The momentIt was an average day, really. A Thursday, which is usually Daddy Day. Daddy Day is nearly a holiday in our house. It's the day that Little Man and The Man get to hang out together. Just the guys.
This Daddy Day, they had a party crasher. I had to work a late shift, and since my parents were coming into town we were using the day to take care of some house projects.
I was cleaning the kitchen and The Man was in the living room with Little Man. The house phone rang which is slightly unusual, since no one really ever calls it anymore. The Man answered it and then I heard him.
"Oh, hi. Uh huh. OK." He walked into the kitchen where I was chopping potatoes, and then I saw his face.
It was THE call. The call we've been waiting over a year for.
It was the moment that we heard the first details him.
The Man's eyes were teary and he mouthed "it's a boy" but I didn't want to know anything more. "Just tell me, is he OK. Is he OK?" was all I could ask. He nodded yes and we clung to one another in the kitchen, the phone pressed to The Man's ear as our social worker filled us in on the first details we'd know about our second child.
Starting againSo, I guess I should back up alittle bit. We started the homestudy process for Chapter Two last year, following a lot of deep deliberation. We thought we wanted two children before Little Man even came home. But we changed our tune after we got settled in.
Things were starting to get easier for us as a family. But it was still really challenging. Little Man was in the midst of being a very independent, feisty and stubborn two-year-old. But we knew that would (hopefully) pass and we were feeling more comfortable in our roles as parents. We thought long and hard about expanding our family. It's wasn't easy for us (at the time) to say "yeah, I'd like two of these crazies running around my house, please."
But we had one huge reason that we needed to get started right away if we ever wanted a Korean-born sibling for Little Man: my age. My biological clock was ticking. Actually, it was on it's last few minutes. Korea has a strict age cut off of 44, and I was the ripe old age of 43. It was now or never.
I made an initial inquiry to our U.S. agency (AIAA) and they warned us that the Korea program was in extreme flux. They had stopped accepting applications to the program and weren't sure if they were going to resume the program or not. They agreed to send us a pre-app which would just put us into the cue if they decided to continue the program.
We decided to put in our pre-app and then just see what happened.
In August 2012 the new Korean adoption laws went into effect. (You can go HERE and HERE to read more about the new laws.) The law changes had significant impacts on international adoptions and AIAA told us they hoped to open the Korea program up to applications it back up in a few months, but would only be taking families who had previously adopted a child from Korea.
Again, things looked iffy, but we began the home study process anyway, which posed another fork in the road. If we weren't able to go through AIAA's Korea program, our next consideration was China, which is a Hague country. But if we went with China, we'd need to use a different home study agency that was Hague approved. We decided that having Korean-born siblings was a priority for us so we went ahead with the home study in hopes of going into the Korea program.
Finally, AIAA opened their Korea program again, and December we sent them our formal application and completed home study. We were one of the first families in line.
We didn't share this with anyone, other than a few close friends and our parents and siblings. We just weren't sure if it was going to happen or not. And to be honest, we still worry about whether this will work out or not. Our worker at AIAA had warned us that this was going to be a rocky ride and it wouldn't be anything like our last process. I thought that process-wise, it would be different, but emotionally some parts would be easier because we had already been through it once.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
First, there have been the ever changing rules as Korea and their court system figure out how to implement the new laws. New changes have included making two trips to Korea instead of one (this ruling went back and forth several times before it was finalized). The multiple trips brought into question which type visa the children would be issued (which caused more delays as the courts figured this out). And then, Korea signed the Hague Treaty, which meant that all of our paperwork needed to be approved ASAP before the treaty was ratified. Otherwise, all the paperwork would have to be redone, setting us back months. All this back and forth and what ifs have kept me up many a night.
Second, another change is that new rules required the courts to track down the birth parents and verify their decision to relinquish and allow the child to be adopted. In several cases, they don't just ask the birth parents once, or twice, but they also needed the birth parent to come to court. Obviously, this process really slows down things as the birth parents must be located. And, many birth parents changed their minds and chose to parent the children. I believe being raised with the first family is the best option for these children, no doubt. But it's scary to think about falling in love with a child, staring at their tiny photograph and dreaming about finally holding them, and have it all fall through. I know of several families where this has happened and my heart breaks for them.
Third, this process is much slower from the referral to travel time, which was the toughest part of the waiting for us last time. The slow down is caused in part by the involvement of the courts (families must now attend court in Korea and the adoption is finalize there), but also because there are fewer children being placed for adoption (due to the new laws) and a reduction on how many emigration permits are released per year (based on a formula determined by how many domestic adoptions the agency completes).
But the biggest stress, by far, has been trying to beat the clock on my age. Not only are we working with a program that is being redeveloped and reshaped by new rules, we are also doing it with a timeline. I turn 45 at the end of April. That age limit has been extended on occasion in the past, but now that adoptions are going through Korea courts, no one is sure at what point in the process Korea will apply the age rule.
Yeah, I was an idiot for thinking this process would be easier.
These are just the delays and issues on the Korea side. On the U.S. side, we've dealt with our home study having to be done, not once, not twice, but three times, (insert expletives here). My fingerprints were lost by USCIS (and then miraculously found but they didn't bother to call and let me know that). Our I-600a was held over for a request for evidence which delayed the approval (which explains the third home study revision). Hmmm....I think I'm forgetting something. But you get the point.
So, this time is definitely NOT easier.
And lastly, there are just the general "we are adding to our family" type of worries. How is Little Man going to handle this? Will he get along with his brother? Can we actually handle two of these wild things? How will this affect my marriage? My work? Where will he sleep? And can my heart take going back to the dark days of not knowing my child and watching them grieve?
At each point, when we were plagued with uncertainty, we paused and had pretty intense conversations. I can't say that we have been sure we were doing the right thing at all. It certainly isn't the easiest path, which would be to simply stay status quo and enjoy the single wild child we are lucky enough to parent.
But we clung to the vision that we held in our hearts....two beautiful little boys, riding bikes and digging in the mud together. Friends, partners, confidants. (And plenty of screaming fights too, I'm sure.) Going on family road trips. Listening to them giggle in their room. And each of them having a person to who truly understands the mysteries and gaps of their past and life with adoption.
Would it be easy. Clearly, not. Could we make it work? Probably. Was it worth going for? Absolutely.
So we did. And we got that wonderful phone call.
We aren't in the clear yet. I'll share more about that in the days to come. But for now, we are reveling in the fact that there is a beautiful 9-month-old boy out there, who hopefully is happy and content and has no idea that we are dreaming and loving him from half-way across the world.
I hope he can feel this love. It's as big and wide as the oceans that separate us. And one day, probably months after he's home, hopefully he'll feel the full weight of our love and be open to it.