Operation Babylift (Vietnam Adoptions 1975)

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Pioneer Mom

An Operation Babylift Mother Remembers

By Lana Noone

Excerpted from Global Mom by Lana Noone, with permission of the author.

The first time that I was called a "pioneer Mom," I felt very surprised. Me? A pioneer? My acquaintance explained, "When my husband and I decided to adopt a baby, we didn't know where to start. Then, we remembered you and your husband, and your adorable Vietnamese daughter. You all looked so happy. That's why we adopted a baby from China." Wow! I had no idea that we were impacting other people's lives so much! Yet, I realized that she was right. We had been pioneers in international adoption, and as such, we were a global family model for our community.

We had never planned it hat way. We simply wanted to be parents, and, while, sitting in the office of a social worker at a large New York adoption agency, the "light bulb" went off when she mentioned Vietnam. Her exact words, "Have you considered adopting a baby from Vietnam?" are fixed in my memory forever. Bryon and I looked at each other, and spoke at the same time. "That's a great idea," we said. "How do we begin?"

Several months later, with our dossier complete, we were awaiting our referral. However, the Viet Cong had other plans. As they marched south towards Saigon, no one knew if our daughter and the other waiting babies would be able to leave Vietnam. On April 2, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford authorized the Vietnam Babylift, and we were told that our baby would arrive soon.

Heather Constance Noone, our first daughter from Vietnam, arrived at JFK Airport on April 23, 1975. She was very ill, and had been hospitalized again on April 29, 1975 and, tragically, she died on May 17, 1975. Heather never weighed more than six pounds, and her bone age was pre-newborn. However, she smiled at us twice in her very short life, and she left an indelible memory in our hearts. When Heather died, three babies remained hospitalized. They had yet to be placed, due to the severity of their medical conditions.

Our second Babylift daughter, Jennifer Nguyen Noone, arrived at JFK Airport on June 5, 1975. Jen was the final baby placed via Babylift. She was hospitalized several times en route, too, and her initial medical prognosis was guarded. Thank God, Jen thrived, and today she is a bright, lovely 28-year-old social worker and mental health coordinator in New York City.

We loved her from the moment we saw her, shaved head and all. She turned her head all the way around to take everything in, and she's been doing so ever since. She received her BA degree in Psychology cum Laude from Drew University, and her MSW degree from Columbia University. The "guarded" prognosis proved wrong, for which we are eternally grateful.

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