By A Canadian Adoptive Parent
We went into our adoption journey with our eyes wide open, knowing it was not going to be easy. As with most things in life, you can talk to people who have been through something before you and you can read every book you can get your hands on to prepare, but until you actually live it you don’t really understand what “it” is like.
On August 1, 2017, we adopted our son, who was then 19 months old, from South Korea. For us this was a long awaited day; for him it was his worst nightmare come true. We were essentially ripping him away from all that he knew: his loving foster family, his language, his food, his culture, familiar smells, familiar daily routines—nothing in his life would be the same after that day.
There was a honeymoon period, while we were still in South Korea, when my husband and I would look at each other like, hey—this isn’t as hard as we thought it would be. Then the day came to take that long flight back to Canada. We boarded a shuttle to the airport in Seoul, and it was as if our son understood what was happening: He was leaving his homeland with two strangers and would likely not return for a very long time. He became inconsolable, and none of our tricks would distract or soothe him. He exhausted himself screaming, until he finally fell asleep on the bus. This would be the start of many, many hard days and nights.
The nights were the hardest—just as we had been warned. It was then that he would remember his foster mother most. He would hit, kick and push us away, while letting out the most heartbreaking cry you could ever imagine, yelling Umma! (Mother, in Korean). He would not allow us to console him; we had to just keep him safe as he thrashed around in his bed. We felt utterly helpless.
It was a one-step-forward, two-steps-back situation for a long time. I had taken time off my job to be home with him, and I was lucky that my company allowed me to stay off for a full 13 months. We were also lucky that financially we could manage those additional 4 months with neither Employment Insurance nor company pay.
But my whole family needed me to take this time off. Slowly things improved. Slowly our son allowed us in and began to trust again. When I think of where my son was at in his attachment process at the time my E.I. ended, in relation to how well he was doing when I did finally go back to work, it is like night and day.
I don’t know what our life would have been like now if I had not taken that extra time, but I do know it would have made everything that much more difficult.
The opinions expressed in blogs posted reflect their author and do not represent any official stance of Adopt4Life. We respect the diversity of opinions within the adoption, kinship and customary care community and hope that these blog posts will stimulate meaningful conversations.
We're ramping up our #timetoattach campaign until April 2019, for 15 more weeks of parental leave for adoptive parents and kin and customary caregivers. To really make an impact on our mission to Ottawa, we'd like to share your experiences of what it was like helping your child to settle in and bond.