When I returned from Korea last week I was privileged to escort home a baby who was coming to meet her new family in the U.S. This trip to Korea is called a Gift Team Trip since we are supplying Christmas gifts and parties to children and adults associated with Holt International Children’s Services; as one team member pointed out, isn’t it appropriate that our final act on the Gift Team was to deliver the gift of a child?
Our journey together began at Holt Korea’s offices where the escorts (there were four on our Gift Team) met the babies and their foster mothers. While our hearts were full of joy at the role we would be playing and in anticipation of what the new families would be feeling, the reality of meeting the babies and their foster mothers was, in many ways, quite heartbreaking. The four foster mothers had spent months caring for these babies day and night. Even though they knew that their role in these children’s lives would be temporary, they still loved them and had become attached.
The woman who held the baby I was to escort was obviously full of grief. The other three women seemed more experienced and handled their sorrow with less outward emotion, but my baby’s foster mother was crying openly, even though I think she’d rather have hidden how she felt. I tried to comfort her with a gentle touch on her shoulder since language differences prevented me from telling her just how loved this baby would be. I hoped to somehow convey to her that both she and the baby would be alright; that her role in caring for this child would have a tremendous impact on the baby’s happiness and with how she would accept and bond with her new family. But all I could really do was gently touch her shoulder. Adoption is said to be part grief, part joy. For every loving family who receives a child, there is a birthmother who grieves for that same child. When a child has been in foster care, there is also a foster mother who grieves. I saw that grief at Holt Korea’s office.
As we traveled across the Pacific Ocean, I thought of the baby’s family and the great anticipation they must be feeling. I held the baby in my arms most of the trip; I slept intermittently as I tried to lie quietly so as not to disturb her as she slept against my chest. She cried quite a bit – perhaps experiencing some grief herself and I did my best to comfort her, to assure her, too, that she would be okay.
When we arrived at our final destination, tired and anxious to meet our families (my own family was waiting for me as well as the baby’s new family), I experienced such joy! First, I caught sight of my husband and four of our children – what a beautiful sight after being away for a week, then, shortly afterwards, I saw the baby’s new parents! They were easy to spot – Dad held a video camera and Mom held a sign with the baby’s Korean name written in both English and Hangul (Korea’s alphabet). I have been in those parents’ shoes and I know the level of joy and excitement they were feeling. My heart burst as I shared in this experience. I felt so privileged to hold this beautiful baby girl in my arms; I felt privileged to be part of her story; I felt privileged to have this small part in making these parents’ dream come true. I handed the baby to her mother and watched as a family was formed.
Our journey began with a foster mother’s grief; it ended with a family’s joy – we had journeyed through 360 degrees of love.