Journey for Jacson Hai
The Story of an Adoption from Vietnam
By Laurie Davis
Our journey for Jacson began long before we actually left the United States to pick him up. Even as a child I knew adoption would somehow be a part of my life. I have had the privilege of giving birth to four children. Now I have also had the privilege of adopting a child. There is a difference between the way our children come into our family. There is no difference in the way they are loved. I feel as though I did in fact give birth to Jacson.
In the fall of 1996 I began to feel it was time to pursue my dream of adoption. We had seen many shows on television regarding the plight of children in orphanages in other countries. This began in motion the mountains of paper work that needed to be done. After some praying and searching and praying some more, we settled on an agency in Chattanooga, Tennessee. IAAP, run by Dick Graham. I made a phone call to Dick and spoke with him for well over an hour. He was very kind and had an established program in Vietnam. I knew I had found the right agency for us. I felt driven to get everything done as quickly as possible. I knew a child, our child was waiting for us.
February 11th around 11:00 in the morning I had just returned from running some errands. The phone was ringing as I came through the door. When I answered the phone, Dick was calling from IAAP. My heart sank! I wondered what paper needed to be re-done. Then Dick said, "we have a little 15 month old boy who was originally referred to another family". I replied, "Yes"? They were hoping for a younger child. Since we had said we would take a child of either sex up to age two, Dick called us. Finally I realized he was asking if we would like to adopt this little boy! I responded with a fervent YES!
The next three months were the longest months of my life. I had the pictures of Jacson blown up and put them in frames and sent them to the grandparents. I laminated the smaller pictures and carried them in my purse. Everywhere I went his picture went with me. I showed Jacson's picture to any one who would look. I must have kissed his picture over 100 times a day. I constantly prayed for his safe keeping. It is a strange feeling to have your small child out of reach half a world away.
Our plane left the Cheyenne Airport at 6:00am on May 21st. Once in Los Angeles we met up with the other families who we would be traveling with to Saigon. We all exchanged names, and information, and of course pictures of our beautiful children waiting in Soc Trang, Vietnam. We now seemed to travel together as one big family. The flight to Seoul, South Korea seemed very long...
After arriving in Saigon and clearing customs and immigrations, which I found somewhat intimidating, we headed outside the airport to wait for our ride which would take us to the hotel. We were all very excited to see her. Our excitement soon turned into disappointment when we learned we would not be going to the orphanage the next day as we thought. We were soon to learn that nothing happens quickly in Vietnam!
The next couple of days were spent touring the Mekong Delta, and the Unification Palace. Both were very interesting and really helped to fill our time while we waited for word from the orphanage. We set out to enjoy all that the city of Saigon had to offer. Wonderful people, great shopping, great food.
Finally the good news came! We would be leaving the following morning at 4am for Soc Trang. I could scarcely believe our precious little boy would soon be in our arms! I was so excited I had a hard time thinking straight. We went down the street to a little grocery store to get a few items we needed for the long bus ride to Soc Trang. I sure had a difficult time getting to sleep that night. I felt like a child waiting for Santa to arrive.
At four am our group, plus a group from Canada, left in a big bus fullof excitement and joy. The scenery along the way was fascinating. Beautiful and lush country side. Humble homes lined the rode giving us a glimpse into the lives of these wonderful country people. Our first stop was after about six hours of driving where we were to get on a ferry. This was our first "pit" stop and boy what an experience! We were ushered into a shack and had to pay 2000 dong which is equivalent to 20 cents in US money. Then they showed us a stall with a wood slat floor. We were all a bit perplexed as to what to do. We all stood there with blank stares. One of the Vietnamese women saw our confusion and motioned for us to "go" on the floor and then throw a bucket of water over it. Boy was I glad I was only third in line!
After this we were ushered onto the ferry. The people of the town were gathered around us "rich Americans" hoping to make a few sales. I found this some what difficult to endure. They never gave up, ever! We had one more ferry ride after that and then at last we were parked in front of the orphanage. My heart began to pound so loud I thought the others would be able to hear it. They couldn't though cause their hearts were also pounding! I was so fearful something would go wrong. We soon found ourselves sitting at a large table sipping warm bottled water as the director of the orphanage was speaking to us via an interrupter. She said a few words and we were then instructed to sign our names in a large book. Our signature was a promise to send yearly updates on our child until he reaches the age of 18.
After the signing, I began to notice the caregivers outside the building carrying the children. I spotted our little Jacson right away. He was very scared and I wasn't sure what to do. The director indicated for me to just take him from his caregiver's arms. He cried loud! I took this as a good sign. He knew I was a stranger and had a right to be frightened. I was able to calm him down some by taking him over to a window. He loved looking outside. His arms were still pushing against my chest to let me know he wasn't quite sure about me. However, I think he was beginning to realize I was not a threat.
We were quickly taken to another building where we were to change them out of their "orphanage clothes" and into the clothes we had brought. This scene was one of mass confusion. Babies crying and people talking and excited. As we waited for the bus driver a crowd of people from the village of Soc Trang began to appear . They all seemed to be very happy and excited to see us. They were wishing us well and bidding farewell to the "lucky babies" going to America! Jacson cried off and on during all of this. By the time we were on the bus and on our way he calmed down and fell asleep in my arms. All I wanted to do was stare and his precious little face. I cried, and cried hoping if this was a dream, I wouldn't wake up. The 10 hour ride back to the hotel in Saigon seemed to go by fast. Nothing could bother me now, I had my little boy in my arms.
We were back at the hotel around 10:00pm. They entire hotel staff was waiting at the front door to welcome us back and congratulate us. Before we could finally go to sleep, we first had to give Jacson a bath and put the scabie treatment on him. The next morning I decided to start Jacson on the antibiotic I had brought from home. I was pretty sure he had Bronchitis. Being an experienced mother of four other children I knew the need for medication when I saw it. Jacson had a bad cough and a fever. He felt pretty miserable and wanted to be held and cuddled. I was only too happy to comply! A couple of days later the medications seemed to be kicking in and he was a much happier camper! Of course we took him everywhere with us. He really enjoyed seeing the new sights. He especially enjoyed the taxi rides. There was always something that caught his attention.
Our time was coming to leave Saigon and head for Bangkok. This was were the US Embassy was and where we would get the visa's for the children. We arrived in Bangkok late afternoon and went directly to our hotel. The hotel was much fancier than the one we stayed at in Saigon. However we missed the warm, friendly, staff back at the Rose Hotel in Vietnam. As we entered the hotel in Bangkok I immediately spotted a bakery with cakes twirling around in a glass case. I wish I had the will power and the sense not to eat it. Unfortunately I had been craving sweets and ate it anyway. Even as I was eating the warm cake I was telling myself, "This shouldn't be warm, don't eat it"! Boy did I pay for it the next day! We were waiting in a line at the US Embassy for the final stages to get our son's visa when all of a sudden I felt like I had been hit in the stomach by a Mack truck! The diarrhea lasted for the next several weeks. The trip home was made difficult due to the fact that I couldn't be more than six feet from a bathroom!
On the plane ride home Jacson did pretty well, except for the last hour or so from Seoul to LA. He had been experiencing "night terrors" which seemed to come on when his sleep was interrupted. The last hour of our flight we had to stay in our seats due to some turbulence. Not being able to get up and walk around and rock him made it so difficult. He screamed and kicked, throw his head back, arched his back, so much that I was barely able to hold onto him. People were staring at us and wondering why we couldn't do anything to stop him! We were experienced parents but this had us baffled. We were so very tired and drained by the time our plane landed in LA. We were however grateful to be back in the good ol US!
Jacson was a permanent fixture to my side for a while. Soon he began to loosen up and unfold. Everyday brought changes. Jacson's adjustment has been much easier than we had anticipated. We have had him home now for seven months and he is a totally different child than the frightened, sick boy we first held at the orphanage. He is pretty much like any other little American two year old. He is happy and healthy. He is very sweet and lovable. He brings us more joy every minute than I ever thought possible. We are so happy to have this beautiful child in our family. This is where he belongs.
We know it is important for him to always remember where he was born. We have brought some of the Vietnamese culture into our family. We hope to stay in touch with the other families who were on our trip with us. It is important that these children who spent the first months and years of their lives together stay in touch. We believe this will be very important to them someday.
Iam a huge advocate for international adoption. I hope other families will consider opening their homes and hearts to these beautiful children. I am grateful that my four biological children have been able to experience first hand what is truly important in life. Sharing what you have with others. My children have expressed that they plan to adopt when they grow up and get married. This pleases me a great deal. We hope to add again to our family in a couple of years. I sure look forward to returning to the beautiful country of Vietnam!
Laurie Davis and her husband adopted Jacson via IAPP adoption agency in May, 1996, when he was 18 months old. If you enjoyed this article, you may wish to read the uncondensed version in the Feature Family section of the Families with Children from Vietnam.
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