Adopting from Korea
From Infertility to Adoption
Our story started out like most who find themselves on the journey of adoption. We had been married for about three years and felt it was time to start a family. We had dreamed of having a large family and talked about it on a regular basis. After trying to conceive for a little over 6 months with no luck, we consulted an OBGYN who talked over some different options with us. We decided to give it some more time before we made any decisions. After more than a year of disappointment we decided to meet with an infertility specialist. We went through several different tests hoping to find out what was wrong with us. The doctor could find no medical reason why we were not able to get pregnant and therefore diagnosed us with “unexplained infertility”. We were given the option to undergo fertility treatments or to begin the process of in vitro, but after much prayer and consideration we decided that was not a path we wanted to take. We spent a great deal of time grieving over the fact that we might never have children. It took a couple of years, but we were finally able to find peace with our situation and were resting in the fact that God knew best. At this point adoption had NEVER crossed our minds.
One day before our 6 year wedding anniversary, we attended a Steven Curtis Chapman concert. During this concert Steven did a presentation on international adoption and his organization, Shaohannah’s Hope, named after his little girl adopted from China. It hit us like a ton of bricks that night that adoption was quite likely the way to our child. We discussed it as soon as we got home that evening and again the next morning, we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that this was the right choice and we knelt before God and said “yes” to His call for us to adopt.
Deciding between Domestic and International Adoption
Making a choice between domestic or international adoption was not a decision that we had to make. International adoption chose us. We don’t believe that one way is better than the other, but if we get the opportunity to do it again we would still go with international adoption. Our experience was so rewarding that we can’t imagine doing it any other way. It all just depends on which direction your heart is being tugged. In the end, there are children in need of families EVERYWHERE and so it doesn’t matter whether you go with domestic or international adoption.
Deciding on a Country
We had originally thought that we would adopt from China, but once we started researching we realized that we did not meet the minimum age requirement. We then started looking into other Asian countries and felt a strong pull towards South Korea. Korea was appealing to us because they had been placing children for adoption in the U.S. for so long that they had really gotten the process down to a science. It was also appealing to us because it is one of the few countries where you are not require to travel to adopt your child. Due to our jobs it would have been difficult to spend two weeks in another country.
Choosing an International Adoption Agency
It was important to us that the agency we chose was attentive, eager to answer questions, available to offer encouragement, and that they had several years of experience with the country we chose. We believe that choosing a good agency is the most important step in the adoption process. We would recommend that you look for an agency that has been around for a while. Check them out with the Better Business Bureau, ask for references from some of the families that have adopted through them, and take time to talk with the staff to get a good idea of how you like their customer service. We know that feeling of excitement and eagerness to get the ball rolling, but this is a decision that should be handled carefully because once you choose an agency you are stuck and you will be dealing with them on what seems like a weekly basis.. Trust us, your research will pay off in the long run. We also think that it is helpful, but probably should not be a requirement, that there be people on staff at the agency you choose that have been through the adoption process personally. Those people will offer you the best kind of support during your journey because they can empathize with you in a way that no one else can.
The Home Study
We were so nervous before the social worker came to our house for the home study because we were not sure what to expect. We cleaned every closet, scrubbed all our floors, cleaned our garage, vacuumed the entire house, dusted every crack and crevice, scrubbed out toilets and tubs, and even regrouted one of our showers! Yes, we regrouted a shower! Come to find out, our social worker was not AT ALL interested in our shower or our garage. She laughed so hard when we told her to what lengths we had gone in order to make sure our home was in perfect order. All that to say, the home study is more about your social worker getting to know you, not your house. In the end I can honestly say it was a very enjoyable experience, and we now consider our social worker to be a good friend.
The International Adoption Paper Chase
The paperwork part of all international adoptions looks scarier than it actually is. Don’t get us wrong, it’s terrible and at times very overwhelming, but you have to remain calm and focused on your goal. The key is ORGANIZATION!!!!!!!!! We bought a huge three ring binder with several folder pockets and made sure that everything had its own place. We would have been lost without that binder!
The Dreaded Waiting Game
Once the paperwork is done, you start the dreaded waiting game. The only way we were able to survive the wait was by the grace of God. There were days when our hearts ached beyond belief and we felt that we could not wait another second, but in those moments we truly felt the comfort and peace of our Lord. That did not mean that the longing to know our child went away, but we knew that His plan was perfect and that He knew what was best, so there was no need for despair.
During the times when the waiting seemed unbearable we discover that distracting ourselves really helped. We spent time getting the nursery ready, interviewing pediatricians, and doing repairs around the house that we knew would not get done once the baby was home. We also found great comfort in the adoption forum that our agency provided. We met several families adopting from South Korea who were either in the same stage of the process that we were, or who had been down that road already. International adoption is not something that many people can relate to and that made our experience more difficult than we had expected. I am so thankful that there was a resource for us to go through to find support.
The Referral and Meeting Sammy
For our referral we were sent two pictures of our little man as well as a very detailed medical report. Almost three months later we finally got to meet him at the Los Angeles airport. We opted to have him escorted, because our work schedules did not allow us to spend a lot of time traveling. We flew to meet his plane in Los Angeles. We were so full of emotion as we waited for him at the airport. There was some fear of the unknown, but we mostly felt joy and relief in knowing that in just moments our wait was over. After 1 1/2 hours of standing at the customs exit we finally saw this little body come around the corner, strapped to the chest of his escort. He was beautiful! Suddenly a love like we’d never known before flooded over us. The moment was perfect!
When we held Sammy for the first time at the airport he cried a little. Once we found his pacifier, he felt much better! We walked over to some chairs and sat down and gave him a little book that we had brought for him. Within second he was smiling and playing with it. Once our emotions were under control and we had had some time to just stare at him, we hailed a cab and headed back to our hotel. We soon had him laughing and playing with us as though he had always known us. It was such a special time for us!
Home at Last
We were blessed because South Korea has such wonderful medical care and provides very thorough medical reports on the children that are adopted. Sammy’s health was just as we expected. There was nothing that caught us off guard at all. There seems to be a genuine care for the children in Korea and they want adoptive parents to be prepare to care for any needs that the child may have.
Because of his general good health and the amount and detail of information we received, we did not feel like we needed to use an international adoption doctor to evaluate his referral before hand nor did we see any reason to take him to an international adoption doctor after we were home. The pediatrician that we chose was not an international adoption specialist, but he had experience with Asian children and came highly recommend by friends and family who had adopted as well.
From the very first, Sammy never seemed afraid of us or intimidated by his new surroundings. This may be due to the fact that he was so young--he was only 4 ½ months old when he came home. He seemed to feel safe and comfortable right away. I can honestly say that our first couple of months home were perfect. We know that sounds a little nauseating and we actually had someone try to tell us that we were overlooking problems because no adopted child adjusts as well as we claimed Sammy had. We understand that our transition may have been smoother than some others, but we share it because each family deserves to have the hope that their child will not go through the grief that some adopted children experience.
We were prepare by our agency for the worst-case scenario and we are thankful that they did because you don’t know what’s going to happen and you want to be prepare. When we got home with Sammy we were on the alert! We knew what signs to look for and believe us when we say we were looking really hard for them, but we they never showed up. Sure there were nights when he would wake up once or twice crying, but he was hungry. It took him a few days to adjust to the time change and therefore he would not nap well, but that is only to be expected. Other than that, he showed no signs of having attachment/bonding issues.
It constantly amazes us how well he “fits” with us. Soon after he arrived, life just seemed to resume as though he had been with us all along. He is a perfect match.He knows that we are his Mommy and Daddy and he shows it daily by jumping up and down and laughing when one of us comes in the room. He shows it by nearly leaping out of someone’s arms to get to us. He shows it by placing his little hand on Mommy’s face and smiling when she picks him up. He shows it by snuggling against our chests and resting there as though it’s the safest place in the world. He knows he is ours and he knows that we love him and we know that he loves us.
Tip for Prospective Adoptive Parents
We don’t really think that anyone can fully prepare you for the adoption process. People can offer their opinions or share their experiences with you, but until you deal with it first-hand you won’t really “get it”. This process is hard, it’s long, it’s emotional, and it’s exhausting. There will be days when you feel that you should just permanently affix a pen to your hand because you are convinced that the paperwork will NEVER end. You will wonder if your name will remain on that waiting list so long that you break some sort of record or that they will run out of babies right when you get to the front of the line. But now that we are on the other side we can see that the difficulty of our journey was necessary in order for us to fully reap the joy of the end result. To fully appreciate and enjoy your hearts greatest desire, you must first have a period of longing for it. That realization has now made us thankful for the pain, thankful for the tears, thankful for the wait, and thankful for the infertility. So, embrace each and every moment of your journey; this is the story of how you and your child were brought together, and each detail of that story is miraculous and beautiful.
Enjoy the journey to finding your child!