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Adopting Two Babies from Vietnam

By Peggy Knudson

I have been back from Vietnam with my two babies for six weeks now and am finally getting around to sharing the story of our journey. The babies are wonderful and their names are: Matthew and Anna Knudson.

I traveled to Vietnam with my sister, who is a nurse and mother, and her family (husband Tim, 9 year old daughter Katie and 7 year old son Colin). It was an amazing, moving, scary, wonderful, heart-stopping, tear-jerking, wonderful trip. I would not have come out of it nearly as sane if my sister had not been along.The babies were delivered to the Claudia Hotel at 3 pm on January16, six hours after we arrived in Hanoi -- IMH had asked us whether we wanted to wait a day and we -- I -- said no. Matthew was huge, handsome and robust -- I mean really HUGE -- and good-natured, just like his pictures. He had some scabies. Anna was stunningly beautiful but much tinier than we had expected -- at four and a half months she was only just over seven pounds, and her body was covered with scabies and she had a hacking cough so that she couldn't take more than two sips of a bottle without choking.

I -- world traveler and association executive, woman who has hiked the jungles of Guatemala and camped near a hippopotamus watering hole in Benin on a dare from a fellow thrill-seeker -- went directly into shock mode.I held Matthew and that was easy enough and no one was crying except me (I think the babies were dazed), and I thought "so now what do I do?" My sister Karen had Anna and was thinking "My God. I gave birth to two babies bigger than this". But Karen had come prepared -- she had a whole suitcase of medications, and Mrs. Thuy of the Claudia was there to help us bathe the babies and apply the scabies medicine, put socks on their hands so they would stop tearing at their skin (cutting nails on the first day was NOT within the realm of posssible for me).

The rest of the ten days in Hanoi were quite a scramble for me as I adjusted to motherhood. I remember night feedings -- in fact I think it was always night there and I was always waking up to feed someone a bottle. And I do remember badly spraining my little toe during a night feeding. The band-aids wouldn't stay on so we duct taped my fifth toe to my fourth. So yes, I am now firmly in the camp of those who say don't forget to bring duct tape.

And we used nearly every medication in Karen's suitcase, except the lice medicine and the demorral (that was in case of emergency for the adults...and we thought about using it when I sprained my toe), Baby Tylenol, Pediasure, medicated skin cream.

Matthew was extremly constipated with bloody bowels one day but voila -- my sister had prescription baby suppositories and knew how to insert them -- now that was REALLY not something I have mastered or even contemplated attempting in my 39 years. We put Anna on antibiotics because it was a few days until we could get to the pediatrician and Karen strongly suspected an ear infection -- it was the way she pulled at her ears when she cried. When we did finally make it to the international clinic in Hanoi -- where a wonderful Australian female doctor spent TWO solid hours with us -- the scabies had all cleared and Anna was eating a bit better, and I was thinking, "OK I think I can do this motherhood stuff without inflicting any major damage." There was no ear infection but the Dr. said go ahead and give her the last few days of antibiotics. There appeared to be no major developmental delays for either of them.

Six weeks later, they have both grown a lot but are still much like their referral pictures, personality-wise. Matthew has a much more laid back personality and is content to this day to stare at his fingers for long periods of time, but he is rolling over now and demanding to be held more. He had a pig face he made for about a week when he was really happy -- kind of a round little mouth and accompanying, hilarious, excited snorting noises. He has almost stopped doing that now but I have it on video and will threaten to show it to his first girlfriend in fourteen years if he doesn't clean his room.

He still won't take solid foods at eight months, and he doesn't hold his own bottle, and this means exhausting night feedings sometimes 2 to 4 times a night between the two of them, but my partner Mark is rising to the occasion and in a way it's like we have spent our whole lives waiting to do this so what the heck, enjoy it, and enjoy complaining about it to your colleagues at work the next day and use it as an excuse to slack off a bit.

Anna has had two more pediatric visits since the Australian doctor in Hanoi and is healthy, has gained nearly three pounds. We switched her to soy formula because of spitting up; she is thriving now and ready to take over the world. She is one frenetic little prima donna, intensely curious and grabby, very strong-willed and vocal. There is quite a life spark there which must have helped her survive the first few months of her life. That and her incredible beauty, which serves her well when mommy has lost nearly lost all remnants of patience and is secretly harboring fantasies of tossing her out the window. Don't tell our social worker.

Mark is especially good with her and they have a nightly routine where the big, grizzly, daddy dances her around on his tummy, "flies" her through the air in his big hand, bicycles her little legs (she gets bored really fast), lets her attack his beard with both hands -- she literally lunges -- and bounces her on his big shoulder, of which she takes up about as much space as a flea. I reckon she will graduate from colick directly to attention deficit disorder and then a Nobel Prize by about age eighteen or so.We will do our best to keep up.

We love them both to pieces and I am intensely grateful that I get to do this motherhood thing.

We also had an incredibly beautiful day trip organized by Mrs. Thuy to Bich Dong, where we were punted down a river and treated to a great Vietnamese meal. And yes, that day we parked the babies in the lobby of the Claudia with Thuy's able helpers for nearly eight hours. They survived, and I think the break did everyone good. OK, the break did me good.

IMH was fantastic and so was Adoption Alliance in Colorado and I would recommend Vietnamese kids to anyone pondering adoption.

Peggy Knudson is mother to Matthew and Anna, and partner to Mark Sugg, who had no idea what he was getting into. She adopted her two babies in 1999.

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