Sunday, September 26, 2010


I assume that I'm not alone in proclaiming that I've never been involved in an international adoption before. In fact, I'm probably not alone in proclaiming that I've never been involved in a domestic adoption before; let's face it, adoption doesn't happen so often that we're all experts. However, on September 29th, my new nephew arrived from Korea and I experienced first hand the lunacy that comes with the arrival of a 13-month old child.

First of all, why the hell would the agency only give the expectant parents notice 48 hours before the baby arrives? I don't know if this is actually the norm for all cases, but giving parents a picture of their child in February, telling them you don't know when their child will be coming home and then giving them two-days notice 9 months later is akin to Wil E. Coyote lighting the fuse on a crate of TNT. You light the fuse. You run behind a rock, plug your ears and think of how delicious flame-broiled Road Runner is going to be. Nothing happens. You sit up inquisitively. You think "How much longer?" You get frustrated. You walk out and stare at the TNT, arms akimbo while impatiently tapping your foot and scowling. And then it explodes in your face.

After the explosion, the immediate aftermath becomes a flurry of activity ranging from baby-proofing, to crib-building, to clothes-buying, the whole time staving off a deadly combination of blind panic and crippling nausea. Family and friends arrive in droves to help, and they are approximately 75% successful, the other 25% of the time offering well-meaning but ill-timed advice on your upcoming blessing.

Once the parents have successfully completed almost a quarter of what they wanted to get done, the day arrives. The agency has said that the baby might need time to adjust, so no one is allowed to visit the new family for a few weeks; instead everyone can go meet him at the airport, since he'll be so overwhelmed by the 15 hour flight that a few dozen more strangers cooing over him won't really cause any more of a meltdown than the one that is already going on. This means that the number of people to greet the baby balloons from two to the low twenties very quickly.

I've only been in a hospital for one birth, and while it wasn't the Waldorf Astoria, there was at least an attempt to make the room comfortable for the family. When greeting an international adoptee, one goes to baggage claim. An anxious group of caucasians eagerly staring at every person exiting customs into the baggage claim area is enough to draw a few odd looks from passengers. Even more scary is what happens when a person exits the plane with a baby that is actually their own; the baby is stared at, measured and dismissed while the mother nervously pushes her child through a group of people that are looking at him like he's made out of ham.

Meanwhile, as more and more people exit the plane, everyone becomes more and more tense (granted, it makes sense that getting a baby through international customs would take a while; it took me an hour to get through customs with a case of wine when I was coming back from Rome). The parents are afraid to go to the bathroom for fear of missing the baby's entrance through the gate. People who have nothing to do with the adoption push through the crowd and try to see gate information. Video cameras run out of batteries after 45 minutes of taping strangers appearing from Korean Air's pseudo-birth canal. Told to expect the appearance of the kid at 3 pm, when 4 pm rolls around everyone's anticipation is at fever pitch.

Finally, at 4:15, a Korean couple appears holding a baby. Who is this Korean couple you wonder? Why, they're a pair of enterprising people who have agreed to ferry the child across the world in exchange for a half-price ticket to New York City. They aren't employees of the agency, they might have no experience with children what-so-ever, but for that 15 hours they're solely responsible for keeping the kid alive so he can get home. They walk up to the parents (clearly having seen a picture of them) and happily hand off their son to them; since they don't speak a word of English, they smile awkwardly and are gone so fast it makes one wonder if they ever really existed at all.

So, standing in the luggage claim at JFK Airport, handicapped passengers shoving their way through the crowd, your family expands by one member, who can't be bothered to wake up from his trans-continental nap. And when he does wake up, he looks around and seems to say "Hey, white people," completely unworried about the fact that he's in a new country. His parents, meanwhile, are so keyed up that his mother decides in the first 13 seconds that he's not breathing (he was) and his father has been suffering a brutal attack of the gout in all four extremities for the past 72 hours. And they're worried about the kid.

1 comment:

Zan said...

Hooray! Can't wait to meet Jin and see this already excellent Uncle in action!