle giant (and he certainly has). The most perfectly created addition to our family.
When we had our second meeting, we knew for sure he would be an Appa’s Boy. He just loved being with my husband, and it was so sweet to watch. I specifically remember thinking, ‘His eyes smile just as much as his lips.’ This was especially true around my husband and oldest son. In a room full of playful boys, his attention was not on me, but it really was so fun to watch. Don’t get me wrong, I got in my hugs and kisses and watched his chubby little fingers meticulously place stickers on my shirt. I spent a lot of time talking with his foster mom and, again, trying to soak up everything she told me. There is something extra special about these first meetings. Seeing your children in their comfort zone. Watching their personalities. Seeing how similar, or different, they are compared to what you imagined based on photos and update letters. There’s just nothing quite like it.
Court went smoothly, and the rest of the trip was so fun. Korea is amazing. It’s beautiful, technologically advanced, and full of interesting history. We spent the remainder of our time doing things like shopping Toy Alley, exploring Namsan Tower, visiting Larva Town (Larva is a Korean cartoon on Netflix), and hitting some amazing local parks (one even had a zoo!). And the street food. I still dream of the street food.
We headed home and made our final preparations for returning for custody. The call came and we left a week later for our boy. Our oldest stayed home for this trip, and it broke our hearts. It was the longest we had ever been away from him since he came home. When we arrived in Korea, we hit the ground running. We had two days before custody, and we needed to be ready — mentally and physically.
After custody, we spent the next few days pushing our guy in a stroller all over Seoul. With our oldest, we didn’t leave the hotel with him until it was time to fly home. But with our youngest, we felt more confident. His calm demeanor stayed true, and he went with the flow while we traversed all over the city.
When we made it home, I remember having the most overwhelming sense of thankfulness and fear. Anyone who has ever been part of an adoption process will tell you it is full of highs and lows for everyone involved. Your life is very different in all stages of an adoption journey. And know this, it is a journey. It isn’t completed at custody; it’s a way of life. As much as adoption can provide a level of hope, it also provides trauma, grief, and darkness. Adoption is always derived from loss, and that is often overlooked. We, as adoptive parents, are not saviors or heroes in this. We are just people who grew our family through adoption, who have the privilege of doing everything we can to raise healthy and happy boys.
Our story is just that, ours. It has elements of beauty, pain, fear, wonder, hurt, questions, and the list goes on. And, we love that we get to be parents to two incredibly special boys. If I can offer any words of advice to people looking to adopt, it would be this: Educate yourself on everything you can.
Get comfortable with the uncomfortable. And, protect those babies fiercely.”
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