Vietnam Adoption Parenting

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On the Anniversary of Our Greeting and Receiving Ceremony in our Vietnam Adoption

By Karen Biddulph

It is hard for me to believe that a year ago on July 16, I attended Eric's Giving and Receiving ceremony in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. So many things have happened during this year that I almost feel like it has been this big blur. The one thing that I know is true...... even with all of my experience in early childhood education, I am truly challenged because when a child is your own the whole ball game changes.

Eric has had a challenging year in terms of his health. I've written previously to Adoptive Parents of Vietnam list about pneumonia, parasites, older baby reflux, etc. My heart has ached each time he gets one of his high fevers. I only wished that he could tell where it hurt. I never fully realized how entwined I could become with this magnificant being.

Despite being sick so often, he has continued to develop language, and a strong sense of who he is. I have watched him move from the stage of wanting to be held, to deliberately wandering farther and farther from me in a store to catch my reaction and squeal with delight in seeing how seperate he can be. His words are things that are far reaching from us: moon, stars (dars), bounce, there it is (with an outstretched finger). I am continually blown away by the things he thinks. He has recently begun to grab my cheeks and plant a big, sloppy kiss on my lips at seemingly random moments. In the next moment he is climbing down the stairs and will hiss if I try to help. I look at my boy and realize that time is slipping by way faster than I had ever dreamed.

My life has changed so dramatically. I spend many moments considering Eric even when he is not integral to the decision. Recently, I was in a situation where if the accident had occured I would have surely been killed. My thoughts in the moment weren't terribly surprising. I looked in my rear view mirror at his empty car seat, thanked God that Eric wasn't in the car and braced myself for the impending impact. Fortunately, the other driver left my lane with about twenty feet to spare, but I could think of nothing but Eric in that moment and in the ones that followed. I thought about my will. I thought about the fact that he was only one and might not remember me if something had happened. Most importantly, I thought of his smell, his smile, and his temper tantrumed screams. I was appreciative for every moment that we had had together and desperately wanted as many as I could get.

I have been amazed at the issues that hit me about being an adoptive mom as well as the overwhelming feeling of pride and love that I have for Eric. To the point where I can often forget that he came to me differently than some other mothers receive their children. I worry about how he might have wanting and hurt feelings around being adopted. I worry that when the time comes for the conversations with him about this topic I am going to blow it. When other people are thoughtless or ignorant, I know in my gut that I might be hurtful or ignorant too.

I do know that my love for Eric began when I first conceived of the idea to adopt. He was that twinkle in my eye. I can't imagine being a parent in any other way. He and I were meant to journey together. It is perfect that a strong woman got a strong child. It is perfect that he wants his independence so much that he is willing to fight me for it. It is perfect that I am learning the most painful lessons of parenting early -- from the moment of birth your child is separating from you and your job as a parent is to facilitate that. Here we are on that path for what seems likes years but also feels like a blink of an eye.

Our process leading up to Eric's referral was long and painful. I ached for almost 16 months waiting for him. It is true that you get the child who should be with you but in the moment I wanted to scream because my hurting was so bad. Our time in Vietnam was tough- Eric was sick, our paperwork incomplete,and any means of support not really there. As I reflect on that sweaty afternoon of July 16, Eric slept soundly. He was clothed in his orphanage outfit. The official was really official - checking each document thoroughly, stamping seals, never cracking a smile. Eric drank drowsely from a bottle. I had a nervous stomache because I thought something might go wrong. I felt like I had already been on a long journey. Somehow I thought I would feel some sense of completion from that moment. In reality it was such a brief moment that still makes me well up with tears of joy. The journey had only just begun. The fear that I had about maybe losing Eric is small in comparison to the fear that I have that someday I might not be able to keep him warm, safe, and dry.

I know that there are so many people waiting for referrals and the wait is excruciating. Each day of waiting feels like such a dissappointment. When your day comes, the feeling will be so awesome that words will never describe it.

I have written this before and will do so often ---- I am grateful to Eric's birthmother for giving me the greatest gift I have ever received. When I look in his eyes or kiss his cheek, I know that her choice has enabled me to grow and allowed me to love in ways that I never knew exsisted. It takes such guts and courage to give the gift that she has given. I hope that she knows on some level that I appreciate it.

As that 3:00 am approaches on the 16th, I am filled with butterflies, joy, sadness, and love. No one else, except maybe other adoptive parents, can know the intensity and meaning of that moment when governments recognize and state what you already know -- the child is now a part of your family, your life, your present, future, and past. The joy of holding Eric for the first time is matched by the joy of signing of those decrees. The scared feelings of those first wails for a bottle are matched by the scared feelings while signing those decrees -- filled with the wonderings of whether or not you can be a good parent. That day changed my life forever, not just because Eric became a part of my family but because I became a part of Eric's family. It also changed how I saw myself and my life. No decision would ever be simple again.


Karen is the mom of Eric, born 3-22-98, arrived home 7-31-98. Copyright Karen Biddulph


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