Sunday, July 18, 2010

Family Day

It’s been several weeks since we first met Zachary. It’s been hectic (and a little overwhelming at first), but we are all extremely happy. Now that we’re over the jet lag and have settled into a good routine, I’m able to look back and reflect on our family day.

The night before we met Zachary, a mixture of nerves and anticipation made it very hard for both of us to sleep. At 4:00am on June 29th, we gave up trying to sleep and decided to get up and do whatever we could to make time pass quickly. We tried to make ourselves busy, getting the hotel room as kid friendly as possible and ensuring we had everything we needed in his diaper bag for our first meeting. The hours seemed to pass very slowly. At about 8:30am, we caught a subway train to the Holt Adoption Agency so that we could meet with our social worker and visit the hospital where Zachary was born.

After meeting with our social worker, we took a taxi to the hospital together (about 30 minutes away). As we exited the taxi, our social worker said that it was traditional for us to present a small gift to the hospital for the tour we were about to receive. We were glad to get something for the people that took care of Zachary when he was first born. We went to a store next to the hospital. Our social worker suggested that we get a fruit juice gift pack. She bartered with the store clerk (this is very common in Korea), and got the gift for $10,000 won (about $9).

Zachary was born at the Injung Hospital in Seoul. It is a maternity hospital.

First, our social worker introduced us to the hospital director who would give us a tour of the hospital. We went up to the second floor. First we were shown the nursery area. They had the curtains drawn, but opened them to show us where the babies currently in the nursery area.

We tried to soak it all in, imagining what it would have been like to see Zachary there almost a year earlier. After that, we walked to the maternity area where all the babies are born. It was a large room with many beds, all separated by curtains.

After seeing the hospital, we thanked the hospital director and left the building. As we waited for a taxi, the emotions of what we had just seen started to sink in. We thought about what it was like for him and his birth mother the first few days of his life. Despite our happiness, it made us very sad to think about the separation of Zachary and his birth mother.

After a quick trip back to the hotel, we headed back to the adoption agency for our first meeting with Zachary. In Seoul, most of the subway stops have multiple exits. At the Hapjeong stop (the closest stop for Holt International), there are 8 different exits. When leaving the station, we got confused and ended up taking the wrong exit. We ended up at the wrong end of a large intersection, so we had to wait a few minutes for the signals to change so that we could cross the street. One thing that we noticed while in Seoul is that people very rarely jay walk or cross the street without a walk signal. After crossing the intersection, we walked down the street to the adoption agency. As we approached the building, we saw a taxi sitting in front of the building. A woman that we recognized exited the taxi…it was Zachary’s foster mother. We couldn’t believe the timing. If we hadn’t taken the wrong exit at the subway station, we would have missed them entering the building. When his foster mother saw us, she recognized us immediately. She was holding Zachary and started saying “omma” (mommy) and “appa” (daddy) to him as we walked up to them. Zachary was wearing a one piece shorts outfit and a hat. She pulled up the hat so that we could see his face. It was love at first sight for us (he was still trying to figure out who we were). We entered the building. Zachary’s foster mom went to the left on the first floor as we went up to the second floor to meet our social worker.

After telling our social worker that we had just met Zachary and his foster mother as we entered the building together, she showed us to the room where we would formally meet them and get to spend some time together. The room had two small couches with a coffee table between them. We decided to sit on the couch on the left so that the video camera had the best view of our meeting. We got everything set up, then waited impatiently for Zachary and his foster mother to enter the room.

At a few minutes after 2:00pm, our social worker came into the room with Zachary and his foster mom. We wanted to rush immediately to him, but we knew that this might be too much for him to handle. We had talked about this before our meeting. We wanted to take it slow and let him warm up to us before holding him. We wanted this to be on his terms.

After just a couple of minutes, Zachary seemed to be doing well, so our social worker suggested that his foster mom hand him to me. I took him in my arms and set him on my knee. He looked at me curiously, not sure what to make of me. Thankfully, he wasn’t scared and didn’t cry. I held him as we talked to his foster mother (through the interpretation of our social worker).

He warmed up to us very quickly, smiling and laughing in the first few minutes. After about 5 minutes, I handed him to Laura so that she could have some time with him.

The next hour is a bit of a blur. In between asking the foster mother many questions so that we could find out as much about Zachary as possible, we spent time holding Zachary and playing with him. He warmed up to us very quickly. Shortly after meeting him, he was smiling and laughing. He seemed very content with either one of us holding him.

After about an hour, we exchanged gifts with his foster mother. She seemed to really enjoy the personal gifts that we got for her and the rest of the foster family, especially the locket with pictures of Zachary. As our social worker helped her put it on, we could tell that it meant a lot to her. Zachary’s foster mother also brought a number of gifts for Zachary, including some fun Pororo items (a very popular Korean cartoon about a penguin and his friends) and some of his favorite snacks.

It had been about an hour and a half since we had met Zachary. Everything was going great. Since we didn’t have any more questions for his foster mother, we decided to start gathering up everything and head back to the hotel. Laura put on his baby carrier and we put Zachary in the front, facing her. Our social worker walked with us to the street and helped us hail a cab. She told the taxi driver where we were staying and we gave him a small card with the address (just in case he wasn’t sure).

The ride back to the hotel went very smoothly. Zachary enjoys riding in vehicles. He spent the first half of the ride with his head on a swivel, trying to take in everything as we drove along. He slowly started to close his eyes as the vehicle lulled him so sleep. It didn’t take long for him to fall into a deep, comfortable sleep.

He remained asleep for the rest of the ride and as Laura carried him to the room. We carefully placed him in his crib. He didn’t even stir. We each took a deep breath. It was hard to believe what had happened over the past two hours. We had met our son for the first time and everything had gone surprisingly smoothly. We weren’t sure if it was a sign of things to come or just the calm before the storm, but we were extremely happy that we were all finally a family.

1 comment:

Ian said...

I just found your blog today. Thank you for all the details and photos from your trip! This past Friday (Aug 13) South Korea approved our baby's Emigration Permit!!! That means in 6-8 weeks we'll be on a big jet plane to pick him up! WOW! It's really happening! SO, now, we need to pick a hotel in Seoul. We're working with Holt. So your photos and story are music to my ears to hear.

Any advice you can give or offer for first-time-to-Seoul adoptive parents traveling in a month or so? :-)