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Phoebe's Vietnam Adoption Story

By Nancy Jessup

Phoebe in her adoptive mother's arms.I was in Hanoi in February, 1999 to adopt my daughter Phoebe. While my principal was very supportive of me in this process, he was nervous about the uncertainty of when I would be leaving. He was relieved when I told him I wouldn't be going until March... The next day (January 20th-my mother's birthday) I got a call from Music World Travel telling me that they had a travel date for me - January 28th! I had to go back and give my principal less than a week's notice. Apparently PLAN/IMH had decided that they wanted to get a group of children home with their families before Tet. Well, that did not happen for me. I did get to experience the full festivities of Tet in Hanoi.

I received Phoebe in the lobby of the Claudia Hotel about an hour after landing at the airport in Hanoi (after traveling for over forty hours!). She smiled when I said hello to her and my heart melted. She was very small and malnourished, but there was an intelligence and awareness that burned in her eyes. We had a good first night, it's hard to remember much through the haze of that exhaustion. The next day she vomited blood. Mrs. Thuy called a taxi and had us rushed to the hospital.

Phoebe was hospitalized for a week (at the wonderful International Hospital), which meant she couldn't attend her original G&R (Greeting and Receiving Ceremony) in Viet Tri with the other families. However, I was able to stay at the hospital, recover from my jet lag, know that Phoebe was in very capable hands and eat wonderful three course meals. Somehow, I was able to take it all in stride, and accept that everything would unfold as it should. I don't know whether it was the daze of the momentous occasion of becoming a mother, or that I was actually able to practice a Buddhist letting go of.

The families that had all been at the Claudia when I arrived were all rushed to HCMC the day Phoebe and I got out of the hospital, so I ended up being one of the few guests at the Claudia for the next two weeks. Thank god for Mrs. Thuy and the cyber cafe around the corner which kept me connected to home. A friend came and joined me the day before Tet and we had a great time during the week of Tet. I got to meet several of the fine people who work for IMH and am eternally grateful for their support and hard work. Phoebe and I arrived home on February 28th and we were welcomed by my family, friends, my dog and two cats (who have been amazingly adaptable to this new situation). I stayed home with Phoebe the following September when I returned to work.

A lot of things fell into place in this whole process that made it possible. I learned a lot about letting go and trusting. I learned a lot about faith. Phoebe is an absolutely amazing child. She has been thriving since we've been home. I love being Phoebe's mom. Though it's a challenge doing this on my own, I wouldn't trade this experience for the world. I have a circle of friends and family who have been incredibly supportive and generous. Phoebe is touching a lot of lives. I've said it before, I am continually amazed that IMH knew which child was the one for me.

Update to Phoebe's Adoption

Phoebe and her mother Citizenship DayBy 2001, Phoebe and I have gone through a month of anniversaries and this this year they were culminated by her becoming a citizen. Before the 27th of February, I had really considered her becoming a citizen as basically the last paperwork hitch, a technicality. But on that day, as we celebrated with other families with children from Vietnam, I was aware of a sense of completion, that this was it. It's final. It's not that I had any sense that things were incomplete before, but now all the loose ends have been tucked in and the knots tied. We are solid.

Phoebe is three years old now.Phoebe and I talk about when she was a baby in Vietnam. One of the books that she asks me to read to her every night is "I love you like Crazy Cakes" by Rose Lewis. It's a book about a single mom adopting a child from China and it's written in the first person. I have to admit to doing some editing when I read it. I replace China with Vietnam, of course. I also talk about Bobo bringing her and her friends from Tu Liem to the Claudia Hotel. Phoebe seems to think that the book really is about us. "Dat you?" she'll ask when she sees the picture of the woman writing a letter to the officials asking for a baby. It's a little difficult for me when we get to the page where the baby is placed in her mother's arms and in the illustration they are both crying. Phoebe always says, a little worried, "Why me crying?" I have to stop and tell her that she didn't really cry, that when I met her, and I said, "Hello, Ngoan (her birth name)", she smiled at me, and I was soooo happy. Then I show her the pictures of when we met and we marvel at how tiny she was and how big she is now.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the love I feel for my daughter. I can't imagine life any other way.


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