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Adopting from Korea - A Parent's Guide to Korean Adoption






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IT'S OFFICIAL!

Spencer Evan Hwan arrived home
to his forever family on February 16, 1998!

 

The day he arrived was warmish and breezy in Washington, DC. Not bad for the middle of February. We checked with Korean Air to make sure the flight was reasonably on time, which it was. The diaper bag was packed, the stroller newly cleaned, and so we -- me, Rob, Hilary, and my brother, Phil -- headed off to Dulles Airport in Virginia 50 miles away.

I sat in the back with Hilary for a special Mom and Hilly ride. We held hands. I looked out the car window and watched the traffic whiz by. Phil and I chatted about our Dad, long gone, and it made me feel less anxious. We were leaving as a family of three, coming back as a family of four.

We got to the airport in good time, about 10 minutes before the plane was due to arrive. Parking was easy as it was President's Day. I was happy for the small favors.

We got to International Arrivals, a grey, deadly sort of place with no windows. I recognized other waiting families and family members of some of the escorts. Five babies and a little girl were being awaited. Some of us chatted together. The rest of us seemed silent and expectant. Many has brought bigger crowds than we did. There were nervous smiles and mylar balloons. Anticipation was in the air.

And then we waited. The plane was about 10-15 minutes late. The arrivals/departures board never said flight #83 has arrived. I took pictures to keep busy.

Then the word came the plane was in. Customs processing would take about 30 minutes. Agony.

Our social worker, Rachel arrived. She greeted her families, making the usual kind of small talk she's made a million times before. It was good seeing her. The ASIA executive director arrived, too.

Now we were all getting antsy. Adult passengers dribbed and drabbed through the customs gates pushing their carts. We hoped for a glimpse of the babies before the doors automatically closed again.

And still we waited.

Finally, the doors opened wide, and the baby brigade began in earnest! First baby out looked like our little guy, but from where we were all we saw was the back of his head, and the backs of all the other little heads that followed one by one. Then I heard the escort calling, "Rob and Roberta...?" and I had been right. That was our little guy, first one out of the gate, wrapped up tight in his escort's pink travel snugli.

We yelled, "Over here, over here!", and she walked him over. A smiling happy face and the pinkest chubby cheeks imaginable. I started to cry but got distracted from all that. At this point, I'm jettisoning cameras off me to hold him -- I didn't even wait to take the snugli off him -- I just unhooked it off the escort and pulled him close. The escort told us he slept, ate and smiled the whole way. "Best baby on the flight", she said. (Well, what else is she going to say?)

The foster mother had given us a hanbok (ceremonial native costume) for him and returned the disposable camera we had sent for her use back in November filled with photos, some of which you see here.

We were overwhelmed. Hil was handing up to him the pink and blue elephant she had picked out. My brother was taping and Rob, well, I don't even remember what Rob was doing. From the moment I knew that baby was Spencer, the world grew small and bright around this one little boy.

Holding him close, I thanked the escort, our social worker, the agency director, and had I had the chance, I would have thanked the pilot and the ground crew. We snapped open the stroller, placed this wonderful little guy -- still smiling -- in it. We grabbed the agency paperwork and his flight stuff (which included a little flag of Korea). Wrapped in a few blankets and a hat I brought, we headed back home. Stuffed into his car seat with Mom and Big Sister in the back, he drank his bottle and dozed.

And with that, our family of three was now four. In just six short months, our four long years of waiting for another child had ended with the happiest outcome possible -- a healthy, happy baby.

Now, of course, we've got post-placement visits, adoption proceedings, naturalization, more forms and paperwork, and God knows what else ahead. True, too, our delightful little guy will all too soon present us with the usual joys and challenges of any other sort of parenthood -- but on that single day in February, life was perfect and blessed beyond belief.

Oh, and if you're wondering if you can love your adopted child as much as your biological child? The answer in three words is yes, yes... oh, yes.

 

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The three of us at the airport waiting for news of the flight.

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There he is! Still attached to his escort with Hilary pushing her elephant gift up toward him.

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Here's Uncle Phil with his new nephew. (If you're a single woman over 35 who lives in NYC,
e-mail me for more info!)

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The new Big Sister Hilary with her Baby Brother at home.

Kang, Kyung-Hwan at his foster parent's home

If you're curious as to how the babies are cared for in their foster homes,
these might give you an idea:

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Spencer in his ceremonial "hanbok" which he wore for his first birthday party.

 

Bath-time in Seoul with Foster Mom. Notice how much is done on the floor in Korea (the typical home has its heating system radiate warmth through the floor.)

 

Dressed to kill and tired out. Great hat and quilt, huh? And check out that hair -- looks like Martin Short's Ed Grimley character, or better yet, Seinfeld's Kramer!.