Thursday, November 8, 2007

Journey to Destructo Boy - Part II

Last night, our familly celebrated Destructo Boy's coming home anniversary by trying a new Korean restaurant. Ebo and I are not unfamiliar with Korean food, but where we live, these establishments are not easy to come by. I remembered seeing a little hole-in-the wall place in a small shopping center, but I couldn't exactly remember where it was. After a half an hour of driving in a trip that would normally only last 15 minutes, we finally arrived at the restaurant. The whole family enjoyed a night of great food and Korean television.

As Destructo Boy was getting Kimchee and rice all over his face and clothes, I was looking at him and reminiscing our trip home last year. Although we were anxious to have our son with us, we were scared shitless at the thought of having two kids under the age of three. When we started the adoption process, we were expecting to wait two years for a referral and here we were one year later with a new child. Ebo and I struggled with the decision - we wanted this little boy to be ours, but were we really ready? Could we manage?

And let's not forget the taboo adoption topic - cost. Adoption costs money. No matter how many agencies tell you that you are paying for services and not buying a child, it sometimes feels like you are. And then there are the suprise costs. When we agreed to adopt Destructo Boy, we felt we could barely manage the Korean adoption fees which are significantly higher than those from the Philippines. But what we didn't prepare for was the "extras" - fingerprinting, immigration fees (which just had to go up when we started the process), attorney fees for finalization - these are all costs they leave out in the agency pamphlet. Back before we decided to start trying to have children, I was trying to explaing (to a very fertile friend) that we were trying to save up the money before we start anything. She said to me, "Well, kids are always going to cost you money." I snapped back at her, "That's true, but unfortunately ours are going to require a lot of the money up front." But here we are, savings depleted, but we are still thankful for our son.

I like to tell people that it was the fact that I "knew" Destructo Boy was meant to be ours, but it's not that simple. Yes, I would look at his picture online and bask in his cuteness, but I will admit that I was terribly afraid to pass up any opportunity. After we were disappointed by the Philippine program, I didn't want to take any chances. I didn't care if it was bad timing. I didn't care if I hadn't finished graduate school. I didn't want to be in limbo any longer. Ebo felt the same way, but he was a little more logical about it than I was. He kept reminding me about the close age difference been Sassy Girl and Destructo Boy, the added cost of a second child, my unfinished disserataion, and the possible health problems associated with Destructo Boy's prematurity. I really don't remember how we came to a final decision, but then next thing I knew I was booking a flight to Seoul.

Some adoptive parents say that they knew "their" child the instant he/she was placed in their arms. When Destructo Boy's foster mom gave him to me, the only thought I had in my head was "Damn. This boy is heavy." It kind of reminded me of when I first saw Sassy Girl in her isolette in the NICU. There she was, all two and a half pounds of her, looking more like a mechanical doll than an infant. I didn't know how I was supposed to feel, but I knew I didn't feel like a mother. But as I visited her day after day, I would make the choice to be her mother. I made the same choice that first night with Destructo Boy - I held him tight, kissed his chubby little cheeks, and just enjoyed him. He smiled our whole first night together before we flew home. He even smiled when he projectile vomited all over me. That's my boy!

I don't remember much about our flight home, but I do remember how peaceful Destructo Boy looked as he slept on my shoulder. I also remember waiting in line at customs and immigration in Minneapolis. The man asked me "Are you his escort?" as many Korean born adoptees are escorted to their parents by a third party. "No," I said, "I am his mother." His mother. My choice was clearly made. It wouldn't make sense for a long time, but I knew in my heart I was committed.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Journey to Destructo Boy - Part I

Destructo Boy was sick all last week. Because of his asthma, whenever he gets a cold or other nasty virus, he has to receive a regimen of breathing treatments and medications. Ebo and I are used to this now and we are thankful that he is so much better than when he came to us. During breakfast, I brought up that it's been almost a year since Destructo boy came home to us. Ebo said, "Didn't he get sick then, too? Must be something about Halloween."

One year ago last week, I was in tears because our adoption agency called and told us that we could not pick up our son. It was 9:00 pm and my flight to Seoul was supposed to be at 7:00 the next morning. However, the social worker at Holt Children's Services in Korea said that Destructo Boy was in the hospital and not ready to travel home. He would be fine, but was being treated for bronchilitis. Up until that point, we had worked everything out - I was going to travel with my mother and Ebo and his father would stay at home to take care of Sassy Girl. This news changed our plans - we didn't know how long Destructo Boy would be in the hospital and the social worker said we would not have access to him anyway because we did not have legal custody of him as of yet. So if we went to Seoul, we would probably spend the whole time waiting for him to be discharged. Ebo's father had to leave at the end of the week (when we were supposed to come home), leaving us no one to watch Sassy Girl during the day if we were in Korea longer. Such is the road to adoption.

I ended up traveling to Seoul a week later - alone. This is when I started my first blog, Family/Pamilya/Ka-jok. This blog describes our adoption journey, but since the main purpose of the blog was to let our family and friends know what was going on in Korea, I left a lot of the gory details out. The postponement of our trip to Seoul was only one of the many hurdles we had to jump to get our son home.

As mentioned before, Ebo and I started adoption classes before we ever thought about IVF. Our first and only IVF resulted in only three embryos, all of which were transferred after three days. Thus we have Sassy Girl. After her first birthday, we decided not to pursue IVF again and continue with our adoption research. We were faced with many choices - the first of which was were we going to adopt domestically or internationally. In the end, we decided to go ahead with the Philippine program. We were told that it would take two years for a referral to be made for us and we thought this would be perfect. I would finish the diss, Sassy Girl would be almost four, and the children would be close in age, but not too close. Perfect.

But we all know nothing happens the way we envision it. We started our homestudy at the beginning of 2006 and were finished with all of the paperwork by the end of February. The next step was to collect documents to send to the Philippines for their approval. The Philippine government has set up a special agency that oversees all international adoptions called the Inter-Country Adoption Board (ICAB). For Americans, once you are approved by your local agency, you also must be approved by ICAB before you are put on the list of families waiting for a referral. When we applied to our agency, we were told that we would probably get approved more quickly because I am Filipino-American. When it came time to apply to ICAB, our case worker called and informed us of a little problem.

As I blogged before, Ebo has Cystic Fibrosis. He is healthy and manages his disease very well. However, to the uninformed, people with CF are not considered "healthy." Our caseworker told us that the Philippine ICAB is very strict about the health of potential parents and might not approve us. Furthermore, even if we did get approved, our referral may take longer because we would not be considered the most "desireable " parents. When I was told this information, I was livid. Before I sent my application fee to this agency, I made sure to tell them about Ebo's CF. I asked them if it would be a problem. No problem, they said. As long as he has documentation from his doctors. Now our documentation wasn't good enough. We had to get several letters that were drafted just right. Then our agency informed us that the fee to apply to ICAB was over $1000, which we wouldn't get back if we were rejected.

Poor Ebo. No matter how much I told him this wasn't his fault, he still felt guilty. One day, he was feeling sick and I told him to go to the doctor. He told me that he didn't want to see the doctor until we were approved by ICAB because he didn't want to have to report any more health complications. It was then I decided we had to get out. As much as we had our heart set on adopting from the Philippines, I couldn't let my husband suffer for it. I called the agency shortly after and again, we were at a crossroads. I really didn't want to stay with our agency because I felt we had been misled. But I also didn't want to start over again. And of course we would lose our application fee and our homestudy. We were about to just cut our losses and move on when we saw him. Male, born December 30, 2005.

Our agency has a Waiting Child program that lists children that are ready to be adopted. Most of the children on the list have minor health issues that prevents them from being referred to famlies the "regular" way. The listing said this little boy was from Korea and was born at 28 weeks gestation. Preemie. We know about preemies. His birthweight was 2 pounds, 7 ounces, just like Sassy Girl. We were intrigued. Could this be our son?

We immediately inquired about him. Our caseworker said that our homestudy had to be re-worked to be approved by Korea before we could receive any information about him. We were so sure that he would be adopted by then, but we decided to do it anyway in case we wanted to pursue the Korea program. We also asked the question - would Ebo's CF be a problem? Turns out, they had just approved another potential parent with CF. Good sign.

Because of our very slow and overworked social worker, our homestudy wasn't approved until July. During that time, I was checking the Waiting Child list every day to see if the little preemie boy was still there. When we got word that we were approved, we immediate called our agency. Within hours, we received his medical file, which we forwarded to an international adoption specialist and our local pediatrician. Because he was unable to breathe on his own, Destructo Boy had been on a ventilator the first two months of his life. He had scarring on his lungs and was diagnosed with Brochopulmonary Displasia (BPD). Our pediatrician and the specialist said that it would be difficult for a couple of years and he might have to live with asthma, but there was no reason he would not be able to grow up to be a happy and healthy little boy. At the end of July, our agency formally matched us with Destructo Boy and we would be able to pick him up in 3-6 months.

Which brings us back to the beginning of this post. I was about to leave for Korea (alone) to pick up our son. In retrospect, our journey was pretty uneventful compared to what it could have been. When I look at my little boy, I know I would do it all over again just to have him in my life.