When I was mid-thirties, we decided to get moving on the adoption. We checked off some of the main boxes for the Korean agency: we were under the ages 43 (mother) and 45 (father); we had an adequate income; we both had a clean criminal record; and neither of us was 10% over the required body weight. (I am not joking— yes, weight mandates are imposed on prospective parents.)
The paperwork was copious and included health records, pay stubs and letters of reference. But we also got to write these fun little essays. The only writing prompt I remember clearly was “Describe something that annoys you about your spouse.” There was absolutely no word length. (I don’t quite recall each of the 36,000 characters I wrote; I imagine husband-man mentioned that I was addicted to Bravo and had recently knocked over a grocery Kraft mac ’n cheese display. And hid.)
I was so excited about beginning this adventure that, in addition to the requisites, I confided our plan to any person I could corner—the mailman, the 7-11 clerk, my 6th grade best friend (whom I hadn’t talked to in like 11 years). Many were delighted for us!
My excitement, though not waning, became tempered by a string of bizarre, head-spinning questions from people I told about my news. They were the kind of inquiries I was not quite prepared to answer.
Three of the top contenders:
•Can you request a baby with curly hair? (That is weird on so many levels.)
•Will he understand Japanese? (Well, he’ll be a four-month-old from Korea, so….)
•Does Korea have any with round-ish eyes? (Lord help me.)
When my first son, chubby and perfect in every way, was placed in my arms, I was confronted by more of the same. Back then, I was too gobsmacked to quash the comments. Let me address them now.
Adopting, and adopting from overseas, was not a disappointment.
One co-worker told me a meandering anecdote about her niece who exhausted scientific fertility options and eventually adopted an infant from Guatemala. And guess what?! Nine months after conceding defeat, she was blessed with her own baby, a Liquid-Paper-white child! That niece selflessly settled for second string, and then God rewarded her with a blue ribbon, a real daughter, spawned from her very own American eggs and at least one sperm of European descent! The proud aunt held my hand and consoled, “Don’t worry, it’ll happen for you, too.” (This terrified me, since my tubes were tied and I only practiced sex in a standing position anyway.)
We are not “such good Christians.”
Ugh. First of all, we aren’t technically Christian (I am a proudly-lapsed Catholic and neither of us are organized religion enthusiasts anyway.) I would say my husband’s a pretty good guy, but I’m a first-class sinner. I swear; I gossip (and I like it, a lot). I am vindictive and vengeful. I urged my oldest son to egg the mailbox of a woman who withheld a king-size Snickers on Halloween, because she deemed my youngest’s costume ”not good enough.” I prefer my sons walk on our cranky neighbor’s lawn. I point out strangers’ ridiculous hairdos and flaky lips. And really, anyway, I didn’t adopt my boys because I have a big heart—I adopted them because I didn’t want to risk swiping a toddler from an unattended Walmart shopping cart.
They are not lucky and they don’t need to grateful.
My uncle, with misty eyes, used to drone on about how the boys, if not for us, would be roaming the streets of Seoul and eating out of trash cans. I told him over and over that he didn’t have to worry; international babies were a hot commodity in middle-class America. He persisted, but this was all after his stroke, so he was easy to forgive. (Others, though, free of brain damage? Not so much.) If you ask the boys, by the way, they got “rooked.” When they were maybe five and seven, I overheard one asking the other, “Do you sometimes wish you’d been adopted by a richer family?” The other, a greedy sparkle in his eyes: “Yep.” All while they were cruising the driveway in their miniature electric coupe. I rolled my eyes and thought about the beachfront condo I could exchange for these pint-sized misers. But seriously—what kid in the entire world doesn’t think they pulled the short straw? Isn’t that, according to their tiny squirrel brains, just reality?
I will leave you with a few more thoughts. Not all Asians are Chinese. My boys like chicken nuggets and not kimchi. Koreans babies who grow up in English-speaking countries do not automatically speak Korean. They can see as well as we whities can. (In fact, they generally have same types of organs and number limbs.) Neither boy will necessarily be math prodigy or bad driver.
My sons are not camera-wielding tourists in America. They are mine, as much as my bushy eyebrows and unholy penchant for chocolate. Yes, they are mine, ALL mine, and you can’t have them—even if your lady parts (or man seed) are faulty and you’re a godly person, hoping to make some brownish-yellow child lucky and appreciative of your sacrifice.
Susie b Cross is a mom, a wife, a pet-owner, a tennis player, a Real Housewives watcher and a New Yorker cartoon reader. She is complex and she is blessed. You can read more of her writing (some goofy, some not) under Susie Bonzo https://m.facebook.com/susie.bonzo?tsid=0.02644151746690382&source=result