Three Years After Our Adoption From VietnamBy Jan Curtis
"This Journey Wasn't What I Planned; It Turned Out It Was Even Better."
I have been thinking a great deal about our trip to Vietnam. Amazingly, we left almost three years ago.
At one time I really thought that a biological child was what I "needed" (and I spent 16 endless years pursuing that option!), and I still grieve for the miscarriages we suffered, and the pregnancy/breast feeding that I didn't get to experience. BUT, in many ways I am finding this method of building a family better for us. No, John doesn't have my eyes (although he does have Jim's hairline - go figure!), but in some ways he is frighteningly like us! He has my biological clock (wakes up by 6:30 at the latest, and needs to eat immediately), my husband's memory (knows what he had to eat at any place he's ever been) and stubborn streak as wide as either of ours. In many ways, I feel that adopting John has freed us from our own pasts; by allowing him to be whoever he is, and watching him develop his own interests, we can relax and go with the flow.
Someone asked about the care at Vietnamese orphanages. I have only seen the one that John was in, but at that one the caregivers were very loving and obviously attached to the children. They each had about 4 infants to care for - the same ratio as the day care center John attends. I am assuming that the ratios went up for the older children, as it does here. I saw them playing and interacting with the babies, and seemed glad that the children were being adopted to good homes. Several of the young women had grown up in the orphanage, and were now working there (for pay) and living on their own. They had a doctor and nurse available part time. The baby rooms were spotless and the formula prep kitchen was a sparkling white tile room with modern appliances - this is in contrast to the kitchen for the older kids, which was as clean as they could make it, but cooking rice over a wood fire does cause some problems in that regard. The older children seemed happy and well-cared for. They attended classes at the orphanage or at a nearby school. I saw them riding their bicycles out or back at lunchtime. While I know that John's life would have been entirely different if we hadn't become a family, I don't think he would have grown up unhappy there - we, however, would have missed an incredible journey of love and discovery.
I certainly do like myself NOW, but I sometimes wonder how my parents could stand to raise me! Someone else has already commented on the mood swings and general growing pains she remembers from her own childhood/adolescence. I could really identify with those comments. It does seem like a blessing that there is no way to look at John and say that he's doing something exactly as I did it. I can enjoy him just as he is, without viewing him through an overlay of my husband's or my own upbringing... Heaven knows, we've already done so many of the things we thought WE would never do when we had children! Funny how that changes after you're parents!
Next week it will be three years since we left for Vietnam - hardly seems possible! Being John's mom is better than I ever imagined it could be. We enjoyed the travel adventures, living in HCMC for over a month (the stay is much shorter now!), eating such wonderful food (we all like squid, even John!), meeting the workers at the orphanage, working with Children's Home Society of Minnesota and their US and VN representatives, and most of all, becoming a family with our child. Words can't express the gratitude I feel for the path that led us to our son. We loathed the infertility treatment, and the thwarting of our original plans.
And we loathed all the paperwork necessary for the adoption process (as an aside, we figure that teenagers should receive a copy of the "homework" questions we had to answer as part of our homestudy. When they can answer all the questions to the satisfaction of a social worker, we'll agree that they're ready to become sexually active! Maybe that would slow down the teen pregnancy rate!). But the result was beyond my dreams.
For all those who are waiting, I only hope that you can last through this last little bit. I agree with the others who said to get done those things that will be hard/impossible to do when you are sleep-deprived and can't ever seem to start and finish any project without a million interruptions. This journey wasn't what I planned; it turned out it was even better.
Jan Curtis and Jim Ketcham are the parents of John Binh Curtis Ketcham, born 12/95, HCMC. Jan writes, "We received our referral on Valentine's Day, and like most parents, fell in love at first sight (of the pictures). We first saw John in person on Easter Sunday, April 7th, and he was so beautiful we both cried. We went through Children's Home Society of Minnesota (CHSM), in a program that was being revived at the time, and is hale and hearty now." Jan Curtis may be reached at <email@example.com>
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