When we were waiting for our first Korean-born child to come home, we worried about the care she was receiving away from us. Was anybody holding her, rocking her? Was she experiencing any love? Would she be able to cuddle and love us? Well, we needn’t have worried. We quickly learned that, not only had she been held and loved, but by some standards, she was spoiled (though I don’t really believe you can spoil a baby). Contrary to our fear that she might not be receiving enough human touch, we learned that it is customary for foster mothers here to carry babies constantly. Our daughter not only welcomed our human touch, she expected to be held all of the time. She had been well-fed in both body and soul.
For the third year in a row, I am in South Korea at Christmastime as part of a Christmas Gift Team from our adoption agency, Holt International Children’s Services. Yesterday, we attended the 40th annual celebration for foster mothers who provide care here in Korea for babies waiting to go home to their adoptive families. The celebration honored women who have given five, ten, fifteen, twenty-five and thirty years of service as foster mothers as well as a handful who are retiring, having reached their 65th birthdays. I have seen these foster mothers in action. On my first trip to Korea, while I waited to meet my son, I watched as foster mothers, babies on their backs, came into the clinic waiting area. Many of them know each other and the chatter in the room was constant – and it was clear that the main topic of conversation was their babies. “See how he’s grown!” “Look at this new tooth!” “Watch her smile!” I didn’t understand the words, they were spoken in Korean, but the meaning did not require translation. Caring for these babies is not just a job, though they do it 24/7 with very little in monetary compensation; it’s obviously a passion. It’s my observation from watching the foster mothers and from hearing them speak at these luncheons, that they do this job, give their love because they see it as their part in helping these babies survive and thrive while they wait to go home to their new families – they are a bridge of love from the birth family to the adoptive family.
Two of our team members, girls ages eleven and twelve, had the opportunity yesterday to meet with their foster mothers for the first time since leaving Korea as infants. These girls had been with their foster mothers for a few short months, but the connection was obvious. The older girl, having seen her foster mother (and the entire foster family) in a different part of the room, could hardly wait to go to her. She had a small gift for her foster mom and as soon as there was a short break in the program, her mom told her that she could go ahead and take the gift to her foster mom. The girl jumped up from her seat and made her way in the crowded room to the place where her foster family waited. The girl greeted her foster mother and handed over the gift, but it wasn’t the gift in her hand that held meaning, it was the gift of the engulfing, mutual hug that showed just how much value both the children and their families put on that bridge of love.