The cast of characters:
Jane = me
Sam = well-meaning friend
John = my husband
Joe= our son
We were watching our sons play in our neighborhood park. Polite, easy conversation about school, spring and the upcoming Boy Scout camping trip.
Sam turns to me and says, “So what is Joe’s adoption story?”
My mind goes blank. It’s been years since anyone has asked me that question. It’s been so long I’m not quite sure what is being asked. I have no idea what to say.
To fill the now awkward silence Sam says, “Well, John told me I should ask Joe.”
Ask Joe? What would he say? He was only 6 months old. He couldn’t possibly remember the day he entered our family.
And then it hits me.
Ohhhhh. THAT adoption story.
Sam, still trying to fill my awkward silence, begins talking about his service in Korea and what little he knows about adoption there.
Finally understanding what he is asking, I offer a laundry list of reasons why biological parents choose adoption for their children. Poverty. Teen pregnancy. Single parenthood. And some reasons we’ll never know or understand.
And then, I’m proud of my husband. My husband has an issue with boundaries. More specifically, my boundaries. He shares things about me with other people, as a way to connect, that I’d rather decide to share. Or not. It’s not malicious. He doesn’t mean to annoy me. But it does. He calls me “a private person.” And I am. So, knowing that he has a tendency to cross the line but that he honored our son’s privacy has touched me. Deeply.
Because our son’s adoption story isn’t pretty. It isn’t tidy. His biological parents wrestled, like all other biological parents out there, with their decision to choose adoption.
And it is our son’s story to tell.
Because the circumstances that brought him to us do not define him.
Some people travel by car. Some by train. Some by boat. Some by plane. But they all get to the destination. Eventually.
And our son made it into our family, at 6 months old, by plane. This cute, chubby cheeked, giggling little bundle. The last baby off the plane. Me, afraid they had missed the flight but had forgotten to tell us. The escort, in her broken English, placing him in my arms and telling me of the dream she had, of the wonderful family he was coming home to and how he would be so happy there. His sweet, chubby face. His grin. Captivating us. Clutching each of our index fingers as he slept between us on that first night in our family.
Oh, that first night.
Our baby on Korea time. Us, exhausted, excited and weary. Searching through his bag, desperately wanting to know whether to give him soy or dairy based formula. That’s all we wanted to know. How do we feed our child? We took the formula from his bag. The instructions were in Korean. The interpreter at the airline desk said it was soy based. Great, we thought. We brought both. Soy it is!
Our baby boy gobbled down that first bottle and part of the next and promptly fell fast asleep. We patted ourselves on the back. Such great parents already. We know how to feed him. We know how to get him to sleep. Easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.
An hour later, at the hotel, he wakes up crying. Screaming. We change him. We offer him another bottle. We play with him. Nothing is working. He is exhausted, we tell ourselves. He’s in a strange country with strange sounds, strange smells. As much as we love him already, we are still strange to him. My husband holds him, gently bouncing him as I run back to the car and get another arsenal of toys to distract him.
As I walk back into the hotel room my husband is holding our son. With out-stretched arms. Our son is laughing. He is grinning ear to ear. My husband is stunned. His face frozen. Mortified.
“I don’t know what to do,” he stammers.
He is covered, from chest to thighs.
Our son exploded. And poop is everywhere. All over my husband. All over our son.
And our sweet, grinning boy is happy again.
I get a garbage bag from the front desk. I gently peel the clothes off my husband and my son. They bathe, together, son laughing and husband still speechless. And now, I’m giggling. The mess. The expressions of glee and horror in one moment. The laughter. Delicious, delightful laughter.
That sweet peal of tinkling joy from our precious, amazing son.
That is our son’s adoption story. The late flight. The other babies, coming off the plane one by one. Us, searching for our son and finally seeing him for the first time. The escort placing him in my arms. The smile. Those cheeks. The formula that we were told was soy but was really dairy. Feeding him the wrong formula and the poop we waded in after. And then, after the poop and the bath. After he wouldn’t sleep in the pack ‘n play. When he snuggled between us and clutched my husband’s finger and then mine and promptly fell asleep. Cuddled between us both.
That is our son’s adoption story.