Post-Travel Reflections: Part II

This is the follow-up to the first part of this family’s story.  The second part of this narrative discusses the dynamic between James and his siblings and how they have continued to adjust to one another.

“We were surprised that James was fine as we went down the elevator, during the taxi ride, and during our walk to our hotel room.  About 5 minutes after we arrived at our hotel room, James began to cry quietly.  It was also his nap time and he was tired.  I got him to take a nap and I put him in a portable crib provided by the hotel.  He slept well even though his foster mother had slept with him on a floor mattress during their time together.  The foster mother had told us how much James liked the Korean character Pororo.  In preparation, we had purchased Pororo toys and downloaded Pororo shows on our iPad while in Korea.  They were very helpful during our time in Korea whenever he began to cry as well as on our long flight back to the States.

James is doing well.  We were pleasantly surprised how quickly he adjusted to our family and living in the United States.  We arrived home on a Friday evening and our daughters were very excited to meet him.  Our older daughter Ellen, who recently turned 8, and James have bonded very quickly.  The first few nights, James woke up frequently and I held him until he returned to sleep.  Fortunately, he did not resist being held.  By Monday evening, he began slowly sleeping in our time zone.

We were fortunate that my mom stayed with us for almost a month after our arrival.  Having her with us allowed us time to bond with James as well as reassure our younger daughter Chloe, who recently turned 3 and was having a difficult time with having another child in our family.  Chloe is very fond of James now and tells everyone that he is her brother and that he is now part of our family.  However, she still gets annoyed when James follows her around or chases her when she attempts to run away.  Overall, we believe that having two young children has helped James feel more comfortable at our home.  We feel very blessed to be together with James.”

Continue to check back to the Spence-Chapin blog for more narratives from adoptive families.

Post-Travel Reflections: Part I

The following is another contribution from one of our adoptive families.  This narrative speaks to not only the way their trip to Korea was structured, but also highlights the attentiveness of the social workers in Korea as well as the sorrow felt by the foster families as they say goodbye to the children who have been in their care for so long.

We received the call to travel to Korea about three months after our official acceptance.  We felt overwhelmed.  In less than a week, we had to reschedule my husband’s work; make arrangements for child care for our two daughters during the week we would be in Korea; make hotel and air reservations; purchase gifts for the foster family and SWS staff; and make sure that we had everything we needed for our son when we went to Korea.  However, we felt most overwhelmed by the prospect of finally meeting James after waiting for so long.  We began the adoption process more than a year and half ago.  We told our children about the adoption once we received the referral and made our official acceptance.  We thought we had at least four months before going to Korea to finally meet our son.  We were not emotionally ready at the time we received the call to travel.  In retrospect, we were fortunate that we were able to go to Korea prior to the four months.  James had turned 15 months when we brought him home.  A month later, James seems to have jumped to the next developmental stage.  He is more aware of his surroundings and more expressive.

We arrived in Korea on a Saturday evening.  We met James and his foster parents the following Monday at his foster family’s home with our social worker.  He was shy but very comfortable at his home and very playful.  We met James again the following morning at one of the SWS offices.  The office had a bunch of toys and we sat with James (without the foster mother or the social worker) playing with different toys.  The social worker, who was very familiar with James, came into the room occasionally to encourage James to interact with us.  At one time, he sat on my lap, which surprised me.  Later, he sat on David’s lap.  It was a great feeling.  Even though we met for only half an hour, we felt that this time was significant in giving us an opportunity to get to know each other at a place familiar to James but not at the foster parent’s home and without the foster mother, who was sitting just outside the office.  Further, meeting James both on Monday and Tuesday prior to taking him home on Wednesday, seemed to make the transition a lot smoother.

That Wednesday, while the social worker gave us the documents for our travels, James and his foster mother were meeting with the pediatrician on the first floor of the SWS building.  Once the appointment was over, James came up with his foster parents and their son.  Their older daughter was in school.  At the adoption offices, the foster mother showed us the things she brought for us – James’ hanbok, several of his favorite toys, and his clothing, much of which were new.  She had wrapped each item carefully and lovingly in plastic bags.  Shortly thereafter, the social worker called a taxi for us and told us that we would depart first and that we would say our goodbyes at the elevator.  As we were waiting for the elevator to come up, the foster mother was so sad and began to cry softly.  James had been with his foster family for over a year and it was clear that he had bonded with the entire family, especially the foster mother.

Part II will be published next week.  It discusses the dynamic between James and his siblings and how they have continued to adjust to one another.

The Adjustment Process: One Family’s Story from Korea – Part II

Korean AdoptionThis is the second part of a reflective piece that was written by a mother who recently returned from Korea to meet her child.  She shares about how she personally reconciled and dealt with some of the difficulties adoptive parents can face in the period of adjustment.

Our social worker came for her first visit and noticed that he was refusing to make eye contact with us, but especially with me.  For about a month after we returned home he still preferred my husband.  She told us from the start that I needed to be the main caregiver during the bonding process, but that I really needed to step up my game now.  While bottle feeding, I would offer toys by putting them in front of my eyes to encourage eye contact. I would also raise treats to my eyes before offering then to him when feeding. At bath time when I would rub lotion on him I would let him rub lotion on my arms too.  All these things were to try to get him to bond with me.  As soon as we came home, we put an air mattress in his room and slept with him at night.  I enjoyed rocking him before bed and singing to him, especially when he would start singing, “up above the world so high” from Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.  I at least knew he was listening.

Four months later people ask us if we are adjusted.  My answer is always “no.”  I look back and feel like we have made progress, but I also know that we have a way to go.  Our son has substituted the face rubbing for rubbing our arms.  He has to do this when he falls asleep at night and wakes up several times a night moaning/crying and reaches through the bars of his crib for my arm.  I am still in his room after four months.  Our social worker said this could take a year or so for him to be fully adjusted.  She said he is bonded, but he has a fear that we are going to leave, so he wakes up making sure we are there.  This breaks my heart that my toddler, while asleep, wakes up to makes sure that we are still there and haven’t left him!!!  He now looks us both in the eyes and he will play alone longer than he used to.  There are still times when he cries and throws a fit to be held or to grab our arm.  The difficult part is distinguishing between when he is just being a toddler and when is he dealing with loss?

After three months of being at home with him, my husband and I have both started back to work and are now dropping him off at a friend’s house three days a week.  This transition has went well for him.  He usually cries a little when I leave, but she said by the time I reach my car, he stops.  When my husband picks him up, he will greet him but then go back to playing so we know he is comfortable there.

Overall, I am very pleased with how things have gone. We are so happy that our son had such a loving foster mother who cared for him so well for a year.  When you think about it, our four months is a fraction of what four months means to him.  He is very smart and is learning words, sign language and interacts well with others.  He is attached to us, he just has a fear that we will leave him. As parents, this is a fear that we must understand is our responsibility to alleviate.

Laurie Toth
Cleveland, OH
tothadoptionjourney.blogspot.com

Check back for future posts of stories and reflections shared by Spence-Chapin families.

The Adjustment Process: One Family’s Story from Korea – Part I

We are fortunate to have contributions from an adoptive parent in which she writes about her family’s personal experiences returning from their trip to Korea.  Her piece reflects the difficulties in forming the bond between adoptive parent and child, and the need for parents to be patient and empathetic as they absorb the fear and uncertainty their child is feeling.

In June of 2012 we made our trip across the world to meet our son in Korea.  He was 16 months old and had spent just over a year with his foster mother.  She was in her sixties with grown children, so from what we gather, it was just the two of them most of the time.  When we arrived for our first meeting at her home, she met us at the van with our son on her back in a carrier.  Although he had a huge smile on his face, and continued to look back at us and smile as we walked to her house, I know he had no clue how his world was about to change!

Our social worker warned us the closer he was to his foster mother, the better for us in the long run regarding attachment, but the harder our first month was going to be at home.  As we sat in the foster mother’s home and watched their interaction, those words circled my mind.  He sat completely content on her lap, and was hesitant to make any connection with us, although having our 8 year old son helped break the ice a bit.  He eventually came over and sat on our son’s and my husband’s lap for a quick second, but returned to his foster mom just as fast.  When she went to the kitchen to prepare a snack, he moaned and followed.  When I finally did get him to sit on my lap, he slightly cried as he was trying to grab something off the table, and his foster mom quickly swooped him up.  This showed us that their bond was very strong and we were going to have some work ahead of us.

On our “Family Day” when we returned back to our room at SWS it seemed the grieving started immediately.  He was very lethargic, although some of this was due to a cold, but he was only comforted by my husband.  If I even looked at him, he would cry.  This broke my heart, but inside I knew that he was not trying to replace his mom; he didn’t need another woman in his life.  In order to comfort himself, he would rub my husband’s face, usually until falling asleep.  This lasted for at least a month with both of us.  We thought that he was bonding with my husband until we were at the airport on our way home and he tried to go to any other Caucasian male, even when there were other Korean males around.

Once we were home we spent the first couple weeks waking up in the middle of the night with him crying inconsolably for his foster mom for about 3 hours each night. He would be screaming out her name and thrashing his body and no matter what we tried to do, nothing was comforting him.  At this point, all we could do for him was be there and make sure he was safe assuring him we weren’t going anywhere.

Laurie Toth
Cleveland, OH
tothadoptionjourney.blogspot.com

Part 2 will be published early next week.  It discusses the post placement period and the ways in which she worked to build a bond between herself and her child.