Today was the big day. We became a family. It is the day that you are living for throughout the ups and downs of the adoption process, but when it finally comes the joy is mixed with sadness. As your dreams all come true, you are at the same time separating a caring foster mother from a child she has loved and cared for as her own for a number of months. You are also separating the child who just became the center of your universe from a foster mother and family that he is quite emotionally attached to. Even though we only spent a total of a few hours with Spencer's foster mother between yesterday and today, the bond between her and Spencer was very apparent to us. She beamed with pride as she outlined Spencer's developmental progress, routines, and habits for us. Spencer, in turn, could be sent into a fit of smiles and giggles at will by his foster mom with a few well-timed Korean words. We arrived at the agency today prepared for an emotional roller coaster. It was very emotional, but less outwardly so than I think we were expecting. We saw Spencer and his foster mom right away when we got there. We literally pressed the "up" button on the elevator, the doors opened, and there they were! She was taking him down for some routine final medical examinations just as we were coming in. While Spencer was getting his final checkup, our social worker took us over for a tour of the nursery where the babies being placed for adoption spend time before being matched with their foster families. There are generally around 40 or so babies under the care of the nursery at any given point in time. It was a very nice facility split into two sections with those babies under 3 months in one room and those above 3 months in another adjoining room. It must have been nap time, because we were amazed to find both rooms so quiet you could hear a pin drop. Not a single baby was crying. We knew that Spencer had spent a fair bit of time in this nursery, so we were pleased to find such a nice facility with what looked like a very professional team of caregivers.
We returned to the agency office and met up with Spencer and his foster mom in a room off to the side with some couches and a table. The foster mom had just finished feeding Spencer and handed him over to us to say hello to. He seemed to remember us from yesterday and was all smiles and giggles. I got my "welcome to parenthood" moment out of the way pretty much immediately when Spencer, who we're told rarely if ever spits up (they wouldn't lie about such a thing, right?), threw up much of the formula he had just consumed on my shirt. :)
After a quick cleanup, our social worker, with the help of the foster mother, did a bit of a recap of Spencer's eating and sleeping habits and other related information. They gave us a starter supply of formula, diapers, and other essentials. Our social worker also presented us with Spencer's passport and immigration documentation, as well as a number of mementos for Spencer, including a charm with his name in Korean characters, a nice Korean flag, a CD of Korean children's songs, and a book about Korea. Finally, we expressed our gratitude for all that the foster mother had done for our son. There were some tears shed, but everyone held it together pretty well, recognizing that it would be less traumatic for Spencer that way. After some final hugs with the foster mom, off the in elevator with Spencer we went.
Spencer handled it all extremely well. There was no meltdown, but his Mr. Giggles personality became more serious and subdued as we left the building. The whole walk back to the hotel, he was very quiet, and his head just turned back and forth soaking in all of the sights and sounds of the city surroundings. He seemed more curious and inquisitive than unhappy, but I couldn't help feel like part of his head turning was looking for his foster mother and wondering when she would catch up to us. I could tell Christine was thinking the same thing. On one hand, this made me feel sad for him, but I was more overcome with a sense of pride and admiration for him. It seems strange to admire someone who is 9 months old. I expected emotion, but that wasn't the one I was expecting. But when I look at him, I see a little guy who has been though enough twists and turns during his short time on earth so far to have every reason to be unhappy or aloof. Instead, I see this amazing warmth and happiness, incredible calm in the face of a potentially stressful and traumatic situation, and eyes constantly darting around to get a glimpse at what adventure will come next. We have been calling him our little adventurer.
Our first night together as a family went very well. Christine seems to have figured out how to concoct Korean baby formula to Spencer's satisfaction, and he got a nap in fairly early on. At around 5 p.m., we took a little walk as a family to "E-mart," a really nice food and goods store Christine had heard about from other adoptive parents.
Upon our return everyone got fed, and we all did our best to figure out bedtime. It took some time to find our way through it, but we eventually figured it out. Baby and Mommy are now fast asleep while Daddy blogs away.
One of the things we were most worried about is how quickly we would all bond, and so far it seems to be clicking amazing well for us all. It is clear to us that Spencer misses his foster family, but he also seems to really like both of us. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings...